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Should I Get Paid for That? A Bloggers Guide

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.

Advertising

  • 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)

Editorial

  • 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.

 

Comments

  1. I’d love to get myself that far! Thanks for this post Heather, you always have something to teach!

    • I’m confident that you will get there! It does take time though…I’ve been fumbling around with blogging for a long time.

  2. Thanks for writing this post. I’m also feed up with this kind of pitches by PR companies and companies. I love it when PR persons ask you I would love to work with you. In my book working means a payed gig.

    • Yes, but what do you consider as payment? Sometimes it’s cash but I often consider product or tickets as ‘payment’ enough for my time.

  3. Lately, I have to say I’ve had a few really well thought out and written PR pitches. Makes me smile to see that some are learning.

    Great piece- I agree with it ALL!

    • Yes, it is getting better and maybe why this crazy pitch struck me as so ‘out there’. Most firms know that that kind of request is out of line by now.

  4. Well Ms.Heather – I read this and I feel ‘green’..lol..jealous, which is a terrible word so I went with green. My dream is to write, but it’s a difficult decision to make for me due to my current job. When I read about gal’s like you ‘making it’ and blogging; PR or advertising companies coming to you, I’m jealous. From a pure business perspective I agree with your decision. There has to be some benefit to you. For some the benefit could be just ‘getting’ out there, but I think you’re beyond that now. Stick to your guns! It’s okay to be a shrewd business woman! :)

    • First – don’t be jealous – I’m by no means earning enough to call it a ‘salary’. Second – getting out there is super important but it’s all a case of what you want to ‘get out there’ with? Is it by simply working with a rep and talking about their product or is it by writing something that’s super important to me as a blogger so that my readers can identify with the post and share it with their friends? To me the second is much much more important and will get me further in the end. Third – thanks so much for reading and commenting and I’m sure it will all work out for you too Ms Heather :)

  5. Something for nothing. Everyone seems to want it. wow.

    • Well, it’s a PR reps job to get coverage for nothing….that’s what editorial is for. BUT it’s not their right to expect that coverage to spew forth their pre-written content. So yeah.

  6. It is sometimes really hard to decide what to do. For me, if the pitch is for something I can identify with, or support, I will sometimes post it for free. Most of the time, though, I send my rates, and if they have no budget, I have no time or space for them.

    • you’re right Karen. Something I might accept as editorial coverage might be outside the scope of what another blogger is willing to cover. We are all different and that’s what makes bloggers awesome!

  7. This is interesting, Heather, thanks. I get a lot of requests for editorial-type stuff, but I don’t often do that. Partly because that’s not the style of my site, and partly because I’m not interested in having more “stuff.” For certain things I definitely would consider the product payment enough, but not always.

    My challenge is when I get contacted by charities or similar organizations who want me to share a message (e.g. for every t-shirt they sell they donate $x to a particular charity). I’m happy to support that sort of thing, but it’s not really content I would choose to write and therefore don’t want to do it for free.

    I know a lot of bloggers who won’t even review a product they’re given without payment as well, and I do sort of see their point. I guess it depends what you want your blog to be about.

    My most recent complaint is that I wish PR people would figure out where I live before we get all the way through and they tell me they don’t ship to Canada (or whatever).

    • oh yes the charity donations hinging on sales of product irks me too. These are never just about the charity and always about bringing awareness of a brand. I usually won’t post them. Sometimes I’ll tweet or facebook about it if it’s a cause I support.

  8. I use network television as my inspiration. You know when the character on your fave show takes out a carton of milk, it will be a generic carton of milk. They won’t pick up a carton of “brand X” and wave it around unless it is a paid product placement. As far as I am concerned anything “branded” is advertising, at least on some level.

    • this is true and product placement has huge potential – coverage doesn’t always have to be a formulaic review!

  9. Hi Heather,

    This was a very valuable blog post. Thank you for putting it together. I’m like most others who have commented in that I’ve been blogging for a long time and as a Daddy blogger is finally getting noticed which means lots of emails asking me to push products.

    I did make a conscious decision to only promote items which related to my blog, my beliefs and my readership, and it also scratches my head when someone asks me to, for example, promote and come cover a night out in a club in New York (especially when they specifically start the email by pointing out I’m in Toronto).

    I always wondered if there was some sort of industry standard for bloggers regarding how to address these requests – whether it’s okay to ignore (they’re doing their jobs too) or correct them (if it even matters) and the issue about compensation.

    Your post comes right into line with other bloggers and the way you presented yourself makes me understand why they want you to push lots of items. :)

    Thanks again for the great article!

    Warren

    • Hi Warren, Thanks for stopping by! Typically, I can tell if a pitch is tailored to me (they use my name, my blog’s name, mention a recent post ..something) and so I’ll respond to those even if it’s just a quick ‘not for me’ standard email. If it’s a form email ‘spam’ pitch (generic Hello! greeting and nothing else to show they even stopped by my site, ever) then I just delete them. And yeah…invites to NYC? What are those about?!?! :)

  10. Thank you for writing this. I often give in for various things and sell myself short. I have to remember I am going on four years of this, it is my business and I deserve to be compensated for my time! :-)

  11. GREAT post thank you. I have been blogging for 8 years and working with companies for 5 years and I STILL get confused and don’t know what to say. My biggest problem is companies asking to guest post for me. i’d love content I don’t have to write to fill in spaces but then I would be advertising their business in the bio for free right?

  12. Great post Heather. I think all to often, bloggers are intimidated into believing that they should not be reimbursed for their time, effort or ad space.

  13. I hope you don’t mind that I bookmark your guidelines and study them; this is a very useful article. Being new to the business side of blogging, I need to know this kind of stuff; thanks for shedding some light!

  14. This is a great post. I love it!

  15. Angela Joyce says:

    Thanks Heather. Media buyers and PR consultants don’t usually work hand-in-hand at all. Good point.

  16. Ive been blogging for… 15 years next week. I make it a policy, much like you, never to accept gratis blog post opportunities if the underlying company will benefit in some way (unless I do it without them asking) – period. The only rare exception is a charity that I’m passionate about, but it still has to make sense for my personal content and readership.

    Good on you for this blog post. Cute? I’d call it “naive” – that PR firm needs to give their head a shake.

  17. Well said Heather !!!!
    You nailed it. It can be so confusing to bloggers …and really navigating through the blurred lines of monetizing a blog can be a hair-pulling experience.
    It is a TON of work to be a blogger. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it, but only a fellow blogger would really GET the work behind every blog post. Thanks for sharing !
    P.s. LOVE your blog xx

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