Monday, September 17, 2007


When your blog starts getting attention, and you develop a readership, there may come a point when you receive free stuff... schwag, sometimes you even get fancy schwag. I, personally have only received a free pair of pants in my early days, and a pair of earrings from a fellow blogger. But it's a question that has come up in both fashion and beauty blogs.

The goods received, are they gifts? Or are they given in hopes of getting 'editorial posts'.

Since the beginning of publication time, there have always been businesses wanting to get positive editorial press. We all want press. Heck, sometimes I want press just for being fabulous.... well, that hasn't happened. To get back to the point, you're not exactly giving something for nothing, so is it a 'paid post'? The lines are kind of fuzzy at that point?

Do you disclose your schwag to your readers? Does it matter? Is this some kind of informal payment?

How do you deal with this phenomenon?


WendyB said...

IMO, having been in journalism for more than a decade, it absolutely IS payment if you take a substantial gift(as opposed to, say, a lipstick for reviewing purposes). Because many blogs still exist in a grey area (is it journalism? humor? gossip?), I think it's somewhat acceptable to have this kind of transaction as long as you disclose this. If you aspire to become a serious journalist or you don't want your integrity to be questioned, it's best not to take anything. I know certain mags take and take, but you're blogging because you DON'T want to be like that, right? BTW, this only applies to blogs that are striving to provide legitimate fashion commentary and where the readers have a reasonable expectation of a forthright, uninfluenced opinion. My blog, unlike a lot of blogs here probably, exists to promote my work. It's biased from the get-go.

WendyB said...

Ugh! I should complete my thoughts before hitting publish! Above, I am not referring to ordinary gift bags with nothing of true value that any attendee at a party can get. I'm referring to "Here's a Balenciaga purse; can you mention the new look?" If you get something very expensive for reviewing purposes, and you want to keep it, you should pay for it, just like a celebrity should after wearing something at a photo shoot.

Gala said...

My policy is that I only write about products I like. If I don't like something, I don't write about it. Simple. I also always disclose if something was given to me, I think that honesty & transparency is really important.

Sandra said...

I work in print as well as blogs. I will only write about products if I used them and like them. I get samples all the time because in order to truthfully and accurately write about something, you have to experience it. I know many writers who just do round ups, and that's great, but if you are going to recommend a product, shouldn't you experience it?

That being said, most PR people tell you to keep the product, especially beauty for obvious reasons.

I have received 1 shoe, not a pair, 1. Samples of clothing that are teeny, tiny or way too big. It all comes down to your personal ethics. Is a reader really going to know if I kept it? As a writer, you have to live with your own conscious.

Ondo Lady said...

I blog about books I have read, TV shows and films that I have seen, whether they are freebies or not. If I like them I will blog about it and tell everyone how great it is and vice versa. If it is a lousy book or film then I will say so. This is where the beauty of a blog kicks in because I will be able to say exactly what I want without worrying about losing potential advertisers. Oh the freedom of speech is wonderful!!

Allie said...

When anyone offers to send me something, I tell them upfront before I receive the item that I will be honest with a review, and won't shy from writing a bad review or no review at all. Then if they still send it, I then decide if I don['t like it if I will write at all.

I rarely write about the products i don't like, I instead contact the vendor and tell them my thoughts and why I chose not to post.

I almost always admit the review is schwag in a less obvious way ("i recently received..."). I have had one or two vendors ask me to not admit it is schwag because of X or Y so I get even more vague with how I received the item ("a friend gave me...").

And I am loving this blog/resource. Thank you so much!!!

Shannon Nelson said...

Oh Schwag. Mr. UPS man tells me that I give him great job security with how much schwag I receive on a weekly basis for my beauty blogs. On both Makeup Minute and A Girl's Gotta Spa, I am very straightforward that any review written, whether the product was purchased or sent to me, will be reviewed honestly and accurately. I cannot tell you how many PR firms have tried to "bribe" me into writing a positive review.

That said...I also write blogs for Pierce Mattie PR, so I try very hard to be the blogging voice and speak to other PR firms about what is and isn't appropriate when approaching bloggers with schwag. I wrote a post on it here, please feel free to add your ideas in our comments. I really want PR firms to understand that there is etiquette that should be followed when approaching us.

styleandsubstance said...

Ah, the improper pitch of the PR world; I'm so glad you brought it up, Shannon! There is nothing more blatantly clueless than a pitch for me to "feature" a product or service that is not compatible for my site.

Case in point; my blog is a single girl's view from her stilettos, right? So to get a pitch from a PR firm representing a jeweler specializing in engagement rings - DUH?!! That truly sets the stage for a negative post. Luckily for them, I don't operate in negative light and chose to just delete the request...

But getting back to schwag, honesty is the best policy. As Gala stated, I will not write about the product if I did not care for it, and will also contact the PR person to explain why.

Shannon Nelson said...

What annoys me the most is when I am approached by someone mentioning "free samples" several times throughout the email. As if just b/c it is free, that will sway me to say yes. If I'm not interested or it doesn't fit in with my blog--I won't say yes, free or not.

Also, I forgot to mention, I actually have a Disclosure page on Makeup Minute where I tell my readers that 99.9% of what I review is sent to me, the language I would use if it was sent or purchased, how I use affiliate links, etc. I lay it all out on the table. That way people can leave their accusations at the door.

Queen Michelle said...

I get offered things quite alot. I approach it by either ignoring it if it's something I wouldn't normally feature on the blog, or if I think I might have featured it without solicitation, I ALWAYS forewarn the person/company that I will write about it with brutal honesty, even if that means being negative. That usually scares them off! So far I have only taken one thing and wrote my review on the companies blog instead, simply because their readership would be more extensive than mine. I was of course brutally honest.

But more often than not I get offered things by way of a thank you for writing a review of something in the first place - they come across the review and want to thank me.

I've even ended up helping a designer write his press releases because he liked the way I wrote, and since I genuinely felt passionate about his work in the first place I was happy to become involved. One might say I am now biased towards that designer and won't write anything negative about him now because technically I have worked for him (even though I didn't receive any payment as such). This is true to a degree, but because I already blogged about him and had my own opinion already, speaking to him personally merely re-affirmed what I already felt and furthered my understanding of what he's about.