Learning How To Pitch To Brands

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to do what you love and get paid? For some influencers, YouTubers, and Podcasters, that’s exactly what they’re doing: getting paid doing what they love. Sure, they have to mention a few brands here and there, squeeze in a little ad in between their episodes, or pose for a few pictures with some products once in a while, but isn’t that a small price to pay to get paid?

In this episode with Ninah Zadeh, we will learn how to achieve that dream by learning to pitch to brands for sponsorships.

Nina Zadeh is the co-founder and Director of Partnerships at Sidewalker Daily, a marketing consulting agency that works on both sides of the Influencer industry. On one hand, Sidewalker Daily consults for brands and public relations firms on their Influencer Marketing initiatives and social media strategy, and on the other, the company works with Influencers and Creators to help them create sustainable businesses online.

Their signature course, the Pitching To Brands Mastercourse, has revolutionized how Creators are pitching to brands and landing paid brand deals.

Nina’s unique position on both sides of the industry helps bridge the gap between brands and creatives to ensure every partnership is a win-win for all involved.

Getting to Know The Company and Course

Anne: Nina, do you want to tell us a little bit more about what the course is about exactly. 

Nina: Yeah, I’ll share a little bit about our company. We really started on the brand side, which is to say we were organizing creator campaigns and Influencer marketing campaigns with hotels, tourism boards, and baby products. I mean, you name it, we’ve touched it. And through that brand side, a lot of creators would pitch to us and they’re good at what they do. But on the business side, there still needs improvement, like in pitching and negotiating. And it’s hard because creators are expected to do it all, it’s overwhelming. 

So what we wanted to do is we wanted to fill that gap. We wanted to help educate creators to give them that authority over their own businesses, and their brand. My goal is to equip you with the mindset of a professional and also the tools so that you can go out and pitch in confidence. 

Now, when it comes to our course. We teach fundamental pitching skills for YouTube, Tik, Tok, Instagram, podcasts, or whatever you’re on. If you’re looking to go to a brand and do a cold pitch, we’re going to give you all the tools you need to get there effectively.

Aligning Your Brand With Theirs

Nina: What I do want to say is when it comes to pitching, it really is tied to what your goals are. So I know you briefly mentioned podcast monetization and looking for a brand partner to sponsor your podcast. And perhaps other people who are listening also want to go out to brands now and integrate them.

And I think what’s so wonderful about these sorts of partnerships is finding partners that integrate naturally with your content. And I think what should be on the top of the mind of anyone looking to reach out to brands is: who is a natural fit in the story that I’m telling? And how can I integrate them creatively into my content?

Anne: Yeah, exactly. It’s not just getting any brands to collaborate with you or to sponsor your show, but you want to make sure that it works with the brand that you already have.

Nina: Exactly. Because those make the best pitches. And when we talk about pitching, we need to think about the link strategy. And the link strategy is creating a link in the potential brand partners’ minds. You want them to have a moment where they’re like, “Wow, not only does this pitch reflect our brand values, this creator gets us. This partnership makes sense, it’s not forced.” It’s just natural and seamless. People are going to be more receptive if the brand can see itself integrated into your content.

Now for podcasts, I’m assuming that things are done in episodes and what is so beautiful about that is in the pitch is you can bring in your partners in a five-part episode, or a theme. Like being sponsored for these next five episodes. It doesn’t have to be one episode or the entire channel. You can get the brand interested in working with you and excited by kind of doing a three-part series or five-part series. It creates a different angle in the pitch and also for podcasting too.

Educating Brands About Podcasts

Nina: When you’re cold pitching, you may find yourself having to say, “Oh my goodness, now I have this brand that may not even know that podcasts are beneficial, that these many people listen to them on their commute.” The data, that’s what brands want to know. So for podcasters, the hurdle you may face if someone doesn’t even know you exist in the cold pitch is educating them about the power of podcasting.  Because it is such a powerful medium, and your audience is so connected to you, especially if they’re listening to you on those commutes or have habitual habits around your podcasts, it is powerful.

So sometimes there may have to be a little bit of that education in letting your brand partner know why podcasts are a really good fit. You can do that on a call, you do that in an opportunity where you can have some air time with them because you can’t cram all this stuff and information. You may want to include it in your media kit, and have a section that describes not only your podcast, metrics, and analytics but also a little bit about the industry. If you think your partners don’t know, that’s an opportunity as well.

The Best Pitches Are The Value-Based Pitches

Anne: I think one thing that I learned from you in the course is going in with a very specific ask. Not “Hello, do you want to sponsor my podcast?” but “this is what I have to offer and I think this would be a perfect fit for this reason.” And that has just changed the way I look at it, it brings so much opportunity when you look at it like that. Instead of “I need a podcast sponsor,” no, “I need someone to collaborate with, for these specific five episodes,” like in your example.

Nina: I’m so happy that you took that away from the course. Oftentimes, people who are going to brand sponsors, I think more in the influencer space, there have been words thrown around like freeloaders, or they just want to get free stuff, or they just want to get paid for whatever. There’s a negative connotation and I think a lot of times it’s because the pitch isn’t valuable. It’s not about the brand, it’s not about their goals, their wants, their needs. If you’re pitching, you need to integrate why the brand would want to say yes. You have to think about why it would be valuable for them, and what would they get out of this?

The best pitches are the value-based pitches, which show your brand partner that you want to bring value to them, and that you can be valuable to them as well.

Anne: Yeah, you want to make it a win-win, a win for the brand because they get access to your audience, a win for you because you’ve got money, but also a win for your audience, for the listeners. After all, it is a good fit.

Nina: And I’m so happy you mentioned that because it is about the audience. It’s very tough because you have your audience which is your client, and you have a brand that’s also kind of a client. You’re trying to figure out who to serve, who do I bring value to? And I love that you said that you have to make sure that your audience finds value in it too. It’s not just serving your brand partner and you getting the money. There’s a third piece, it’s the audience piece. 

And because, so I started on the corporate side, working on influence marketing that has shifted, and I still have my brand clients, but I also now help creators in pitching through my course and my membership program. But on top of this to make things, brands are now coming to me to sponsor my podcast, my youtube.

Anne: You are the creator also.

Nina: Exactly. So I’m falling into this role, I’m thinking about if my audience is going to like this partner. Am I failing them or am I adding value? If you bring in a sponsor to your podcast that’s really tied in with your niche and you know your audience is going to love, your audience will actually thank you for recommending them.

Anne: Exactly. It doesn’t have to be a yucky ad in the middle of your podcast that takes away completely from the content. it can work well for everyone involved.

How Nina Got Started On Podcasting

Anne: You mentioned that your podcast has also been really interesting for your business and it had quite a big effect on the business. Can you tell us more about that? When did you start a podcast and how did that go?

Nina: Our podcast is an extension of a lot of our YouTube audio. My YouTube videos are kind of boring, and they’re boring in the sense that they’re educational. I’m just sitting and sharing information because that’s how I chose to do so.

I found that a lot of my audience listen to me when they’re doing other things, listening, not watching. So the team and I decided that since we have people who are just listening while they’re doing, we started to put the podcast together. Now when we work with a creator and they end up buying a course or a membership, we’re seeing more people who learned about us through the podcast. 

Our podcast is called Influencer Confidential. So maybe people are typing in the word influencer or creator, and they’re finding us. There are so many ways to reach people and you want to reach people the way they want to be reached. So for someone who wants an audio experience, the podcast is a great fit and we’re really excited about it. We want to expand it, to do more with it. I want to get more sponsors for my podcast and I’ve been pitching recently. And in my proposals, I’ve been doing podcasts interviews, sponsorships, or podcasts.

The podcast is going to be a new revenue generator for us, in terms of our pitching strategy as well.

Normalizing ‘No’

Anne: You also practice what you preach like you go out and pitch.

Nina: And I get a bunch of nos all the time too because pitching is not just getting yeses. It’s a numbers game, it’s like probability. The more you reach out, the more probability you have of getting people to respond. Normalize hearing no, just because you pitched doesn’t mean you’re going to get. But if you didn’t pitch, you’re still not going to get it. So at least pitching is allowing you to put yourself out there.

Anne: You have nothing to lose because it’s already a ‘no’. So the best thing that can happen is this becomes a ‘yes’.

Nina: Exactly.

What Do You Do When You Get Noticed?

Anne: I know in the course, you also have a video about what to do when a brand approaches you because I hear this from more and more people, in my audience on Instagram and people reaching out like, “okay, so a brand reached out to sponsor my podcast. What do I do? What do I do now?”

Nina: You need to be prepared. The first step is you need your media kit because this is going to be what you’re going to send them in that response email. But that media kit needs to be created. In our course, we have nine different media kit examples and we’re going to be updating them.

The media kit is the wow factor, it is the tool. It is what gets brands to be interested or to think that you are legit and professional, and someone they can trust. In the same way, influencers don’t like scammy brands, brands don’t like scammy influencers.

Anne: Right. They want to make sure that you got it, that you have everything under control.

Nina: I would love to make a little announcement. We have launched a mini-course which is dedicated to how to get brands to notice you. It’s a $47 product, it’s really accessible and affordable to everyone. And it’s really for creators who don’t want to necessarily put that pitch out, but they want the brands to reach out to them. So it’s such a perfect tie-in to what your question was. I think if a brand reaches out to the podcaster first, it sets you up in a nice position to be in control.

And I think that this new course it’s going to share with people how to get through the clutter, how to get brands to reach out to you first, and how to get them to notice you. What I shared in this course is the brand’s perspective of how we find you guys. 

Another thing that we also dropped in the brand is a roll call role-play. It’s a role-play, like a pretend mock phone call between me and creators, and I’m on the brand side. I ask all these questions that the brand is probably going to ask when you get on that call to really prepare you to take these sorts of calls.

Anne: Do you recommend also going into that call with something in mind to offer? Like in this call, my goal is to offer them this specific sponsorship package.

Nina: Yes. What we want to do on the call is to give them a big-picture vision.  So we’re not trying to get dollars and cents. It’s still introductory. I like to take the calls as an opportunity to learn about the brand’s goals, what they’re working on, and what their needs are. And I always recommend showing up with a few shiny ideas to get them excited.

So there are the traditional ideas and then there are the experimental ones. So the traditional, you could do a dedicated interview where you come and interview someone from their team. Or you could get really creative, you could put together a resource, or an ebook or something that we can give to each listener and they download it to help drive your emails or something exciting that is outside of just the podcast.

The idea is on these calls, get them excited, and then send them a proposal afterward.

Anne: So you want to know what they’re looking for. And then in a proposal, you go into all the details, the specific offer that I have for you, what’s included, and the pricing and all that.

Nina: Exactly. That’s where we go into the nitty-gritty. 

Anne: And the cool thing is also you buy yourself time because you can do the call relatively soon after they reach out and then you can say, “In three days, I’ll send you a proposal.” So then you have three days to figure stuff out.

Nina: That’s where it is. Once you have a proposal template built, you can do a proposal within 3, 5, or 10 minutes because you already have your template and can just swap out option A, option B, or option C. So once that’s built, you should be able to turn them out quite quickly. The legwork is putting together a framework, and then the ideas and concept side is something that you can always switch out.

Anne: I would say also if you don’t have a sponsor yet, and maybe even no one reached out to you yet, already think about pricing and what you could offer. So then you don’t have to panic and start undercharging when you do get offers.

Nina: And sometimes it’s in your best interest to have a smaller set test and then resell them a bigger package after it went well after there are results and see if they’re a good partner. So it’s good to take it slow too, we need to feel them out.

Anne: I think this is such great advice. 

Red Flags To Look Out For

Anne: One final question, when we’re talking to a brand, what would be some red flags that we have to be careful about.

Nina: That’s a good question. I think, as a business owner, developing your intuition is a skill that you’ll have to start very early on. Something to look out for right away is a brand trying to control your messaging. I’ve seen brands that try to hand over really specific scripts or very specific ways of saying something but I almost feel like the creator and the brand should work together in messaging so that it feels like the creator is speaking versus someone else cause you know how to speak to your people.

I would also take a look at when brands are pitching and you can tell it’s like a template pitch where they don’t want to pay, but they’re offering commission, or to buy this to enter. Those always feel scammy and weird. That’s why I always say I love getting on calls with brands because you can also see the person behind the screen. It creates this person that is not like a scam account. 

I think as a creator or a podcaster when you’re deciding if you want to work with a brand, you have to ask yourself this: Is this helping me reach my goals or pulling me away from it? Because you don’t want to partner with the brand that is pulling you away from your end goal. I think that you also have to think of the big picture in your business and not just short-term successes. Is this going to help me in the long run or pull me away?

Anne: I think that is great advice. Go for the long-term success, not for the short-term win. Where can people find you and the podcast? 

Nina: Yeah. So our podcast is called Influencer Confidential and then everything else is Sidewalker Daily, whether it be YouTube, Tik TOK, Pinterest, or Instagram.

Resource mentioned:

Determining Your Podcast’s Brand Personality