I participate in a number of blogger forums on Facebook, which some of my friends in the blogging community initiated to give bloggers a place to gather and discuss issues relevant to the rapidly changing world of online publishing.
While the types of questions posted run the gamut from technical to business development to vendor referrals, a topic that frequently arises is when bloggers should ask brands for payment to review or mention their products and subsequently, how much they should charge
As a hybrid blogger and publicist, I find these conversations equally fascinating and frustrating at once. As many bloggers consider themselves to be marketers over editors or publishers, I completely agree that there is a time and a place for brands and public relations professionals to compensate bloggers. We live a society where a select number of media-facing bloggers are receiving sponsorships, product endorsements and in some rare cases, television shows – as much attention as professional athletes!
However, on the other side of the coin, even the savviest, most forward-thinking brand or public relations firm will not just hand out dollars in exchange for product mentions. Just as blogs can be businesses, public relations professionals and brand representatives have a job to do: to protect their client’s image and reputation.
While blogging can – rightfully – be a lucrative gig, I think that compensation to bloggers should be earned – not expected. Recently I saw a blogger post on Facebook that she worked with a brand that later asked her to remove links to its site from an earlier review that she did for them, for SEO reasons. She in turn asked the community of bloggers if it was unreasonable for her to delete the whole post and tell them that deleting the post was easier/quicker than going through and deleting a couple of links. Several people chimed in telling her that because removing the links in the post or deleting the post would take time away from her other work, she should let the brand know that she would charge them $X to remove the links. If I received that email, I would make sure none of my clients ever paid that blogger to do work again!
Think about it: it would take longer to write that email requesting compensation then it would to help a frazzled brand representative, who is probably dealing with a situation over her head, in good faith that the brand might have future opportunities – ones more lucrative than 15 minutes of editing a two year old blog post.
So if bloggers shouldn’t be charging brands by the minute, when is it appropriate for a blogger to ask a brand for compensation?
A brand is asking you to be their ambassador. There are some bloggers that have built a substantial following of loyal readers – a network that extends beyond the people who read their blogs on a semi-regular basis. If a brand wants to tap into that network, they might invite you to be a brand ambassador, or to help promote its products or services to your network of enthusiasts. Specific tasks may include hosting an event for the brand, representing them as a spokesperson on broadcast media, loaning your name/likeness to a printed advertising campaign or creating branded work for them. This type of request goes above and beyond asking you to write about a product on your blog. Here is an analogy: would Jennifer Aniston represent SmartWater for free because she likes it? Probably not, but she might mention it on a talk show if it’s something she genuinely enjoys and consumes in her daily life.
A brand is asking you to create content for the brand’s own properties. Many bloggers have developed some extremely marketable skills since they began blogging – from recipe development and cooking to photography and even public speaking about their topic of expertise. If a brand sends you a friendly email offering to send you product samples to try, and then write about if you like them, that is simply an editorial offer. On the other hand, if they ask you to create recipes, take photographs or write content to be used on the brand’s website, marketing materials, or product packaging (unless you have arranged to barter or have another agreement in place) the brand should compensate you for services rendered.
A brand is asking you to complete a specific task. When we are not working with bloggers on specific paid campaigns, we treat them like traditional media – offering them story angles to attract their interest or product samples to consider for upcoming posts or stories that they are planning. However, when we engage bloggers for paid campaigns, we typically require specific “asks” of them. If a brand has contacted you and asks you to write a review of their product that links back to a specific web page, includes special keywords or complete specific actions on your social network, then they should offer you payment. When a brand has clear expectations and gives you an “assignment” they are asking you to go above and beyond and create content that delivers against their marketing goals.
In what other instances do you think that brands and public relations companies should be responsible for compensating bloggers?
Thoughts on new and traditional media, current events, life in Chicago and the occasional small Chihuahua photo.