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Brand Relationships and Bloggers

Brands and Bloggers - Relationships

Ana and I both weigh in on the subject of Brand Relationships and Bloggers in this post.

Phyrra: Brands and Bloggers have an interesting relationship. Brands, in general, want bloggers to talk about their products to raise brand awareness. Most brands appreciate honest reviews which give feedback on the positive and negative points of their producs, which help the brand to grow and improve their products. I have made some wonderful relationships with brands over the years and I really appreciate the give and take.

Some brands really understand how to have a mutually beneficial relationship with bloggers. When a blogger reviews their product, they share the review on their Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. I’ve seen brands pinning pictures of bloggers’ reviews on Pinterest, too. The brands benefit by the reviews being seen by new fans and the bloggers benefit by exposure to new readers.

Other brands seem to be missing out on that. They are not communicative with bloggers. A blogger may send the brand a link to their review and then hear nothing. When you check that brand’s facebook page, you’ll only see sales mentioned, nothing about reviews or the product ‘out in the wild,’ which is what a lot of readers want to see.

There have been some big brands making big mistakes recently. The biggest mistake I can think of right now is what China Glaze did to Kelly of Vampy Varnish. To sum that up (though you can read the whole post here), a contractor working for China Glaze contacted Kelly to use her pictures of China Glaze products on the Shopping Channel and ShopNBC. These pictures helped sell a ton of polish for thse shopping channels. All Kelly asked for was credit on air and on the website. She received neither. This isn’t the first time that this has happened with China Glaze. China Glaze isn’t the first brand, either. There have been issues with Sinful, and several others. It seems we hear a lot these days about companies taking bloggers’ photos without permission and using them for profit, with no credit or compensation to the blogger.

Still other brands take that a step further and rather than have a mutually beneficial relationship or a neutral one, brazenly want to take advantage of bloggers from the get-go. I recently had a brand ask me to sign a contract that stated:

In these terms of use, “your content” means material (including, without limitation, text, images, audio material, video material and audio-visual material) that you submit utilizing product received via your participating in the Brand’s Network, for whatever purpose. You grant to us a worldwide, irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to use, reproduce, adapt, publish, translate and distribute your content in any existing or future media. You also grant to us the right to sub-license these rights and the right to bring an action for infringement of these rights. You warrant and represent that your content will comply with these terms of use.

This wasn’t for a video. This was simply for the right to receive product samples to review. They were not offering compensation of any sort for the work or future work.  Would a brand try to do this with a magazine? I don’t think so. This is, plain and simple, trying to take advantage of bloggers. To me, this is appalling. Even worse, I’m sure there are bloggers who have already agreed to these terms without blinking an eye.

Bloggers, you are worth more than this! Don’t give away your content for free! It’s sometimes hard to do, but stop selling yourself short. You are worth more than you ask. My friend Nicki recently said that women statistically ask for 25-40% less than market value when we ask to be paid. So when you’re asked, keep that in mind. I know it’s hard to ask to be paid, but if a brand is asking to use your photos, they have value. You have value. You are talent.

JediAna: I agree that the terms above are ridiculous, particularly for press samples that would ordinarily be submitted for the chance – not guarantee – of an honest review. I’ve lately seen bloggers getting contracts from companies that essentially want to pay them to model the product to their audience, and then use the content however they like forever, royalty-free. But trying to claim ownership and the right to sub-license anything ever done using the offered product is ridiculous, and, to me, shows no respect at all for the original content bloggers create.

Bloggers deserve to get something from the content they create and offer free without giving up all rights to it, readers should be able to find out about new things they might like without being deceived, and companies can benefit greatly from the exposure that blogs can provide as well as getting valuable feedback. It can be an incredibly positive relationship for all involved, like Phyrra said, provided one party isn’t trying to take advantage of another.

It’s a shame to see this kind of thing becoming more common. I can’t think of a bigger insult to bloggers and their valuable contributions than a company showing complete disregard for the blogger’s opinion whilst simultaneously trying to hijack their audience.
Like Phyrra has pointed out, it can be incredibly difficult to place value on our own work sometimes, but bloggers create a lot of fantastic content and it deserves to be valued. Don’t sell yourselves short!

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44 Comments

  • What a great article. I’ve read what happened to Kelly, and that is
    unacceptable. I think what is happening here is that brands (especially
    some big ones) are undervaluing bloggers. They would never just take
    pictures from a magazine and reuse it to sell their products because the
    magazine would probably sue them. They would also never do some of the
    things they do to bloggers to magazine because the magazine would
    probably drop them and never features the brand again.

  • Here are my thoughts in a nutshell.
    Bloggers are freelance journalists. Obviously so much MORE than journalists, but in my opinion, fall under the same type of classification. The relationships between brands and bloggers, and the marketing and promotion availability for each, have come full circle in the past few years. What started out as a hobby for some, has turned into a viable source of employment, worth noting on a resume or portfolio.
    Digital media is confusing to many of us, in terms of actual rights and ownership of content, and I for one do not know where to find accurate information on these rights, or how they are enforced. There are many opinions, and many valid arguments, but I feel that the majority of people don’t know where their rights actually stand.
    I do think that if any of the content in question was a hard copy, such as a news paper, magazine or even a community or school news letter, it would be viewed differently, and it most certainly should not.
    Unauthorized use of  content happens, and will continue to happen. However, it need to be recognized as not being acceptable, and those abusing it should be held accountable.
    Love and appreciation to you all.
    Pam Heil

    Girly Bits Cosmetics

    • Girly Bits Cosmetics It’s interesting to propose but I think equating bloggers with journalists is really problematic especiallly considering there is a standard code of ethics traditional journalists adhere to (SJP Code of Ethics) and there isn’t that one yet for bloggers. when you work at a magazine like teen vogue or at a publication of that nature you are forbidden to accept freebies as an individual because of bias but that’s a lot of how blogging works now. i think holding bloggers to a standard of journalism would require people to adopt the same code of ethics and that isn’t really there yet. anyone can blog, it’s different than journalism. i study journalism and blog and there are definite differences in accountability and practice.

      • fashionpirateThat is a very good point, thank you for clarifying that. I suppose my choice of wording was inappropriate. I apologize,  I mean no disrespect to a journalist by comparing the two. I know nothing about journalism, or the code of ethics. I was trying to define someone who writes articles that is not contracted to do so. Poor choice of wording on my part. I guess my point is that I would think that when you write something, be it a poem, short story, article or letter to the editor, the content is yours. I would assume that the same thing should hold true for photographs and other visual art. I am sure I am way off base, but it would be nice if our content was protected somehow, regardless of how it came to be. =)

      • fashionpirate Girly Bits Cosmetics One thing that has always bothered me though, magazines never disclose. I had no idea until the issue came up with bloggers about bloggers needing to disclose (in 2010) that magazines didn’t disclose. I’m all for disclosure. I think, in my case and many bloggers’ case, it helps our readers to feel more confident about what they’re reading.

  • I think it’s about time that these brands catch up with the way their customers are shopping now. Many people do research online before buying, and a huge part of that is blogger reviews and swatch photos. I agree with the point you made that they’d never attempt this with a magazine, why would they expect a blogger to give up the rights to their hard work, their content? “Standard disclosure” or not, it doesn’t treat bloggers fairly and shows no respect for their work. Do they think these pictures take themselves and the words materialize out of thin air? It’s your work, you deserve to be compensated for it, or at the very least retain ownership of it.

    • TQuigs Phyrra The difference here imo is that Phyrra isn’t posting her content on another company’s webspace like Google, Facebook, Imgur, etc etc. This is her domain, her webspace, her content. They wanted the rights to use any content she created which EVER uses the product whether it’s videos, pictures, text, adapt, recreate, distribute it however they like, forever. 
      I see a big difference there.

    • TQuigs  Such a provision is fairly common in social media in order for the service to avoid copyright or trademark issues that might arise form their users adding content to the service. But in the instance of a blogger accepting products for review, the brand is asking for full use of the blogger’s own copyrighted material, published on the blogger’s own site, as the brand sees fit. Now, perhaps some bloggers won’t care about that, and will happily sign it, but many charge a fee for that sort of use. In my case, I would not accept a product for editorial review from a company that sought to have me sign such a provision. Under my review policies, I make no agreements about review of the product and accept it purely as a commercial sample for consideration for editorial coverage. When a brand wants me to make any sort of agreement, I send them my sponsored post rates, in which case, as part of the agreement, I would possibly allow them republish, make derivative works and so on. At that point, they are using my work for their own advertising and financial gain and I charge for that. I will also note that in my 7 years of blogging, and as an attorney, I have never been presented with such a provision in regard to accepting a product for review. Outside of social media sites, I have only personally come across it blogging when negotiating advertising and paid sponsored posts, which is the only place it belongs on my opinion. I would encourage bloggers not to agree to such things without compensation.

  • I’m looking at the contract that you were asked to sign, it looks like excerpts from Fullscreen Media’s contract.  I’m partnered with them on Youtube for Beautique. I know it is different from any agreement that Bloggers have with these companies, but you have to admit, Bloggers are not getting anything in writing which these companies so fair or unfair…  many Bloggers don’t have a leg to stand on if there’s no written contract.

    • goddesslilyseymour While I did not mention the company name for my specific excerpt, I can assure you it is not Fullscreen Media. Interesting that Fullscreen Media matches this excerpt. It makes me wonder if they’re using the same lawyer to draw up the agreements.
      You’re entirely right, by the way. A written contract is necessary to protect both parties.

  • By the time I see an ad or an article in a magazine for products it’s too late. I’ve read about it on blogs, seen actual photography and not just some airbrushed picture. I’ve been able to compare all the shades from a collection. All this from blogs. I spend so much money to bring timely reviews to readers and nothing is cranked out quickly.
    Some PR companies are a dream to work with and are very appreciated. As you’ve mentioned some want our body and soul in exchange for a few bottles of polish or a mascara. Give and take is the name of the game.

  • what I hate is sending review requests to brands and then not hearing a single thing back from them. At least send me nice rejection letter! I’ve also been on the end of sending reviews and then hearing nothing back… or one brand in particular, I sent her my review.. she posted several other reviews but she did not post mine 🙁 so far, I’m not very impressed with brands.

    • MelanieSnyder I’ve worked with some really great brands, but there have also been some brands that ask for the moon and give nothing in return.

  • Brands that you sends reviews to and never hear back really bug me. You wonder did they not get it, did they not like it, or do they just not care! 😛

  • Great points! I completely agree. Sure what we do isn’t rocket science, but what job, other than rocket science obviously, really is? I can tell you though that it’s not easy, what we bloggers do. Countless hours go into creating content and swatching and photographing, etc. My responsibility first and foremost is to my readers – giving them an honest review of the polishes I try, whether I buy them or they’re sent for review, is my top priority. I know nothing about make-up and I rely on beauty bloggers’ reviews to determine where to spend my heard-earned money that these companies are all fighting over. So when it comes to polish I want my readers to trust me. 
    If these companies think I do it for “free nail polish” they are mistaken. I do it because I love it. I have nail polish coming out of my ears and the last thing I NEED is more. What I need is fair compensation for the companies who benefit from my work and the eyes and ears of my “built-in” audience that I work very hard to attract and keep.

  • I agree with all the previous comments.  Sending bloggers contracts to sign like the above that are probably written by the companies attorneys and then expecting us to sign without blinking an eye is taking advantage of us.  Who’s going to pay for the attorney that we need to read this and put it in terms we all can understand?  I don’t think my attorney would accept a few bottles of nail polish or cosmetic items as payment for their services and neither should we.
    I have great working relationships with most PR companies and brands.  They send samples, I spend hours and hours taking pictures, editing them, writing the blog post and then basically marketing it for them in every social media outlet we have available to us.  In return, I usually get and expect for them to market the post and bring awareness to my blog also.  I think that’s a pretty fair deal even though they are making lots of sales from it.  What would it cost this same company for a magazine to do the same?   Now, a company wants to take all your intellectual property, use it, sale it and benefit even more, and all we received remember was those few products for review.  What would this normally cost them if they had hired someone other than a blogger to do it?  Hundreds?  Thousands?
    How many of you actually purchase magazines anymore?  Where do you go to learn about new beauty products and read honest reviews, not just a sales pitch?  I am learning my worth after 2 years of blogging.  Even if you are a brand new blogger, you are worth something too.  Don’t find this out 5 years from now when you gave up your rights for a $5 product and your intellectual property is still being used to profit a company long after the product we received has been trashed.  There are Facebook groups and other groups that bloggers can join to help teach you the in’s and out’s of blogging whether you are new or experienced blogger.  Find those groups and join them!

    • Midnight Manicures I recently purchased Nail it! the new nail magazine. I occasionally purchase Nylon or Glamour. More often I purchase hair style magazines. There are no real beauty magazines that are dedicated to makeup, which is what I’d like. I’m hoping the new Heart Beauty Magazine will be like that.

      It’s never worth it to give up your intellectual property rights for what you do on your blog. We all work too hard on it.

  • I have definitely put more faith in blogger reviews than magazines for
    years when deciding what beauty purchases to make. Many of the bloggers I
    follow are younger than me and could be taken in by contracts like the
    one above (which, by the way, sounds alarmingly similar to Facebook’s
    terms of use!). I have only just started my own blog, and fully intend
    to stay as neutral as I can – even if that means alienating big brands.

  • Unfortunately I think a lot of new bloggers will do anything to work with brands and don’t realize they are being taken advantage of..  Studies are now showing that bloggers have a much greater influence on readers purchasing products than magazines do. It makes sense that a consumer would rather read an honest review of a product and how it performs rather that buy something because of a glossy ad.  Thank you for this post–we bloggers need to value ourselves and our content. Hopefully more brands will too.

  • I think unfortunately a lot of bloggers don’t know the value of their work and brands are all too easy to exploit that. Perhaps it’s also a matter of brands not taking bloggers seriously for their work and thinking that since we’re “bloggers” and not necessarily “journalists” in their eyes, they don’t have to pay us the same amount as they would other freelancers. The important thing is that bloggers as a whole need to understand that what they do has weight and influence, and when they allow brands to circumvent their license and rights in exchange for a measly amount of product, it hurts other bloggers. It hurts the value and importance of bloggers as a whole. We as a group need to not be taken advantage of!

    • Mai at Portrait of Mai You’re right. Journalists and freelancers do not work for free. Having a company want to use your pictures should not come for free. They wouldn’t ask that of a photographer and they wouldn’t ask a makeup artist to work for free. So it’s silly to ask a blogger.

  • I am so glad that I read this article! I’m pretty new in the beauty blogging community. I’ve worked with a few companies and so far its been great! This article is an eye opener thank you for sharing this info with us!

  • Great article! I also completely agree that we, as bloggers, need to know our worth. Terms like the specific one you are talking about make me so sad, no free makeup item is worth giving away all the rights to your intellectual property. I think that unfortunately a lot of bloggers don’t really understand what they are giving away with terms like that…the way that contacts like this are worded can be so confusing and you don’t realize you just gave permission for someone to use, alter and sell your pictures for profit to anyone for whatever purpose they want. I wish there was some kind of community resource for us that would gather terms like this and rewrite them to say what they actually mean in plain english….that way bloggers could make a more informed decision about what the are signing away. I’m sure there are bloggers that will have no problem with terms like that and that’s their right but I feel like it really sets us all back because brands realize that they can walk all over us and they will continue to do so until we all stand up and say no.

    • ThePolishAholic I agree. We need to stop letting brands take advantage of us. Not every brand does. Some are great to work with. But ones that want to own your work forever just for giving you samples? No thank you.

  • Great article!
    I completely agree with everything you brought up and especially that bloggers have to realize their worth and NOT let companies walk all over them. The ones that blindly agree to these kinds of terms are the ones who hurt other bloggers who say no way, you can’t take advantage of me. Being taken advantage of isn’t never worth ANY nail polish collection or makeup. Period.

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