Let’s imagine you’re a brand or PR rep and you’ve got a great product that you want to get into the hands of some bloggers. You know that if they can experience it they will love it and write about. You don’t want to pay them because the product speaks for itself.
If you were the only company thinking this you’d be onto something, but unfortunately for you, you’re not. Bloggers are getting pitches left, right and centre from people who have had the exact same thought about their product. As a result, bloggers increasingly feel by taking time out to experience your product and writing intelligently and passionately about it, it’s reasonable to talk about compensation.
How do you compensate bloggers for their time while maintaining the impartiality and credibility of the recommendation? And, does paying a blogger dilute the power of their comments?
There are two main viewpoints:
The first comes mainly from the PR corner and suggests that compensation = advertorial. The dominant sentiment is that PR doesn’t pay for comment. Bloggers are not journalists but they are new media and PR (for the most part) is having a hard time finding ways to negotiate this space. As always, there are great PR companies who really do a great job in this space – you know who you are.
The second comes mainly from bloggers but also increasingly from marketing departments and digital agencies and picks up on the new media angle. It says that compensation is for someone’s time not their opinion, and in the case of a brand partnership/ambassador program compensation is an appropriate response to someone who pro-actively aligns their reputation (and significant time) with them.
What do I think?
I think that when a brand strategically engages a blogger to act as a promotional partner they should be compensated.
I am not talking here about the more tactical “review and giveaway” campaigns (though I am not excluding those entirely either) but about strategic campaigns between a blogger and brand where the blogger genuinely endorses the brand and by working with them aligns their personal credibility and provides substantial access to their readership & community.
Not only do bloggers lend a brand their integrity via such an arrangement but they lend their knowledge and expertise of social media. This is knowledge that rightly deserves compensation.
And therein is the dirty word: deserves.
I don’t like the word “deserve”. We (bloggers) do not deserve to work with brands, we do not deserve to be sent free stuff, we do not deserve anything.
A brand that is clever might recognise the opportunities that a blogger offers and may choose to approach a blogger for a partnership of some sort. Should they do this and such an offer be accepted then the word “deserve” comes into play; but it’s not something that a blogger can claim simply because they are a blogger. We should view as a cautionary tale the path Mommy Bloggers in America have taken regarding this and the poor reputation they are gaining by being liberal with the dreaded “d” word. I believe that when we talk in terms such as “deserving” we do ourselves an injustice.
A better word is simply compensation.*
When one individual or business provides a service to another it involves compensation. When the service provider is a blogger the situation ought to be no different. When a blogger has information that a brand needs, or offers an endorsement that is valuable, compensation should not be a matter of “if” but of “what.” Compensation does not need to take the form of cold hard cash, though I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with that. Brand Partnerships could take myriad of forms, as could compensation; the key is to come to an agreement that both parties are happy with.
What do you think?
*Edit: there has been some discussion in the comments about whether compensation is the right word and I’d love to hear what you think about this as the words we use to describe and even begin to define what bloggers do have to offer brands are very important. In the context here I am using the word compensation to describe “something given as payment” – I realise the word has limitations and can appear to undermine the value that a blogger has to offer, please understand that is not my intention.