How to Pitch Your Affiliate Program to Top Content Publishers

Do you wonder how brands pitch commerce content pubs?


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We recently held a Put it On the Record session on how brands can form partnerships with top content publishers. The session was among our most popular of the year. We thought it would be useful to reprise some of the critical insights outlined by our great speakers. We hope you find it valuable.


Special thanks to the panelists on this session and the sponsor of this session CJ. This article is an aggregation of their thoughts and advice.


You can watch the webinar here. Or connected with them directly. Thank you to publishers Jeremy Wilson of Penske Media, Alexis Caldwell of Forbes and Stephanie Quick of The Arena Group (Sport Illustrated, Athelon and Parade). Special thanks to our brands that put themselves up for constructive feedback. Yesica Lepe of Oak Digital representing Lumin, Elena Potoupa of PartnerForward representing Balls.co, Chelsea Holt and of Acceleration Partner pitching No Bull, Kyle Dodson of Matterkind representing Sling TV and Elena Ciaccio of eAccountable pitching Peter Millar.


More and more brands seek to expand their partnership efforts with programs to promote brand discovery and drive conversions. Content publishers are inundated with recruiting efforts these days. It’s vital to remember that they have specific needs - some that mirror the requirements of traditional affiliate publishers and others that reflect their primary responsibility to offer high-quality content to their readers.


With content partners, securing a partnership agreement is not a “slam dunk.” These companies are interested in performance revenue but recognize that their future success relies on meeting the needs of audience members first. You need to pitch your program as a way of fulfilling and monetizing their editorial missions.


For maximum success with content partners, brands must reflect these publisher needs in their pitches. If you are hoping to expand your affiliate business through partnerships with premium content partners, here are 14 tips to help you be more successful.


Ensuring Fit


1 Do your homework first. Review the publisher's web presence thoroughly to understand the publication’s mission and key topical “beats.” While a handful of publishers, like top metropolitan newspapers, cover broad ranges of topics, most of the most successful publications interested in performance partnerships are focused on one or a few verticals. Your brand initiatives need to fall into one (or more) of their “beats.”


2. Study the Ways they Work with Brands. Publications have different promotional styles and approaches. Some focus on product recommendations, while others focus on reviews, buyers guides, and other content types. Make sure you understand their approaches before formulating your pitch and program ideas.


3. Find Articles and Content Relevant to Your Product and Category. If a publication has created content relevant to your business and goals in the past, it is a sure sign that it can do so in the future. Identifying pre-existing editorial content in your pitch significantly increases the likelihood that the publication will be interested in working with you.


4. Consider How Your Brand and Audience Align with Theirs. Content brands know their audiences and needs. They want to produce commercial content that will enrich and enhance their viewers’ lives. Take the time to articulate how your brand is relevant to the audience so the publisher team will immediately see editorial and commercial fit.


5. Develop Potential Story Ideas: When you can present a series of editorial concepts that align with their mission and your product and category, you can help the publication see that a partnership can be scalable, relevant, and lucrative.


6. Study their editorial calendar! This may seem plainly obvious. But publishers typically produce a calendar outlining their editorial/commerce plans. Take a look at see if there is content that aligns with your marketing goals.





Tailor Attractive Program and Offer Details


7. Offer an Attractive Commission and Be Specific about Program Rules and Metrics: Show the publisher team how easy it will be for them to generate profitable at-scale revenue. When a publication has multiple brands vying for its attention, you need to ensure every aspect of your compensation pitch is attractive.


8. Consider Hybrid Agreements: Money talks. When you combine your proposal with a sizable traditional advertising buy, the publisher can evaluate your program as part of a larger brand commitment. A hybrid program demonstrates a brand’s interest in the publication's mission and its continued business success. That is very meaningful to both editorial and revenue teams.


9. Make Your Offer “Work” for Content Publishers: Unlike many classes of traditional affiliates, content publishers are generally not focused entirely on bottom-funnel use cases. One of the reasons why you want content publishers in your program is to augment product discovery. Publishers want assurance that they can receive compensation for the value they create.


10. Communicate Your Content-Friendly Attribution Model: Content publishers are aware of the potential for their traffic to be poached by late funnel marketing tactics. They understand that tools like extensions, buttons, and coupon/deal publishers can often insinuate themselves into the customer journey. Clearly articulate your safeguards for top-funnel affiliates.


11. Offer Custom Codes for Key Initiatives: Custom codes are meaningful to publishers because they offer more assurance that they will be appropriately compensated for their traffic and conversions.


12. Model Out Potential Commissions: Based on what you know about the publication’s traffic and your commission proposal, calculate potential revenues so the content publisher can see the full value of working with you.


13. Think Long Term: Publications, like all partners, want to work with brands that can be an ongoing source of revenue. Outline your commitment to the partnership and assure them that you are in it for the long haul.


Accelerate Time to Revenue


14. Offer to Send Product: Make it as easy as possible for editors to get exposure to and experience your products. And be generous with the quantity you send. By removing barriers, you can dramatically accelerate the time-to-first-initiatives.


15. Align Editorial Calendars: Publications expend enormous effort creating editorial calendars that will strongly appeal to readers. If you can align your tentpole events to relevant initiatives in the publisher’s calendar, you increase the likelihood of attention and maximize potential sales lift.


16. Pay Your Bills On Time: Last but by no means least. Content publishers carefully track brand adherence to partner agreements. One of the surest ways to maintain editorial attention is by paying commissions promptly. Similarly, paying late creates immediate bad will.


Content publisher agreements are a very attractive way to drive incremental growth. By following these tips, you can secure more – and more profitable – alliances with partners that can make a real difference for your brand.



This webinar is brought to you by CJ.




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