We bloggers have an ongoing debate about what is right and wrong in terms of what we do and say in regard to PR etc, get 10 bloggers in a room and you’ll get 11 different answers as to what is the right way to do things. I have my opinion, others have theirs, and at the end of the day as long as bloggers are abiding by the law, laid out by the ASA (read their statement here) then its up to each writer to decide what they want to do.
But that is a debate between us, but what do non-bloggers think, I thought I’d ask some people I know that don’t blog, and what they had to say was rather interesting. I broke the discussions down into 4 areas listed below, and have summarized the answers. This is by no means meant to be a final word on this, just a reflection of what people around me think.
1. How do people view the biography description “PR Friendly”
The most frequent answer to what does the phrase make you think is that it does make readers think is this writer going to give a fair review, will they be objective or are they more concerned about relationships and getting free things from the PR companies/people. Some of that group did say they would read the review of a product but would also read other reviews elsewhere.
However a significant group responded that it didn’t really bother them, though a couple did comment if your trying to review products it is a strange thing to add if you want to appear objective. So trying to draw a conclusion on this is difficult, but I felt the responses edged towards it creating a little bit of doubt over independence in posts.
2. Declarations Of PR Samples, Test Products Or Free Gifts
The result of this were more clear, most readers have no issue with bloggers getting PR samples, after all they may not be able to review things if they had to buy them all, and that they also understood that rather than give bad reviews some may choose to only post reviews of products they liked.
On the subject of how sample declarations worked it was apparent that those in my little focus group wanted a set way of doing things, whilst they felt having a PR Sample policy declaration page then tagging any posts with a * was technically ok they would much prefer it to be stated in the review itself clearly.this was based more in easy clarity for readers than in a belief bloggers were using sleight of hand.
Most often those I discussed it with said they would like a simple line at the bottom of the post saying something like “the ……. is a PR sample from ……”.
3. Sponsored Posts
This one threw me, I really thought I would get one response and got a very different one, very few people asked had an issue with sponsored posts in any way, as long as they were clearly marked as such, and it not be hidden in the text.
Overwhelmingly it was accepted as part of the blogging world and as such there was no issue with it as long as it met the legal requirements.
4. Readers Biggest Fears
This was almost unanimous, and very simple. Can I believe what I’m reading?
Those that expanded further mentioned that trust has to be built over time, and that the bloggers, reviewers they most trusted were the ones they had read the longest and felt they knew more. A secondary point was that if they were searching for a product review, or ideas of what to buy they generally consult more than one source. The other interesting point was that a couple felt that they now saw things in magazines that they liked but would then look at blog reviews before committing to buy.
So there we go, that is what I found, I’ll be looking to expand on this more I think in the future as its easy for us to get lost in our blogging bubble. Its easy when we’re doing our blogging chats, having meet ups or going to events that not everyone feels the need to set up a website to dump their opinions on, and that actually s our target audience we should consider them first and foremost.
Would love to keep this debate going as its healthy to evaluate what we do and make sure that we are moving it forward in the right way. If we ever lose the trust of our readers then we as a community are finished.