PR 365...Blurring the Lines Between PR & Marketing
Posted Mar 28 2010 6:00am
In recent weeks, I have read numerous posts and observed tweets involving the blogging community and why many believe they should be paid for writing about a product or service on their site. As a mom blogger and a PR professional who consults with companies and brands to effectively connect with our community, I'd like to share my perspective on this topic and hopefully shed light on it for many of you who have come to resent publicists who you believe should be paying you to write on your own blog.
The 411 on Product Reviews: First things first, you do not and I repeat, do not have to review a product or service if it has nothing to do with what you are interested in! If you have been contacted by a PR firm to try out their latest product, you need to decide if you think your readers will benefit from reading about it. That's the bottom line - if you think by posting a review, your readers can genuinely come to benefit from learning about it, then you come up a winner. You should think of your blog as an online newspaper and magazine. You decide the best possible content that belongs there and if you are approached by a PR firm that does not have a pitch that dazzles or interests you, then politely decline and possibly even respond back with a message asking about their additional clients. You may be surprised, but that PR agency may represent another brand or product that fits your blog like a glove.
Should I Get Paid to Write a Review on My Own Blog: This question seems to be the biggest one being addressed by bloggers and depending upon a bloggers' background, you will get two different answers. I'm a publicist and my professional opinion on this one is that you should not be paid to write a review on your own blog about a product. I understand that while it may take you a long time to write that review, by being compensated to share your opinion, you are automatically skewing the results. If a journalist were ever paid to review a product or experience in a newspaper, they'd be fired on the spot. And yes, I understand that a journalist gets a salary, but again, if you consider yourself the editor-in-chief of your blog, you will work hard to find ways to monetize your blog without compromising your ethics. Of course, you can always disclose that you received compensation to post that review, but your reader will most likely be skeptical and if they order the product and it does not live up to their expectations, then your blog cred could be affected in a negative way.
If you do receive compensation to post a review, then make sure it clearly states that the review is sponsored by either the marketer or brand.
When should I get paid to post on my own blog? If a company reaches out to you to post information relating to a contest, or giveaway, you can certainly request that they pay for placement. However, if you are approached by a PR agency regarding that information, they do not have a budget to compensate bloggers. Don't expect the publicist to come back with a response that they'd be happy to pay for the placement. They believe they are providing you with something of value to your site and oftentimes are taken back when a blogger asks to be paid to post.
If you are contacted by a marketer however, you can absolutely ask for compensation for placement on your blog - via a banner ad, sponsored giveaway, contest, sponsored Tweet, or email blast to your community. The rates would vary depending upon your traffic, but the average cost to sponsor an advertorial can range from $15-$25. If you get significant traction from giveaways, you might want to charge more for those posts. Take a look at your analytics to calculate the rate for the giveaway. Some sites charge as much at $250 for a month long giveaway - but if you set that rate, you have to provide the numbers to back it up. If you don't know if the person contacting you is a publicist or marketer, then simply ask them the following question: Do you have a marketing budget? If so, I'd be happy to share our advertorial and sponsorship rates with you.
When would a PR firm or brand compensate a blogger?
1. Providing original content to a brand website: You should be compensated for your time if you are providing original content to the brand's website. Depending upon the length of the post, you should be compensated between $250-$500 for your work. If any PR firm or individual asks you to contribute content their brand's website and they say that the way you'll be compensated is through exposure, then politely email back that you would like to pass on the opportunity. I have fallen for that line as well and have in the past contributed to one company's website but once I realize there was no benefit to my bottom line, I informed my contact that I would no longer be contributing.
2. Spokesperson Opportunities: If you have extensive media experience (have appeared on radio or on television), and are approached by a brand to make a media appearance on their behalf, you should be compensated for your time. The rate of compensation varies depending upon your experience. If you've never made a television appearance and the PR agency is providing you with an opportunity to do so, you may not be compensated the first time around but if you hit it out of the park, the firm may then choose to use you for other appearances and if that happens, you should definitely ask to be paid for your time. Additionally, a brand may want you to be a speaker at an event they are hosting. You can definitely ask for compensation for that too - especially if that firm has hired a celebrity to speak that day as well. Sure, you might not be able to command the same rate, but you should be entitled to something. Time is valuable and so is yours! If you are participating in a panel about social media to the larger blogging community, you probably won't be compensated but you have to think of that as an opportunity to network and garner exposure for your own blog. If you are giving the keynote address at a conference, then you should be paid!!!
3. Focus Group Consultation: If a brand or service is reaching out to you to provide constructive criticism and advice on a product in development or a campaign that's about to launch, then you absolutely should be paid for your time. In fact, marketers frequently use the advice they garner from focus groups to tweak an ad campaign or inform their client about what influencers think of their product. If you are asked to spend at least an hour of your time with a brand, then you should be paid. Typically, compensation can range from $100-$250 depending upon the length of time you have spent sharing your views and offering input.
Should I be paid to attend a blogger retreat or trip?
For the most part, bloggers are typically not compensated to participate in a retreat that includes airfare, hotel stay and transportation. If a brand is treating you to a few days away to share details about their latest PR initiative, you are then being treated as a member of the media. Which means, just like a magazine writer or journalist, you will not be compensated (and should not) for your time. That being said, if you believe that your exclusive experience could garner coverage in a mainstream or online outlet that does pay, then pitch it! Plenty of sites pay freelancers - including iVillage , She Knows , Parents Connect , Momlogic , Associated Content and many more. Consider yourself as a syndicated writer and be strategic when you receive an invitation for a blogger trip. Incidentally, I just made $50 when I ranted about an unpleasant plane experience. I wrote it just for kicks and was contacted by a site to have it republished....and they offered me money for it!
The bottom line is you can make money as a blogger. But first, you need to focus on writing quality content, growing your readership and connecting with PR firms representing products and services that would be of interest to you. You do not have to be all things to all brands - be authentic and the money will follow. Good kharma leads to good fortune.