Wow, I love life lessons.
And I love to share my life lessons, so here goes: I talk daily to brand managers and agency reps about their outreach process. This gives me an in-depth understanding of blogger outreach from the point of view of marketers and PR pros. This is a one-sided perspective.
This became really apparent when I wrote a post
discussing the value of the mid-level blogger. I made a “not thought out” remark that a mid-level blogger’s mentions are often free. Whoopsies! This opened a can of criticism from bloggers—something I wasn’t prepared to address.
I definitely learned a lesson, and then I took my experience a step further. I asked bloggers who work hard to curate perfect content to engage their audience for their perspective; I did the same of the PR pros and marketers who just want sincere recommendations for the brands they represent.
After talking to some lovely bloggers and PR pros about blogging for pay, I found there are actually three sides to the proverbial coin.
Bloggers work hard to build their audience, and it’s important to note that, unlike traditional journalists, bloggers don’t immediately have an audience to write for, nor a source to pay their salary the day they start producing content.
It takes time, consistency, and hard work to build a network. Thus they put in a lot of unpaid time, and once their network has been constructed from the ground up, some feel that monetary compensation has been earned.
Many bloggers—and brands who pay—assert that the brand makes money, so why shouldn’t the blogger? With more than half the online population making decisions based on a blogger’s recommendation, the right blogger outreach can make your brand money.
Not to pay
The transition for PR pros from working with traditional journalists for coverage to working with bloggers for mentions has been murky. If a brand paid a journalist for a mention, a lawsuit would follow and the journalist’s reputation would suffer. So, the fact that bloggers can accept payment, albeit with a disclosure, can be unsettling.
This leads us to the “sincerity factor.” According to many of the brand reps and PR pros who lean toward not paying bloggers for mentions, the biggest reason seems to be this: Paid mentions don’t come across as sincere.
Keep in mind that bloggers are legally obligated to disclose whether they received money for a post. Their audience, familiar with their style, tends to know whether they are writing because they were so blown away by a product or service they had to shout it from their blog, or because the brand paid them to. Thus, the authenticity and trust just isn’t present in some paid-for posts.
Somewhere in between
Brands who do pay or who are on the fence often agree that if they pay a blogger for a sponsored post, product review, or giveaway, the blogger must sincerely like the brand. Many bloggers have this stipulation as well, as they only want to give their audience high-quality recommendations.
Another popular tactic is to send bloggers a product, with no strings attached. If they like it, they write a sincere post about it. It seems to be a good middle ground, because the blogger is getting something but the post will be sincere as the ball is left in their court to review or not.
Don’t forget to comply
If you are a blogger or a brand willing to participate in compensated posts, here’s a public service announcement: Blogging for pay requires you comply with FTC guidelines, disclosing the nature of the blogger/brand relationship.
[RELATED: Learn why you NEED a content marketing plan at our Fall content marketing boot camp.]
Brand reps, it is your responsibility to make sure the blogger discloses this info. You might prepare a document to send to all the bloggers you work with.
Want to weigh in on whether brands should pay bloggers for mentions? Please add your input in the comments below.
Kristen Matthews is the marketing and community manager for GroupHigh in Boulder, Colo. Contact her at
, and follow her on Twitter @Kristenwords and @GroupHigh. A version of this story originally appeared on Spin Sucks.