Blog Ethics & Working with PRs33

Posted on November 10, 2012 by ChristieFood News, Web Favs

{Photo courtesy of the lovely Nic @ Dining With A Stud via Instagram. That’s me in the centre at the front.}

Last weekend I attended a food blogging conference called Eat Drink Blog held in Adelaide. It was the third annual conference and spoke on a panel with Ed and George. Our allotted half an hour flew by quickly and, as is almost always the case with conferences, we ran out of time.

The discussion was about Ethics and Working with PRs. Today I’d like to summarise what was discussed as well as share a few notes from topics that we didn’t get around to.

Ethics in Blogging

1. Full disclosure is necessary as a courtesy to your readers. How you decide to do it is totally up to you, and it will differ from blog to blog. It doesn’t matter if you start with the words ‘Sponsored Post’ or end with a less formal paragraph that describes freebies or payment, as long as you put it somewhere. Also, be consistent with the way you disclose so that your readers are aware and can choose to read or click away.

2. Featuring sponsored posts on your blog is OK as long as you don’t ‘gush’ about the product/event/service/whatever just because you got it for free or attended as a guest. That’s not an interesting story for anyone to read.

3. Use your authentic voice when writing a sponsored post and weave it into a personalised story. Don’t just start with ‘I got ‘X’ for free and this is why it’s great’. And please, don’t regurgitate press release copy. It’s not exactly unethical, but it won’t sound like you, and will therefore put a dent in your authentic voice. To be blunt, it will make readers run a mile, and never come back. Give yourself some credit. Your readers read your blog because they love your stories, your voice, you. Give them more of you, even when you might be being paid for it.

4. Some people feel uncomfortable writing bad reviews or controversial things on their blogs and that’s fine. However it’s really important to be honest with your reviews and stories. If you are worried about this, then you’ll need to choose your projects carefully as always writing great things about everything can ring alarm bells for your readers. And it’s boring.

5. It’s very tempting, but not every freebie is right for your blog. When you start getting approached by PRs you feel really special and it’s easy to get carried away (myself included in the early days!). However, take the time to carefully think about each opportunity. Does it align well with your blog? Is it something you would personally use/buy/do? Does it immediately excite you? You might think you need to quickly reply or you will miss out. You may even be really dramatic and think “I have to do this as an opportunity this good will NEVER come around again”. Even to the detriment of your stress levels/family life/whatever. Which brings me to…

6. Gut feelings are usually right. I find that if I have to think too hard about a collaborative project that it probably isn’t right for me at that point in time. Things change, people change, so while I never say never I do listen to my instincts.

Working With PRs

1. First thing, just to clarify – PR companies are hired by their clients to source FREE editorial – they rarely have budget to pay media (yes, bloggers are media). However, some PR companies also work closely with other departments within the client company and can negotiate some budget OR they use some of their retainer fee to pay for digital campaigns that they know will have great exposure and reach.

2. Where’s the money? If you are looking to collaborate with brands for sponsored content (paid content) then your best bet is to find contacts at digital marketing agencies (who are given a set budget specifically for digital campaigns) or the marketing departments in-house at specific brands you want to work with.

3. Network with PRs and brands. There is no better place for meeting people and getting a profile for yourself than twitter. Find and follow PRs. Interact with them. They’re just regular people, you know? Same with brands. If you really want to get on their radar then just do it. Don’t be shy. Keep an eye on who other people are talking to and join in. This isn’t high school, they’ll most likely chat back and be really nice. If you go in with that attitude then you’ll be half way there already.

4. Show you are keen. In the early days of blogging I would write about products I liked and then go to the company website and try and find their marketing department contact email. Then I would send them a link to my blog post. At the very least I would get sent a free sample in the mail – which delighted me! Sometimes I would get offers to contribute a recipe to their website or newsletter (for free). Sometimes I agreed and again, was delighted. There’s nothing wrong with giving away your content for free in exchange for exposure when you are starting out. I wouldn’t recommend doing that for too long as you’re not only selling yourself short, but you’re bringing down the industry for others that are pushing forward trying to convince brands that bloggers should be paid for their hard work.

5a. Create a Media Kit for your blog. You don’t have to display it on your blog, but you should have it ready to email when asked. Make sure you have an Advertising or PR enquiries page on your blog that states you have a media kit available and that you are interested in collaborating with brands.

5b. Stats for your Media Kit. Google Analytics is the benchmark for online statistics. If you haven’t installed it yet, stop reading this and go and do it! Now that you have access to stats, the ones that PRs are interested in are Unique Visitors, Page Views and Returning Visitors – display them as monthly figures. eg. 1,000 UVs, 3,000 PVs, 60% returning visitors per month.

5c. Returning visitors are important as it shows that you have a loyal following and if that is the case then you will often have high engagement (social media followers, comments) which means that you are influential with your readers. As in, they are likely to buy something that you recommend – hence why brands would pay you to review their product.

5d. Other information for your Media Kit. Be sure to outline all your different paid content options such as reviews, recipes, banner ads, speaking fees etc as well as any free editorial features you might offer. Include information about your reader demographic if you have it available (using info from your facebook page is good for this) and your contact details.

OK I have to stop, I could go on all day! Is anyone still reading this far down? Hello!

I hope that has helped? Happy to answer any more questions in the comments.

Also, thought it would be fun to post the twitter storm that happened during and after the conference to show you all the lovely people I met in real life!

I’m linking this post up with the lovely Nikki from Styling you who posts about blogging on Saturdays and let’s other bloggers play along in a link up! Click on through to read lots more posts about the wonderful craft that is blogging :)

Christie x


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