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
- 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