Host an amazing Giveaway • Cat Morley

You may have wondered how professional websites, blogs and magazines host huge contests and give away amazing prizes, and thought it was something only the big publications could do. Other bloggers will kill me for telling you this but hosting giveaways and getting companies you love to sponsor you isn't as tricky or mysterious as it may seem, and I'm going to share all my tips and tricks for hosting your own contest, no matter how big or small your blog may be.

When I first started Cut Out + Keep, asking for anything from anyone terrified me. I'd humbly write and rewrite emails asking brands to sponsor contests, sure that they would laugh or be offended for thinking my little site was worthy of their products. As time went on, and we hosted more and more giveaways, my confidence grew and I stared to realise that these brands weren't grudging us at all for asking for free things. In fact, we were providing them a service by giving away their products and they were thankful for the promotion.

Last month we hosted our biggest ever giveaway on the site, where fifteen huge brands sponsored prizes for our first ever annual Secret Santa competition, sending one freebie to us and one to fifteen lucky winners on the site. Members submitted over 600 Christmas craft tutorials to enter and we watched in amazement as a fish-eye camera, gigantic die-cutting letterpress, jewellery, dress and piles of other amazing prizes started arriving on our doorstep. Once upon a time, I used to think that companies would expect you to pay them to give away their products and today I know they'd be willing to pay you for the opportunity. With the mystery dispelled, let me talk you through the tips and tricks I've learned to make your first giveaway the best giveaway ever!

1. Work with companies you love

When you're up and running with your blog, it's likely that you'll receive some unsolicited emails from companies who have nothing in common with you or your audience wanting to sponsor giveaways or send you free things in exchange for promotion. It can so tempting to say yes because they're offering you something for free, but if you work with unsuitable brands too often it can start to damage your brand and lose the trust of your readers. To make sure your giveaways are of the highest quality, ask yourself what kind of prizes you'd like when working out who to contact and make a rule to only give away prizes that you'd love to win yourself. When Tom and I were planning out the Secret Santa contest, we headed out for ice cream with a notebook and asked each other what the most exciting prizes we'd want to find under the Christmas tree would be, which led to a gigantic list of potential sponsors to take home and contact.

2. Don't fear rejection

Don't be discouraged if you receive a few (or a lot) of no's, as it's just part of business. Instead, use rejection as motivation to contact even more potential sponsors. When preparing the Secret Santa competition, we contact around 60 brands to end up with our final 15, giving us a 25% success rate. A lot of people didn't reply, some had already planned out their holiday promotions and we were too late, and a couple didn't feel like it was the right fit. Just remember, it's not the end of the world if you do get a rejection. By emailing, you've put yourself on that companies radar and you'll come to mind the next time their planning out a suitable promotion.

Here's a breakdown of the response to our Secret Santa requests from my Chase-Up inbox.

3. Keep it fair for everyone

Running a successful blog is all about keeping good relationships with brands and your audience, so it's important to make sure that everyone gets something out of the features you run. A successful giveaway should bring a brand exposure while offering your readers the chance to win a fantastic prize. You also want to make sure you're getting something out of hosting the contest, whether in payment, products or exposure. In terms of our contest, the brands received exposure for their products via our gift guide, newsletter and social media; our members had the chance to win awesome prizes; we got some awesome supplies for our office; and the site itself gained over 600 awesome Christmas tutorials which is fantastic for our readers. Everyone was a winner!

4. Make it fun to enter

There are so many websites and blogs running giveaway out there that it can be tricky to stand out from the crowd. Adding a personal quirk or a twist to the giveaway theme, question or entry-criteria will keep your readers interested. Audience participation is everything on CO+K, so we ask our members to craft projects to certain themes to enter our contests and we often ask the sponsors to pick the winners, to get them more involved. To make our Christmas contest even more exciting, the prizes were a secret (even to us) which made it fun for the sponsors picking out what they would send. Make your giveaways unique and you should get a lot more entries!

5. Keep busy with promotion

The final key to a successful giveaway is to promote it far and wide. Sponsors will expect to see lots of entries, so be prepared to put as much work in to promoting the contest after it's launched as you did setting it up in the first place. Include it in your newsletter and promote it on your social media. Be careful that you don't get too pushy though, as you don't want it to feel like you're hawking products and pestering your audience. Don't be afraid to ask the sponsors to help promote the contest too, as this can be a great way to bring new readers to your blog.

I hope this article has helped to clear up the mystery and confusion when it comes to hosting giveaways online and that it's given you the confidence to give one a go for yourself. The great news is that once you've hosted your first successful giveaway, you can use that as a case study to show new sponsors why your blog is the perfect place to host one. Giveaway are a great way to build relationships with brands, while increasing engagement on your blog and rewarding your readers, so that everyone's a winner. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions in the comments!