On Blogging Etiquette, Product Endorsements and Integrity
At a recent blogging summit, iblog7, I was eager to catch a topic discussed by a certain lifestyle blogger. It was a talk on “Blogger Etiquette: How to be a Blogger with Integrity”. Now, there are few points I’d like to make clear before I start talking about this touchy matter:
1. I have no beef about making money through blogging – it’s how you make it that matters. I know a lot of professional bloggers and affiliate marketers who’ve earned, not just from blogging, but from other internet marketing activities.
2. Etiquette and integrity are two different things. If you display etiquette, it doesn’t always follow that you have integrity. Etiquette is conforming to the codes of expected social behavior – for someone who might have been confused – and it is seen by one’s display of social graces and manners; while having integrity means that you adhere to a set of principles that are considered moral. See, an oddball might not display good social manners, but if he is consistent in abiding by a set of principles, then he is still has integrity. And a man in a suit may display impeccable manners, but throws away what he believes in for money, has etiquette, but lacks integrity. For my very intelligent readers, I apologize, I believe the need to cite an example is necessary.
3. Blogging is just a platform. It doesn’t make you a god or a freakin’ rockstar. Although blogging is not regulated by the Ad board, regulations imposed by the mentioned body are there for a reason.
4. Just to clear the air, this post is not about beauty blogging. Bloggers don’t just endorse make-up or beauty products – they also endorse gadgets, shoes, computers, heck even hotels!
Now that we have those aside, I’d like to react to some of the talk’s “Ten Unwritten Rules on Attending Events”. Attending events isn’t new for most people. We all get invited to birthdays, weddings and other social events – except maybe if you’re a toad. When I get invited to a PR event like a product launch, the same principles of attending a social event always, always apply. I’ve worked as a media person for the past three years and attending product launches and PR events isn’t new for me. It was just a happy coincidence that I get to be invited to some events as a blogger, not as someone working for a paper. Here are some points from the presentation (block quotes are taken from the speaker’s presentation):
Don’t attend events an hour or two late - it makes you look like your (sic) after the freebies only. Don’t make the organizer wait for you so you can get the presskit and the loot bag. 2 hours late is just unreasonable. If you can’t make it tell it straight. The organizers went to (sic) a rough time organizing and all give them a break to relax after the succesful event that you didn’t get to witness because your (sic) in another event or something else.
Did anyone else notice that this talk was moved to the third slot of the day? I hate calling out people, but when you say something and write it for everyone to see, make sure you follow it. The speaker was obviously late for her 9:15 AM talk – so much for following your own rules! We all know traffic in the metro is one big variable. One day, you get to work in half an hour, the next day, you get there after an hour. It’s common knowledge. Being late has no excuse except if you’re coming from work or if you were mugged. An event usually runs for two hours, three to four hours is too long unless you’re having dinner and drinks. So, I’d say a half an hour late is enough leeway for anyone – not one or two hours. If you know you’re going be late and you’re still interested about the event, skip it and e-mail the PR person and ask her to forward you their press release. You don’t have to attend an event and get a loot bag if you’re really interested about the product.
Earn respect, don’t go be kaladkarin. Personally I hate being kaladkad to events. As much as I (we, all) appreciate being invited to events, I personally hate the fact that I get invited the very last minute. It makes me feel like I’m a panakip-butas or a warm body to fill in for those who can’t make it. Seriously, do you expect everyone you invite (sic) drop everything they intend to do on a certain day or hour just to be in your event? But of course this is a pesonal choice if you don’t have anything else to do then by all means go if you are interested. As much as how prestigious the event (sic) maybe I’d appreciate if I get a notice 2 days ahead so I can work around my schedule for you. One day or hours away from your events is inevitably inacceptible. (sic) Although we bloggers, or I myself am a full time blogger, I still have other things in my life I attend to. Its (sic) not true that I am always infront (sic) of my computer and stare at my blog or social network sites. PR companies or event agencies already have an idea of their upcoming projects or events at least 2 weeks before the date of the event itself. I wouldn’t mind being told by an agency or PR that they will have an event on this date or within this date so I won’t get surprised and annoyed when you (sic) invite me the last minute, or cancel the last minute. I very much appreciate a day away from the event reminders too as I have a tendency to forget my schedule.
Getting invited is still getting invited. If you think you’re just a warm body to fill the event, then respectfully turn it down. The problem with some people is that they get the self-entitlement that they shouldn’t be considered as “warm bodies”. Yes, it’s insulting, but it’s not meant to be an insult. It is what it is: an invite. That’s what PR people need to do and you don’t need to take it to a personal level. For a second, think about why you were invited at the last minute. Maybe the venue is just enough to accommodate a number of people and you don’t quite cut the list. If someone cancels and you’re next on the list, I’m sure you’ll get the slot. If you do tend to forget your schedule, then you should hire a personal assistant or use Google Calendar and sync it to your phone.
I always say its your blog and YOU write what YOU want. Your blog is yours. Remain truthful in your blog, even if you are paid for a certain post always remember to have a disclaimer in your blog and be clear with your business dealings (your clients/advertiser), tell them upfront that you don’t always say nice things even if you are paid for it.
Yes, say what you want, it’s your blog, nobody should care, right? I don’t get this. The minute you press “publish”, you inherit that responsibility to everyone who might read your blog. Now, this is when product endorsements come in. I asked the speaker after the talk what she thinks about bloggers who jump ship to competitor brands, knowing that bloggers have now become brand evangelists. She retorted that once your contract expires, you are free to endorse anything and she feels that it is her responsibility as a beauty blogger to try out different products. Yes, although our speaker did not break any laws, it speaks volumes about her as an endorser. Would you, as a reader and as a consumer, still believe an endorser who would favor the competitor brand on a whim, just because her contract has already ended? Would it still give you an impression that the endorser really believed in the products she has been advertising? Does this fit in the Filipino concept of integrity and delicadeza?
Let me point out an example. Last November 2010, Neutrogena launched its Fine Fairness campaign with 8 ambassadors – four of them celebrities and the other four were bloggers, including our speaker.
This obviously wasn’t just a product review. If you’re an ambassador, it means you have tried the products and have agreed to endorse them. A person with integrity would ONLY endorse a product if s/he believes in it, so jumping ship to a competitor brand in less than six months isn’t exactly ethical. The question is, why would you even join a contest by a competitor brand? It’s like seeing Anne Curtis declaring that she wants to live in a Robinson’s condo! Even though the contract with a company has already ended, it would be unethical to immediately endorse or even participate in a competitor brand’s marketing campaign. As I said, I don’t like calling out people, but for this particular instance, our speaker who’s declaring that she has integrity, is actually contradicting herself.
Switching brands that easily can say a lot about the endorser and the brand being endorsed: that the endorser (or ambassador) does not really believe in the product or that the brand being endorsed doesn’t really work. Blogging started out with honest and unpaid product reviews, now it’s starting to become blurry. More and more bloggers and social media “confluencers” and “influencers” have been writing paid products reviews without a disclaimer. While that would look very unfair to readers, that’s how marketing goes. That being said, I urge readers to be vigilant. Not everyone claiming to have integrity actually practice it.
Disclaimer: I’m not claiming to be a blogger or even a person with integrity. I’m still currently working on that. Thanks! Also, because I know this post might be shared a couple of times, I’m going to have to do a plug:
PAYATAS HIGH SCHOOL needs your help. If you have books, software, printers, magazines and other materials to improve their audio-visual and resource center, hit me up at the contact page with your e-mail address so we can coordinate pick-up points. Now, this is what you should be doing with social media and blogging.