Sponsored content. Potentially the biggest taboo in the online world right now.
Everyone has their opinion and let's be truthful here, most people have an issue with it.
So, you're a blogger or a YouTuber and you get paid sometimes (or full-time) to do it. Usually, this will involve promoting a product via one of your online channels, be-it a product placement or partaking in a social media campaign with a brand.
And what's wrong with that?
In my opinion, very little actually.
So why do I feel so guilty for that?
You now have to declare whether your work is sponsored, in a very clear, precise way. This means, effectively, that the bullshitters and the fakes are outed. It's never been more momentous that you remain authentic with your content.
For me, I believe that if you're to maintain loyal readers and subscribers you must stay true to the person you started out to be. Just because you're being paid, doesn't mean you get a free pass to be a dick and take on any work thrown your way. I mean, you totally can do that, but in my eyes, that's a narrow-minded, short-lived mindset for a new business.
The reason that blogging became an avenue for brands to make money is because if a blogger said 'I love this product', people believed them, they wanted it too and the industry soon tuned in and realised they'd be missing a trick if they didn't get involved.
For me, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking on work from a brand. If you love LUSH and they email you saying, we really want to pay you to promote our product, well, that's a match made in heaven isn't it? And why not promote something to your viewers that you genuinely believe in, if it's going to genuinely benefit everyone involved.
As soon as we see the word 'AD' or 'SPONSORED', you've got our attention. We all want to know what you're talking about, but there are a few types of 'interested'. On the one hand you have the readers or viewers that you feel are your friends, that you've formed a bond with and they will support you because they understand you have to make a living and there's absolutely no way you'd lie to them about something. But then there are the people who are sceptical, 'oh here she goes again, another product placement that's all lies' - because you've been paid, people can naturally assume that that's why you're doing it, purely for the money. And to be honest, it's totally within your control to manage those expectations.
That's not always easy though...For me, the bad name that sponsored content has taken on means I constantly worry anytime I'm presented with a paid project. I worry how it will be received by you guys, even if it is a brand that fits perfectly with mine and I'm totally stoked about the content. I always feel the pressure to ensure I balance it out with non-sponsored work, even though the only difference is there's no £'s attached and I'll find myself awaiting negative comments about it too - even though I'll only ever select to work on projects that I truly believe in and that can completely capture my personality.
Which just doesn't seem right.
I guess my point is, don't be greedy. Don't milk it. Stay true to what you love talking about and if you can't incorporate it in to relevant content for your channels, then maybe don't do it.
You're not silly and neither are the people who choose to read or watch what you have to say.
And I think something we all need to remember as bloggers, we're not above the actual law. Like, if you're being paid to do something, and the rules are that you have to declare that in a particular way, you don't get to decide which projects you do that on. YOU JUST HAVE TO. It makes you disingenuous to try and gloss over it and pretend it's something you've decided to do off your own back and it's pretty easy to see right through it. A main catalyst, I believe, in the negative attention sponsored content receives.
It shouldn't matter how often you post sponsored content either; I mean, why can't it be kudos to you if all of the brands want to work with you and so there are a few ads piling up around you. As long as it's unique, tailored to you and you're happy to share it then go for it.
I'm always going to be on team cheerleader and support what amazing doors this industry is opening for bloggers, you've just got to make sure you're being a good egg whilst doing it. If we can all be genuine, it would hopefully mean we could all feel a little less guilty for being paid to do what we love. And that's a happier place for all of us, right?
Photography by Alexandra Cameron. Contact her here if you'd like a professional shoot.