Disclosure, PR and honesty in the blogging and YouTube communities has been disputed a lot over recent months; and probably for good reason. I very rarely feature PR samples on my site and am yet to accept any form of sponsored post opportunity. My reason for writing this post therefore doesn't stem from my experiences of a blogger or creator, but as a reader and consumer.
Personally, I have no issue with sponsored content or posts that include PR samples as long as they fit with the rest of the content. I can't see any reason for it doing anything other than contributing positively to the site on a whole. I don't blog full time or produce content every day as many of my favourite bloggers do and I can still tell you that the time it takes to keep this little site ticking over is sometimes immense. For those that do choose to take on blogging professionally, it's impossible to argue against receiving some kind of payment for the work put in. It's a career. A career arguably unlike anything seen in the mainstream before, but a career all the same.
In the same sense, I do think that full disclosure and transparency is really important when it comes to producing content alongside brands and companies outside of the blog itself. One of the biggest lessons for bloggers to learn is that it's okay to say no to opportunities that you don't feel are right for you and your site. The other lesson is that it's okay to say yes, too.
I don't feel as though featuring press samples and/or sponsored content is anything to apologise for; as blogging and vlogging has evolved it's become a huge part of the territory and bloggers need to eat, too. Even so, my blogroll has changed a lot since the beginning. Largely because my own tastes and interests have changed and evolved during the time I've been reading blogs; but also partially due the abandonment of traditional disclosure policies in favour of a more generalised approach. That's not to say that I think that all bloggers that feature positive posts in relation to PR samples are shady at all - especially considering that most bloggers I know (myself included) would only ever accept a sample from a brand that they know, trust and love in the beginning. What does make me a little uncomfortable is the apparent reluctance to be upfront about what has and hasn't been paid for, sent or gifted.. I've seen bloggers rave about certain undisclosed products; only to mention later that they wouldn't pay the full price to repurchase it. However much I accept samples and sponsorship as an important part of the blogging process, something about not offering full disclosure just doesn't sit right with me.
While I highly doubt that anybody sets out to deceive or manipulate readers, I think it's important to occasionally take a step back and realise that the opportunities offered to bloggers, YouTubers and content creators wouldn't happen if they hadn't gained the trust of their readership in the first place. The idea that some people have begun to lose trust in the opinions of bloggers is really sad; especially considering that I saw blogs as a reliable, down to earth place to find product reviews and recommendations when I first started reading them. I'm pleased to say that I still feel that way to a large extent, although I do still think that complete honesty and transparency is really important.