Blogging for Pay: Should Brands Pay for Mentions?By Kristen Matthews

Wow, I love life lessons.

And I love to share my life lessons, so here goes…

I talk to brands and agencies about their outreach process on a daily basis.

This gives me an in depth understanding of blogger outreach from the point-of-view of marketers and PR pros.

This is what we’d call a one-sided perspective.

This became really apparent when I wrote a post for Ragan’s PR Daily, and discussed 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.

Lessons Learned

I definitely learned a lesson, 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; and did the same of the PR pros and marketers who just want sincere recommendations for the brands they represent. And what better web space to share my experience than on Spin Sucks, my favorite PR blog!?

After talking to some lovely bloggers and PR pros about blogging for pay, I found there are the three sides of the coin.

To Pay

Bloggers work hard to build their audience, and it’s important to note, unlike traditional journalists, bloggers don’t automatically 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 the monetary compensation has been earned.

Many bloggers, and brands who pay, argue the brand makes money so why shouldn’t the blogger? With more than half of the online population making decisions based on a blogger 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 a murky one. If brands paid journalists for a mention, a lawsuit would follow and the journalist’s reputation would suffer.  So, the fact  bloggers can accept payment, albeit with a disclosure, can be a bit unsettling.

This leads us to the “sincerity factor.” According to many of the brands and PR pros who lean toward not paying bloggers for mentions, the biggest reason seems to be this: Paid mentions don’t come across to readers as sincere mentions.

Keeping in mind  bloggers are legally obligated to disclose if 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 if the brand paid them to. Thus, the authenticity and trust just isn’t present in some of the “paid for posts.”

Somewhere in Between

Brands who do pay or who are on the fence often agree 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 quality recommendations.

Another popular tactic is to send bloggers a product, 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 who is going to partake in ‘paid for’ posts, I would like to take up this blog post space to make a public service announcement: Blogging for pay requires you comply with the FTC guidelines, and disclose the nature of the blogger/brand relationship.

Brands, it is your responsibility to make sure the blogger discloses this info. Maybe prepare a document to send to all of the bloggers that you work with.

Want to weigh in on whether or not brands should pay bloggers for mentions, add your input in the comments below. Cheers to a good discussion!

Kristen DeGroot

Kristen DeGroot has been growing and scaling agencies for over a decade and recently decided to turn her experience into an agency for agencies and launched The Campfire Circle. Kristen loves collaborating, offers free consultations, and hopes you reach out to her at [email protected]. When Kristen isn't working hard to generate leads for agencies, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son.

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