Pay your bills with exposure

So a friend of mine is a professional blogger (seriously). She has been the head of social media for a very large very well known, and hip US based retailer. Now she is back to doing her own thing, and she is doing it and living off of it. This week she received an email via Cc. that was about her, but very much not to be seen by her. The body of the letter dealt with a well known national newspaper not wanting to pay her for some writing she did, as it is a good source of exposure. She recently was told that it was good exposure to write about an event she was invited to for a new athletic product.

Exposure is great, but when the news outlet with the email fiasco was called out on twitter they didn’t seem to like it as much. My question is why not? Exposure is as good as money, it’s like non-digital bitcoin, right? I feel this is in the same vein as not paying your employees, a company needs to make money, but the sacrifice of tact has been a poor trade. For me this also treads into the realm of salaries, I feel there are more $10/hour jobs out there and very few $18-21/hour jobs, I guess if you hire passionate people they will work for less.

Here is her article on the subject at hand. (this is not a ploy for exposure).

I see both sides of the coin. But big companies tend to think people are willing to do things for free to associate themselves with the company; though they can obviously pay for it they just don’t want to. Where the problem comes in play is when smaller companies think this is the norm and imitates.

So let me get this straight. Your friend is upset that someone is asking her to work for “free”?

Do you want me to dredge up the countless threads here about industrial designers being asked to work for “free”?

This is nothing new.

PR can be taken as compensation or not. Your friend is “free” to say yes or no. Why anyone takes it personally is beyond me.

Send her a copy of Design is a Job.

Seriously? Maybe because greed is a breach of a fundamental human social contract? If someone is ignorant of the value of your work that’s one thing, but that isn’t the case here, they know the value of media impressions and assume they can translate that value over to those who provide them content just to save a buck, minus extra points for them if they led your friend to believe she would be paid, she did the work, and they came back with a different “payment”, ie. bait and switch.

That said, exposure and media impressions do have value, maybe more for someone just getting started, and maybe less for an established professional.

First off, if you haven’t read the blog post. I come away with an entirely different reaction than “someone wants me to work for free”…

Firstly, she is behaving nothing like a professional. Posting emails from clients and communication not even intended for her to the public? An trying to raise PR for herself on Twitter accordingly.

Secondly, despite her “professional experience at a fast fashion retailer” it seems she has no idea how marketing is different from journalism or the role of blogs, promotion and content. If she is a journalist, and writes original articles with depth, she would be compensated for those by the publisher or via advertising. Not from the content supplier. Does Walt Mossberg expect to get paid by Apple when he has access to Apple people or PR? Her blog is an aggregate of content, some of which I would expect she is provided by the companies, for which she would gain access and content in exchange for being in the loop. Those are editorial and are not paid. That’s how it works. Others, might be “sponsored posts” and feature more direct advertising or advertorial content. Those would be paid by the company. There’s a difference. Or, are we to understand that every product mention on her blog is paid for, in which case, it’s not a blog of original content, but an entire site of ads. No curation, no personal angle, nothing she brings to the media except accepting money for placement. Those sites aren’t the arbiters of fashion I think she wants to be. Those are spammy click farms.

Asking to get paid to appear on a TV interview promoting herself and her blogging network is pretty ridiculous. If anything, she should be paying them for advertising herself.

Thirdly, exposure does have value. It’s the value that advertisers pay for in clicks, eyeballs, etc. Obviously it is of some value to her, as right below her profile on her blog, she has an “As seen on…” section. Did she pay to be featured on those websites? Probably not, but it’s obviously of value.

For the little reach she has (626 FB likes) she is very entitled. I have done marketing and PR for sometime, sending review samples to bloggers, etc. I have never had one ask for compensation for a post where they are free to write what they like (or not at all), even on sites with millions of page views.

To sum up, I’m pretty sure none of the editorial posts on the blog are paid. If they are, they are ads and marked as such. Blogging = editorial = need for content = unpaid.


Yes. Seriously.

The value of anything and everything is determined by the buyer, not the seller. If you or anyone tries to sell me something I don’t value, or value minimally, there is no “fundamental human social contract” that requires me to pay you what you want.

I do have a fundamental right to free speech and can use that right to offer you what I want to pay. And conversely you have a fundamental right of free speech to refuse my offer. Again, why anyone would get offended at “high” prices and “lowball” offers is beyond me.

Fundamental human social contract? Seriously?

Yes seriously,

Cutting through all that, this is about endorsement, if you approach someone who has built an audience or fan base that you value or want to attract customers from and ask them to promote your product or service then that has value, period. Or are you telling me that Michael Jordan loved Fruit of the Loom so damned much that he did all those spots for free? Granted not all bloggers are big name celebrities, but many of them do have audiences that companies can’t attract through traditional marketing devices.

My previous point about social contracts had nothing to do with buyers and sellers assuming value, and more about dismissing all value (lying) to in effect see who you can get away with screwing over. A request for endorsement is evidence that said endorsement has some form of value, and this particular blogger knows that, and is offended by the request party’s assumption that she’s an ignorant cheerleader.

Except in this case the blogger is offered compensation in the form of PR. There was no lying, no screwing over, all eyes were open. The blogger would provide a written article and the company would presumably provide more traffic to the blog.

It would be exactly the same if a company contacted me for a sketch and in return they give me PR that I did a sketch for them.

There is no denying there is value in PR and while I would not except their offer, I would not be offended by it either. I don’t take business personally. They did not insult my mother.

It seems (to an admittedly non-(professional blogger)) that, since the value she offers to the products/events/companies she reviews primarily rests in her reputation, that she would want to maintain that first and foremost. If she develops a reputation as vindictive and hard to work with (especially by publicizing her frustrations in such a… caustic fashion), that she won’t get any business of this sort at all, paid or not. It might smart to not be paid for some work, but not as much as not getting work at all.

If my cat bites the hand that feeds her when all it wants to do is scratch her belly, the hand is less inclined to feed the cat. (Disclaimer: I do feed the cat, even after being bitten, because her welfare depends solely on my support. I’m not a monster.)