It has been awhile since I’ve written a blogging post. Mainly because I find this space to be a dirty place at the moment. There is a lot of conflict and head bashing going on. I wanted to stay out of the mix. I’m talking specifically about South Africa as this is where I’m based. But now I’m dipping my toes back into the pool and want to share some personal thoughts about blogging and the murky waters that are paid for content.
This was inspired by a piece written by Mandy-Lee Miller entitled 7 Myths about working with brands on content creation. I actually fully agree with everything Mandy said in the piece and I encourage you to go read it. Her words actually motivated me to jump in and add some comments as well. Which is what this post is all about. So here we go. Let’s answer an important question:
Why are you not making money from your blog?
Guess what? Brands pay bloggers, they’re just not paying you
Maybe a year ago we had a situation in South Africa where brands and agencies did not want to pay bloggers. The platforms were confusing and new to the scene. No one was 100% sure how to handle the space and whether it was earned or paid media. That has changed. Brands, PR Agencies and Media Agencies now understand that they need to pay bloggers. They do. All of them. In fact in the past few months I’ve not come across any that haven’t acknowledged that they need to pay nor been unwilling to do so. The truth is though that they cannot pay all the people all the time. They have a set budget allocated to achieve set goals and they utilise it accordingly.
So if you’re not getting paid it has less to do with the brands or agencies and more so to do with you and your platforms. Hard truth but one we have to now accept.
So why aren’t they paying you? There are a multitude of reasons. Maybe they ran paid campaigns with other content creators and received a disappointing response. Maybe they paid huge amounts of money to specialised individuals or agencies and didn’t receive what they expected. Maybe the goals of the campaign are not achieved with bloggers but rather blogs play a secondary roll and as such have been allocated to earned media. The reasons are multiple.
Is it because brands and agencies don’t want to pay bloggers? No.
Is it because “bigger” bloggers are happy to do work for trade exchanges? Maybe.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to blogging or any other media platforms. If I want to do something in exchange for a product that is my prerogative. Hell, if I want to do something for no payment in the form of product or money then that is my prerogative too. Bloggers, business whatever – we all have the right to work in a way we think suits our style or platforms. I don’t need to justify WHY I chose to do something for a product or why you chose not to. Did your pitch potentially get turned down because another blogger was willing to do coverage at no cost? Yes. That doesn’t make the blogger that did that the problem though. Take ownership – why did that blogger go that route? Was the content relevant to their audience and something they’d want to share? Do they potentially have a longer running relationship with the agency or brand concerned which means they’re willing to assist in these circumstances? Do you even know what the overarching goals of the campaign were?
Wait. Hold on. Were you just asking for money without really knowing what the brand wanted to achieve?
Can you honestly tell me that you haven’t ever written something about a product or brand or event unless you’ve been paid? I write a lot of content on this blog and sometimes it is brand or product specific. Most of the time I’m not paid. I write it because it interests me and I hope it will interest you. I did that when I started and I still do that. If you only write about brands or products when you’re paid you’d have little to no content surely? Why should someone starting out in the blogging world be asking brands for money to run content? They need to build their audiences and the chance to share something “exclusive” or “hot off the press” with them is a great way to do that and mutually beneficial to both parties. Let them do that. “Bigger” bloggers could also offer to do value adds because they have relationships with these brands and agencies. This isn’t something exclusive to blogging but in business as well. When someone phones business x and asks for “free” advice or suggestions or samples they’ll likely get them if they are a long standing client. The same speaks true for blogging.
It is about you
Take a step back and ask yourself what you can do to be better and, in future, make money. Take a look at your content. Be critical always. Also take a deeper look. Aligning with a blogger is far more than the content they put out. Did brand x potentially not want to pay you because your tone doesn’t fit their brand tone? Bigger corporates have strict guidelines in place when it comes to things such as tone and alignment. You need to be critical always. Also are you difficult to deal with? I know there are certain brands that don’t work with Tech Girl because in the past I’ve potentially been difficult. Be it late to post, or slow to respond to emails or because I was on Twitter broadcasting my love for attractive men and maybe that didn’t suit their messaging. I’m just doing me and it doesn’t mean they’re in the wrong. It just means we aren’t a good fit. So be it.
Sometimes someone else might be a better option. Rather than being critical of that individual learn from them.
Do I get annoyed when I pitch a campaign and get turned down only to see other bloggers posting about the same “for free”? Of course. But I always remind myself that the problem here isn’t “them”. They’re not at fault nor to be blamed. I need to go back to MY campaign and see where its shortcomings are as well as realise that sometimes things like budget constraints or past experiences might have impacted decisions.
This is a life lesson more so than a blogging lesson: Other people/things/brands/products/issues are easily blamed because it is far easier to blame something you can’t fix than take responsibility for what you do and improve. If brands don’t know you exist or aren’t contacting you, up your content game every day to make sure they find you. If they’re not paying you look at your pricing, your creative offerings and your audience (size and engagement play a big role here) and try improve. Constantly just work on improving you over all else.
Finally, never lose sight of what is important here.
It ain’t money. It ain’t you. It is your audience. I write this blog for you. A favourite on a tweet makes my day and a message saying you purchased something I suggested, laughed at a video or found a particular post helpful means far more to me than anything money can buy. Will it pay the bills? No. But I never started my blog to pay the bills. I started it to share my love of geek, gaming and gadgets with you. So that is what matters. The money is nice but it isn’t everything. Know your worth, yes. But also know your priority. Because the real truth is that a strong engaged audience is all that matters. To you and to brands.
In the last while I’ve seen an incredible change in the blogging industry. A move to inclusion and support amongst content creators. A space of idea sharing over bashing. It has become about collaboration and assistance. But I’ve also seen us encourage new bloggers with less than 500 readers month to charge ridiculous fees for posts. I’ve seen constant bickering and infighting and nastiness. I’ve seen bloggers attack other bloggers out of jealousy over anything else. Stop. Rewind. Remember why you’re here. We are stronger united. Try remember that.