The elephant in the room: Disclosure and transparency in blogger relations

Last year was my first, full-on, head-first 12 months of being involved in social media, both online and offline. Several of the events I attended were focused on the topic of blogger relations. Great friends of mine who spoke about the topic include Rebecca Bollwitt, Darren Barefoot and Kate Trgovac (I liveblogged their talk at Cossette Convergence ’08). I also live-blogged Darren’s talk at Third Tuesday on blogger relations. Vancouver from Lonsdale Quay Up until last year, I was really not very ‘up to speed’ with the concept of sponsored blog posts, blogger relations and so on (and here is my own full disclosure: I’m in the early stages of a project that will require me to engage in blogger relations). I have personally learned a number of lessons from seeing how respected and trusted bloggers deal with sponsorships and marketing campaigns, and I have developed my own set of guidelines for when I am invited to an event, or for dinner, or to review a product. Take for example, the recent review I did of Tokyo by Kenzo. Kenzo did not pay me for that review, it’s a cologne I’ve used and I just wanted to share that information with my readers. On the side of events where I’ve invited to participate, I always disclose who invited me. The case of the Brew 2.0 campaign made a big impact on me in the way blogger relations were done because Hill and Knowlton really emphasized that they weren’t expecting me to blog about it (I know that there may be a perception of implicit responsibility/pressure, but quite frankly I didn’t feel it that way).

Molson's Brew 2.0 Vancouver I have had companies sponsor giveaways on my blog and I’m delighted that they choose to do so, because (a) it does help spread the word about some of their products/events/services and (b) my readers really like getting free stuff and (c) I *love* giving away free stuff to my readers! It’d be also a lie if I didn’t admit that I also love getting freebies (like any human being – I still haven’t met anyone who doesn’t). But when I do get a freebie, an invitation, a set of tickets or passes to attend movies/musicals/theatre performances, I *always* disclose that it’s an invitation on the part of the company. I know for a fact that I have a reputation to maintain as a trusted blogger, someone who discloses his affiliations and is transparent and accountable. I would like to believe I have a solid reputation, and I want to keep it that way. I’ll continue with my policy of disclosing whether I’ve been invited or whether it’s been on my own dime.

For the record, up to today, all the reviews of restaurants you’ve read here have been 100% paid either by me or by a friend of mine who has taken me to breakfast, lunch or dinner. When I attend a restaurant on their invite, I always will disclose that it was a review in which, while not paid, my dinner was taken care of. And the great thing about having developed trust and a steady readership is that anybody who invites me to an event or offers me free passes or anything knows that I retain editorial control.. If I don’t like something, I’ll say so (in a polite and nice way). And when I engage in a bloggers relations campaign (as I’m venturing out and getting my feet wet on this particular element of the social media consulting spectrum) I’ll also give anybody with whom I liaise editorial control. That’s how I think we can maintain credibility. And I’m quite determined to stay a credible source.

I was reading an item on TechCrunch on the issue of ‘sponsored blog posts’ and ‘pay-per-post’ by Brian Solis, and that was the reason that sparked my interest. Apparently the FTC has created some guidelines on transparency and disclosure. I’ve received some interesting responses to my query on Twitter, but I’d be delighted to hear your take on this. Thanks, and have a nice weekend!

Related posts:

  1. Cathy Browne, Media Liaison and Public Relations Concierge for MHC ’09
  2. The business case for good blogger relations with high-traffic bloggers
  3. Blogger Relations – Cossette Convergence – VIDFEST 2008 – Barefoot, Trgovac and Bollwitt
  4. I apologize to my Blogger-based friends… and some SEO talk
  5. Upcoming event – Vancouver Blogger Meetup January 2008

Leave a comment

Your comment

CommentLuv badge