what a brand or PR looks for in a blogger – interview with Jess Sims, PR for west elm

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In this day and age, the online social media or blogging influencer fad has kind of taken over! Never before have I seen so many people trying to make it somehow through one platform or another. And I don’t blame them! The internet holds an abundance of opportunities and this gives some people the chance to take a little more control over their lives rather than working their usual 9-5, as it did for me.

Because of this, the market seems quite saturated right?! You can’t go one day scrolling through your Instagram feed without seeing someone selling Fit Tea or teeth whitening kits. What’s believable anymore? You might think you can’t be top of the game or just get the hell of that boring ass office job because of the ginormous range of people with flatter tummies and whiter teeth to choose from for these brands, PR and agencies. Or so you might think!

From my conversations with brands and PRs at the moment, a lot of the focus seems to be going away from numbers of followers and actually heading towards a more holistic way of influencer marketing. A focus on ENGAGEMENT.

Recently, I got the opportunity to speak with Jess Sims, the Marketing Manager for the global interiors company West Elm, about all things influencer marketing. Since I get asked a lot about working with brands, of course I had to rake in some advice for you guys on exactly that.

So here is the a Q&A with Jess that sheds more light on how to get out there as a working influencer.

What qualities do you look for in an influencer?

Authenticity, authenticity and authenticity! Did I mention authenticity?! I look for influencers that know their audience really well and provide them with content that is considered and relevant. It’s easy to see how engaged an audience is and I look for people who I can see genuinely click with their followers. Usually, I can tell this from the comments on posts – I always want to see how people are reacting and also if the influencer engages in conversation through the comments.

What platforms are you currently looking at to find influencers?

I tend to spend a solid hour a day looking through Instagram for new followers to work with. I look at the people I know are great for the brand and then check out who they follow and fall into a rabbit hole from there. It’s never failed me!

How can influencers get noticed by PRs?

There are two ways to approach this. Either get to know the brand inside out before you pitch yourself in – ask yourself how the work you do would compliment the brand you’re pitching to and what could you do together that would be mutually beneficial. A considered pitch is always a winner for me! Secondly, get to know the Brand Manager (or equivalent) – ask them for a quick coffee, find out if your paths could cross at an event and introduce yourself, follow them on social media etc. This industry is all about relationships – the better you know someone, the greater the work you do together would be.

In what ways do you work with influencers?

Predominantly content partnerships and with them I like to make it as mutually beneficial as possible. I appreciate that good content takes time, care and consideration so I want to make sure that that is seen by as many people as possible and fully credited to the influencer with links back to their page.  We’ve also worked with influencers to host store events or workshops/classes if they are skill-based – these are always a big hit for our customers.

What do you find off-putting?

Bad communication, not fulfilling an agreement and lack of research. I’m also very confused when I meet someone offline who as entirely different person online – that seems to be happening a lot at the moment.

What’s a big no-no which can potentially lead to influencers losing out on work?

Working with a competitor brand. If you’re going to pitch an awesome project to one brand, you can’t work with one of their direct competitors at the same time. Be open and honest about any conversations you’re having that could cause a conflict.

Is there anything you look for in a media kit?

Numbers are great but not the be all or end all and do be clear about which is your most engaged channel. I always find case studies of similar projects really useful but do include some statistics. The content might look beautiful but if it only drove 2 people to the brand’s website, it probably wasn’t successful in achieving objectives for the brand. If you don’t have these statistics, ask the brand for them – not everyone is willing to share them but you don’t get if you don’t ask!


Are you open to influencers contacting you?

Always! Email me, tweet me, ‘gram me, track me down at an event. I love meeting new people and am always open to conversations about how we could work together. It’s the reason why I do what I do!

How can influencers build a working relationship with brands?

Get a solid idea of what the brand is aiming to achieve and pitch in content that is geared around that. Is it just website traffic? Is it sales based? Is it just some great content to integrate into their channels to make it more engaging to their customers? Once you’ve done one successful project that hit a brand’s KPIs, you’re tried and tested. You can’t slap on a cost to something when you don’t really know if it’s going to perform in the way you both need it to. Also, make sure you know how it’s being measured and make sure you have access to those figures. Proven examples are the way to get paid.

Are you looking for numbers or engagement? And why?

It depends on the project in hand and what’s trying to be achieved but on the whole, I look beyond numbers. For me, it’s more about if the audience is the right audience for the brand. Someone might have over 100k followers but if that is predominantly comprised of teenagers, they’re not going to be buying furniture – whilst that will boost numbers initially, it’s not going to lead to a long and happy relationship.

How much of a priority are influencers in your marketing strategy?

It’s a huge priority and the focus of everything we do! These days, influencer partnerships can be far more fruitful than a lot of old school press coverage and the success can be more easily tracked too!


So there you have it, some invaluable advice on how you can finally get working with brands. Hopefully you now have a greater confidence in how to set yourself up for potentially building relationships with brands and approaching them too! As Jess has just solidly implied, these brands don’t bite (well I can’t say that for all!) as people like YOU are so vital to their marketing strategies! So don’t be shy…

S x

PS – if you want to start making introduction to PRs or brands try this FREE email template out that Jess herself helped me to create!

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