So I disclose. But here's the whole story.
Essentially, a sponsorship means that I have received something from a company in exchange for posting something. Often, there are requirements that I post something specific. For example, I might be required to link to the company's page. No big deal, because I do that a lot, anyway, when I write about a product. A link makes it easy for my readers to find out more about the product or company.
Other times, I might be required to write a recipe or take a photo of something. Again, no big deal.
If their requirements are too excessive (too many links, for example) I probably won't take the sponsorship, or I might negotiate for something that's more compatible with my blog.
I DO NOT take sponsorships if one of the requirements is to say that I like or endorse the use of the product, or where I have to specifically encourage people to go buy it. I'll put in a link if I do accept a sponsorship, but it's entirely up to you whether you click that link or try the product.
If I do say that I like a product, those are my own words and my own opinion, and not something fed to me by a PR company.
Let's talk a little bit about blog partnerships
and how I decide who I want to work with.
First, do I like the company? There are a few companies I've had issues with as a consumer, so I wouldn't partner with as a blogger. Second, do I like the products? That should be obvious. And then, does it fit my blog's theme? I wouldn't take a sponsorship from a company that repairs windshields
Next, what's in it for my readers? Can I write something interesting? Will I be able to present some new information or talk about new products on the market? Will there be any giveaways or other bonuses for my readers?
And then we come to "what's in it for me?" Yes, it's something I think about. I don't need to have sponsors to write this blog. So if someone wants me to write about their products, it needs to benefit me in some way. That could be money, products, charity, or a relationship with a company. But if I don't like the products or the company, or if it doesn't fit my blog, I won't take a deal, no matter how much money is offered.
For example, I've gotten offers to write about kid's products, three different social media platforms, a pet product (I personally would have liked that one, but it doesn't fit my blog), sunglasses, cast iron bathtubs (really?), an appliance store in the UK, a fish market, online gambling sites, makeup and haircare products, an over-the-counter medicine, and a cellular service that I don't use. And that's just the ones I remember.
Needless to say, I didn't take any of those offers. If it was all about the money, I would have taken some of them, because some were pretty lucrative. But I turned them all down. I'm picky about who I work with.
And it's not like I accept every food-related offer, either. There are plenty of those that I turn down. With all the offers that come in, I don't need to accept money to write about things I don't like.
Recently, I agreed to partner with Good Cook on an ongoing basis because I have a whole bunch of their utensils that I've had for quite some time. They're decent products, and affordable. And when I talked to their rep, it sounded like they had some really fun promotions coming up. So I said yes.
Some partnerships are a one-time thing, some are for several posts, and some are long-term. While this blog isn't ALL about making money, I see nothing wrong with making a little income from introducing my readers to products and companies.
I don't take freebies from companies unless I'm pretty darned sure I'm going to like the product. Chocolate, you can send me all day; coconut, not so much. Chances are you aren't going to see a lot of horribly negative reviews here, simply because I have no interest writing negative stuff. If I get something and I don't like it, most likely I won't write about it. Unless, of course, it's so horribly bad that it's comical or it's a safety issue that I want to warn people about.
In the case where I personally don't like a product but I know it's just a matter of taste, I am truthful about it. There's a big difference between "I thought this was too sweet" and "It started smoking, then burst into flames." Some people have a bigger sweet tooth than I do, and they might like a sweeter product. So that's an opinion. Something bursting into flames is a fact.
Most of my reviews include pros and cons, because it's rare that there's an entirely perfect product. Sometimes the "con" is the price, but what I think is expensive might be someone else's spare change. I don't refuse to review products because of price - low or high.
Many of the reviews I publish here are re-published from Serious Eats, where I get paid to write a column about gadgets. Sometimes I get to keep the items I review and sometimes I send them back if the company is willing to pay return shipping. Some people have said that I should disclose whether I get to keep particular products or not. Personally, I don't think that's relevant. I don't review products because I hope to keep them, I review products that I think will be interesting to the audience.
Before I started doing the reviews, I had a fully-stocked kitchen and no great need for any particular items. Many of the items I've reviewed, I already owned a similar product. Getting to keep something is not a huge incentive, if I've already got a similar product that I like.
And really, nothing that anyone gives me is going to make me lie about whether I like it or not. I'm not going to sell my integrity for trinkets. But I don't base my reviews entirely on what I, personally like. I've reviewed a few things that are marketed towards moms with young kids, and although the products were totally useless for me, I evaluated whether they would be useful for their intended market.
The items that I review for Serious Eats are often pitched to me by PR companies. Sometimes they have one product they want to get reviewed. Sometimes they have a whole catalog of new items, and they let me choose. When I am deciding whether to review an item or not, Serious Eats has given me some guidelines on what they'd like to see reviewed. That is my first criteria.
When I have a choice of items, I try to choose something that is new, different, quirky, unusual, updated, unique, or otherwise interesting. I wouldn't review a box grater, for example, unless it was a box grater with some new, unique features. But if someone invented box grater with new features, I would happily review it, even though I don't need or want another box grater.
If you think my reviews are too positive and think that's because I'm "selling out" to companies, perhaps it's because I'm doing my research too well. I don't take products that I know are poor quality. I don't take products that are too common. I don't take products that have poor ratings on other review sites.
Sometimes there are lemons, and sometimes products aren't as exciting as the PR people think they are. I review those honestly, but I don't take products just so I can give them a poor review. Because even if I give something a poor review, there will be people who buy it because they've seen any kind of review. I'd much rather steer people to products that are useful and that function well.
My regular gigs
There are a few companies that I work with regularly. My Friday recipes are usually sponsored by Whole Foods, but they don't tell me what to write about, so there's not a whole lot of influence there. I create recipes, and for the most part it's all about what I feel like cooking and eating.
Fooducopia supplies me with products I write about and they pay for recipe creation. But again, they don't tell me what to make - they're paying me for recipe creation using their products.
Books and Small Stuff
Other than that, I get books for review. There is no commitment to write a review or to say good things about the books. In many cases, I request specific books, and they are books that I would otherwise be looking at buying. If I got a book that I absolutely hated, I wouldn't write about it. Simple enough. Some of the books I write about are ones that I purchased. But in any case, I'm writing what I believe and not sucking up to publishers.
Sometimes I get other things for review or in goodie bags or whatever. I'll let you know what's free, and I'll always be honest.
And if someone wants to send me a big bag of twenty dollar bills to review, I'd be more than happy to discuss how pretty and green they are. You know, just in case.
- This applies not only to this site, but to just about every site on the Internet that serves ads.