Bloggers throw around a lot of jargon. So what exactly is the difference between and editorial review and an advertorial? I will tell you.
But let me explain two very different forms of media from the point of view of a public relations (PR) rep. First, there is “earned media” then you have “paid media.” When PR reps only worked with print/television/radio journalists, they had to “earn” coverage for their clients with hard work and relationship building. It is against the law for a journalist to accept any money or gifts from a person on the behalf of a company. This is typically called “pay for play.”
Earned media back before blogs looked like this: Polly the PR rep built a friendship with Rhonda the reporter. She sent her press releases for Olay. When Olay was doing this newsworthy thing, Polly sent the press release and called Rhonda, hoping she’d pick it up. If she did, she scored!
Then you have paid media. Paid media is, well, paid for by the brand. Before blogs, you might see a “back to school fashions” insert inside Seventeen magazine with the tiny words “advertisement” on the top.
Now you have bloggers. Bloggers are super influential and brands are taking notice. The FTC requires bloggers disclose if they receive things from companies, but that is the only rule.
From the point of view of a PR rep, an honest review with only a product as compensation, is still “earned media.” If a blogger receives only the product to review and not cash and product, then this blogger will (most likely) be more inclined to be more honest about it. To all the newer bloggers that get giddy when a “free” package arrives in the mail (I remember the feeling) you will be more valuable to brands if you share the complete honest opinion of the product instead of just glowing reviews all the time.
Nicolena Stephana, rep for Identity PR, said when a blogger receives cash it should be treated like advertising, not an honest review:
I think it gets sketchy when bloggers want money in exchange for writing a post about a company/product/service. That’s where it’s more like advertising. Bloggers are less inclined to write an honest opinion because they are receiving cash. There is more pressure, or more expectation from the company, to receive a glowing post if they are paying money. Then bloggers aren’t being fair to their community. They aren’t writing about something that they believe in or truly love and want to share with their readers. They’re writing about it because they received payment to do so. That’s advertising. If companies are going to advertise, they can do so in the form of a sponsored post or banner advertising. And with the new FTC guidelines, do bloggers really want to disclaim that they received money to write a particular post? Aren’t they worried they will come across as less authentic to their community?
I totally agree with her. Bloggers, we deserve to get paid. But if you are asking for products and cash, treat it like a brand ambassadorship or a creative marketing campaign. Once they paid you, you are now their spokesperson and they have a right to tell you the message they prefer you to spread.
I think bloggers ought to engage in marketing campaigns and blog spokesperson gigs and earn as much money as they can. I also hope you can see why some reps are hesitant to pay you cash. They might be only interested in generating “authentic” buzz about their clients, not paying to get a specific message out there.