This past weekend, I was a speaker at the New York Travel Festival on Manhattan’s Upper West Side on a panel discussion about how bloggers work with brands. The one hour chat covered a variety of points from what brands look for in influencers to how bloggers form partnerships with tourism boards and travel companies. After the talk ended and the Q&A had wrapped up; a rush of people approached me with further questions on how The Pin the Map Project works with advertisers. In an effort to answer those questions and cover this broad topic, I have started a 3-part series titled Bloggers & Brands. In case you missed it, make sure to check out BLOGGERS & BRANDS PART 1: HOW BRANDS CHOOSE INFLUENCERS. In this part 2 post, I’ll be discussing the ethics of working with a brand. Read on!
On Receiving Travel Perks
One of the great things about travel blogging is that–once your following gets to a certain point–you are able to receive travel perks that makes seeing the world more affordable (case in point, I am currently editing this post from a computer at a hotel in Colombia). Perhaps it is a free room at a hotel in Paris you otherwise could never afford, maybe it’s an upgrade to first class on a transatlantic flight or it could be an entire trip abroad that is planned and gratis (all of which I have snagged since starting The Pin the Map Project). If you love to travel and are wondering how to do so, it cannot be underestimated how much travel blogging can help you get out the door and seeing the world (for tips on landing travel perks, check out my guide here).
During the Q&A portion of our panel discussion, readers were curious to know how travel perks affected a blogger’s writing. If a hotel is housing us, a flight upgrading us or company paying for our travel; were our posts ever truly unbiased? It’s a good question that varies from blogger to blogger but in the case of The Pin the Map Project, I try to be as honest as possible in my posts since it is my priority to be transparent with my readers. I write about experiences I want to share with others and encourage them to try themselves; so if I have a negative hotel stay or trip I will be honest in my writing or not write about it at all. In the case of ‘sponsored posts’ (where a brand will pay me to integrate their brand or product into a post) I will both call out that the post is contributed by the advertiser AND only back brands that I feel resonate with my site and that I support. Perhaps that brand’s products will be included in a gift guide round up or a sponsored giveaway; whatever it is my readers will know that it is a sponsored post and that the company has my full backing.
Disclosing a Brand Partnership
The key to avoiding sticky ethical areas in brand partnerships and loyalty to your readers is honesty. If you are representing a brand, then disclose that partnership. If you are writing a post on behalf of Skyscanner, reviewing a tour to Vietnam on behalf of Contiki or promoting GoPro’s newest video camera; you should be upfront about that partnership. Landing a brand partnership is an exciting endeavor that is both profitable for your site and beneficial to your readers (who may enjoy giveaways and other brand sponsored contests as a result). Most bloggers are avid fans of the brands they are working with and have no problem disclosing their ties to the company; if you feel otherwise than perhaps the brand you are working with is not the perfect fit for your site.
Being Transparent with your Readers
A website is only as strong as its readers. Each of you help keep The Pin the Map Project running–with your comments and e-mails, questions and social shares, the content I create grows and inspires me to keep on blogging. For any blogger working with brands, maintaining the integrity of your website and loyalty of your readers is crucial because being branded a “sell-out” whose blog is inundated with sponsored content and advertising sends your site into cyber Siberia. When it comes to navigating the ethics of working with a brand, the key is to remember being transparent about your affiliations with the company and letting your readers know when they are reading a sponsored post.
Stay tuned for the final installment in this series, BLOGGERS & BRANDS PART 3: HOW TO FORM A BRAND PARTNERSHIP. Have more questions on the ethics of working with a brand? Share your questions, comments and thoughts below!