Yesterday's post 5 Reasons to Walk Away from a Blog Sponsorship opened up a few questions about when a blogger should be paid for their work. Bloggers should be paid for their work, but not every email from a brand is asking a blogger to work for them. Most emails from brands are press releases and pitches for coverage which are sent in hopes for editorial coverage.
Church & State
The traditional media has what they metaphorically call the division between advertising and editorial content “Church and State” as opposed to the literal division of the Constitutional “Church and State.” In publishing, advertising and editorial content are to be kept separate at all times in order to maintain credibility. Media corporations have sales teams, PR teams and editors, writers and photographers, all doing their separate jobs, and the lines are clearer than they are in the digital world.
These days the business model of traditional publishing is broken. “Church and State” doesn't work anymore. With native advertising on the rise, branded content has blurred the lines between editorial and advertising, but that doesn't mean that advertising content is any less advertising or vice versa.
One of the biggest complaints from the old world is that “bloggers” don't understand the difference between advertising and editorial content.
One of the biggest complaints from the old world is that “bloggers” don't understand the difference between advertising and editorial content. I don't think it's because bloggers can't understand the difference, it's just that there are no set standards aside from the FTC Guidelines, it's not readily available, and bloggers learn as they go. No one gives you a pamphlet of blogging rules when you start your blog. In the beginning, it's not easy to tell if a request from a PR to post about their sample sale is a editorial request for coverage, or if a brand is asking for participation in a marketing campaign.
Why do we need to know the difference between advertising and editorial content?
It's important to be clear about the difference between advertising and editorial for two reasons:
- If you are not clear what the difference between advertising and editorial, your readers will not be either. This can cause major problems for your credibility and your blog down the road.
- Without acknowledging the difference between the two types of content, you run the risk of unnecessarily damaging relationships with brands by appearing unprofessional. Brands often complain that bloggers ask for money for what traditional media does for free. Being clear about what your services are, and what your editorial content is will help keep the conversation open to evolution.
How do you tell the difference?
What is “editorial” content?
“Editorials” technically refer to opinion articles in newspapers. Since a vast majority of blogging falls into the “opinion” category, “editorial blog content” has come to mean posts that the blogger has posted out of genuine interest, and unpaid. If you see an awesome pair of shoes and want to share it with your readers by posting on your blog or social media, that is editorial content. If you want to talk about your experience going shopping for the first time, again editorial content.
If you get tipped off that your favorite designer is having a 80% off sale and you want to share that with your readers, that is editorial content.
What does an editorial pitch look like?
When a PR or brand representative sends an email pitch with the following, they are hoping for editorial coverage:
- Press release
- Product Images
- An invite to a sale or event
- Possibly products for review (though this can get into a grey area)
Some bloggers like to look at these emails like spam. They are not technically spam especially if they are relevant pitches to your blog. On Eat, Sleep, Denim, I welcome lookbooks and press releases so I can get the scoop on what's about to hit the stores. On the other hand, pitches to post a lookbook on IFB is a total nuisance. If a PR has a history of emailing irrelevant pitches, you can always opt out, they're usually respectful.
What is “advertising” content?
Advertising content is content that you have been paid to produce. This is usually negotiated in advance. The brand will have certain parameters and goals with your post and you will probably have negotiated a package with services:
- Writing a post with specific links (sometimes tracked links)
- Publishing the post on a specified date
- Using specified language from the brand in your post
- Giving the brand final approval for post publishing
- Branded distribution of content on social media channels (on Tagged Facebook, branded hashtag on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram)
- Banner ads promoting brand on site
The list goes on. If a brand has specific branding to be included in your post, then that is indeed advertising content.
What does an opportunity for advertising content look like?
Usually if a brand emails with an “opportunity” or asks for your media kit and for your promotional services, this is a request for producing advertising content. They will use words like, “pricing,” “budget,” “rates,” in their emails. I usually like to get on the phone to discuss what their needs are an how I can help. More often than not, business opportunities come from existing relationships, or the brand is very clear in the beginning they are willing to pay.
Most of the time, a brand is not intentionally trying to take advantage of a blogger. Brands are as clueless as to how things work as bloggers are. You may be getting an email from someone who just doesn't understand what they are asking for. So don't get mad right away, try to educate them. There are times however when a brand asks for something to be done for free that should be paid work. If they are asking you to perform tasks that you are uncomfortable with, thank them for getting in touch and walk away.
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