Please hear my heart. I genuinely want both bloggers and brands to succeed. And I want consumers (that’s pretty much everyone) to feel good about their purchases. I’m not good at controversy. I don’t particularly like to stir the pot. I adore my blogging friends and I love working with great brands.
So, let's explore why earned media doesn't work for bloggers and other influencers and why bloggers can't work for free stuff.
First of All What is Earned Media?
As a blogger for the past four years, the author of an ebook about how bloggers can learn to work with brands and someone who works with many brands on collaborations big and small, I need to say a few things to bloggers and to brands on the topic of a little thing called “earned media.”
Earned media (or free media) refers to publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising, as opposed to paid media, which refers to publicity gained through advertising. (Wikipedia)
What’s the Big Deal?
Bloggers I cannot even count the number of times I’ve read questions and complaints in private forums and Facebook groups about the most recent brand email asking you to share their latest and greatest on your blog…without compensation.
You’re frustrated and often quite offended.
I hear you.
Your blog is your business and it takes MANY hours of work to create content, photograph it, write about it and then share it all on social media. Whatever “it” may be.
It’s a job you love (there’s no other reason to work that insanely hard!) but it is also your business.
And a business needs to make money.
I bet you didn’t know that it’s not entirely the brand’s fault that they assume you want to post for them for free?
So Why Do Brands Ask Bloggers to Do Things for Free?
Brands became accustomed to free press coverage over the last several years. Okay, more like decades.
Stick with me here.
What Earned Media Really Looks Like
In traditional media, say television, a brand can lend a daytime show a patio set (for example) for an outdoor segment. The television show gets a new scene to shoot, the brand gets mentioned by the host (and in the end credits) and they get the patio set back after the show. No money or product exchanged. But plenty of eyeballs on the brand’s stuff.
It’s a little something called “earned media.”
The same thing happens in magazines. Products get leant to the magazine by Company XYZ for a photo shoot, they get credit when the mag goes to print and the magazine gives all the products back afterwards.
Constant fodder for new content, no need to store products long term and the brand can still sell the products afterwards.
Pretty nice arrangement, yes?
Only, the idea of earned media falls apart when it comes to bloggers.
That bears repeating.
The idea of earned media falls apart when it comes to blogs and bloggers. <– Click to Tweet This
Blogs are NOT the same as traditional media.
Why Doesn’t it Work for Bloggers?
Oh dear Brands, we bloggers work for ourselves. We shoot the photos, write the content and pay all the hosting, plugin and web fees. Not to mention the rent (or mortgage), utilities, taxes and business fees.
Borrowed product (or even product we get to keep) doesn’t pay those bills. And it certainly doesn’t pay the taxes bloggers are required to pay on “in kind” income! (Google that one!)
We aren’t writers or photographers on salary at a magazine. We aren’t tv hosts being paid by the network. Our blog readers don’t want to read a press release and they don’t want “high quality professionally written copy” by someone they haven’t made a connection with. They want to read our words and see our photography because we’ve made a connection with them and we can help them.
Would YOU Want to Work for Free?
Let me put the paid vs “earned” another way.
What if you worked really hard for 5-10 hours one day and your boss told you at the end of the day that you could take a few pencils home as your reward for the day’s work – not money, just a handful of carbon or graphite wrapped in a neat wood cylinder. How eager would you be to come to work the next day? Would those pencils buy groceries or keep the electricity on?
I’m guessing not so much.
How Do We Fix It?
So, amazing brands: most bloggers (myself included) really want to work with you. We love you and your wonderful products. We have great audiences who follow us because they like our style. Which is your style too.
Occasionally we are happy to share a little something for a gallon of paint or to work on a project that we’d be out of pocket for anyway, in the name of building a longer term working relationship with you.
There have been occasions that I’m good with earned media here on AKA Design. But only when the scope of the project is large or in-line with our existing plans. Two examples would be our dining room table and our laminate flooring project. Both projects were planned and would have been out of pocket for us. So having brand sponsors was a great option.
But we love to work with companies who know our value and our relationship with our readers and are willing to pay appropriately for access to that.
Bloggers, the next time you get one of “those” emails, sit back and think for a moment. Is it from a brand you want to develop a long term relationship with? Are they asking for a lot of effort on your part for not much in return? Or is it worth it to you? Each circumstance will be different. You can always reply and ask what a brand’s budget is for the particular project. You never know what the response will be unless you ask. If they say they have no budget, be kind. Perhaps they just don’t know the value of working with you yet!
Brands, please please please keep in mind how different we bloggers and influencers are from traditional media. We know this is a young industry. We know that not all bloggers are the same. But know that so many bloggers are worth the cost. And if you treat our business with respect, you will have a happy customer and advocate forever!
I'd love to hear kind feedback in the comments on Why Earned Media Doesn't Work for Bloggers. Please feel free to share this post and leave comments below.
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