Disclaimers, integrity, and transparency

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the regulation of the blogging community, with bloggers being encouraged to take a pledge to always be honest to their readers. It’s great and definitely a step in the right direction, but at the same time I’m amazed that it has become such a huge issue; why do bloggers avoid declaring that they’ve been given something they write about?

I started SITC because my friends say I’m any marketer’s dream – when I like something I can’t stop talking about it, and because I enjoy writing, my blog became an extension of that. The majority of products and services that I’ve written about on SITC are things I came across (and enjoyed) on my own. However, I do occasionally get approached by companies or their representatives to try their products/services and write about that. Every time that was the case I thanked the company for the opportunity in the post, thus declaring the association between us. My aim is to be positive while remaining honest, and I will mention the less than ideal aspects of a product.

Syllable is not for sale—no matter how much you woo her, if she doesn’t believe in your company/product, she will graciously decline the association.

That said, Syllable is really easy to please, and really keen to tell people about the fabulous things and places she has experienced. – From the SITC web brochure

Blogging hands

At the same time, if there is more bad than good about something, I’d rather not post about it; if it was provided by a company, I’ll return it to them with a note of regret – I don’t believe in being malicious and because blogs are subjective, I’d rather not influence my readers about a dislike that might be personal. The exception is something absolutely horrible and universally recognised as such, as a public service announcement 🙂

Not too long ago I was contacted by a company that wanted to place a link to their site on my blog. They offered me a cash incentive for each click from my blog. I mentioned this company in a blog post earlier that same week, in a context that could probably be considered as neutral – their service was okay, but I wasn’t thrilled by them. Because of this, I decided to decline this offer. I did not want to create the impression that I’m endorsing this company because that would go against the review I had done, and the trust of my readers is more precious to me than any product or brand.

There’s a very well-known lifestyle blogger who used to be a role model. This person had great content, fantastic competitions, and a huge following. I once sent a mail asking if they’d be willing to provide some guidance, be a virtual mentor perhaps, and the response was something along the lines of “just keep doing what you’re doing”. That was the first disappointment. More recently it feels like this blog contains images and an excerpt from a press release; there’s no personal investment in the content (from my perspective). To me, it creates the impression that there’s a financial agreement between the blogger and a few companies to post these companies’ content in rotation, presumably on a paid retainer of sorts. This is not the kind of blogger I want to be; this shouldn’t be a blog – it has evolved into a business and should be run as such, perhaps with a blogging component that keeps *that* passion alive.

I’m not against people making money from their blogs, particularly through advertising, and even though the occasional sponsored (paid) post if they want to. I suppose that’s why I’ll always have to have a day job though; I can’t imagine monetising my online sanctuary – I have no obligations to anyone but myself and my readers; I don’t have to worry about offending/upsetting a sponsor; I don’t have to make quotas or targets. I just get to write about everything I enjoy. Honestly and openly.

So I’ve taken the pledge (because it comes with a – presumably cool – badge), but I honestly feel that my readers have always known when I was approached to write about something. Maybe I’m mistaken. Perhaps my readers would like to comment on how honest and transparent they find my blog to be? I would appreciate the feedback.

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