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PR-Friendly Bloggers, What would you do if a PR Company did This to YOU? @ Sakuraharuka.com

Last weekend, I wrote a review of a health care and insurance website as requested by a certain PR/Social Media Marketing company in the US. I notified the company that the review post was live and I received notification to make some edits. Fair enough, as they had not seen nor requested to see the draft before it was published.

They also told me to "remove the disclosure that this article is a sponsored post." When I first read that, all I thought was "but whyyyyyy????"

Reason they gave? "It is our current policy that we want the article to look really natural as if the owner really posted the site and not because it's compensated." Am I the only one that sees something wrong here?!

Now, when I decided to let Sakura Haruka be PR-friendly, I spent a lot of time researching on best practices & reading about what other bloggers do when they accepted advertising on their blog. Blogging is not my full-time job, but I am serious about keeping my blog authentic to me and being a credible writer my readers can trust. I may not be a big-time blogger, but I have my principles.

In October 2009, the new US Federal Trade Commission {FTC} policy on blog disclosure went into effect. You can read the original FTC document to understand it better but basically it is trying to say that if you make a plug for something, you must disclose it even if you are promoting it in "non-traditional contexts" like blogging or tweeting. Simply put, don't mislead the consumers into thinking that you are endorsing something just because you like it. I am not a US resident and maybe this does not apply to me, but being truthful on a blog is something that I advocate. Why would you cover up about being paid for writing something? Are you scared that the reader might view the endorsement differently if you were paid or given the product free?

On Sakura Haruka, I write a lot of reviews. If you look back, you will see that most are actually not even paid or sponsored reviews and I wrote them because I wanted to share the experiences. And even then, I explicitly state that in each review post to remove any ambiguity that I wrote it due to some benefit. Even if I did receive monetary compensation {none so far, this would have been my first} or the product free, I would write an honest review about it. Because that is how I stay true to myself and my blog.

I thought about the request from the company to remove the disclosure. It is a simple act and all I had to do was to delete that sentence and I could receive a nice amount of money. Not much, but still something. However, I cannot bring myself to do it. Call me foolish but I emailed back that sorry, I cannot do it because as a blogger, I need to uphold transparency and in the first place, they did not say that they did not want a disclosure in the post. I even linked them to the FTC policy but they blatantly disregard it. If I knew from the beginning, I would not have taken up the job. In my mind,

I felt cheated disappointed that after all the time and effort spent to go through the website, write a review post with pictures thankyouverymuch, and promote it on my social media accounts, I would not have gotten the payment that was promised. But, if they understood, yay for me for sticking to my guns, if not, it would be a lesson learnt. And so my fellow PR-friendly bloggers, what would you do in such a situation? Who can we turn to for help if we are not compensated for work we already did? Also, please help me with the following questions on accepting sponsored reviews.

  1. Do you receive payment before or after the post goes live?
  2. Do the advertisers vet your draft first?
  3. How do you disclose that payment was received?
  4. Anybody uses the word "advertorial"?
  5. If you don't mind, how much do you charge for each sponsored review?

As of now, I have not received payment for that review because I did not remove my disclosure and I have taken the review down. Let this be a lesson learnt for anybody that receives a PR pitch from that company. Leave me a comment/message me if you want to know more details.

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