Nope, It’s Still Wrong For PRs To Pay Bloggers

Triggered by Lolly’s blog post about getting approached by an agency looking to pay her to write about their product, and the resulting debate that took place because of this, PR Week commissioned a poll.

It asked if PRs should pay bloggers, and astoundingly, 43% said it was acceptable to do so.

Now, granted this won’t have seen every registered PR take part, but to say that just under half the people in our industry think that it is totally fine to pay a blogger to write a blog post about their product, is a sad indictment of the state of the PR industry at the moment.

Robin Grant, the MD of We Are Social, hits the nail on the head when he says: “Bloggers are their own people and should write what they want. The results of the PRWeek poll only show the naivety towards social media in the PR industry; they haven’t got their heads round it and aren’t set up for it.”

And, pertinently, Lolly makes this point in the PRWeek comment section:

“As a blogger and a PR I am on both sides of the fence. Yes it is hard to get coverage these days, and it is tempting to throw a few pounds at someone in exchange for a few kind words. Bloggers who get paid to write blog posts might as well hand out their WordPress login details to PR agencies. Would PRs agencies pay bloggers if coverage was negative? Unlikely.”

Of which I agree wholeheartedly. There was another comment in the piece that had quite a reaction on Twitter, but i’ll let you figure that one out for yourself.

So I was dismayed/unsurprised when I saw Douglas Blyde tweeting about Douwe Egberts, who have offered to pay bloggers £50 to post a series of videos. What alarms me is that some of the bloggers have not disclosed that they have been paid to feature these videos, as Jamie Goode explains.

I have no qualms about a blogger being sponsored by a company, or getting them to advertise (I will ignore the post or advert), but a disregard for their readers by not letting them know if their blog post has been sponsored? Outrageous.

As a PR I will never recommend to a client that they should pay a blogger, and I would find it very awkward to continue working for any employer, current or future, who insisted on doing so.

As a blogger I will reject and approach by an agency who are offering to pay me, it damages my integrity, neutrality and relationship with my readers.

3 thoughts on “Nope, It’s Still Wrong For PRs To Pay Bloggers

  1. Hey Matt,

    Two things are getting mixed up here.

    The PR Week poll didn’t ask if it’s acceptable for PR people to pay bloggers for coverage, it asked “should PRs be allowed to pay bloggers for coverage?” There’s a difference. Some might think it’s a subtle or meaningless difference, but I don’t.

    Of course PR people should be allowed to pay bloggers for coverage (should they want to try), in the same way that they’re allowed to pay publications for coverage in the form of advertorials. You can’t ban it.

    The important thing – as the rest of your post highlights but which the PR Week question sadly missed out – is about disclosure and transparency.

    If the question had been “Is it ethical for bloggers to be paid by PR people for coverage without full disclosure of that payment?” then the results would have been very different.

    Personally (as a blogger) even with full disclosure I’d refuse to do it for all the reasons you make in your final point.

    But to say that I shouldn’t be allowed to consider it? That’s crazy.

  2. I’ve been watching this discussion with some interest… after all the videos are on my website. But there are some points that people seem to be missing from the discussion.

    The company that got in touch with bloggers isn’t a PR agency. It’s an advertising agency. Tailsweep do all of the advertising for Domestic Sluttery, not PR. So yes, whilst it’s still very wrong for PRs to try and bribe bloggers, but Douwe Egberts didn’t do that.

    They’ve also never asked bloggers NOT to disclose that they were paid. That’s why some of them have. If a company asked me to keep quiet I wouldn’t take that ads, but Douwe Egberts didn’t in this case.

    So what you’ve got here is an ad agency approaching bloggers offering them adverts. The bloggers either disclose or not and how they display the ads is up to them. Sure, had the ads been offered at a CPM it might have been clearer, but a flat fee for this kind of ad isn’t uncommon (and for bloggers without agencies dealing with their rates it’s often much easier).

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