One thing that really stuck with me when reading Yuli's Fashion 2.0: Blogging Your Way to the Front Row was the importance of having policies in place for your site and sticking to them. Dramatis Personae doesn't have a lot of policies in place, and what I have mostly comes to me at whims; this isn't fair to myself (how time consuming!) and this isn't fair to readers or brands wanting to work with me.
Yuli wrote, “you must establish a set of guidelines, then follow them and clearly communicate them to others. This refers to content, comments, editorial policies, reviews, advertising– basically all the elements of your blog.” How many times could I have avoided flip-flopping when deciding to work with a brand! How guilt-free I would have been when deciding whether to remove a comment (or edit out all of those pesky links!)! Guidelines– public guidelines, would have been great and prevented a lot of heartache.
Let's look at the above categories, and brainstorm the kind of guidelines and rules we may want to put in place for ourselves, shall we? (And I'll share some of my own whims & guidelines as I have them!)
- How often do you want to post? If your goal is to post 1-2 times a week, don't apologize for ever posting more– or less to your site! This is a guideline that I definitely think is fluid– my own posting goals vary on what my job & personal life are like, and how in-depth the content is. Right now, I have a goal of trying to post twice a week on Dramatis Personae.
- What kind of content will you cover– and what kind of content won't you cover? If you're a beauty blogger, a shoe review may be out of place. If you focus on independent designers, celebrity features probably won't fit your site (unless you're showing off the pictures of Christina Hendricks modeling scarves in an etsy shop).
- Will you re-post press releases, or do you need an angle to share it? Personally, I don't recommend directly reproducing press releases on your site, as it's unimaginative. Frankly, when I write press releases for my day job, I don't want them shared as is either– I want to know the recipient can find something useful in the piece and write from there. That being said, I know many bloggers who do practice this, and in a pinch it becomes an easy way to create content.
- Will you have any series or themed post days? Every Friday on IFB, you know to expect Links a la Mode. Gala Darling made Things I Love Thursday infamous, and I have had several series go come through the life of my blog (my favorite being OMG! Shoes). Series are an easy way to create regular content, and your readers will know to expect those pieces consistently.
- Will you delete comments? Whether because they're off-topic, horrifically mean, or spam, will you remove a comment from your site… and if so, why?
- Do you reserve the right to edit comments– whether for glaring grammar errors or to remove excessive linking? One policy I DO have on my site is that I will edit comments for errors or to remove links. I think it's excessive, and others do too.
- Do you have a plugin like Commentluv enabled– and if so (or not!) how do you feel about people leaving links back to their site in the comments? Many bloggers feel that it can be spam for other bloggers to end a comment with excessive links– especially since all blogging platforms have a website field. Kristina shares, “Your name will be linked to your blog, and CommentLuv will add your blog to the bottom of your comment. It gets redundant!“
- How do you feel about negative comments? Whether critical of yourself or for a designer, brand, or product? A few bloggers have received scrutiny for removing negative or critical comments on their site. That being said, it's your site! You can choose to make it a place of good things only or to give your readers an equal voice.
Yuli defines these as the guidelines “that state the subjects and products you will and won't feature on your blog.” She also points out that “this will help PR companies to pitch you most effectively.”
While this seems like a place to have the most complications, it should be easy to figure out once you've got content guidelines in place. Once you know your content guidelines, it'll become easy for you to say, “I don't write about beauty/celebrities/runway fashions/independent designers.” You can share this information on your advertising page or any where that may have your contact information.
- Are you willing to do reviews? Many bloggers don't want advertising on their blog, plain and simple. You may feel that reviews compromise your editorial content. Maybe you don't want to feel pressured to say good things. Either way, it's your choice to do a review or not. If so…
- How will you handle negative reviews? It happens! Sometimes something just doesn't work out. Will you post a negative review, or do you prefer to keep things positive on your site & only share things you love?
- Will you return the product or sample (even in the event of a negative review)? Generally speaking, most brands understand that the product is kept in exchange for the review. That being said, I've had companies ask me for products back when I told them I had a few critical points to share. My own policy is that all items are for my keep, whether I end up posting about them or not.
- Do brands need to pay for a review? This is a very grey area, but will you accept payment to review a product? Some people feel it can compromise the review (making you feel you have to say positive things). On the other hand, reviews take time: to write the post, test the product, and put together the whole post.
- How long should a review take? I like to state on my site that reviews can take up to 8 weeks to post (especially for books). I work full-time, live with a partner, and have two cats! I can't just jump and have it up the next day. Either way, make sure that the company knows that you have guidelines for when it will post.
This, for me, is the most complicated of the bunch. There are so many options for advertising anymore, that oftentimes a blogger won't know what their policy is until they're offered them!
- What kind of advertisements will you accept? Banner Ads? Text Links? Sponsored posts? Sponsored video or audio content? Will you post advertisements in posts? Are they strictly for sidebars, headers and footers?
- When are payments due? I ask for payment upfront, but some larger companies operate on a 3 month billing cycle and you may receive payment after the fact. Other companies may pay half upfront and half mid-way through the campaign.
- Will you accept an ad for anything? Does it need to be relevant to your niche? Or will you only accept advertising from brands you truly love and would shop with?
- Are you willing to accept trade for payment? Would you be happy receiving clothes from the company in exchange for products? This is not always a practice encouraged, but if you're looking for a way to supplement your shopping and it's your favorite brand, it may be an option to consider.
These are some ways to begin thinking about creating guidelines for your site. There are ways to go more in-depth in creating these policies (and if you want me to, please let me know!). I've found one of the best tips that Yuli had to share was, “your guidelines will help you make the right decisions if you are ever in doubt.”
Do you have any other suggestions for things to consider when creating guidelines? Share with me your own guidelines, too, to help the rest of us thing of factors we could be missing!