4 Things Brands and Bloggers Should Know

Posted on November 8th 2012

4 Things Brands and Bloggers Should Know

Every marketing or public relations executive has a story about working with an ornery or unethical blogger. Sadly, in this age of media relations, it's par for the course. So, it's important to understand that some actions taken by bloggers and brands are in violation of the Federal Trade Commission's Guidelines. Whether you're dealing with fashion bloggers or mommy bloggers, or you're a blogger yourself, here are four key points to consider when striking the balance between earned and paid media.

1. A blogger must disclose material relationships with a brand. That includes everything from dinner and merchandise to special discounts or financial compensation. 

2. Audiences value earned editorial the most. Sponsored content can be fantastic if developed directly with the blogger and managed by a creative marketing executive, but more often than not, it's too dry and promotional. Unfortunately, it's becoming harder and harder to get bloggers to cover brands or events for the ability to provide their audiences with exclusive behind-the-scenes content. Instead, many bloggers immediately ask for compensation. The issue? Blogs begin to lose authenticity when the majority of content appears paid, but isn't disclosed as such and far too many fashion bloggers and mommy bloggers are collaborating with brands for the handouts without disclosing that they've been paid or gifted. And, while it's understandable that bloggers would want to monetize their influence, particularly because many fashion bloggers are also models or stylists accustomed to getting paid for their fashion-related services, the standards of writing set by WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) and the FTC still remain a best practice guide for how to communicate and conduct business in an ethical manner.

3. Participating in a unique brand experience adds value to bloggers by offering the opportunity to create content alongside well-established brands. Unlike print and online journalists, it's understood that bloggers who run their own blogs don't often have the luxury of being paid to write editorial. However, blogging began as a free communication vehicle for those passionate about a particular subject. That said, for many bloggers today, the lines have become blurred and, as some become exceedingly influential, they're keen to monetize their influence beyond banner advertising. Although it's hard to determine whether it's the bloggers or the brands that are guilty of what has now become this pervasive mercenary behavior, it most certainly creates a dilemma. Therefore, it's imperative that bloggers maintain their authenticity by covering issues and brands that they don't always get paid to cover. This is how they developed their authenticity in the first place and it's also what eventually leads to paid sponsorship or advertising opportunities down the line. So, particularly if you're working with a brand the first time, bloggers should not immediately respond to event or program invitation with, "And what will my compensation be?"

4. Public relations and marketing executives talk just as much as bloggers. Bloggers and brands, beware of bad behavior. Just as brands must be aware that they are never allowed to pay for positive posts with material goods or money unless designated by proper disclosure language, bloggers must also be aware that agencies are known to circulate blacklists of bloggers. They discuss and share the names of bloggers who are aggressive, mean, and unethical. Once you are known as someone who is a 'diva', difficult, or only willing to blog for money, you will begin the slow descent into losing your blogging credibility. That's not to say there's anything wrong with being paid or acting as a spokesperson for a brand. However, when you are known to only publish for such exchanges, the value that you once developed based on your authenticity and standards begin to fade. Everyone needs to get make money, but in the realm of public relations and blogging, there is always the need to maintain a level of public service that means that you will attend events and write about things that you're interested in without always asking for compensation.

Layla Revis

Layla Revis

Layla Revis is a senior communications professional with over a decade of experience working with clients such as ABC, Discovery Networks, De Beers, Donna Karan, Lincoln Motor Company, and Lenovo. As Vice-President of Digital Strategy at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, she was the social media lead for the Government of Mexico and LG Home Electronics and Appliances, and has counseled clients that have included J.P. Morgan, Johnson & Johnson, United Healthcare, and The State Department.

She currently writes about digital trends for Mashable and The Huffington Post and has served as a speaker on risk mitigation/crisis communications for the United Nations (World Tourism Organization - Marsa Alam, Egypt 2012), Digital Innovation and Augmented Reality for IBM (Smarter Commerce), Hispanics in Social Media at The School of Visual Arts, and Social Advertising & the 2nd Screen for the Association of Advertising Agencies. Her specialties include: luxury marketing, consumer electronics/appliances, multicultural marketing and travel/tourism.

Revis began her career in media at Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and in film production at Warner Brothers Studios. In addition to writing television screenplays and copy for MyNetwork (Fox), SoapNet (Disney), and Bravo, she has served as the Vice-President of Big Picture Group, a Hollywood-based advertising agency where she specialized in pitching, writing, and producing integrated marketing campaigns for clients such as E! Entertainment, Bravo, Discovery, History Channel, and Miramax. She has worked as a Writer, Editor, and Contributor to several publications and NGOs including: Amnesty International, Los Angeles Confidential Magazine, GenArt, Teen Vogue, Town + Country, Surface Magazine, and Women for Women International - UK. In 2007, she went on to found two travel magazine blogs, JauntMagazine.com and Eco-Adventurer.com, to cover luxury and eco-travel for the modern adventurer. 

Revis was awarded a Distinction from The London School of Economics where she achieved a Masters of Science in New Media and International Development. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania in English Literature. 

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Wow. I'm a public relations student and I found this post really insightful. I also had no clue that there was a blacklist for boggers?!

Hey Layla, I understand the point you're making in point #2 but wondering if you have any stats/research to back that up? 

Hi Hannah,

Yes, not a problem. According to Jessica Epperly of The Wakeman Agency, in PR Daily, she writes:

"PR takes the value of advertising and builds upon it based on enhanced impact. Editorial is third-party opinion, so the impact is considered three times that of a paid advertisement. For instance, if a half-page ad in the local newspaper costs $500, then a half-page worth of editorial in the same newspaper would be valued at $1,500. 

There is also something called page rank. Whether your story appears at the beginning or the end of a magazine can impact the media value. 

Also, if your story appears on the top left side of a page, it is often valued higher, because statistically people tend to read the top left side first and spend more time looking left when paging through a magazine or newspaper. 

Your editorial could end up on the same page as a competitor’s advertisement, thereby damping the impact. 

It is important when considering your advertising and public relations budgets to think about the kind of impact you want to have. For example, if you’re promoting an evening of events, put more of your budget toward advertising, because the call to action needs to be instantaneous and short-lived. 

If you want to increase general awareness of your brand or bring attention to your organization’s cause, editorial would be the preferred method, as you want your message to have a much stronger and longer lasting impact through third-party opinion and strategic messaging."

I hope you find this helpful and thanks for your comment!