Blogging for money – is it ethical? Is it honorable? Would you do it? DO you do it?
The reality today is that bloggers are influential in the world of sales and marketing by virtue of their personal connections (their networks – on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Stumbleupon and Tribber), their expertise (we've come a long way, baby; yes, we know how to do product reviews and how to put an intelligent paragraph together), and their passion (many of us blog around niche topics – serving up-to-date education and information about that topic). So, why is the thought of paying these writers so … distasteful for some PR firms and brands?
Could it be because they're stuck in an old 20th century mindset, thinking bloggers are just people with time on their hands? I came across this fabulous post written by a mommy blogger (yes, they have the same problems we do around this issue) that outlines the differences between old-world thinking about bloggers and a "new manifesto" as she puts it, that describes why bloggers are worth the time, attention and MONEY brands and PR firms used to give… celebrities.
Her name if Caz and her blog is Mojito Mother – Putting the MOJO back into a Mother's Life. Give it a visit – you'll be glad you did!
In her post, "Bloggers, Brand andPR Relationships – A New Manifesto", Caz says, "We are in quite the transitional period with blogging and working out how we bloggers can create win-win relationships with brands.
Unfortunately a lot of the time, the working relationship is looked at through the eyes of the known- which is the traditional print media world.
Blogging is a different ball game and so needs to be approached with a new direction. New ideas need to be considered and blogger/brand relationships created around this new form of publication."
She then goes on to talk about how bloggers are routinely pitched free stuff – or trips – or giveaways. As if that's all that's necessary to get that blogger to write about the brand, the product, or the service. Instead of considering the power bloggers have to promote a brand or product, too many PR firms or even brand managers, are walking away from bloggers who say, "Pay me." They wrongly think the blog's readers won't take the promotion seriously. As if paying the blogger is buying their opinion.
As I've said many times, here and at BlogPaws the conference, we don't sell opinions. We don't ask bloggers to offer an opinion, for sale. We pay our bloggers for their time. Brands that understand the concept of a blogger's TIME being worth something, get it. Today's bloggers are often in a small business, working from home. This is how they pay the bills. It's not all that different, I don't think, than reviewers being paid by magazines or newspapers. Or, celebrities offering to do a commercial for a brand. THEY get paid – for their time, presumably NOT for their opinion. (in the case of celebrites, don't we expect that they've used the product – and even though we KNOW they are following a script, we believe them! Bloggers don't follow a script – they write from the heart!)
Here's a list that Caz has in her post that explains in simple, bulleted form, WHY "standing behind a blogger that suits their brand's mission and purpose is indeed a very powerful relationship" worth the money a brand will be spending on the blogger or bloggers they work with. (Caz's bolding, not mine)
- Bloggers have highly engaged audiences and loyal readers
- They have a voice that their target market can relate to
- They are the target market writing for the target market
- Their operation costs are very low making the investment for marketing dollars extremely low
- Bloggers have high klout or influence.
- Bloggers blog about the real issues to the readers, offering insight, inspiration and information.
- Bloggers are highly approachable and engage with their audience on a personal and almost daily basis.
It's a sure win-win. Over at Adage, this article by Josh Bernoff, calling this practice "sponsored conversations" (a term I first learned at BlogHer) goes into some detail on the practice of paying bloggers, citing a need to follow FTC guidelines, which is key to keeping everything open and honest.
Caz has more to say on the subject, making such points as: "Bloggers have far more at stake than journalist writing for a magazine. They are their brand, they are their business. They have to stay true to it. They have to be authentic in their recommendations and their voice, otherwise they are out of business."
I could go on and on, quoting Caz and adding my own thoughts and reasons we bloggers are worth the time and money brands and PR Firms are spending elsewhere, but Caz has pretty much covered everything in her post. I'd love to have you read it and come share what you think, in our comments.
Do you accept payment for marketing programs or is free product okay? If you aren't being paid now, would you like to be paid? Do you agree that bloggers have a LOT to offer? What are your concerns or worries, about getting paid to blog?
If you're a brand or PR firm, what's holding you back from engaging with qualified bloggers on a paid basis, for their time?
This is a great post! Thanks!
I agree; Bloggers are their brand. For me personally, it’s important to protect my brand, and that includes following FTC guidelines as well as being selective in any brands I choose to work with. My audience is spread across social media, I have a blog, social network, video channel, and Facebook page; I currently reach more than 30,000 with post views totaling more than 5 million/month. While it is on my radar, I’ve been slow to monetize my brand because I want to do it right and not clutter up my message with advertising messages. And I look for a partnership that is win-win-win for my audience, the advertiser, and me. The blog article referenced in this post is missing a key point. The PR industry is about creating buzz – and bloggers can do that, but it differs from the Advertising and Marketing industry. Savvy PR creates buzz with product give-aways, press releases, and/or events; they do not pay people to write or broadcast their story. Advertisers and Marketers do. In order to monetize a blog or website, one needs to pursue the advertisers, not PR. Social media is still new enough that the innovators are pursuing bloggers and vloggers to reach their target audience in a new and refreshing way via online influencers, … while the old school folks are following traditional methods – all the while traditional media is taking a hit from social media and some are folding. I would never demand payment as the author of that article states; it’s simply a business deal. A blogger should state their policy for sponsorships/advertising upfront so advertising brands and PR firms know what their terms are. There is either something of mutual interest/opportunity, or there is not.
A note of correction: “advertisers and marketers” don’t pay people to write or broadcast in the same vein as traditional journalism. But advertisers have the budget for the specific purpose of advertising/sponsorships which differs from the PR industry.
This was right on the money and I wish more companies would read this and appreciate the value of what we have to offer.
I have never received money for a review but would gladly accept it if I was writing about a brand/product that I believe in. I would never accept payment from a company/brand that I would never use.
There is a nameless “fairy” going around the blogosphere that is offering presents and gift cards to bloggers (myself included) to have their link placed on our blogs. Originally I was going to do it, then I saw the link was for refrigerators/appliances in the U.K. I sat and thought about it for a moment. I felt it didn’t belong in the text of my blog about cats. I thought it compromised my integrity.
Thanks to having attended BlogPaws this past August I have connected with a few brands that I am HONORED to have connected with, that I probably never would have if I hadn’t been at the BlogPaws conference.
They have given free product (and some wonderful products that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have had on my own!)
watching DWTS and forgot to say I told the “fairy” thanks but no thanks and explained why.
Great read! I feel as a new blogger (I may be underselling myself) that it’s like a slow leveling up process to being paid. Sort of like going up the ladder in a salary job. First you start the blog, then you get get readers, then your first reviews roll in and as you get more readers you start to build rules for yourself. I’m at the point where I won’t ask for money but I have to have used that item or experienced that item to review it. I’ve had some companies just tell me about something to try and post about it which I would have done if I had just started out. I hope someday I’ll be able to be paid for my time to write out thoughtful reviews. I think it’s a learning process of trial and error and you just have to stay true to your rules. Once in a while step back and go “I’m asking for this but am I worth more now?” like a quarterly review.
Fabulous and much needed information. I’ve spent many hours writing back to both companies and the PR reps explaining why I should be paid if I discuss their brand or put their link on my site. I will not sell myself or my blog to brands/products/causes that I don’t believe in 100%, and I hope that I’ve built enough trust with my readers over the years that they believe that too.
Thanks for the great post!