It’s been a while since I’ve posted about the geeky business side of blogging – I’ve been so wrapped up in the new house. But I recently received a pitch from a PR company that left me scratching my head and I felt I had to address it. I’ll elaborate in a second.
It’s no secret that I sometimes share some content that I’m paid to post. I consider it advertising – no different than watching a commercial in your favorite show. Only wait, it is sort of different in that I write most of these posts myself and put my personal spin on the topic myself and do the interviews and research myself. I work really hard to only share topics that I can speak honestly about. You won’t ever see me advertise a product that I don’t believe in or speak about a topic I disagree with in a positive light.
The fee I’m paid covers my time in choosing to write about said product instead of writing about something I just want to write about instead. It covers the value I see in my voice and the value of the time of my readers. It covers hosting costs and all that stuff too. Now, that’s not to say that I require payment before I’ll talk about a product. Sometimes I’ll buy something that’s awesome and I just want to talk about it because well, I want to. You’ll usually see me tell you if I bought something myself or if I got it from a PR company or if it was paid coverage.
So, how do I decide what’s what? How do I pick and choose what I’ll write about editorially for fun and what I consider advertising and require a cheque for? That brings us back to the head scratching pitch.
This particular PR company was looking for me to:
- host a giveaway
- review product (they would provide)
- share their pre-written content
- share their pre-written tweets/facebook posts etc
- post a banner graphic
- They were looking for approximately 4 posts total
Typically with PR companies (but not always) they are looking for editorial coverage (read free). Sometimes I’ll get a request from a PR company for advertising but usually advertising and PR are run by different departments. PR reps don’t usually have a budget while advertising reps usually do.
So here was what I assumed was a pitch for editorial coverage (I assumed this because it was coming from a PR company) yet what they were asking for was space, time, and broadcasting of a pre-written ‘advertising’ message. I was totally confused. I emailed back stating how I felt this was advertising and that I normally wouldn’t share this type of content as ‘editorial’ and could they please tell me their budget.
Response? No budget. Can’t pay. They are merely offering the product and the giveaway as compensation. Say what? Running a giveaway is compensation for me how? One blogger I discussed this with said ‘cute’. And I agree. It’s as cute as my 5 year old asking to have ice cream for breakfast. Not gonna happen.
How to tell what is Advertising and what is Editorial?
Every blogger has her own lines but I thought I’d share mine for those who are not sure when to write ‘for free’ and when to ask for payment.
- Has a specific message for me to share (product is environmentally friendly, service is new to Calgary, Sponsor wants you to know about their contest)
- Has content that’s NOT written by me that’s to be included (you’ll see this type of content denoted by a white ‘quote’ box in my posts)
- Uses up visual space in areas other than the post (sidebar space, site wide links)
- Has specific SEO requirements (asking me to use my Google bending abilities for their benefit. NOTE: I don’t usually accept this because it’s not in line with Google’s TOS)
- Takes up a lot of my time to research, interview etc
- Has costs that I don’t want to be out of pocket for (travel, childcare etc)
- I’ll provide my opinion on a product or service if samples are provided (an example of this is the posts I do about Naot Shoes. They give me shoes. I love the shoes. I write about how I love the shoes and I have full control over what I write.)
- I’ll provide my outlook on an event or experience I’m invited to be a part of.
- I’ll write about topics that I feel are important, timely or topical (charity events, local events, opinion pieces etc)
- Anything else I want to post – personal experiences, recipes, diy projects etc.
The crux of a bloggers pocket book is that often editorial and advertising lines blur. With social media, we have these channels that we can share a message over and these channels have value yet nobody is paying us a salary to access them. When a staff writer takes editorial work their costs are paid for by their employer. They get a salary and sometimes a vehicle and a desk at which to sit and write. But bloggers don’t get a salary. Sometimes, payment for our time means the difference between getting coverage and not getting coverage. Sometimes I need a baby sitter in order to attend an event. If I want to be out of pocket for those costs then I’ll accept it as editorial but if not, I’ll ask for payment and think of the post as an advertising/editorial hybrid. My time is paid for, my costs covered but my message is still my own.
It’s something that advertisers, PR companies and marketers are still trying to get a handle on. Some are getting it right and I’m so thrilled when one of them requests to work with me. And then I get emails requesting for advertising disguised as editorial and I have to shake my head. It’s so confusing…I live in this space day to day and I still get confused. So I thought I would share these thoughts and hope it helps someone out there wade through the mess of it all and feel comfortable knowing when they should ask for an advertising fee and when they should cover the topic editorially.
Fellow bloggers: how do your advertising vs editorial guidelines work? I’d love to have further discussion on this if yours differ from mine! Leave a comment and let’s chat.