Be Careful As Blogger Outreach By Brands Can Influence Opinion
Let me be perfectly clear…I like FREE things just as much as the next person. If someone offers me some new hunting gear to try…most times I say “heck yeah!” When an outdoors company tries to reach out to me by inviting me to some sponsored event…they certainly grab my attention very quickly.
Point is, bloggers are becoming an increasingly important cog in the marketing mechanism and if you post words to a blog—no matter what the blog’s emphasis may be—sooner or later opportunity will come knocking.
In full disclosure, over the years I have attended my share of sponsored trips. I’ve also received my fair share of nifty products to test and to evaluate (with sponsor hopes I would eventually write about it). To be honest, I even had an opportunity next weekend to fly to New York for a sponsored event that would have been loaded with fun and activity. I graciously turned them down. Why? Because as a blogger I believe you need to carefully pick and choose your activities or you fall victim to being a corporate puppet.
When you know a company is investing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in trying to woo your positive opinion to their advantage it’s only human nature to feel somewhat indebted. When testing a product you can give it a fair evaluation…and then return it. Yet, with sponsored activities there is no way to return the airfare, the lodging, the food and all the other incidental expenses along the way. It leaves a blogger feeling somewhat pressured to be an ambassador of the company whether or not deep down they really want to.
I feel it’s important for blog readers to understand when the blogger they are reading has strong marketing ties to a #sponsor. Not only is such disclosure mandated by the Federal Trade Commission, but it’s also simple journalistic courtesy. (Be sure to read my blog’s disclosure statement HERE)
The days when journalists self-pay for their own expenses while on assignment seem to be disappearing rather quickly. And that’s okay, but readers need to understand the dynamics of reporting has changed over the past few decades. Often times, what reads like pure journalism of days of old is now quite blurred with a gray line when a blogger is truly more akin to a pro-staffer representing a corporate entity.
So, why is all this important? Honestly, I feel from time to time it’s critical for a blog’s readers to understand their blogger’s philosophy on the topic. As you’ve learned, I don’t go on every trip that is offered to me nor do I accept every piece of hunting or fishing gear that could come my way. I get several offers trying to get me involved with companies each week, but I feel it important to be selective about such relationships.
On the other hand, I do believe there are bloggers out there who will use their Internet platform to harvest every opportunity that comes their way. They feel no shame in sacrificing unbiased content for the rewards reaped on them by a brand’s blogger outreach program. That’s a choice they make.
The next time you scrutinize any blog post talking about a product or a brand ask yourself why it was written the way it was. Did the blogger owe those kind words, or was it truly coming from the heart? Moreover, ask questions. If the blogger failed to disclose a sponsorship relationship don’t just assume that none exists. Sadly, some bloggers still don’t understand the obligation they have to their readers to be honest and upfront about such things.
No, it is quite doubtful I have gone on my last sponsored outing or accepted a final product looking for my expert testing and evaluation. Yet, I promise such opportunities are each carefully considered on its merits to see how the experience might add or detract from my blogging task. I have too much integrity for the writing craft to accept some opportunity that holds future expectations of a positive endorsement when one isn’t rightfully deserved.
©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.