Are You a Shill?
Forget Pay per post, review me, or other similar schemes. Blogging is crossing over to the mainstream, and in some places, it’s not uncommon for bloggers to get invited to press conferences and product lauching gigs. Inevitably in these events, people get swag like novelty items, gadgets for review, free subscriptions, and other such free stuff. At the very least you get free dining and entertainment, which is reason enough to attend events, as some would think (I’ve had my share of free food and booze!).
However, some would think that this dilutes a blogger’s credibility. Being a blogger usually entails being candid and straightforward. So it’s assumed whenever you write about your meal at this restaurant, or your experience with your cellphone network, or a certain laptop brand or software, you are being honest. But no one really knows if you’re actually on the payroll of that software company, or that laptop manufacturer, or that restaurant. Or at the very least you could be receiving free meals from these guys. And wouldn’t that result to some bias in how you write on your blog?
Whether you’ve been to one of the sponsored parties/events, been given gifts or prizes, sent out on trips, dined in a posh restaurant or handed out free stuff and services — you are automatically subject to questions of credibility. It may not happen now but it’s possible in the future. Reputation management need not be merely reactive. In fact, I think it should be pro-active (touch base with your target market now so that miscommunication and inconveniences could be minimized if not totally avoided in the future).
And with this, the importance of adequate disclosure is stressed. It’s important to be transparent not only with the benefits you get from being a new media practitioner (nifty term eh?), but also with your affiliations. So you could say you work for this certain company in real life (e.g., your day job). Or perhaps you can say that the product you’re reviewing or announcing is owned by the same company you work for.
Maybe then, you wouldn’t be branded as a shill.
Or perhaps you have a newly designed theme that has a sponsored link. Disclosure necessary? Ah, but that’s another (juicy?) story, altogether!
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