I ran a quick Twitter poll earlier this week to try and understand more about you feel about PR samples and sponsored posts. Reassuringly, 52% of you said that you’d trust us bloggers to be honest when we’re dealing with both sponsored posts and PR samples. On the flip side, 22% of people answered that they don’t trust either – preferring to believe in reviews on products that had been purchased directly by the blogger.
I’d like to think that people read blogs to get honest reviews/thoughts/opinions on things – whether that’s the latest lipstick launches or a rather fabulous pair of shoes. But it seems there’s definitely some wariness around how trustworthy our opinions are when we’ve been given ‘free’ product or paid to feature something specific. There’s a concern that we’re overly positive about products we haven’t bought ourselves in order to please the brands and PRs that we work with, but after speaking to several PR teams, they’ve all said that they’re happy to hear negative points or constructive feedback. Of course, no one wants to hear their product totally slated, but if the bottle design just isn’t working, or you feel it’s a better fit for a different skin type, they want to know – it helps make their products better in the long run.
Kirstie (@behindthescent) made an interesting point: ‘I trust PR sample reviews if it's a longer post and has positives and negatives. A lot of people post a single paragraph.’ Lots of you seemed to agree that balance is important: ‘I usually trust more bloggers that also talk about the negative sides of a PR sample product or the object of the sponsored’ (_sarapags) although some felt that all positive reviews are fine: (@april_todd) ‘I trust them, I know how much stuff bloggers are sent, too much to feature everything so I trust they've featured the best.’
Many of you said that you only trust a select number of bloggers and tend to read their blogs religiously, avoiding others that you feel aren’t always honest. Blogs that don’t disclose payment or PR samples were also met with scepticism – it seems that being up front is definitely preferred (and in most cases, required by the ASA).
Sadly there do seem to be certain cases where opinions can be bought – a few people who work in blogger outreach confirmed that a minority of bloggers are happy to promise a positive review in exchange for payment, with others only agreeing to feature lower value items if there’s money involved.
From my point of view, I’ve always been very up front about disclosing which products have been sent to me for review and anything I’ve been paid to talk about. Everything is treated equally, whether I bought it myself or it was sent to me to try out. I don’t have a never ending budget to stay on top of all the new releases, so PR samples are a fantastic source of content for me, but if I genuinely hate a product, it’s unlikely it’ll ever see the light of day in a blog post. If something isn’t for me, but I feel it has redeeming qualities for other people (different hair/skin types etc) I’ll include it, but it will be a balanced review with positive and negative points.
I guess we all have to make our own judgements on how to handle these kinds of things and each blog is different, but without a trusting reader base, what are you really left with? I’m all for people making money from their blogs (and would actively encourage it), but it needs to be done with integrity. There are so many great ways to collaborate with brands without being all ‘OMG THIS IS AMAZING’ all of the time – save it for the really good products you really can’t live without.
How do you feel about sponsored posts and PR samples? Do you trust bloggers to give you honest reviews and features? What makes you trust certain bloggers over others? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
*PR sample (*jokes*)