Sponsoring Blogs: The Proper Way to Do It, Whether You’re a Blogger or a Brand
In a recent lunch and learn presentation a few of us Tangelos bloggers (Crystal, Melissa, Heidi and myself) put on, someone asked about the process of getting someone to sponsor a blog. How does it work? What’s the proper way to blog about a product or service without removing your blog’s existing credibility?
The question had perfect timing, because Heidi had sent me some links to information dealing with this very issue right before our presentation: “When and How to Pay a Blogger” in Ad Age and mommy blog JessicaKnows sponsorship from Ford. Also, I unintentionally happened to discover on my all-time favorite blogger’s, Jessica Schroeder, Tumblr called What I Wore, how she gets sponsors. And, as all superior research cannot be complete without a Google search, I discovered Steve Rubel’s site and this post about a Forrester report released in early March of this year by Googling “paying bloggers”.
In the Ad Age article, written by co-author of Groundswell Josh Bernoff, titled “When and How to Pay a Blogger”, are some great nuggets and tips on how to properly and ethically go about sponsoring a blog. These “sponsored conversations”, as he and Sean Corcoran call it, have to adhere by some FTC rules.
Advertisers must disclose “material connections” between themselves and their endorsers that might “affect the weight of credibility of the endorsement” (i.e., if you compensate or pay in any way, you must disclose that). Endorsements by bloggers must “reflect honest opinions, findings, beliefs or experience” of the endorser. Both the marketer and the blogger can be held liable for misleading or false statements made by the blogger about the brand.
Bernoff says the key to doing this right is “transparency and authenticity” – two words I like to use often when talking about brands and their online management (Alex). Bloggers are transparent, or else they would not be credible and would therefore not have any readers. So obviously, you as a sponsor must have a transparent relationship with the blogger – their readers should be fully aware of the relationship. If you don’t establish that trust, the blogging community and their readers will eat you alive.
It may be a risk to take on a sponsored conversation, so, as Bernoff simply puts it, “If you’re not comfortable letting go of your brand then sponsored conversations aren’t for you (and you may want to revisit your overall social media strategy).” In an ooey gooey kick ass Forrester report that Bernoff and Corcoran along with Jeremiah Owyang, Tom Cummings and Jennifer Wise authored called, “Add Sponsored Conversations To Your Toolbox: Why You Should Pay Bloggers To Talk About Your Brand”, Corcoran states,
“It’s tough to let go, but it’s the best to let bloggers you work with write whatever they feel is appropriate, rather than trying to coerce them to write positively about their brand”.
Because, according to Wal-Mart’s Senior Manager for Emerging Media John Andrews, posts that generate negative feedback offer the “biggest opportunity to connect with customers and really understand what’s going on”. In other words, you’ll get more out of this interaction than you would a focus group.
This Forrester report is definitely the best information I’ve seen on this topic, so if you don’t have a subscription to Forrester, find someone who does so you can read it.
To give you some examples of bloggers and brands doing it right …
Jessica Knows’, as I stated above, has recently developed a relationship with Ford, specifically, the Ford Flex. She is extremely transparent about Ford’s sponsorship, so much that, she has a category at the top of her blog that says, “Ford Flex SpokesMom”.
How did this relationship begin? It all started when she posted here about looking for a car fit for a Chief Mom Officer.
“Not surprisingly, a few car companies reached out and pitched their ideas for me. My favorite so far? The Ford Flex. I had never seen nor heard of this car until after last week’s post and now I can’t get enough of it. ”
She goes on citing reasons why this car is perfect for her, and it’s truly believable. From there, she got hooked up with Scott Monty and was asked to partner with Ford to market the Ford Flex, which she talks openly about here.
Jessica Schroeder of What I Wore has started to generate more and more hits, so What I Wore is in the beginning stages of gaining sponsorships. Schroeder has set her own standards for how her sponsorships will work. On her sponsorship page, she shares her stats, why you should sponsor her site, and the available sponsorship options. She also gives some guidelines.
“I only work with brands I believe in. I have a great relationship with my readers and personally answer upwards of 50 emails a week. I don’t want to jeopardize the trust I’ve built with my audience, so I will only accept sponsorships from exceptional people or brands. Sell me something awesome and I’ll sell you an ad!”
So far, she has sponsorships from ModCloth, Market Publique and Old Hollywood. She’s already done an integrated post for Mod Cloth seen below. And at the bottom, she fully discloses why she’s posting about Mod Cloth.
“Modcloth is a lovely sponsor of What I Wore.”
Talk about transparency.