It’s been a few weeks since I’ve linked up with Amanda at Running with Spoons for Thinking Out Loud Thursday. Naturally that means I’ve been thinking…
Recently this article came to my attention in one of my community groups. If you don’t want to click the link it is basically about how Lord & Taylor provided a designer dress to 50 bloggers (I won’t even get into the lack of diversity on that one, that’s another topic for another day) as part of a Instagram based campaign. It was a clever idea and I’ve heard the dress has since sold out so definitely mission accomplished.
Following this highly successful campaign came a decent amount of backlash though. As it turns out none of the bloggers disclosed the post as sponsored, violating numerous FTC guidelines. Some of the posts have now been edited to include #ad or #sponsored but according to the article they originally did not. This situation and some other recent happenings in the blogging world have had me thinking about the notion of responsibility.
We as bloggers have every right to post or write what we want. We have choices in the groups we join, the brands we work with, whether to self host, monetize, blog daily or weekly, and I could go on. There isn’t some governing body out there regulating what we do (FTC guidelines notwithstanding). It’s as easy as setting up WordPress and just typing. However, as much as we have the right to blog with it comes a certain level of responsibility.
First and foremost bloggers should offer a standard disclaimer stating your level of experience, expertise or lack thereof. A typical disclaimer (in the fitness blogging world) states you are not a doctor or licensed professional – unless of course, you are! Even still you should note that opinions expressed on the site are just that and suggest you consult a medical professional before engaging in any kind of activity or health plan. People who read blogs or visit various sites sometimes do so assuming the information they are reading is factual or accurate. It is your responsibility to be as up front with them as possible about the limits of your site and the information contained. It is the readers choice and responsibility to accept and understand that and engage.
There are bloggers out there who brag on healthy living and are very clearly not living the healthy lifestyle for one reason or another. I have removed plenty of these kinds of bloggers from my reader for this reason. Maybe the blog is their escape, form of therapy or they’re in denial. While you don’t owe me explicit details on your life, if you are going to promote certain products or ideals, give advice, guidance or tips – whether researched or unfounded – then practicing what you preach is a good start. Life can be challenging for anyone and no one out there is perfect but show some authenticity by not being something you aren’t.
Unlike what happened with the Lord & Taylor campaign it is the responsibility of the blogger to disclose when they’ve received free product, compensation or have posted affiliate links. Period. And it doesn’t just refer to the blog but on all social media channels. There should be no debate about this and simply saying “I didn’t know” isn’t being responsible. Another point is where to place the disclosure. It should be placed at the top or as close to the product/brand you are referring to as possible. If you agreed to represent a brand or company it is up to them to tell you what they want and need but it’s up to you as well to find out.
When I read and reviewed Meb’s book last week something that stuck with me was when he said as runners we should be students of the sport – always learning. I think the same applies to blogging. Not matter how involved you want your blog to become, whether free or self hosted, you should learn the ins and outs of it (or at least the basics). I’m not suggesting spending hours blogging, becoming versed in HTML or paying hundreds of dollars on blogging conferences or programs. There are plenty of free resources online or hit up your fellow bloggers for guidance! It can only help you in the long run.
This shouldn’t need any explanation but sadly it does. I’ve witnessed and heard of bloggers having their content lifted word for word whether in whole or in part. You have to be careful with photos you find online as well. Just earlier this week I had a website reblog one of my posts adding there own spin on it to make it work for them. The good news is they linked back to me and tagged me on social media. I replied to them that while I appreciated the shout out, my permission was not sought beforehand and they took it down. That works 9 times of out 10 but the blogging community while it may seem large isn’t all that large and people notice these things. Be original. And if you struggle to come up with your own consistent content, perhaps you shouldn’t be blogging at all.
Most bloggers start a blog to share a love of (insert hobby here) and not necessarily for the purpose of making money or to become rich and famous (snicker). I am one who enjoys running, racing and talking about it. I’m certainly no “expert” runner, RRCA certification or not but I love to engage in conversation about it. I don’t use this space to discuss details of my work or family life but do infuse some of my personal adventures into it. One could argue that “it’s my blog” and “I’m not forcing anyone to read it”. None of this is an excuse to be irresponsible.
In the end you as a reader have the power to decide what blogs or websites you want to read and what information you will take to heart; and I will do my best to be honest and responsible with the content I present. I can only hope other bloggers will too.
What do you think of the Lord & Taylor nondisclosure? How responsible do think bloggers are for the content they provide?