The Key to Blogging with Authenticity

This post was inspired and sponsored by Domain.ME, the provider of the personal domains that end in .ME. As a company, they aim to promote thought leadership to the tech world. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

AuthenticME twitter

Every year or so in the blogging world, the same controversy happens. A blogger flames out and decides to go down in a blaze of glory. It’s less (spoiler alert) Daenarys in Game of Thrones, and more (really old spoiler alert) Michael Jackson in a Pepsi commercial.

The latest iteration involves a “mommy blogger” copping to faking her numbers and taking money to promote products she didn’t particularly care for. She seems to be unhappy with what she was doing and paints an entire very diverse industry with the brush of her own issues.

She’s being simultaneously lauded for her authenticity-about-being-inauthentic, and criticized for what seems to be a calculated move to gain attention and page views. I expect television interviews before too long, and I’m not even a cynic. I’ve just seen this before. :blows out world-weary smoke ring:

I have no deep insights into the brouhaha, but I can identify with the struggle to write for pay online and still maintain my self-respect and the need to feel authentic. The irony is not lost on me that I am writing about it in a sponsored post.

See, here’s the trick when you are paid to write about something: it’s not a review. It’s not a review even if you aren’t paid and have just been sent something for free. That’s still compensation in exchange for coverage.

When I’m paid to create sponsored content I consider myself hired to tell a story that also lets my readers know about the product or service. My opinion is not important (and also not for sale).

If I like it, I like it, and I might say so, but I wasn’t paid to like it. I don’t have to pretend to like it, and I won’t. And nobody asked me to.

Of course people with any character are going to have a crisis when they have to write about how amazing some urinary incontinence pad or lice shampoo is. I’ve written about both. Just because it’s not a trip to Disney doesn’t mean it’s not a product people need.

No one thinks those products are super-spectacular amazing–unless you leak when you laugh or your kids have lice. Then it’s the most amazing thing in the whole wide world.

You’re just being paid to bring it to readers’ attention, that’s all.

Of course, there are intersections of content for pay and products you love. Looking around my house, I see shampoo (not for lice), skin care, clothing and shoe brands I’ve purchased with my own money after being paid to write about them. And I’m a fool for a good cookbook.

For me, the key to authenticity is understanding my purpose as a blogger when I work with brands. I am the public face of PR. If I’m sent something or paid to create a post or an image, I’m hired to tell you it exists and what it’s for. I never muddy the waters by pretending to like something I don’t.

Life is too short, and there’s really not enough money in the world for that. And again, nobody asked for that.

Whether you are a blogger or not, how you stay authentic online? Please leave me a comment below.

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