Why should a Brand pay to a blogger when others are available for FREE

During one of my recent conversations with a PR professional, she used this sentence and said something like this - "Why should I pay you, when there are lot of bloggers are willing to do it for FREE". Well I wanted to say a lot but to cut the conversation there, I just responded - "I would suggest to go with your preferred bloggers, if they are able to provide value for the brand. That's how any company should operate."  The story doesn't end here. It's a common rant amongst bloggers as well. Professional bloggers also feel that lot of new bloggers are doing various blogging projects for free and that's not right. Now point is who would decide, what is right and what is not. Ultimately it's about value of time, effort and definition of success for each individual. Today I thought of putting my thoughts at one place and it's open for debate. I would encourage all bloggers, brand managers, PR professionals, Hotel/Resort owners to share thoughts through comments. My examples may align with Travel blogging but the details can be extrapolated to other blogging domains as well.   Let me first share my thoughts of first sentence which made me compile this blog-post. In my opinion any brand which needs visibility on web would also have some sort of KPIs in mind to decide if a campaign is successful or not. Now point is that how would you decide which blog or blogger can fulfill the needs w.r.t. KPIs defined. From my personal experience very few PR companies or brands do this analysis that's the very first reason for unprofessional way to deal with such campaigns.   For now, let's assume that PR company or Brand has clear stats to be targeted, which means that PR company is aware which blogs to be targeted. What should be core strength of the blog, the reach in terms of views and kind of audience they have. Reach on social media and overall influence is a particular vertical. Now ideally PR would reach out to blogger who can fulfill these needs. When it comes to blogger fees, every company wants to optimize the cost. So there can be cases where you find blogger who fulfills your need in terms of matching numbers and also willing to do it for free. In case of travel blogger, it's not actually Free as company would bear the cost of travel, stay and local sight seeing. If both the parties see value for each other, is there any harm? No, I guess. But like PR was optimizing the cost, shouldn't this blogger evaluate if s/he can charge for the assignment. Certainly yes and people do it, but it takes time. Ultimately it's all about learning the art of negotiation and bringing up the value for both the parties involved.   But if you notice, we assumed that PR has clear understanding of reach they want. Mostly that doesn't happen and PR always tries to bring more value to the brand and keep hitting the dart. So whosoever agrees to work for free, would work.   Now there are set of PR who pays close attention in choosing right influencer/blogger for a brand and tries to understand the terms. That's the way 2 parties start with values they can provide to each other and deal with it professionally.  And I know that many brands don't mind paying if they can afford and see value. Ultimately that's going to help their brand and business.   Now I want to share my personal experiences. Approximately 5 years back I was approached for a FAM trip and I felt so happy that a big brand recognized my blog and want me to fly to their place for 4 days of 5 star hospitality. That was certainly a high point for me, which gave me sense of achievement. But by that time I was not aware of value I could provide to any such business. Fortunately my first experience was great. But when I did few more free projects, I sensed some sort of misunderstanding, gap in expectations etc. Many times, such client turn out to be too greedy and expect rosy things from you. But why a blogger would do that? Ultimately we write for our followers and folks who believe in us. We can't fake it. The day I share fake details on my blog, I wouldn't see increasing traffic. That's the reason I have been seeing increasing traffic for last 8 years and going to cross 38 Lac views in few days.  So as a Blogger, PR or a Business, we need to be professional and respectful to everyone. And it's never about Free versus Paid. It's more about Value, Ethics and pleasure of working on something which would up-level things for all the parties involved.    Sentence like "Why should a Brand pay to a blogger when others are available for FREE" doesn't sound right at least :). It's OK if someone is not willing to pay or can't afford but be respectful to others. This sentence disrespect both the bloggers - the one who is doing it for Free and the one who has some charges for such projects.   Let me stop here and hear your views as Blogger, PR or a Brand owner.

During one of my recent conversations with a PR professional, she used this sentence and said something like this - "Why should I pay you, when there are lot of bloggers are willing to do it for FREE". Well I wanted to say a lot but to cut the conversation there, I just responded - "I would suggest to go with your preferred bloggers, if they are able to provide value for the brand. That's how any company should operate."

The story doesn't end here. It's a common rant amongst bloggers as well. Professional bloggers also feel that lot of new bloggers are doing various blogging projects for free and that's not right. Now point is who would decide, what is right and what is not. Ultimately it's about value of time, effort and definition of success for each individual. Today I thought of putting my thoughts at one place and it's open for debate. I would encourage all bloggers, brand managers, PR professionals, Hotel/Resort owners to share thoughts through comments. My examples may align with Travel blogging but the details can be extrapolated to other blogging domains as well.

Let me first share my thoughts of first sentence which made me compile this blog-post. In my opinion any brand which needs visibility on web would also have some sort of KPIs in mind to decide if a campaign is successful or not. Now point is that how would you decide which blog or blogger can fulfill the needs w.r.t. KPIs defined. From my personal experience very few PR companies or brands do this analysis that's the very first reason for unprofessional way to deal with such campaigns. 

For now, let's assume that PR company or Brand has clear stats to be targeted, which means that PR company is aware which blogs to be targeted. What should be core strength of the blog, the reach in terms of views and kind of audience they have. Reach on social media and overall influence is a particular vertical. Now ideally PR would reach out to blogger who can fulfill these needs. When it comes to blogger fees, every company wants to optimize the cost. So there can be cases where you find blogger who fulfills your need in terms of matching numbers and also willing to do it for free. In case of travel blogger, it's not actually Free as company would bear the cost of travel, stay and local sight seeing. If both the parties see value for each other, is there any harm? No, I guess. But like PR was optimizing the cost, shouldn't this blogger evaluate if s/he can charge for the assignment. Certainly yes and people do it, but it takes time. Ultimately it's all about learning the art of negotiation and bringing up the value for both the parties involved. 

But if you notice, we assumed that PR has clear understanding of reach they want. Mostly that doesn't happen and PR always tries to bring more value to the brand and keep hitting the dart. So whosoever agrees to work for free, would work. 

Now there are set of PR who pays close attention in choosing right influencer/blogger for a brand and tries to understand the terms. That's the way 2 parties start with values they can provide to each other and deal with it professionally.

And I know that many brands don't mind paying if they can afford and see value. Ultimately that's going to help their brand and business. 

Now I want to share my personal experiences. Approximately 5 years back I was approached for a FAM trip and I felt so happy that a big brand recognized my blog and want me to fly to their place for 4 days of 5 star hospitality. That was certainly a high point for me, which gave me sense of achievement. But by that time I was not aware of value I could provide to any such business. Fortunately my first experience was great. But when I did few more free projects, I sensed some sort of misunderstanding, gap in expectations etc. Many times, such client turn out to be too greedy and expect rosy things from you. But why a blogger would do that? Ultimately we write for our followers and folks who believe in us. We can't fake it. The day I share fake details on my blog, I wouldn't see increasing traffic. That's the reason I have been seeing increasing traffic for last 8 years and going to cross 38 Lac views in few days.

So as a Blogger, PR or a Business, we need to be professional and respectful to everyone. And it's never about Free versus Paid. It's more about Value, Ethics and pleasure of working on something which would up-level things for all the parties involved.  

Sentence like "Why should a Brand pay to a blogger when others are available for FREE" doesn't sound right at least :). It's OK if someone is not willing to pay or can't afford but be respectful to others. This sentence disrespect both the bloggers - the one who is doing it for Free and the one who has some charges for such projects. 

Let me stop here and hear your views as Blogger, PR or a Brand owner. 

19 comments:

UK Fashionablefoods said...

I have heard similar things over the last few years and reduced my social presence at such events. I am not sure about other available FREE bloggers, I am not. I was, is and would continue to remain Brand UK as a blogger and I am definitely happy keeping my presence limited and I don't have any competition with the 'Free' Omnipresent ones. :)

Online Journalist said...

If brands or PRs pay the bloggers, particularly the talented ones for their contributions, they get back the advantages in many folds. They may get free doers, but anything that is free will be different the paid ones...!

Indrani said...

It is like how we search accommodation during our travels. For free stay or budget stay there are dharamshalas and cheap hotels with min facilities. For more comfort you have 5 star hotels and pay accordingly.
A blogger has his or her own range of reach to readers. The brand has to pay for that.

Himalayan Wanderer said...

Brilliant article and need for the hour. This is a question I have as I get into an independent writer and Blogger. Brands need to evaluate a fair compensation model from Bloggers based on value. As anyone, we also have bills to pay. Trading for exposure may not always guarantee quality. Also, there has been a proliferation of content for the sake of content. Badly botched up blogs with poor research, little or no background over the choice of topic has brought down the standards.

I appreciate your choice of topic. Would love to read more articles on similar lines to help us get sharper (and smarter) with working around good brands.

VJ Sharma said...

UK - As you mentioned, it's not about competition. I think it's more about valuing own work and not underestimating own worth as a blogger.

VJ Sharma said...

Online Journalist - I partially agree with you. It's not that anyone who is doing for Free is not adding much value. Rather it's more about aligning the value proposition and not only thinking in terms of free vs paid.

VJ Sharma said...

Indrani - That's a great analogy.

VJ Sharma said...

Himalayan Wanderer - Absolutely. And the transition from a Free to Paid blogger can be easy if you already have a great blog, content and follower-ship. It's just a matter of believing in your own work and time worth. I know it's easy to write than doing. I would invite professional bloggers to share some insights about moving into the other part of blogging.

Abhinav Singh said...

Very well timed blog. Today more and more brands are understanding the power of bloggers and social media influencers. It’s high time that the companies with deep pockets also pay bloggers for the value they add. Today, I see n number of bloggers pretending to be travel bloggers while they are clearly not. The companies should know how to differentiate. I also think if brands pay the bloggers it will only build up a more professional ecosystem and the quality of brand promotion will only increase. Free stays and free food and travel won’t pay your bills. Many bloggers these days struggle to do blogging full time and thus it affects the quality of their blogs. If they start getting paid for the assignments, travel blogging will become sustainable and beneficial for both the parties in the long run. We need more discussions like these.

VJ Sharma said...

Absolutely Abhinav. As of now, doing blogging full time is not sustainable in India but the mindset has to change. But one gets what s/he deserves. A blogger who underestimates the value s/he adds to a brand, would never be able to do it professionally. While folks who take it seriously may need to struggle for some time, but long terms results should be better.

Abhinav - I wish you best as full-time blogger and would love to help in every possible way. Please don't hesitate to connect if I can do anything.

purba chakraborty said...

A wonderful article. Agree with all your points and Indrani said it so rightly in her comment.

Rajkumar R said...


Every Brand want to be in the First page of Google Search that too in the first ten places.To attain this they are using our selves 'Bloggers'. Most of the Bloggers don't know the value of their blogs.We the bloggers are not only promoting their brand by writing but also offering our link juice to pass on to Brand's site.

VJ Sharma said...

Raj - It's extremely important for a blogger to know the kind of impact s/he can create. That's how one can deal professionally. And yes, Analytics and numbers are important to track and discuss.

Prasad Np said...

It is only a matter of time.. I met one of the best professional photographers in India yesterday, and his observation "A lot of my clients who left for cheaper alternatives came back to me as now they realized the value of my work"

VJ Sharma said...

That's true Prasad. It's about time, but I always wonder if all brands are aware what they want in terms of numbers and analytics.

Deeba PAB said...

I agree with Prasad. I think brands should realise true value if they acknowledge that every relationship is two way. We must never underestimate our worth. It's up to the blogging community to wake up and come together. I sound quite idealistic, but hope is a good thing.

Manish Kumar said...

आपकी राय से सहमत हूँ कि PR Agency को अपना होमवर्क अच्छी तरह से करना चाहिए जो कि वो शायद ही करती हैं। कोई ब्लॉगर किसी उत्पाद को कितनी अच्छी तरह मार्केट कर सकता है इसका भी मापदंड अभी इस हलके में आया नहीं है। बहुत सारे चुनाव किसी जानकार की रेको के माध्यम से ही होते हैं।

मैंने तो ये भी देखा है कि बिना किसी भत्ते के की जाने वाली FAM ट्रिप्स में ब्लॉगर से बहुत ज्यादा उम्मीदें भी नहीं रखी जातीं। मुझे नहीं लगता कि निकट भविष्य में फ्री में उपलब्ध होने वाले ब्लॉगर नहीं रहेंगे क्यूँकि हममें से बहुतों के लिए नई जगहों पर घूमते रहने के अवसर मिलना पैसों से कहीं ज़्यादा महत्त्वपूर्ण होता है।

ये जिम्मेदारी भी फिलहाल हमारी ही है कि हम इस उद्योग को ये बताएँ या दूसरे शब्दों में कहूँ तो हमें शिक्षित करें कि किस तरह से हम उनके उत्पाद को प्रचारित प्रसारित करा सकते हैं तभी वे हमें उचित मूल्य देने की सोचेंगे।

amsang said...

Indian markets are yet to mature and the middle rung MBA pros are the ones who recommended the extra berth in AC 3 which we all now know as a flop idea.
These are the same MBA types who brought down the Tata indica as a well known taxi brand or brought down Dell from the top slot for computers.
My advice for fellow bloggers, don't negotiate.

VJ Sharma said...

A fellow blogger just responded on twitter and then I realized that my post may be sounding differently. But idea is not to blame anyone. But it's more about respecting individual choice, style and preference. Disrespecting or unnecessary challenging anyone doesn't solve anything.

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