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"Can I Ask for Payment During Coronavirus?"

Yes, but you need to craft a very compelling, very targeted pitch.

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

During normal times, many entrepreneurs build partnerships, seek sponsorships or offer other paid opportunities. But what are we to do now, when budgets are tight and the future is uncertain? Can you still ask someone to pay for your partnership?

The answer: Yes, but you have to make a very compelling case.

To dig into the details, we arranged a coaching session between an entrepreneur and an industry expert—and filmed it so you can watch.

Anna Kachikyan is the creator of The Armenian Report, a news outlet that serves English-speaking Armenians around the world. Brands typically pay to advertise in The Armenian Report, but Kachikyan isn’t sure if it’s appropriate to pursue clients right now. Jason Harris is president and CEO of the advertising agency Mekanism, and author of The Soulful Art of Persuasion, and has some very helpful tips for pitching during a crisis.

Three major takeaways:

1. Make the case with data.

Businesses may be budget-conscious right now, but they don’t want to hit pause entirely. They want to make the smartest possible bets they can. That’s why, if you’re going to seek a paid partnership, you need to make a strong case for why now is a great opportunity.

For example, here’s Harris making the case for spending on digital advertising: “Digital usage is up 70 percent. Social media usage is up 46 percent. Brands that continued to advertise during the 2008-2009 recession were 45 percent farther ahead in market share, compared to their competitors overall.” If you put numbers and data behind your outreach, he says, you can entice your brand partners to work with you right now.

Harris’s company, Mekanism, produced a white paper on communication in the time of COVID-19, which contains a lot more of that data.

2. Create an opportunity they can’t find elsewhere.

Kachikyan serves a niche audience, and worries that it’s too small for brands to care about now. But Harris says that her niche audience is actually a great opportunity for brands — if she presents it properly. “This is perfect time for them to hit a new target demographic,” he says.

Here’s the thing: Brands want to expand their reach, and now is a great time to introduce themselves to new audiences. That way, when the economy recovers, that audience will remember the brand fondly and become even more engaged. The trick, Harris says, is making that opportunity as clear as possible to brands. “I think the pitch could go like: 'Here's who my target audience is. These are the things they care about, with some stats and data. Did you know that traffic to my page or my stories have been getting 200 percent more views?' Then, offer general stats about internet and social media usage, and say, ‘I think this is a perfect time to talk to a new audience.’”

3. Offer something free now, to build a relationship for later.

“When I started my agency,” Harris says, “I did about five free campaigns before I started getting paid, because it built a case study for me, and I had well-known brands that I could connect my brand to.”

Even if you’re past the days of offering freebies, you may want to consider doing it again (or running a 30 percent discount). Not every brand can pay to partner right now, but it's still an excellent time to build relationships and show your commitment to the community you serve. That’ll pay off later.

For more, watch the video above!

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