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Should you pay bloggers to review natural products?

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Is it ethical (and does it make good business sense) to pay bloggers, especially mommy bloggers, to review your natural products?

During a recent conversation with the marketing teams at Little Duck Organics, Late July Organic, and HappyFamily, the topic of mommy bloggers inevitably arose and with that came the delicate subject of whether or not to pay bloggers for product reviews.

Is it ethical to pay bloggers for natural product reviews?Some companies are strictly opposed to what they consider non-transparency and “buying” favor among influential online sites. One company I spoke with took pride in having never paid a single blogger, because they believe honest, positive reviews of a great product are possible without incentivizing writers. Citing ethics, many companies strive to maintain transparency and will welcome feedback from a variety of sources.

But one entrepreneur who has found considerable success in the natural products industry is open to the idea of paying bloggers. So far, it hasn’t been necessary for garnering positive online reviews, but Nicole Dawes at Late July Organic Snacks is not opposed to hiring someone in the future.

After all, Dawes is a mompreneur herself and recognizes that many moms earn a living through their widely-read blogs. And sometimes a mommy blogger’s endorsement, when honest, is much more powerful and influential than advertorials written by PR firms and your company’s marketing department.

Where do you stand on the issue?

Would your company ever pay a blogger to review your natural products online?

Is it ethical to refuse paying them, or is it ethical to pay them for their time and efforts after building up a devoted readership? 

Discuss this Blog Entry 16

@CrystalECollins (not verified)
on Jan 17, 2013

As a blogger myself, I can say that partnerships with brands can be a win/win for both. If I put my hard work into a campaign of writing content, making videos and using my influence to help a brand, I believe I should be compensated. Free product doesn't pay my hosting fees for my website. It's a business, and it's my voice. You wouldn't ask someone like Julia Roberts to endorse your product for free, and it's important to treat professional bloggers with respect as well.

Stephanie Good Girl Gone Green (not verified)
on Jan 17, 2013

I totally agree! I work hard when I write a review or endorse a product. This is time away from my family, from my friends, and my free time like reading etc, and some company just wants to send me some organic granola bars? I don't think so. My time is worth more than that, and if I miss out on an opportunity so be it.

KymberlyFunFit (not verified)
on Jan 17, 2013

Well put! Could not have said it better. My sister and I get approached almost daily by wellness, fitness, health, natural products companies to do full web and/ or video reviews. Sometimes they offer the products (meaning sometimes they do not, if you can imagine). Obviously they value our network and influence enough to want to reach our audience. However, they do not value us enough to compensate for the time and effort we put into honest, careful, thoughtful reviews. Let's also consider the time testing and using the product. It is also specious to say that we cannot be honest if we are paid. Of course we disclose as we are ethical, legal, and above all - in this for the long haul and to serve our readers. What good is a fake review no matter what we're paid if we lose reader trust or brand trust? Pay bloggers people!

on Jan 17, 2013

No! With so many popular bloggers willing to do product reviews for free, it is unnecessary to pay for reviews. While it is our policy to not pay for reviews, we do occasionally sponsor blog giveaways. Remember if you pay for reviews, a blogger should disclose that in the review, which will make the review have less merit for the reader.

Lisa @ Retro Housewife Goes Green (not verified)
on Jan 17, 2013

As a blogger I have to disagree with this. First- bloggers have to pay taxes on review items, it is counted as income and should be disclosed no matter what.

Second, bloggers work hard and should be paid for their work. We are doing marketing work and businesses should see that we are providing a service and should be paid for that service.

karen Lee (not verified)
on Jan 17, 2013

it's a shame that companies don't value content marketing. There are many research that say content marketing or alternative marketing is where the new marketing strategy should be headed. Citing "ethics" is a poor excuse for not paying serious bloggers who spend hours testing and writing honest product reviews. Giving free shampoo or granola bars are not a proper way to pay for marketing. How much are they paying PR firms and marketing firms? Just so that they can just throw a dart in the dark, (and send mass emails to 'unknown mommy bloggers' and send free samples to whomever are willing to take free samples? That is NOT marketing.

At Green Sisterhood.com, we pick and choose our bloggers with specific guidelines such as their quality of writing, email/RSS subscriber numbers, Google Rank, Page Views, Social Media Reach, and other important pertinent factors. We work with companies who take their marketing goals seriously so we can help them to take their campaign to the next level. And we demand to be compensated for our hard work. You get what you pay for. You receive quality and professional attention when you work with our bloggers. It's more than just writing a 500 word post on how well a shampoo washed your hair. We build relationships with companies to change consumer behavior.

We hold Twitter parties, Pinterest contests, facehook promotions, videos, interviews, podcasts, and more. We have over 2.5 million monthly page views in our network and we have a wide reach on every social media channels. And we are adding more quality bloggers daily.

We'd love to work with Late July Organic Snacks and any other companies who are serious about maximizing their advertising dollar. And not with free granola bars.

Sincerely,

Karen
Co-Founder
http://greensisterhood.com

KymberlyFunFit (not verified)
on Jan 17, 2013

Go Karen! Well said.

on Jan 17, 2013

Thanks to everyone for your comments! I believe the ethical question revolves around paying for positive reviews, not just compensating for a blogger's time. And while NuGoBars makes a good point about disclosing whether or not a review is paid for, I think it is important that a blogger also discloses that the thoughts and opinions are strictly their own.

KymberlyFunFit (not verified)
on Jan 17, 2013

If a company has suspicions about a blogger's ethics and ability to offer an honest review, then don't approach that blogger. And if a blogger suspects that a company has an agenda to pay for positive pablum, then the blogger needs to run the other way, as the readers would also do. One solution if either party has concern about negative feedback is to bring the comments privately first to the company before publication. The company would still need to pay the blogger's fee, but the blogger can offer to NOT post the review. Fortunately most companies my sister and I have worked with on reviews have said "write whatever is honest and true for you." They believe in their products. And of course, always disclose.

GreenDivaMeg (not verified)
on Jan 17, 2013

We never take money for reviews and we are careful to disclose that on our website. it does get dicey if one gets paid - you lose some credibility, because in theory, if you are paid, you will be inclined to be nicer about a product. now, do i keep the review products i'm sent? yup. that's my small compensation, which is sometimes excellent, and sometimes not so much. we ONLY review products we like and we make that clear. if there is a negative aspect, we'll be clear about that, but in general we only write about stuff we like and want to recommend. that's just how we green divas roll . . . ;)

GreenDivaMeg (not verified)
on Jan 17, 2013

PS - i'm not opposed to getting paid, but then it is a different thing - not a review. i'm happy to be paid to endorse or promote a product, but i will be clear about it when i do it. ;) gd meg

Jen @ Go Green (not verified)
on Jan 17, 2013

When you are talking about natural products you want to work with green living bloggers because our readers are your target audience and typically the blogs are not clogged with reviews of other products. A lot of the typical review/mommy blogs are so overloaded with reviews that it is hard to take any of them seriously. Ask any blogger or reader if they would trust a review from a green living blogger even though they were compensated for it and the answer is going to be YES. Because we have built communities of like minded people, and our readers TRUST our opinions.

Gretchen (not verified)
on Jan 21, 2013

I am a blogger - I ike to review new products and never ask for pay to do so. It is always a nice kick back if they do pay me. However, the one that is starting to pop up is a few companies even asking for the reviewed item back?!?!?

natural woman (not verified)
on Jan 30, 2013

I believe that if the feedback and the review is honest and authentic & there is energy spent on producing it then why not get compensated for it. Marketing agencies get paid for their promoting products they don't use or even like so why not pay a blogger for promoting something they like and use and put their name on? Also when it comes to health and wellness it is women that are in forefront of this movement and they mostly make decisions about what brands to buy so it is more likely that the company or product gets bigger consumer base based on the honest blogger review.

on Feb 2, 2013

I'd like to say that the bloggers ought to be paid because they provide an almost firsthand user feedback regarding a particular product.And especially with all the popular moms who blog,the reputation of the company who sells these products is affected to a great extent.These companies pay millions to promote their brands and they don't seem to be willing to pay these bloggers who provide their valuable feedback and help to promote their products

steal of the day

Jean M. Layton (not verified)
on Feb 20, 2013

If a company wants me to sample their product and give them direct feedback, then it is a freebie.

If a company wants my blog to speak to my readers about their product, then we need to talk about a sponsored post.

I can keep my credibility with my readers, and the company will know that I'll devote time, energy and focus to present a complete picture of their product to a niche market.

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