I had originally planned to bring your attention to my new sponsorship policies in yesterday's post, but the general topic felt heavy enough to address in a post of its own. Then, I received an email today that confirmed the need for a separate post. The email, from relatively well-known online retailer Oasap, requested bloggers to post fake, pre-written, sickeningly sugary reviews on three of Oasap's Amazon items. Those who followed suit would then be rewarded with "a gift."
I was appalled and offended by the request itself, but only sadness can describe my reaction when I followed the links. It was dismaying enough that Oasap's marketing team had the audacity to ask bloggers to act dishonestly, but even more deeply disappointing that a few of them had actually complied. (Google Doc of screenshots and links here).
It would be easy to heap the blame on Oasap. It would be too simple to criticize the company for its unsavory marketing tactics and leave it at that. But it's beyond clear that the problem rests on both sides--both retailers and bloggers have played a part in this unhealthy, self-absorbed relationship.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not completely innocent.
I'm definitely not proud of how I've allowed companies to use my blog as a blatant advertising board in the past. Was a post about a shoe brand with specialized soles really necessary? Was a glitter eyeshadow post really pertinent when I don't usually wear makeup? Was a post raving about a wholesale website really sincere when I had yet to shop there?
I admit that I've let my better judgment slip before. I admit that I've allowed the appeal of a free item or a paid post corrupt the true purpose of this blog, which is to inspire and be inspired--not to pollute the internet with platitudes in exchange for personal benefits.
There is nothing inherently wrong with sponsorships. They can be plenty good when used correctly and judiciously. In my opinion, the original intent of collaborations is to promote brands or items with which bloggers truly resonate, and to honestly review things that perhaps didn't work out. Sponsorships should be genuine expositories--not a way to build personal wardrobes, not a way to feel validated as a blogger.
On the sponsor side,offers should be a way to garner honest opinions and exposure for the brand--not a means to exploit bloggers. And they should definitely not encourage breaches of integrity.
Before this update, my only guideline for sponsorships was "all brands and items must reflect my personal style and I will express my honest opinion." This statement is still the core of my sponsored posts philosophy, but I've added a qualifer.
In an effort to be as authentic and genuine as possible, I will now only accept no more than 6 sponsored items a year, and will no longer write any compensated introductory posts.
Furthermore, as a challenge and experiment to encourage greater growth this year, I will limit myself to only 4 posts featuring sponsored pieces, including the recent eShakti skirt and a previously-accepted offer from Firmoo. So, for the remainder of the year, I may only participate in 2 more collaborations.
This way, I must now consider all offers with more scrutiny. Do I truly resonate with the company? Will the item really enhance my content? How will this post affect my readers? How will it influence my blog's voice? What message will I convey?
It is my hope that brands will no longer see bloggers as mere advertising tools, and bloggers will no longer see brands as a way to enhance their wardrobes. Yes, there are many bloggers and brands who do uphold the highest integrity when it comes to sponsorships, and I admire and applaud them for it. But from my observations, the general attitude is toxically self-serving.
It needs to change, and I will do my very best to do my part.
I've made mistakes--I've been disingenuous, selfish. But I'm learning and striving to improve, and I ask you to hold me to it.
Final note: this post is not intended in any way to shame or pressure anyone. I simply hope to prompt an open, healthy dialogue about one of the many conundrums of blogging.
As a liberal arts student/endurance athlete/violinist/fashion enthusiast, I find beauty in many spheres. Consequently, I have no idea where life will lead me. Here is where I document my journey to creating myself--soul-baring reflections, embarrassing photos, and all. Feel free to join me for the ride.