I bought a dress while I was shopping for some groceries in the supermarket this afternoon. It was one of those impulse buys. It was less than twenty quid and I’d eyed it up last time I was browsing for socks for my almost-2 year old daughter.
I never buy clothes for myself, you see. Or rarely anyway. It’s even rarer that I make an impulse purchase.
It’s a money thing.
This is something I cringe from writing, because it’s so at odds with “me”. I hate to talk about money. Which, being self-employed, is probably something I need to get over.
Maybe it’s a British thing. Or maybe it’s that I don’t find “money chat” particularly interesting. And by “money chat”, I mean anything to do with purchases, status symbols, big cars, expensive stuff, houses.
Which again, is a problem. Because we’re saving for a house.
But I want to get over my issue with “money chat” to pose a question. It’s something that I’ve wanted to write about since I was approached about an opportunity last week.
Rewind to this time last year and our financial situation was a very different one. I had one month left of unpaid maternity leave. I had already handed in my notice so I knew I wouldn’t be returning to my pre-baby job as a radio journalist. Instead, I was carving out a career as a freelance journalist and writer.
My husband’s teaching salary was a bit lower than it is now and the work wasn’t exactly pouring in. It’s hard starting out.
Money was a constant topic of conversation. Although we had enough to pay our bills – rent, taxes, food, etc. – we weren’t earning enough to save. Which, again, is a problem when you’re trying to save for a house. In the current climate of big deposits anyway.
A year on and the freelance work has picked up pace. I’m earning money writing and broadcasting. I love what I do but I put in around 65 hours a week, as well as being a mum to Frog during the afternoons.
Anyway, back to the money.
Most of what I earn goes on petrol, childcare and savings. It’s all about the house.
So when an opportunity for a little extra rears its head it’s hard to look away.
This time last week I was approached about putting a “guest post” on my blog. This “guest post” consisted of writing a random post about a subject supplied by a marketing agency. Within the post I was asked to include a link to a specific company. The link had to be a “Follow link” and would be anchored to a relevant word.
I replied to the company making the offer, explaining that if I was being paid to write about a product and include a link, I would always clearly label this type of post as “Advertorial” or “Sponsored”. This is because I wouldn’t want to confuse my readers with previous instances when fellow bloggers or writers have provided content on this blog in the “guest post” form.
I also mentioned that I would really rather only include “NoFollow” links on my blog, if I was being paid for them. This is because of Google’s recent changes to terms and conditions. But, you know, my main concern was the whole labelling of the post.
The company replied to say that yes, that was all OK. And would I be happy for their technical people to take a look at my blog and match me to a client. I said yes, that’s fine – but can you confirm in writing that you’re fine for the post to be labelled “Advertorial” or “Sponsored”… And what about the Follow / NoFollow link thing?
There was no answer for a day or so and then the company replied. They had found me a client and they gave me a link, saying that they would increase the amount of money they could pay me if I could publish the post within 24 hours.
I still had no confirmation of the labelling thing. Or the Follow / NoFollow thing. But I did have an amount of money written down. And it was a healthy amount of money.
But I stuck fast. I wasn’t going to agree to anything until I was sure of what I was agreeing to.
It went back and forth for a while. Still no clear answers.
And then I had an email. The company were willing to nearly double the amount they were offering me. This is the amount I would earn doing more than two radio shows. It’s the amount I’d earn selling more than two features. It’s not an insignificant amount.
But for that money I had to be willing to include a Follow link (and go against Google’s t’s and c’s) and, more importantly, I had to pretend like the post was my own.
In essence, I had to include a link in a post about a subject that I was being paid to write about, but I had to bury it amongst all my other posts, so it didn’t stand out as paid for.
The company emailed me again. This time they offered yet more money. They said they could come to a compromise. How about if I labelled it as a “Guest Post”. They were afraid the terms “Advertorial” and “Sponsored” would not work. Their client would not be happy.
Again I refused. I said thank you very much, but no thanks. I didn’t feel comfortable with misleading my readers. Something about the whole offer made me feel very uneasy. I felt that to publish a post I was being paid to write, without making this transaction clear to my readers, would not be ethical.
I stood on top of my mountain of morality and I looked down.
And I saw the me of this time last year. And I wondered very much if she would have overlooked these issues and accepted the money.
And I don’t know.
What would you have done?
I think you did the right thing in sticking to your guns and following your gut – I would have done the same thing.
To me, it’s not so much the “no follow” bit as the wanting to hide behind a Guest Post and not owning up that it was sponsored/advertorial.
At least you are getting offered money to do it. I’m still getting pitches to do “guest posts” on my blog with no compensation. WTF? Some PR people must really think I’m naive….
I think the bottom line is that we each personally have to make one clear rule for ourselves and stick to it…
Absolutely agree. Couldn’t agree more in fact. And yes, pitches for “free content” get my back up too!
I know exactly what you mean, it’s very hard to say no when they’re willing to keep upping the ante isn’t it? I think this is exactly what they’re trying to do, break our resolve and start making offers that are hard to refuse, which has actually strengthened my resolve and made me realise how unscrupulous brands and PRs can be. It doesn’t matter to them the penalties that we may face for breaking the rules, which is exactly why we should all be sticking to our guns.
Thanks Jayne. I think it’s such a shame as I work with some FANTASTIC brands and PRs. There just seem to be a few companies out there that are looking to make offers like this which can be tricky to turn down. Especially when the money’s so good. It goes back to what I was saying to Sian – if there was one clear rule, that everyone stuck to, then life would be easier. But I guess when it comes to something so personal like blogging, you can only do what YOU want to do and not take too much notice of what others do. Really interesting for me to hear other people’s take on this situation though.
the bottom line is – what cash will they offer when theres no page rank? I should think none.
I think the behaviour of this agency is poor. They are the professionals they know the regulations – they have huge budgets to play with – what they pay us is small fry. They are asking us to compromise for their gain, its all very short term.
I agree, they are the professionals. And as such they should be leading the way by saying, “Yes fine, run the post and label it as Advertorial…” Rather than trying to bend the rules. Or that’s how I see it anyway. It seems unfair to put people in this situation – the me of this time last year would have found it really hard to turn that cash down. And I’m not sure, as a new blogger, I’d have understood the implications of accepting the cash.
Sandy Calico says
It’s tough to turn down ‘easy’ money, but I think you did the right thing. Integrity, in blogging as in life, is very important to me. Follow links may reduce your page rank, that’s the risk you take, but I would never compromise on marking a paid post as paid for and have turned down money as a result. I haven’t done one for a while, but I always put ‘sponsored post’ at the top of the post. This is so my regular readers don’t have to waste their time reading it. My blog reading time is limited and I feel cheated if I spend time reading a post only to find that a blue link two-thirds of the way down is the reason for it – especially when it’s not even marked as paid for. I’m not the blogging police though, it’s your blog, your rules. If I think you’re trying to fool me though, I’ll simply unsubscribe and walk away. I may also call you a rude name in my head while I’m doing it 😉 Enjoy your new dress x
Thanks for the comment Sandy. I agree – I’m not the blogging police. It’s up to each individual to make their own decisions about their own blog. But I’m always interested to hear what other decisions people make and how they come to them. Helps me make more informed choices in the future. x
The Mummy Adventure says
I am totally with you and would have done the same thing. I have put so much time and energy into my blog and don’t want to compromise it in any way. I am not against sponsored posts and we all make our own decisions, but I think they should always be transparent x
Exactly my thoughts! x
Cerys @ Rainy Day Mum says
Thank you for writing this. I have done this recently and at the time questioned myself but stuck to my principles/ethics (call them what you will) but for me I have spent time building my blog up, writing about something that I am passionate about and yes the money would be great but it would all be pointless with the reprecussions the what if’s!! Well done for sticking to your principles and don’t think of the what would I have done… just continue doing what you are doing
Glad to know I’m not the only one who turned down the cash. I wouldn’t have had any issue with running the post and taking the money if I’d been able to label it as “Advertorial” or “Sponsored”. But it just didn’t feel right to publish it without those labels.
Well done! You’ve put a lot of effort into your product, and into building a relationship of trust with your readers. And in the long-term, it’s never worth going into business with dodgy people who evade your questions and hope you’ll stop asking if they offer you more money. It’s already starting off with the wrong energy…
Mrs C says
I think that this is very much a personal choice and strongly believe that no blogger should feel bad about choosing one way or the other. At the end of the day we’re not talking about someone breaking the law here and I’m sure any decent parent will do what they need to do (within the law) to ensure that they keep a roof over their children’s heads and food on the table. If they want to take on sponsored posts to do this then fine. If they choose not to and want to earn money another way then also fine.
I’m a tad concerned that some parent bloggers are being made to feel bad (not through this specific post I should say, just in general) because they’re taking on sponsored posts and that’s just more pressure being piled on people who are under enough pressure as it is.
I completely agree. And I do take on sponsored posts myself. I have absolutely no issue at all with accepting adverts or advertorials. My blog is another source of income for me and my family and I absolutely agree that it is up to each individual if they want to take on these types of posts.
My issue was that the company didn’t want the post labeled as “Advertorial” or “Sponsored”. For me, it felt slightly underhand and dishonest to run a piece of commercial copy without making that financial relationship clear to my readers.
But, just to make it clear, I have no issue at all with sponsored posts or accepting payment for blog content – as long as it’s labeled properly. This post wasn’t a sponsored post vs no sponsored post thing at all.
You are a good woman Mrs! I have taken some recently as guest or whatever term has been asked BUT it clearly says on my PR and Disclosure page that these were paid. I need the money – simple as.
We as bloggers tend to look at these things from the inside out and whilst I think disclosure is important especially in terms of ASA and not breaking the law when I mentioned to non blogging friends / mums at school gate that I am paid for some of the posts – the ones labeeled XY and Z they really don’t care. They don’t feel cheated and don’t really dwell on it like we do!
I can see what you mean Emma – and I guess labeling the post is the main thing. For me though, just putting “guest post” wasn’t enough. But if you have a clear disclosure policy that makes it obvious what a “guest post” is on your blog, then that’s fair enough. I also accept advertorials – I don’t think it’s a problem as long as it’s clear. It’s the making it clear thing that is important for me. For what it’s worth, I have a lot of people who read my blog who aren’t bloggers and, while they don’t comment here, they’ve all said to me that they would prefer an advertorial on my blog to be clearly labeled – then they can choose to skip it if they want. x
I’ve done a shed-load of “follow link” posts but since learning more about the rules, regulations and penalties I have changed my policy. For me, it’s all about evolving with the internet. I have enjoyed a fair amount of money during a much needed frugal time and, even though my financial landscape hasn’t changed drastically, I now realise what I have to do to keep the Page Rank that has been awarded through plenty of hard (blogging) work and the stature that my blog enjoys. No, Google is not the law and it’s down to individual choice with regards declaration. Yes, a year ago (or even three months ago) I would have accepted the fee for the post. Now, I have learnt more about the paid writing situation and have made another decision. What I do affects no-one but me and my blog but it does affect the wider picture when it comes down to morals.
I’m with you on the Follow / NoFollow thing Nickie. And, to be honest, if the money was right I’m not sure I’d turn down a Follow link. But the thing that really rankled was not labelling the post clearly. It didn’t feel right to (essentially) put an advertorial on my blog without making that transaction clear. I felt like it might be an abuse of trust for the people who come here and read my posts.
I’m still on the fence with the way in which posts are labelled. I know what the experts say but I also know what my readers think. I only accept articles, guest posts and sponsored posts that are relevant to my audience and they needed to be tagged as such so they know what to accept. A lot of my readers aren’t bloggers or writers and don’t understand the jargon as much as my peers in the blogging world. It’s a fine line that I’m still working out how to walk along, to be honest.
I’m the same. There has to be some sort of relatability and relative content for it to work anyway I think – otherwise it’s beneficial to no one. But yes, it’s still such a grey area. I just know that my non-blogging readers would think a “Guest Post” would be the same as the ones I’ve run while away on holiday etc. I don’t want to have to label a commercial post in the same way as I would label a post written by a fellow blogger with no financial incentive. But that’s just me, I’m very much of the “Your blog, your rules” opinion. (As long as they’re legal!)
We are in a bit of a tight spot at the moment, although better than for quite a while, and I’ve turned one of these down. I’ve worked hard to make my blog what it is, and I’m not prepared to compromise for money.
The dress is fabulous! I just treated myself to some clothes with my clubcard vouchers!
It was a surprising find near the veg section, I must admit! And thank you for the comment. I can totally see how some could accept the offer, but it just didn’t sit right with me. But I’m not judging anyone else who would feel they couldn’t turn down the cash – I’m judging the company for putting the offer forward in the first place and forcing people to make this decision!
Good for you! I would’ve done the same even though we really need money too (we scrape by on one salary and eroding the already pathetic savings we had!) You can’t put a price on integrity and something better that is mutually beneficial will come up. 🙂
Here’s hoping! I have absolutely no problem with running Advertorials (as long as they fit the theme of my blog and I can clearly label them as such). But that offer made me feel uneasy…
I agree with Adele, that is really naughty of them and I have seen a couple of ‘guest posts’ on someone’s blog before with no mention of them being sponsored even though they clearly were. It”s just not worth the risk to your blog, not just from getting caught but from readers thinking you’re dishonest. Bloody hard though, I am bloody poor right now! xx
It is hard isn’t it? You can see how people can be tempted by the cash. Especially in the current economic climate. I just made a decision for myself, and knew I couldn’t personally do it. Not now anyway!
Circus Queen says
In all honesty, if the price was right I might do the follow link even though I don’t do them. If the price was right. But to not label it sponsored? That’s not just about Google. That could land you in some serious trouble. That’s so underhanded of them!
I agree – and, for me, my issue was far more about the label rather than the Follow / NoFollow issue. Being penalised by Google would only really affect me, but to not be upfront about a financial incentive behind a post – well that affects the people who read this blog and trust what I say too. Something I don’t want to jeopardise.
There are lots of people in our community entering into commercial / sponsored arrangements and not disclosing. #Justsaying
It’s such a tricky subject because, for me, it doesn’t feel right. But who am I to tell others what they should do with their blog? I’m not the blogging police afterall. If there was a clear rule and standards across the board – that we HAD TO STICK TO then it would be a lot easier!
Gorgeous dress, and a very good decision – having strong values and integrity more important than a wad of cash xx
Thank you – on both counts. I must admit though, the money was tempting. And the way they kept increasing the price when I said no… well, it makes you realise how people can end up running these sorts of posts.
I say well done! I think you have to remember that you have integrity and PR/clients have to understand that we (bloggers) are not going to be a cheap way to ‘advertise’ their products/services.I’m guessing whatever they offered you was cheaper than a newspaper ad in a top newspaper any way.Yours is the second post I’ve read about turning offers from PR’s trying to deceive Google and readers by offering bloggers more money than usual for a ‘guest post’ that is blatantly ‘sponsored’.You can go to bed and sleep easy I think.
It’s such a tricky situation – and I can completely see why some would choose to take the money. But I think it’s pretty bad that some companies are encouraging people to have to make these decisions in the first place.
Good for you Molly. I personally would have done the same.
You will look ace in the dress.
Thanks Sian – I’m rocking it today, along with a pair of very supportive pants to hold my tummy in! x
Super Amazing Mum says
well done for standing your ground – you did the right thing. I wonder what the client would say??????
It’s a really tricky one. By labelling the post “Guest Post” I felt was not to be completely transparent. Yet this time last year, when money was more tight and my blog was still fairly new… well… I’d like to think I would have stood my ground. But I’m not sure.