Sponsored Content Creation – The Timeline of Content Creation

Sponsored content creation: It may not be the end-game for some people, but it is exciting territory to explore. If you’ve worked hard on your blog or social media outlet of choice, to have a business or PR firm each out to you for a paid collaboration is encouraging. Do not let Imposter Syndrome bog you down: You have clearly produced stellar work that has caught someone’s eye, and you are of value to them. Don’t fret about your follower numbers on Instagram: If you are producing great content on your blog + social media platforms and have great engagement with your followers on said platforms, that is what they are eying.

It is easy to think that the life of a content creator is simple. Shoot a photo, throw on the Clarendon Filter on Instagram, expect hundreds of likes, and call it a day.

Any content creator that has done sponsored posts (or even free product posts) knows that it is not that simple. It take a lot of work, time, and energy; if you split that with a full-time job – common among most content creators I personally know in New York City – you definitely have to balance, whether it’s carving out dedicated time on a weekend to bang out your work or photographing a recipe on your lunch break that you cooked the night before. Most times, there will be ample back and forth between businesses or PR firms with edits or suggestions of what will eventually be the final content shown, so factor that into the equation.

In this post, I’ll share the lifecycle of a sponsored content I posted in December 2020 for a well-known hard seltzer brand. From first outreach to day of posting, 47 days elapsed: October 16th – December 2nd. (Did I do that math right?) Let me take you through the abbreviated steps! (Well, abbreviated in Allison terms. I’ll always be long-winding even when I’m trying to be succinct. Ha!)

NOTE: As always, I am speaking on behalf of one of my personal experiences, and similar experiences will vary from content creator to content creator. Take this post as guidance only!

Sponsored Content Creation – Outreach From Business or PR Firm

On October 16th, I received an e-mail in my inbox from a PR company with offices in NYC and out the the Plains. Its subject line about their holiday product campaign involving a well-known hard seltzer brand piqued my interest, so I scrolled through the body of the e-mail.

I’ll be frank: Since I currently work in health care in the midst of a pandemic, I’ve been very selective of sponsored content, and I did not create any between the end of May through November 2020, despite pitches. But this particular pitch grabbed me because it involved the holidays, recipe development, and it showcased a product I would purchase & consume of my own volition. More importantly, I know many of my followers would gravitate towards it because I’ve seen them post about this product on their respective social media accounts; this could provide those interested in trying a hard seltzer incentive to purchase this, and it could provide my followers that already consume it with incentive to buy more for the holidays or try out newest flavors. (A collaboration that is mutually beneficial – a partnership, if you will! – is key!) That PR pitch checked of a lot of boxes at once for me! I responded back that I was interested and would love to learn more about how the campaign, and a phone call with my PR representative was set up for three days later.

Sponsored Content Creation – Contracts & Price Negotiation

I was in grad school from 2012 – 2014, and I hold an MS of Communications & Information Management. One class I had to take was Business Law, which I both loved and loathed. While the content of the class was interesting, I failed to see how Business Law would have any bearing towards my future career goals. Mind you, at this time, Seek Satiation was merely a Twitter account I’d post my food photos on, not the sole proprietorship I have now. (<— See? Business Law words. Ha!) But wow, when it comes to looking over contracts, I am grateful I got that course under my belt.

As I spoke over the phone a few days later with my PR representative, she gave me a fuller pitch of the sponsored collaboration and drove more deeply into the finer details, especially legal details. Upon finishing up our phone call – which lasted roughly 20 minutes – I immediately received the contract and any other related legal documents in my inbox.

This is important: Ask your PR person for clarification on any contract details, and never sign blindly! Some contracts are long, but you want to read through them completely to suss out anything that may be confusing or nebulous. If you are not used to reading legalese, do not be embarrassed to ask your PR Representative, “Could you explain *this* to me in further detail?”

Many content creators may have multiple sponsored posts within a month, or even within the same week, though clauses in respective contracts may butt heads. I had a clause in this hard seltzer contract in which I could not post any competing brand’s hard seltzers within X amount of time from my original post. Two days prior to my hard seltzer posting date, I posted sponsored content for a gin brand out of Canada; luckily, promoting other alcohols that weren’t hard seltzer left me in compliance with this contract. You never want to get yourself into that tight spot where you may do something to nullify your contract, so read read read!

When it comes to price negotiation – and this comes before signing your signature on that final contract! – it can be easier for people that have produced sponsored content before. Everyone has their first sponsored collaboration in which they are asked, “Okay, what is your price?” Do your research if you are curious or unsure of what to ask for – and definitely look back at my previous post which touches upon this subject! – and just ask when it comes time to! Worst case scenario? They say “no” to your ask and counteroffer. If you don’t like their counteroffer, you haven’t signed a contract and can politely decline; even offer for them to get back in touch with you at another point in they think their budget will change, because you never know! No harm, no foul, in my opinion.

In addition, make sure your payment time is clear as day in that contract. Whether your contract says immediate payment upon posting of content or Net-60 (i.e. they have up to 60 days to pay you after posting date), make sure there is no questions about when you will be getting paid. Especially for projects that are in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, make sure their end of the deal for payment is held up.

Sponsored Content Creation – Creating Content!

Eventually, you do need to create that content, doncha?

(Did the title of this post give that away?)

Pay attention to deadlines in your contract, schedule ample time to work on whatever elements you need to work on, and reach out to your PR Representative if you think you may have issues abiding to your deadline if an issue arises. Though I’ve always made my deadlines, I know other NYC-based content creators that have had issues arise – life happens! – and even with a deadline firmly in place in their contracts, reaching out to ask for an extra day or two for unforeseen circumstances is better than ghosting them and delivering them their content two days late without explanation. You will not be in good standing. The content creators I spoke with said virtually all businsses and PR firms appreciated them contacting them and were not penalized.

For me, I had a few tasks to handle for this particular hard seltzer campaign:

  • Write out / sketch out photo concepts for one photo that could be used on both Facebook and Instagram, three Instagram Stories photos that were different than the Facebook / Instagram photo, and one final photo for Pinterest that was different from all of the aforementioned photos. In addition, I had to shoot two completely different photos featuring the hard seltzers with a shopping bag from an internationally-known chain store that they were going to use in said store’s paid Instagram and Facebook advertising. *phew*
  • Figure out a simple holiday recipe that would match with the flavors of the seltzer I was promoting while also promoting the campaign’s general “stay home and safe due to this pandemic, but still whip up some amazing food in your kitchen to eat along with this hard seltzer” theme.
  • Buy the seltzer for photographing + buy the ingredients for the recipe. (I was given the money up front to purchase the hard seltzers and food.)
  • Test the recipe.
  • Photograph according to contractual obligations.
  • Edit photos.
  • Create captions.
  • Send photos and captions to PR Representative for approval.
A little Rosemary Feta Dip to keep you satisfied?

Everything mentioned above took a cumulative 6 hours spread out among various weekend days in late October and early November, as I had a November 15th deadline to submit to my PR Representative for approval.

Granted, there have been times when I have spent as little as two to three hours doing all of that for smaller campaigns, especially ones that don’t need pre-approval from a business or PR firm before posting. Back in November 2020, I even did a paid campaign with a bread company in which I spent about 90 minutes TOTAL on. 😆 But this hard seltzer collaboration was the biggest one I had done, so it’s a prime example of how much work can go into a campaign that has so many moving parts: Recipe development, various different photos for different social media platforms, and the fact that I was technically shooting content for two different brands, the hard seltzer brand and the chain store brand.

Bud Light Seltzer
Let me tell ya how much work went into this singular photo… *phew*

Sponsored Content Creation – Posting Sponsored Content

Finally! The posting date! That first e-mail arrived on October 16th, I worked my butt of on weekends in late October and early November, the November 15th due date arrived, and on November 28th, I got the “This is a-okay to post!” e-mail to wrap it all up. On December 2nd, I was able to post my long-worked on content across various platforms, and I also got to see my photos appear in Instagram and Facebook ads for that chain store later that night.

I also learned on my posting day that Pinterest has a 500 character limit in its pin description box, which required some same day copyediting, but nothing like a small emergency to get the heart racing. Ha! That’s a fuller story for another time.

Sponsored Content Creation – Payment

In your contract, as mentioned above, there should be an agreed-upon payout date for your work. Make sure that is held to. If you do not receive payment by the date listed in your contract, reach out to your PR Rep or their finance team to make sure your contract is being adhered to. A contracted payout date = you should have no issues simply asking.

Sponsored Content Creation – In Conclusion

Like I said in the beginning of this post: Content creation looks so easy online. A few snaps and its online. The reality? The entire process of sponsored content creation can take days, or it can take weeks and months before all is said and done.

I used this example of my hard seltzer / chain store experience because its the most extreme I’ve had to deal with; that being said, it covers so many bases that fellow content creators have had to deal with and is the most comprehensive experience that I can share with you, my readers.

Pineau des Charentes

There have been many tongue – in – cheek jokes about throwing the concept of “Dry January” away with the current state of things in the United States. Others joke that we’ve lived a full year in the past week or since since New Years! Well…it does kind of feel that way…

Regardless, I find this is a good time to sit down and have a drink, because between the news cycles, COVID, and everything in-between, I certainly need to unwind. While I unwind, I am certainly amenable to finding a few drink to indulge in.

Pineau des Charentes

Recently, I was gifted bottles of Pineau des Charentes, a fortified wine blended with cognac. To quote the Pineau Academy website, it is an “unprecedented combination of a wine’s elegance with the bold kick of a spirit”. That statement truly encapsulates it! I had never previous heard of Pineau des Charentes, and I must say, I have taking quite a shine to it. I fell for the Pineau de Charentes Blanc, a bright and fruity affair with hints of honey and spice, that is excellent when served neat or with some ice. It also pairs well in a cocktail, as you will see below! This beverage is like a chameleon, it can blend in and work in a variety of ways!

There are four Signature Cocktails currently being toted by Pineau de Charentes Ambassadors. I definitely struggled with which one to give a shot first – I mean, the options are incredible! – but I eventually settled on the approachable La Adventure. Crafted with the Plneau de Charentes Blanc, plus dry white wine, grapefruit bitters, Suzu, a splash of soda, and ice, this cocktail was a sorely-missed sip of sunny spring weather on a cold January day. It’s light, it sparkles, it’s incredibly refreshing! The bright citrus aroma of the lemon twist just adds to the experience.

Pineau des Charentes

This cocktail is formally made in a white wine glass, but, honestly, how could I resist the urge to create it in this finely-crafted vessel I have right here? She’s a beauty!

Pineau Academy can be found on YouTube, with vibrant and informative videos on how to make some of their signature cocktails! Next on my list is either the Conveyance by Richard Allison or the Gold of Biscay by Frank Mills. (Frankly, can we have *more* edible gold glitter on cocktails?) Take a peek at those videos and tell me in the comments: Which would you pick? Keep an eye on my Instagram, because I hope to make another one of Pineau’s signature cocktails to celebrate the arrival of spring in a few months…which can’t come soon enough! Ha!

Pineau des Charentes

NOTE: These bottles of Pineau de Charentes were gifted to me for editorial review purposes. Thank you! As always, all opinions are my own.

Lavender Hot Chocolate

First off: Lavender is a word that I canNOT spell correctly the first few times around. Someone, please, remind me that there is not an “a” anywhere else in lavender after the initial “a”. It’s not “lavander” nor is it “lavendar”.

WELL. Now that I got that off of my chest…

For Christmas, my parents usually get me a bevy of food-related items, and this year was no different. Besides the new pasta maker with ravioli attachment – oh yes, there will be ravioli on this blog sooner than later! – I was pleasantly surprised to find a jar of edible lavender buds in my package of gifts!

I love eating and drinking items that contain lavender, but I have never created a recipe with it. When looking for inspiration on Google, I found, surprisingly, very little in the way of new ideas compared to what I’ve consumed in the past: I’ve had lavender shortbread cookies. I’ve had lavender-infused cake frosting. I’ve had lavender lemonade. I didn’t want to take a stab at my own interpretations of those.

I didn’t find much inspiration until I had a mug of Swiss Miss* a few nights ago, and then figured I figured out what I wanted to take a stab at!

I don’t make hot chocolate from scratch that often; I love Swiss Miss and you’ll never convince me to give it up. HA! But can I deny that homemade hot chocolate is divine? I cannot deny that. I have a recipe I’ve used for quite a few years when making it from scratch, but the trick was adjust it with the addition of lavender; I wanted the balance of lavender – to – chocolate to be correct without one flavor overwhelming the other. I started small on the lavender side and kept creeping it up a bit until I was satisfied. Drinking multiple cups of lavender hot chocolate for recipe development purposes wasn’t an easy task, but I was up for the arduous challenge!

Lavender Hot Chocolate is a nice addition to your winter drink rotation, and it kicks up your normal hot chocolate routine up a notch. This may take longer than your usual hot chocolate, but the payoff is worth it. It’s a true labor of love! Plus, who wouldn’t love a kitchen that smells like lavender for a few hours? *swoon*

* – Swiss Miss, if you ever want to collaborate on a paid collaboration, I wouldn’t turn you down. Ha! Long-time fan, I love ya!

Lavender Hot Chocolate

(Makes four cups; divide it as you choose. If you want to drink it all and not share, I’m not here to judge!)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups milk (dairy or non-dairy; recipe tested with dairy milk)
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons lavender, culinary-grade
  • 1/3 cup cocoa, leveled
  • 3 oz. semi-sweet or dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used Hu Kitchen’s Simple Dark Chocolate; do not use baking chocolate!)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt (optional)

Before We Get Started…

  • If you have a tea steeping ball or some cheesecloth, allow lavender to steep in milk with those apparatuses. I would have tested this recipe with either of those if I felt like looking for either of those in my kitchen tools. I have no doubts they’d get the job done and save you the straining mentioned in Step #4.
  • This recipe yielded an extremely rich hot chocolate with dairy milk, but if you want to up the ante, use 3 cups milk + 1 cup heavy cream instead of 4 cups milk.

Directions:

1.) In a large saucepan, add milk and turn heat to low. Measure out lavender and place into a small bowl; slightly crush the lavender buds with your fingers to release some of their oils. When the milk starts to simmer, add lavender and continue to simmer for 3 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat, cover, and allow lavender to steep for 30 minutes.

2.) In a small bowl, add cocoa by first pouring through a fine sieve to remove clumps; combine with chopped chocolate and sugar. Set aside.

3.) After the lavender has steeped for 30 minutes, strain lavender by pouring milk through a fine sieve over a large heatproof bowl.

4.) Rinse out saucepan to remove any lavender buds lefts behind after straining; it is fine if some milk residue remains. Add chocolate mixture and 1/2 cup of the lavender milk into the saucepan. Bring heat to medium-low and whisk until chocolate mixture has melted and incorporated into the lavender milk; it should have a ganache-like consistency. Add remaining lavender milk to saucepan and cook over medium heat until warmed through. Add vanilla and (optional) pinch of salt; stir and remove from heat.

5.) Serve Lavender Hot Chocolate hot, as the name of the recipe suggests. Go ahead and add that marshmallow, too. Sip and enjoy!

2020 – Year In Review

Wow, I can’t believe it’s December 32nd, 2020 already!

Wow, that’s not funny…but it sure feels like it. 🥴 I’m yearning for the times of B.C.: Before COVID. Remember friends and physical interactions? Yeah. Me too…barely…

This year has been one of incredible hardship. Being immunocompromised AND working full-time in infection control in NYC has caused me to view this pandemic through an incredibly unique lens. While staying inside, working on a LOT of data (both COVID and non-COVID-related) and attempting to stay sane, the desire blossomed inside of me to return to my – admittedly – neglected blog.

Starting to write again was good for my mind, if anything. It helped me think things through, it helped me pivot, and it helped me feel a creative spark that was momentarily lost.

Let’s take a looksie here…

Seek Satiation’s Accomplishments in 2020

  • I’ve had a total of eight paid collaborations this year. They consisted of either alcohol or bread, which just seems par of course for 2020: people wanted drinks and comfort carbs!
My #UnquestionablyGoodPairings campaign with Bud Light Seltzer. Don’t sleep on that cranberry flavor!
  • I made a comfortable four-figures in additional income from paid collaborations, recipe development, and creating content for other brands. In 2019, I made about $800 between sponsored posts and recipe development for others, which isn’t bad, but it’s good to strive for more. This year proved that putting in the work is worth it. Look for a in-depth blog post later this month on how I’ve accomplished this! I have a few additional token thoughts regarding this:
    • I create and make additional income off of things that you – the viewer – do not explicitly see on my Instagram or this blog. You have seen my photography in other places that you probably have not realized off the bat! Contracts allow me to say – and not say! – certain things I’ve done, so I’ll leave an air of mystery. 👻
    • Remember: Having “x” amount of followers on Instagram should not = an inability to make an income off of your content creation. As of the moment I type this, I have ~3.7k followers on Instagram. Yet, I have created content for an Anheuser-Busch brand and Walmart this year. Why? I have relatively high organic social media engagement from my COMMUNITY – not just followers! -, a dedicated following on this blog, I produce appealing content, and inject my authentic voice into my copy.
  • Working from home has been stressful, but it got me back into my groove of paying attention to the blog. I fell back on Instagram a lot in late 2018 – 2019 because of ease of use. Come April, when I was a home working but was trying to find an outlet to channel my restlessness through, I remembered, “Oh! Right. I’ve got this website.” I broke out of my comfort zone: I originally only posted recipes on Seek Satiation, but I branched out to post about other things in the wider content creation universe that I love, such as speaking on my personal blogger experience & advice + showing support for local food & drink businesses I adore. This opened up conversations, new connections, and – importantly – increased blog traffic. (Ha! I had to say it.)
  • I learned that “NO” is not a bad word. Saying “YES” to everything is weak, and I used to be that person. I used to take on too many opportunities; namely, I took on too many free opportunities thinking, “This exposure will be good for me!” I realized my worth, but I also realized that you can’t pour from an empty glass. Due to my job and its higher demands during this pandemic, I did not accept any paid collaborations between June and October, and that was a wise decision on my end. I regret nothing!
Me, relaxing and not caring about your collaboration offers. I’ve got a smoothie to finish, circa June 2020.
  • My work with Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen took on extra importance & urgency this year. As many of you know, I’ve been a media volunteer for them since 2018, helping get out the word and raise funds for their annual Farm To Tray charity gala; that pivoted to me becoming a Holy Apostles Hunger Ambassador. This year – in an incredible pivot – the event was fully virtual and a success, despite this pandemic. I joined in on this year’s Fast – A – Thon and fasted in solidarity with all of those affected by food insecurity; many of HASK’s guests eat one meal a day, and I did as they did. Through social media postings and cold calling – or, perhaps, cold DMing – I was able to raise more than $1,500 in 2020 between the two fundraisers, and I was able to make a few contributions of my own. Combating food insecurity is of great importance to me, and I am glad to be in the fight against it. I look forward to working with HASK for a long time to come.
Fighting food insecurity, one finger point at a time, circa October 2020.

Who knows what 2021 will bring? One, I know I’ll be typing “20201” for a while because typing “2021” is something I have to think about now due my my muscle memory. Ha!

This pandemic will not be over until closer to the end of 2021, surely, so I still plan to the usual: Not eating out, not traveling, keeping myself as safe as possible through proper hand and respiratory hygiene, supporting restaurants and food businesses through direct ordering, supporting & promoting my favorite BIPOC-owned businesses, supporting my fellow creatives and especially BIPOC creatives to make sure their voices are heard loud & clear in this oft-crowded social media space, and getting as much socially-distanced fresh air as I can.

Oh, and I’ll continue to grow Seek Satiation. Eh, why not?

Mask up, stay home, stay safe, y’all.

Walking into 2020 like, “Give me the Pfizer vaccine OR the Moderna vaccine, I am not picky!”, circa December 2020.