I’ve been blogging for several years now, building my brand and working with PR agencies and companies.

I love sharing my stories and the stories of other women on the website and sharing information – that’s inherently why I started amotherworld in the first place.

When I started to treat my blog like a business, things shifted. It has been a huge learning curve for me because let’s face it – social media and blogging are still fairly new industries. Although some beg to differ, there are really no true experts in these fields because frankly, the industry keeps evolving.

I wanted to monetize – I wanted to focus on the website full-time. Write more, share more stories.  So I created a media kit and started charging for services.

Now the lines became blurred between earned media and paid media.  My website is considered an online magazine so I shouldn’t charge, right?

Journalists don’t charge for services – true. But they DO get paid by their newspaper, magazine or television station.  Who pays the blogger?

I’m an independent digital publisher – fancy for ‘I run my own website’. I have to earn my own living. Bloggers are not paid by their publication and need to generate revenue somehow to sustain their website.  Bottom line – I can’t do things for FREE!

So imagine the frustration when I was asked to sit at a roundtable discussion for a very large brand/company.  It wasn’t an event – it was pitched as a “roundtable discussion/conversation” where obviously I’d be encouraged to discuss and converse.  It’s sharing information with the hopes that I will share that information with my fans and followers – this ultimately is helping with their marketing campaign.

I think in this case, some type of compensation isn’t too much to ask for.  It takes me an hour to an hour and a half each way to get to the downtown core in traffic.  Let’s not forget the time involved for my participation and “discussion” – that’s an entire morning for me.

When I responded with the question if there was a budget in place for this program, the response I received was a curt:  “unfortunately we do not have budget to accommodate your request.”

Keep in mind, this is an internationally-renowned company. Like, huge. HUGE.

Later, I was asked to participate in another marketing campaign for another large brand.  The agency called it a “program”.  Sounded to me like they were requesting my full-on participation.

The program would involve participating in a tweet chat where I would share my thoughts on Twitter and  “engage fans/followers to take part” as well.  I was also asked to sign up and share the program with friends and followers.  I was also asked to run a contest on my website.

No talk of compensation. Immediately I thought – seriously?  You expect me to do all of this for how much?  So I asked, politely, “what is the budget for my participation in this program”?

The response was yet again, disappointing:  “Unfortunately we have a very limited budget for this program.  We would love for you to participate but are unable to offer monetary compensation.”

Again, big brand here folks!  BIG brand. NO money?

Do the PR agencies not put aside a budget for blogger outreach? When they are planning their campaign, they should be allocating funds in their budget for bloggers.  Many PR firms understand this and kudos to them, but unfortunately there are still many who don’t.

Any form of promoting via social media or my blog is grounds to ask for compensation, period.  I have bills to pay.  Running a website such as mine is a full-time job. I can’t run a website if I make nothing from it.

Do you want to know why this is still happening?  Because bloggers are still saying YES to these opportunities. Ultimately, they are doing the PR agency’s marketing FOR FREE.

So that PR rep who has successfully pitched you into promoting/sharing/writing about the brand for no compensation is getting paid to do his job, maybe even getting a bonus for the amazing results of the campaign.

What do you get? A pat on the back. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t put food on my table.

 

Great links:

http://appinions.com/2012/08/mommy-bloggers-ebook/

http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/online-public-relations/bloggers-are-promotional-partners-which-is-bad-for-pr/

http://www.mom-101.com/2010/05/nothing-in-life-is-free-except-it-seems-a-mommyblogger.html

Author

Maria Lianos-Carbone is the author of “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year”, and publisher of amotherworld.com, a leading lifestyle blog for women.

32 Comments

  1. Good for you for standing up and standing your ground! These PR companies probably pay folks 10’s of thousands of dollars to revamp their own websites and yet, blogger/publishers such as yourself are supposed to exist for free? If you want to make blogging/publishing your business, you need to be paid for it (and the good ones like yourself deserve it).

    • Thanks Steve. Many DO understand but there are many who still don’t. I could go on and on about this but I’ll stop there 🙂

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  3. I’m so glad to read this today. A PR company pitched me yesterday, and when I turned down their “offer” because it didn’t involve compensation, they then came back with a reason why being paid actually hurts my website. Apparently being “paid” in potential page views and maybe an increase in my Google page rank should be enough, because their content is THAT good!

    I declined to respond back to that one. Sigh.

    • Wow. I don’t know what that PR company is thinking but being paid would actually help THEM. They would develop a relationship with you and in turn, you would be singing their praises which would benefit them in the long-term.

  4. I agree with you, Maria. A big problem is that there are plenty of bloggers who view those invitations as “perks” and seem happy to attend, tweet, blog, etc for free. So the brands keep fishing for those willing to give it up for free. Payment, often, is the invite itself, it seems. A fun party invite and all I have to do is tweet about the product? Yay!

    Yeah, not so much.

    These events take time (as you mentioned), we’re expected to offer free advertising for them by way of posts and tweets, and encourage our hard-earned network to join in? No thanks. I’d rather not attend the “discussions” (code for “You tell us how we can do our jobs better, please. For free. And a canape.”).

  5. I feel like I need to add that I do love the parties where attendees are NOT required to blab about the event incessantly. Because then I feel like I’m able to enjoy, and decide for myself if/when content is worth sharing.

    • Events/previews and press trips are a different story for me. For example, if I’m invited to attend an event with a party feel, ie. a lunch, dinner, family fun for the kids, or a fashion preview, it’s totally fine. I don’t expect anything and they don’t expect anything either. Of course there is a hope that I’ll write about it, but there is no pressure to do so. If I accept, I’m attending because I’m genuinely interested in the product/brand and I’ll tweet/share/write about it because I want to.

      But when it’s a “roundtable discussion” or a “program” that I’m asked to be involved with, then my rates apply.

  6. I have written on this topic several times, and on the topic of bloggers still willing to do all the shit for free…They just don’t get how they are feeding the system and nothing will change until people start saying NO…

    Great read..

    • Thanks Dee. You’re right, absolutely. People have to say NO collectively in order to force change. Thanks for commenting!

  7. That’s fair, Maria. They’re asking you to participate for your expertise and knowledge, and there’s a price for obtaining that. I personally don’t want to be party padding, so I often decline invites anyhow. I’m not eager to use my connections to promote stuff unless I really love it.

    This issue extends to blogging about products, conducting giveaways, sponsored content, etc. It will take just a few people with real reach (yourself, Dee, etc) to decline giving away your milk for free for brands to start getting it, I think.

    It is changing, I find. Slowly. But I feel like since this is such a fluid market, it always takes trying stuff out to see what works/doesn’t. So I can’t lay blame on all brands or PR people. They’re not all evil. 😉

    • It is a fluid market which is why we need to help by collectively saying “no”. Many brands/PR people understand it but there are still many who don’t, thus this article.

  8. Yeah. I respond to those with a quote for my rate for that kind of work and don’t look back. Eventually, they’ll get it – and if they don’t it’s no skin off my nose.

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  10. Pam @writewrds Reply

    Well said, Maria. I couldn’t agree more. This must change, but it’s not happening fast enough.

  11. I’m still in my first year as a blogger and the pace has been much faster than I anticipated. I got caught up in the glitz and glamour of the branding world and did some things early that I’ve learned were probably not the best course of action. To be perfectly honest, I am still confused about what I should and shouldn’t be doing but I’m getting there. I find it really helpful to have posts like this that I can use to further educate myself. It’d be great to have more positive support and resources to use, like this one, so that new bloggers don’t fall into this trap. I’ve seen a few swarmings in social media that could have been prevented with the proper “education” on the subject. Take Care!

  12. Great post! This post should be shared with all PR companies. As I say to my clients, if excellence is value then value your brand by charging accordingly.

    Blogging is no different. We all start off promoting our brand making some good decisions and not so good decisions. It’s up to PR companies to know their client’s value. Undercutting bloggers is not good PR for the company.

    Kudos to you for speaking up!

  13. Maria, thanks for the great post! We need more people writing articles like this so that bloggers will learn their value and learn to say NO! (and that brands would budget for our work)

  14. Great points! I think the more bloggers start to ask for payment for some of these things rather than being willing to work for free, it’s going to set a precedence for brands. This is new territory still for so many of them and there are still things that really shouldn’t be compensated in order to preserve integrity but when a brand is expecting specific things to happen, whether in a post or in a focus group, that needs to be compensated.

  15. We always just reply with our rates anyway. If they are up for it, they will respond. Many times, the brands have responded that they did not have the funds, but after looking further at our demographics they have changed their minds.

    Continue to be persistent with them. Sometimes it takes only one time of giving them something in order to get a great deal of paid business in the future, especially if your traffic helps gain awareness to their cause or product.

    Great post!

    • Yes persistence is key! Often bloggers will work with a brand at first, build a relationship and hope for future paid business but it’s not always the case. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  16. It’s not so different from other industries. When I had a portrait photography business, there were SO many other photographers willing to work for peanuts because they were just so excited to get clients. In the end, the whole industry gets watered down by the public thinking low prices are the norm, when professional photographers trying to make a true living based on their talent struggle to compete with the cheaper options.

    • Yes I’m sure it applies to many, especially those who are starting out and trying to get a break in their industry. You make a valid point about public perception about prices – does make it more difficult for those who are struggling to make a full-time income. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  17. I appreciated this article, Maria, and you make some valid points. While I have been blogging on a semi-regular basis for several years, I still consider myself an amateur and I admit it would be oh-so-glamourous to have a big brand come a-knockin’. That said, I wouldn’t even know where to begin to request compensation and I would hazard a guess that it is these types of bloggers that are the ‘yes’ men and women that would easily give up for free what bloggers such us yourself have worked so hard to turn into a business. But for blogging entrepreneurs such as you, Dee and Alex, there has been years of brand-building and networking so the expectation that you would lend your expertise for free is crossing the blurred line, indeed.

  18. Excellent points! I think there are times when saying yes to free is strategic and can be beneficial, but the power of the words ‘no thank you’ is something all bloggers should have. I think many suspect if they say no, no other opportunity will come their way (and that’s not necessarily true). If you are in it for the business of blogging, then treat it as such, have rates and don’t feel guilty about replying with information about how you would like to be compensated.

    Having said that, I think it’s easy to forget that we were all new bloggers once and said yes to things we wouldn’t now. New bloggers and those just navigating the PR world and blogging (something I still am learning frankly) need to learn from those mistakes and missteps (there’s a lot of work involved in ‘free!’) just like all of us did once upon a time (and still continue to do in many respects.)

    Great conversation that needs to be had Maria!

    • Maria @amotherworld Reply

      Yes you’re right, it has been a learning curve for many of us. I understand that new bloggers may say ‘yes’ to opportunities that others who have been doing for a while would turn down. My hope is that those PR people recognize that bloggers who have turned their blog into a business won’t work for free. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  19. Agree for the most part, however, a whole other post circles around the editorial value for readers and our business of “doing things for free”. If everything was paid for, where would the pure editorial value exist around brands?

    If there is a story to be had that our readers would find very interesting, then free is fine. (As long as it follows strict editorial guidelines…)

    What they are asking for you for is not at all editorial, IMO. And I agree 100% that this should have been a paid placement/participation/program. This is the kind of non-sense that needs to stop.

    I am just saying that there ARE brand opps that should NOT be paid, as well. Not everything should be driven by payment simply because we are independent publishers. (And I am not saying that you are saying that with this post at all, just wanted to add this to the conversation.)

    Always love this convo!

    • I didn’t touch upon the editorial but thanks for bringing it up. If I receive a press release which contains important/relevant/timely information that fits the site and would be helpful to my readers, then of course I would share.

  20. So as someone trying to get into the blogging world, what is your advice for starting out? I am not sure how to prove myself in order for people to be willing to pay me to write up a piece for them. Please let me know! Thanks

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