I was sifting through my emails recently when a large company contacted me requesting that I review one of their products and they would also sponsor a giveaway for a lucky reader to win. This came from a reputable company and the communication was much like that of any other review and giveaway I performed in the past so I really didn’t give it much thought. I was just about to commit until I received a deal breaker email from this company soon following…
In addition to the review that I would typically perform, this company wanted me to write a personal post prior to the actual live review and somehow incorporate their links to very specific places on their site within a personal post within the first few paragraphs. As a blogger who blogs with integrity this is where I draw the line. This company clearly wasn’t interested in a true “product review.” They were interested in generating traffic from a target audience hitting a very specific area of their site over period of time. The irony here is that the product they wanted me to initially review had nothing to do with the links they wanted me to place in a personal post.
So this got me thinking, when we perform product reviews do we supply links to specific areas of a business or company’s website to generate traffic? Of course we do – that’s part of a full review post that we as bloggers agree to, write and publish in exchange for free, fully disclosed product(s) but certainly not to be added within a non-related personal post that has direct links “embedded” in the text. Hence, I declined their offer.
The reality of all of this PR business is that many of whom that reach out are legitimate marketers looking for and establishing a connection and relationship with bloggers BUT there are tons of other PR reps that I would be leery of so you really need to research those you choose to work with. This also raises the question about how many reviews and giveaways you as a blogger should want to commit yourself to…
I wrote a pledge to my readers that the content of this blog will always speak for itself. I never want to be labeled as just a “review” blogger and although reviews and giveaways are a wonderful addition to the content of Theta Mom, it is certainly not the sole source that keeps this blog running. Therefore, it is essential that YOU create some standards and requirements for yourself and have them set forth on your blog – and this will vary from blogger to blogger. Ultimately, you have to make decisions that make sense to YOUR blog.
Now I am not the first blogger to address this topic nor will I be the last. Scary Mommy recently wrote a post including some links and posing a question from a monetizing standpoint which is very relevant in the blogosphere right now. I don’t have all the answers nor do I claim to but what I can share are some of the things I’ve learned along the way (by performing reviews and giveaways on my own site) that may help out other bloggers grappling with this process.
My Top Four Review and Giveaway Rules:
1. Research the company or business extremely well before you commit to any review/giveaway and know exactly WHO you are dealing with. A few clicks within a simple Google search is a great start. Make sure this is a legitimate business worth your time and your readers’ time. What may be a good fit for one blogger may not be for another. You have to decide if it is right for YOU. Know who you are in constant contact with whether it’s a PR rep or the actual business owner and establish that relationship from the very beginning.
2. Understand the full requirements “agreed” upon by yourself and the company/business. If they are sponsoring a giveaway, what are the terms and conditions? Who is responsible for paying the shipping and coordinating the winner’s prize? Are they requiring specific links? What is the anticipated time frame and what are their expectations of you as a blogger? What are your standards as a blogger and did you communicate this clearly to the prospective business?
3. Do not accept every pitch that comes your way. When PR reps do not address my name in an email it shows me two things: They didn’t take two seconds to read my name in my About page (which is the very first sentence) and they didn’t take two minutes to read my Mission so how would they really know if Theta Mom is a perfect fit for their product when they didn’t even read my blog? The bottom line is if marketers can’t take the time to initially read our blogs then why should we take the time to respond to them? In my opinion, respond to those who actually read your blog and address you by your name in an email. Everything else you receive in your inbox is borderline spammy.
4. Above all, set some standards for yourself and your blog and live by those rules. As I previously mentioned, it is YOUR blog. YOU call the shots. YOU make the decisions. YOU set the precedent so be selective with who you work with – it will actually make you more marketable because readers will know you are not publishing every pitch that comes your way. In this sense, you are being selective in who you choose to work with (companies and products you fully endorse) and that will come across in your writing.
If you are hesitant with working with a company or a specific product for any reason, it’s ok to say no! It’s not worth attaching your name to something that may not be a good fit. I’m not saying you can’t perform honest reviews, sharing perhaps the negative aspect of a particular product or company. What I am saying is don’t associate yourself with companies like those I addressed at the beginning of this post as THAT would not be deemed as honest practice.
So what’s the valuable lesson here? Set some standards for yourself that work for you as well as your blog – and live by those rules. And those emails sent to you addressed as “Good Morning,” “Hello,” or my absolute favorite, “Dear Blogger…” Move it right to trash.
Because you have better things to write about.