Defining & Publicizing Your Blog’s Advertising Policy
By: Ashley Robison

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This post is by the lovely Ashe Mischief of Dramatis Personae.

Why Should I Define An Advertising Policy For My Blog?

There comes a time in every blogger’s life when they start getting approached for various advertising and monetizing opportunities by marketing and pr companies. My first one was a jewelry company wanting to purchase a text link on my sidebar. I had been blogging only a few months, and I kindly said thank you, but no thank you. I didn’t know what they wanted, how it impacted me, and whether it was all legitimate at the end of the day.

Blogs of all sizes and shapes are approached in various ways about advertising– and as you start to face them more & more, it’s time to think up what you want out of your blog:

     

  • What would you expect as a reader at another blog?
  • What values do you hope your blog promotes?
  • Do you believe that you (or another blogger) should be honest about who are advertisers on their site?
  • What about within your posts?
  • How much transparency do you believe in?
  •  

The promise of regular money and free merchandise can be alluring, to experienced and fledgling bloggers alike. The nice thing about an advertising policy–it’s fluid. You can change it, adapt it, and modify it at any point. By having a policy in place, you have a canned response for the offers that will start coming to you–whether they’re for reviewing merchandise, purchasing banner or text ads, or a company wanting to put “anchor links” in to one of your posts to optimize their SEO.

Recently I was contacted by an amazing company about reviewing their product; they offered to send me a gift certificate so that I could pick out an item for the review. A couple of emails later, they requested that I include 4 very specific links in the post. At this point, I started to feel a bit uncomfortable. It felt like they were using the guise of a “review” as a means of buying SEO-rich links within a post– and pay-per-posts (or sponsored posts) are something I do not do. Because I had an advertising policy in place and within view on my blog, I was able to email them and say, “This aspect makes me uncomfortable. It feels like you’re encouraging this, and as you can see from my Advertising page, I do not do engage in these kinds of posts.”

It worked out for the better– they respected that I had my policies in place, and it encouraged them that I was the type of blogger they did want to review their site. But without that policy, I would have been in a much more conflicted spot.

What Should I Consider When Defining My Advertising Policies?

My own policy is constantly changing to meet the needs and desires of myself, my peers, and PR/Marketing companies. When writing up my own, I looked at these major areas:

     

  • Ads: Text Link (independently sold or through a company like Text Link Ads) versus Banner
  • Sponsored/Paid Posts
  • Reviews
  • Affiliate Programs (many can argue this is free advertising for companies)
  • Accepting “In-Kind” Payments (or bartering services/goods for advertising)
  •  

I felt that, in order to shape my own policies, I needed to know how I felt about others using them. I looked at my relationship as a reader to various blogs to see how I felt about their own policies to determine how my peers would feel about mine.

In my own blog, I knew the following things about myself, my blog, and what I thought my readers expected of me:

     

  • I wasn’t comfortable with people paying for posts, especially if it wasn’t a product I would support or purchase myself;
  • I only felt comfortable reading blogs with affiliate links when I knew that the blogger themself would actually buy it (I don’t follow blogs that are just shameless plug-ins of affiliate links); as such, I could only use affiliate links on things I actually would buy, or brands I would support;
  • I would only accept a review if I found the product was something I was interested in;
  • Selling Text Link Ads would be okay, with limits, and without making them a focus; I would not sell them within posts,though;
  • For banner ads, I really wanted them to companies I was supportive of myself;
  • Since I have a great love of the independent community, and supporting independent designers & retailers, if they wanted to exchange products for ad space or services, I’d absolutely say yes! I love the barter system.
  •  

Knowing these things about myself, and having taken time to think about them, I developed my advertising policy addressing those feelings.

Should I Make My Policy Public?

So you’ve defined or are defining a policy for yourself– one that gives you flexibility for those great and unique opportunities that come up. I have my policy public, on a separate page on my blog (which you can read here). It’s built in to my blog’s header, so it is accessible from any page.

So, why did I make that policy public?

By having my policies on reviews, advertisements, and affiliate programs public, I felt like I was accomplishing several things:

     

  • Providing my readers a resource to know how I manage my blog– I felt that this adds a level of transparency to my blogging and encourages trust and discourse between me & my peers.
  • It provides advertisers with a rough outline of what I do and do not accept on my blog.
  • It also provides me a resource for inquiries– when someone contacts me, I can say, “please read this first. If you have questions or want to pursue something different, please contact me.”
  • If, in the event communications about reviews and advertising opportunities go awry, I can refer them to this page & say, “this is my policy. Please refer to it.”
  •  

However, there are benefits to keeping your policy private:

     

  • Allows for more flexibility in adapting your policy as you grow– only you know if changes are going to impact a current situation!
  • Allows for more flexibility in case-by-case scenarios and situations.
  • You can control who is viewing your policy–by developing a policy within a media kit, you have control over who views your information. As a result, you’re in control of the developing relationship.
  •  

When you develop new goals, gain larger readerships, attract more attention from the marketing & PR communities, you’ll find yourself faced with new challenges that make you adopt and re-strategize your plans. There are no right or wrong answers when developing this valuable piece of your blog– there’s only what’s right for YOUR blog, at any given time.

Have you developed your own policies regarding this? Are you in the process of developing your own? How has your own path through the process been? Did you have guidance early on, or was it a process of trial & error?

image by eduardoizquierdo

Comments

  1. grechen says:

    great post ashe :-) you know, in five years publishing, i’ve not had an advertising policy per se – i’ve always just evaluated potential advertisers case-by-case adhering to my extremely strict standards (like yours) of what i will accept and what i won’t. i’ve been working on setting up a “formal” policy though lately, and you’ve just given me some good ideas what to include :)

    and i’ve always kept my media kit private – and i think i will continue to do so, but also make a public page with a disclaimer about reviews, affiliate links and advertising…
    .-= grechen´s last blog ..Love and Thorns jewelry by Rosalina at Editor’s Closet =-.

  2. carrie leber says:

    there’s also a big legal crackdown coming as the FTC is investigating advertorials that aren’t specified – I think they are mostly after affiliate programs but here’s a quick rundown of what they’ve stated so far http://leberpr.blogs.com/lovepr/2009/07/bloggers-beware-the-ftc-is-watching-.html
    .-= carrie leber´s last blog ..This is Brill … The Start A Lie Campaign =-.

  3. Retro Chick says:

    That’s really interesting, lots of food for thought!

    I accept advertising, but have always judged any requests on a case by case basis and I have turned down requests I thought were irrelevant.

    I keep my sidebar ads under a section headed “sponsors” and I also announce my affiliate programs in my sidebars. I wouldn’t advertise anything I disapproved of, I even manually approve all my Project Wonderful advertisers.

    With regards to paid posts that makes me a little uncomfortable, but I think it depends if I could still write whatever I wanted and if it was something that I would normally cover?
    .-= Retro Chick´s last blog ..I’d Love a Babycham =-.

  4. Grechen: first off, I’m glad that even with so many years under your belt, I could provide some useful ideas to you! I definitely think there’s a lot of value in keeping your media kit private, especially– I think that’s something that is requested at the point of “Serious Inquiries Only.” I have much more I detail out in emails myself to those who inquire within!

    Carrie, I think the FTC is an important issue– I’m all about transparency on my blog: I include on the front page who my affiliates are so that if people see a link with them they automatically know. I also disclose whenever something is a review so that people can presume that that product was given to me. You should check out the IFB post by Jennine on the FTC if you haven’t yet! http://heartifb.com/2009/06/23/ftc-plans-to-crack-down-blogger-freebies-and-what-that-means-to-you/

    RetroChick, I’m glad to have provided the food! It’s been on my mind a lot lately, so it’s great to get the feedback of other bloggers like you & Grechen. I definitely think there is a fine line on sponsored posts. Ironically, there are some bloggers who do them that I follow, and I tend to just glaze right over them….
    .-= Ashe Mischief´s last blog ..TiLT! A to Z Love Letter =-.

  5. Moe says:

    This is something I’ve been struggling with. Thank you for an indepth article about this issue.

  6. A says:

    This is something I’ve lately been thinking a lot about too. I think a huge part of what makes the fashion blogging community so great is the sharing of genuine, authentic opinions about products and brands, so I welcome review samples as it gives me the chance to form an opinion on something I otherwise might not get to try. But I’d always say that it was a review sample. If I get the sense that a blogger is hiding that they were sent the product as a review sample or plugging a store they are an affiliate of I get really turned off. It’s very important to me to be honest about this sort of thing because let’s face it, without our readers we wouldn’t get the opportunities that we do.
    .-= A´s last blog ..Giveaway Winner! =-.

  7. Julia says:

    Really helpful; I’ve never even thought of a public disclaimer, but may now actually do so.. Great job Ashe!
    .-= Julia´s last blog ..Budget Stylista: Hottie Handbags =-.

  8. M says:

    really helpfull, never even though of having an advertising policy for my blog but after reading this I think it’s something to think about carefully, wether one chooses to share it or not doesn’t matter the important thing is having one just in case you need it.
    tnx a lot for sharing!
    .-= M´s last blog ..Sample styling from k-drama Billiant Legacy =-.

  9. Unfunded says:

    Great article! I just publicized by Advertising info a few weeks ago and I’m glad I did. I, too, am constantly changing it to mold with my needs. I do, however, like it when the blogs I read post their advertising policy because I think it’s best to get everything out on the table.
    .-= Unfunded´s last blog ..Links a la Mode: The Elements of Style =-.

  10. Indiana says:

    Wow. Thanks so much for this. I’ve been doing in-kind sponsorship on my site, and had planned to accept monetary sponsorship in the next few months, as I grow. This article is one of the easiest to understand, most helpful insights I’ve seen regarding blog adverts. Thank you!
    .-= Indiana´s last blog ..Street Style: All Austin All Handmade Bash =-.

  11. KB says:

    I’ve also been thinking about this, my policy is pretty fluid at the moment. I’m not really blogging for the money, but if an advertiser that I supported targeted me, then I wouldn’t mind. Like when I got an email from a company whose product I’d actually been wanting for some time, I managed to negotiate a giveaway for my readers. I’ve been considering a few affiliate programs but I’m not sure, as I don’t want ads to take over my site. I will consider it carefully.
    .-= KB´s last blog ..Too many cardigans =-.

  12. SOS! says:

    Thank you very much!!
    xx-LJ from SOS!

  13. Great conversation and timely . Thank you so much for such a great overview. Lots to ponder.
    .-= Fabulous Finds Gal´s last blog ..Sunday Is A Magical Day =-.

  14. Very interesting food for thought! Modern Hippie Mag is a very new endeavor for me. I hunted for a blog theme that would NOT give a lot of focus on advertising, paid or otherwise. Thought I was taking the noble approach until recently my mother-in-law informed me that I should, “charge something at least”, her words. Because I wanted to blog about practical green products that I experimented with it never even occurred to me to contact the companies for samples or gifts in kind for advertising…I’ll have to think about that.

    Thanks again, you’ve gained a new fan!
    .-= modern hippie´s last blog ..Save Money and Energy on Heating and Cooling =-.

  15. dreamsequins says:

    This was a wonderfully written, informative article. This is something I’ve been thinking about– so thank you!
    .-= dreamsequins´s last blog ..The Tribe Has Spoken =-.

  16. First, a quick thank you! I’m so glad to have this conversation going with you all, and to see that my thoughts and attempts to figure it out for myself are helping others (and that others are going through the same process too!).

    A, I love your comment. You hit so many points and so well. The fashion community DOES have a valuable voice & genuine voice when it comes to a lot of things, and I think that’s why our readers stick around and value what we have to say. I always try to let my readers know when something I received is a review, and try to hit on points they may care about in an easy way to understand.

    Unfunded, I absolutely agree! As a reader, I feel it helps me build trust in the blogger as I know where they stand on it.

    KB, it’s great that you’re thinking about how much you want ads to play in your site– I know I hate it when a site is overrun with them, so much so I can’t find the content. This is why I use a combination of text ads (or affiliate links, not banners) with ads that I select myself…

    Modern Hippie, I definitely think you should feel free to contact green companies about reviewing their products, especially if you want to right about them! It seems like a really fresh niche, and having that first hand experience really helps people out when making that transition.
    .-= Ashe Mischief´s last blog ..B & LU Review: The Femme Dress =-.

  17. Eyeliah says:

    Thanks so much for writing this post, I have been contacted by many advertisers and with no policy in place I have had to make it up as I go. I will definitely start working on an advertising page, it will sure help me in the long run, thanks again I bookmarked this post.

  18. salut , thanks for all. its a great articel
    .-= Chris ‘von’ Korth´s last blog ..THE FUTURE =-.

  19. Steave says:

    Great blog as for me. I’d like to read something more concerning this theme.

  20. nicky says:

    This is a very timely article as I am putting together my own advertising policy which I will definitely publish on my site. I have been asked lately re advertising and so far have turned everything down as I needed to be absolutely sure that I remain true to my own ethics and the reason I started the blog. Finding that fine line between being totally unique and unbiased and finding a way to bring in much needed revenue are big challenges for all the blogging community.
    I really need a new camera and a video camera which I can’t afford to buy so I will be considering carefully how to proceed in the next couple of weeks. Many thanks for your continuing helpful advise. Sharing is the way forward……..
    .-= nicky´s last blog ..Fashion News Weekly Round Up =-.

  21. THIS CAME RIGHT TIME TO MY INBOX BECAUSE, I HAD STARTED LOOKING AT HOW TO CREATE ONE.

  22. Kristina says:

    I make my advertising policy clear and transparent: http://www.prettyshinysparkly.com/sponsor/

    And also have a disclosure policy: http://www.prettyshinysparkly.com/about/disclosure-policy/

    I think it’s so important to be up front with your readers, and it also cuts through a lot of spammy requests!
    .-= Kristina´s last blog ..Flirty, Fun, & Up To No Good =-.

  23. Bospemsdreree says:

    Hello,
    Just wanted to introduce myself.. Im Sean… glad to be here! Does anyone have any recommendations / advice on using this site?

  24. Avatar of Maggie A
    Maggie A says:

    The link for your public policy is not longer working. At least not the one in this article

    xo
    Maggie A
    Love Mavin

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