Welcome to our monthly feature The PR Desk! Written by PR professional Heather Travis, it guides food bloggers on the ins and outs of navigating the world of PR agencies and brands. This month, Heather talks blogger contracts, disclosure for bloggers and staying on the right side of things both legally and ethically.
*Full disclosure: the rules for social media and digital content are constantly changing and evolving as more and more businesses use digital to drive dollars. This means it’s up to YOU to know (and follow) the laws for the country you live in, to follow rules set out by brand partners, and to be an upstanding community member by leading by example.*
Don’t y’all just feel better now that we’ve gotten that out the way? I sure do. That’s the beauty of disclosure: no secrets. No surprises. Everyone starts the story on the same page with the same information. It’s a good place to be.
But How Do You Get There?
How do you get to full disclosure? You get there via contracts, by laying it all out on paper before the project moves forward, before money (or product) changes hands, before you start slapping #spon on all your posts. Think of contracts and disclosure as the ultimate in CYA. Cover Your A$$.
Your Guide to CYA
Getting, in writing, exactly what a brand is expecting from you and what you will deliver to them is step one in setting the stage for success. Other critical items for your contract or scope of work document include:
- Critical timing details — due dates, deadlines, post-dates and other important events
- Payment details — how much to pay, when to pay, who to pay, how the payment can be made, details on late payments etc.
- Roles and responsibilities — clearly lay out who does what when. This includes your role as well as the brand’s role.
Once you have all these in a document covering both your butt and the brand’s, you can move forward and go public with your partnership with full disclosure in blog posts, IG stories, and everywhere you leave a digital footprint.
What’s the Point of Full Disclosure?
In life, just like in blogging, honesty is where it’s at. Being truthful, upfront and transparent with both your readers and your brand partners can only help you in the future. Honesty builds trust, trust builds relationships, and relationships are the secret sauce for social success.
As a blog reader, I should never be surprised by your brand partnerships. I should already know you love that canned bean, or those organic frozen what's-its long before you start using #sponsored.
And a Note on #Spon #Partner #Sp
You need to literally spell out your disclosures. Don’t assume. Never assume. You know what "they" say: “Assume makes an ass out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’” And we don’t want to BE an ass; we want to cover our ass. So spell it out, sisters and brothers.
Use your characters to show me your character.
Don’t just #sp or #spon, give me all the characters. Tell me the truth in the clearest way you can so there's never any question, there's never a reason for me to feel you’ve broken my trust and pulled the #spwool over my eyes. Use your characters to show me your character. What you lose in witty copy space you save in relationships, a trade-off that’s worth it any day. You can always be witty but you can’t win people back after you’ve lost them.
If you're accepting product or money for your blog/website or social media posts, you're entering into a professional relationship. It's essential you treat it as such.
- The Value of Disclosure in Social Media: Keep Your Readers from Second-Guessing the Source
- See-Through Writing: An Ethics Refresher
- PR Desk: The Value of Going "Down Periscope"
Heather Travis is a PR professional and lover of all things creative. She has extensive experience developing and implementing integrated public relations and marketing programs for agricultural brands, producers and processors, as well as high end sporting goods. She’s a DIY junkie with a mean power tool addiction, and can often be found painting, refinishing, and scouring both junk yards and antique markets for her next fix … err, piece of content for her blog heatherinheels.com. Find Heather on Twitter @heathertravis and Instagram @heathertravis.