For bloggers who write professionally, working with brands and earning income, ethics are important. Unfortunately because blogging is so new and no one majors in blogging in college, there are lots of gray areas and confusion regarding what is ethical.
Here are some of my notes from the session. I apologize that I don't recall exactly who said what.
- Blogs are personal and written in first person narrative with strong opinion, which is what makes them so different than pure journalism.
- If you lose your ethics you will lose your audience. Authenticity and integrity are vital.
- If you sell out in the short term, you are shooting your foot for the long term.
- Your reputation is your asset and it is on the line.
- Learn your boundaries and be true to yourself.
- Per the FTC, if there is a "material connection" it must be disclosed.
- If you fail to disclose, the FTC will likely penalize the brand, and maybe the agency, but not the blogger. But it will hurt everyone in the process.
- General disclosure pages are not enough. Disclose in ever post.
- Disclosures can be written in your own voice and worked into the text inoffensively.
- "So and so reached out to partner with me to write this because they wanted to reach moms like you."
- Consider carefully if the sponsored post is a natural fit with your blog and audience.
- If that post pays you $50 but it costs you five readers because it is super fake, it's not worth accepting.
- Purely editorial content, reviews, should be unpaid and unbiased.
- If a company puts demands on you such as "don't publish anything negative", it's not a true review. Don't compromise. Send the product back if you must.
- Advertorial or "product features" should be paid. Anything with stipulations such as deadlines or text links should be paid.
- Product IS NOT payment. You can't pay taxes with product.
- If you are writing for a newspaper or news site, work with a good editor.
- Above all, consider yourself a professional.
Overall the session was very helpful, especially to those new to the world of working with brands. Great job Laura, Caleb and Emily!
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