As someone who has been blogging since 2003, I’ve seen blogs progress from online diaries shared with interested communities to full-on revenue-generating powerhouses. I’ve also had to struggle with the notion of being paid to blog and where I would draw the line.

When I was blogging mainly about my escapades as a new, urban mother, it was mainly as a keepsake for my children to read someday. Back in 2003 when I had to teach myself HTML to write a blog post, getting paid to write about my family and what we liked to cook didn’t even cross my mind.

When I was asked to join an ad network, it was such a new concept that I had to think long and hard about it. Did it sit right with me? What would my readers think? Did it seem weird that I was making money off the stories of my children? Off my recipes? Ultimately, I decided to try it and it turned out to be a positive experience. I was able to control the types of advertisers I wanted to feature on my blog, my work was published in several books and magazines, and I was making some walking around money. That meant a lot to a stay-at-home mom.

But then I received my first pitch to review a product, and I began to see the power that bloggers had and the influence they wield over their communities. And because of my marketing background, I began to think of bloggers as more than just “online writers.” It didn’t feel right that bloggers were accepting samples of a new snack food or lotion or cleaning product and putting a lot of time and effort into writing a thoughtful review about it for no compensation. Bloggers were doing work. Real work. Work that, when done right, could have an impact on a brand’s bottom line. It got me to thinking about blogging in a whole knew way, and because I don’t come from PR and I never worked for a newspaper, I had no trouble with the notion that bloggers who want to to be paid for their work should be paid for their work. And here are five reasons why:

It’s Pay For Work, Not Pay For Play
If a blogger’s work (her review, her sponsored post, her attending an event and Tweeting or Facebooking it) makes a brand money, increases its SEO, and/or raises its visibility, she deserves to be compensated. If the goal of the blogger outreach campaign is any of these things, the blogger deserves to be compensated. Most people wouldn’t think twice about paying a marketing freelancer. Bloggers who consider themselves professionals—and who invest a lot of time and energy in building their communities and creating high-quality content—deserve the same consideration for the hard work they are doing on behalf of brands.

Change Your “Traditional” Point-of-View
While some bloggers and PR agencies distinguish between editorial and sponsored work, I believe that when a blogger writes about a product or service (whether paid or unpaid) she is helping a brand to achieve its business goals, and the brand should be helping the blogger achieve hers. It’s time to stop viewing blogger outreach through a traditional PR lens. “Spray and pray” pitching methods, sending bloggers press releases (worse when they are embargoed)—those are just two examples of PR practices that don’t always translate in the blogosphere. While some regard “thought you might like to try this/no obligation to post” reviews as editorial, I believe it’s not that simple. Traditional definitions need disrupting. Bloggers aren’t just writing reviews, they are an essential part of your sales and marketing plan.

Bloggers Aren’t Journalists. Or Are They?
Treat bloggers like journalists. That’s right, you heard me. I used to spend a lot of time explaining to clients and conference attendees that bloggers aren’t journalists so traditional PR practices shouldn’t apply, but after thinking it over, I’ve had a change of heart. After all, journalists don’t work for free, most mainstream print publications accept paid advertising, and newspapers and magazines (mainstream or not) aren’t exactly unbiased. I propose that we all stop thinking of journalists as unpaid, opinion-neutral writers, and remember that, great writing aside, they are paid to ensure readers will keep consuming their articles, newspapers, and magazines. If we can do that, it isn’t hard to view bloggers as content-creating professionals who deserve remuneration.  (Again, we’re talking about bloggers who want to get paid.)

Treat Professionals Like Professionals
Thoughtful writing takes time. Carefully reviewing a product or service takes time. Managing a giveaway takes a lot of time. So let’s compensate bloggers for time spent. I still believe in great content and full disclosure, and I know the blogger’s audience appreciates that, too. I don’t believe paying a blogger for her professional work with brands takes away from her talents doing what she does best—engaging her audience with her written word, photographs, or videos.

Tap Into The Talent 
The bloggers in our network want deeper relationships with the brands we work with and brands they love. We often propose that our clients explore closer working relationships with bloggers who are their biggest fans (or who have the potential to be). Engage gamers to beta test a cool new app, give feedback on features, and invite them to be brand ambassadors. Give food bloggers a whole new audience for their recipes, contract them to represent you at a food blogging conference, and they become knowledgeable and passionate spokespeople for your company. Ask a charming entertaining blogger to give party advice to your customers. Let bloggers help put the “social” in your social media plan, and they can help to create enthusiastic communities of fans for your brand.

At Clever Girls Collective, we believe that compensation to bloggers should be in the form of a paycheck whenever possible, but we also believe that compensation can take many forms. For some bloggers, the sample product or service adds enough value to their lives that they believe that is compensation enough. For others, a donation to a charitable cause or a visit to corporate headquarters and being treated like VIPs meets their definition of compensation. Whatever form “getting paid” takes, consider setting traditional PR practices aside and looking at bloggers (like the 3500 in our Clever Network) as partners who can help you achieve your business goals. And compensate them accordingly.

-Stefania Pomponi

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