With bloggers increasingly becoming part of the a brand’s PR and marketing mix, more and more are on the receiving end of “free” product. Here are seven things you should remember in regards to free product and blogging.
Freebies are not a right, they’re a privilege
Blogger swag is a common and generous commodity these days but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say your pleases and thank-yous and be grateful that a business values your opinion and readership enough to send you goods for review.
Freebies are only free to the blogger
They cost the company money. It doesn’t matter if they’re a multi-million dollar cosmetics company or have a small leather workshop in Melbourne, every freebie costs the company money to send it to you. I’m not suggesting that you blog every box of cereal that gets thrown at you, I’m suggesting that you should think about whether or not to accept it in the first place or to keep it if it’s not working for you. On several occasions I’ve been sent goods for review and upon further inspection have realised that they just aren’t appropriate, are badly made or simply not something I care about and so I sent them back. It creates a professional standard and makes the company respect your opinion and your space on line. It also stops you from feeling obligated to blog about something on your beauty website that makes your readers ask ‘Why is she blogging about fishing tackle?‘.
Call a freebie a freebie
Unlike the USA, there’s no official law in Australia that states that you have to disclose gifted goods but among the professional blogging circuit it’s considered a bit dodgy to be elusive about goods that you’ve been given. Mummy bloggers and beauty bloggers are generally pretty good at disclosure but I find some fashion bloggers (even ones in the USA where non-disclosure is illegal) a bit lacking in their honesty about freebies. It’s easy to pop a disclaimer at the bottom of a post just to let your readers know that you were gifted the product. I use the line ‘This product was provided to (insert blog name here) for editorial consideration‘ and I unabashedly stole it straight from Nikki. It’s a no nonsense statement that gets the point across in non-smarmy way. I’ve also seen bloggers include statements like ‘thanks to (insert company name)‘ or ‘product courtesy of (insert company name)‘. Play around and find a disclosure statement that works for you. I also use the disclosure line to say when a company didn’t send me something and my readers always appreciate it.
Never sell a freebie
Not. Cool. There have been writers, bloggers, online editors and even magazine staffers that have been caught out selling on promotional goods. Freebies are not there for you to earn a quick buck. It’s extremely unethical to sell on product so just don’t.
If a company gives you a freebie, they are not sponsoring your post
The world ‘sponsor’ is used for posts that you have been paid for, in actual money or if a company is providing you with necessary funds to travel for an event or something along those lines. I recently had a clothing company offer to ‘sponsor’ a post. When I sent them my rates they were quite shocked that they had to pay to sponsor a post. They offered me a $25 gift voucher to write about their sale which I politely declined. I’ve seen a few bloggers say that a post is ‘sponsored’ by a brand when I’m fairly certain that they were simply sent a product for review like the other 20 bloggers who covered the product. If someone wants to sponsor a post they can show you the money! Otherwise don’t use the word ‘sponsor’.
If a company sends you a freebie you haven’t asked for, you don’t need to blog it
PR companies may send you free product without asking you first. This is not unusual and journalists are PRed that way every day. There is no compulsion to blog about that product. Yes, they have sent it in the hope that you will but if it doesn’t fit your blog or any upcoming posts, then politely let the PR company know that. If they want the product returned, then ask for reimbursement for that as you didn’t request the product in the first place.
I’ve been sent products from companies that have become a part of my daily wardrobe so after the 30th time I’ve worn the piece it’s getting a little old to say ‘THEY GIFTED THIS TO ME!!!!!’. I still link to the items online (if they are still available) but if I’m loving the freebie enough to feature it 30 times on my blog in a casual outfit, after having disclosed that it was a gift several times prior to that, then I think we can all just relax a little.
What are you thoughts about blog freebies? Do you disclose them on your blog? Should we have laws similar to those in the US? Should mainstream journalists disclose their gifts?
Carly is the editor of lifestyle website Smaggle. She’s also an actor, presenter, jeweller, designer and serious natural yogurt lover. Her writing has appeared in Cleo, Cosmopoliton, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald and she works with PayPal as an online shopping expert and writer. Smaggle is about life, fashion, food and style… but with balls. Smaggle is like having a chat with your girlfriends on a Saturday night, but then you all got too drunk and started talking smut and decided it’s a good idea to show each other your nipples.
Remember, if you’ve blogged about any aspect of blogging this week, feel free to add your post to my Saturday blogging link-up. There is room where it says NAME to include your blog’s name plus the name of the post, for example: STYLING YOU: 5 blogging questions I’ve been asked this week. That way your blog will get a plug and we’ll know what the post is about!
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