Bloggie Wednesdays: Editorial Control

Bloggie Wednesdays: Editorial Control

You know I like to start my Bloggie Wednesdays by giving you a scenario to think about :)

Let’s say that you’ve been sent a beauty product by a PR to review on your blog. This isn’t unsolicited product, by the way, it was something you requested. You tried it out for a month; unfortunately, it didn’t work for you. So you write, publish the review on the blog, and send the link of the review to the PR.

The PR did not like that the review was a negative one. Perhaps he/she did not like the way certain phrases were worded. He/she gets back to you, and requests that you change what you wrote.

Another similar scenario would be that just before you publish the post, the PR requests that you send them your review to check first.

Hmm… so what do you do? Would you email them what you wrote to review first before you publish it? Would you change what you’ve written and published because they don’t like what you’ve written?

The question is: who has editorial control over your blog?

I’m glad that I have yet to experience this from any PR, but I have heard negative feedback from several beauty bloggers who have had less than savoury experiences with PRs demanding editorial control of their blog posts prior to publishing. Some were polite about it, some weren’t. Either way, the objective was still the same: they wanted to check your review first before publishing.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Eleanor Pendleton (beauty editor for InStyle Australia) and Michelle Blancato (Online Manager for Beauty Directory) after the Beauty Directory seminar at the ABBW. This was a question I posed to them, as I wondered what their thoughts were regarding this issue. Should bloggers hand over editorial control over the reviews of the products they were sent to the PRs who sent them? Are they obligated to?

Both had a very simple and adamant answer. NO.

Eleanor said that over at InStyle, unless the brand paid for advertorials, then whatever they write stays with them. They would never hand over their work to the brands to check first before print.

Michelle said that this applies to bloggers as well. Just because we are kindly sent products to review, we are never to hand over editorial control of the reviews to the PRs/brands to check first before publishing without any form of monetary compensation.

I couldn’t agree with them more. If you feel that you would like to have them check your review first (although you really shouldn’t), then by all means go ahead. But do not be pressured or obligated to do so.

At the end of the day, it’s your blog. It’s your website. You’re the editor, the blogger, the self-publisher of your own work. The only time brands should be allowed to check your work first prior to publishing is if they have sponsored that post. Even so, when I used to do sponsored posts back in the day, I never had to submit my work for approval first prior to publishing.

What about you? Have you faced this issue before? Has someone asked to read your review first before publishing? What was your response?

Bloggie Wednesdays is a series of articles just on blogging. They contain tips, how-tos, discussions about anything and everything you need to know about blogging and how we can be better bloggers. If you have any suggestions, tips and tricks about blogging you would like to share with us, or if you have any questions you would like me to address, please let us know in the comments.

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40 comments… add one

  1. LeGeeque

    I’m glad you’re not a sellout *hugs* :D :D :D
    LeGeeque recently posted..The Highs and Lows of the Mini HLMy Profile

    1. Tine

      LeGeeque: If that happens, you have my permission to kick me in the backside and take away all of my beauty products :P

  2. Paris B

    I think a lot of it comes down to personal ethics and what you are blogging for. It also depends on the terms of the advertising network you sign up with. If it is an advertorial then do expect to have your draft pre approved before it goes live. Its an advertorial after all, not meant to be a review so you can expect the brand to want to vet it first.

    If it is a review then I don’t think anyone should tell you what to write. It is up to you, as the blogger to write it how you feel it ought to be written after having tried it. That said, I do believe in diplomacy. I confess to being a little harder on a product sent to me than a product I purchased myself, being more effusive for the latter vs the former. But ultimately it comes down to you. I don’t think anyone can really say how to deal with this situation because ultimately, the blogging goals will differ from person to person ;)
    Paris B recently posted..Beauty Geekery! Sharp IG-CM1 Portable Plasmacluster Air Ionizer Delivers Cleaner Fresher Air On The GoMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Paris B: Well said. Personal ethics do come into play with this issue. So does diplomacy. I don’t believe there’s ever any need to say “the brand is crap, the product is crap, what was the brand thinking?!” when it comes to reviewing a product that did not work for the person. If he/she reviews a product in that manner, then in real life, I would think that the person is rather self-entitled and probably a whinger. I don’t know, that’s just how I see it, I guess. The way a person writes reflects on his/her character, after all :)

  3. Nadia

    You’re definitely not a sell out, Tine! :)

    Will share my experience with this. I had this request once or twice, but I told them that I’ll send them a link to my post once it’s up as that’s how it’s normally done since I maintain full rights over it and like you said, it’s my blog so I’ll do whatever I want with it! As far as I am concerned, I have no obligation to do so. Whether a product was requested or unsolicited, I will say what I feel about it as that’s what I think will benefit my readers ultimately. Sure, I don’t bash any products harshly, but if it ain’t good for me, then I say why it isn’t. Even if I were to ever send my review before publishing it, it’s not gonna change my opinion of it just because so and so from a PR company says I should change it. That’s my two cents on it! :)
    Nadia recently posted..Tis the season for gifts from Biotherm, Lancome, Viktor and Rolf, Giorgio Armani and Ralph LaurenMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Nadia: That’s the way to go. I think if you’re professional about your negative reviews, there’s no way anyone would want it re-phrased. Readers come to your blog for honest reviews, not sucking-up-to-the-brand ones. Y’know what I mean?

  4. Jess

    Even it is an advertorial, it is depends on both party’s agreement… and usually PR wanted to vet through it first.

    There is once when this xx product don’t work for me and I blogged about it and the PR are not happy about but i did not change my post, but I did mentioned in the post that even the product don’t work on me..and its my personal opinion and it might works on others . I learn to be smarter on my choice of words and presentation. either we blogged it, we gotta to be honest with ourselves, or don’t even bother blogging it. And sometimes PR did not realize people going to find out the truth and everything will backfire, so honesty is still the best policy

    1. Tine

      Jess: Well there you go. Not every product will work for you, and honesty (although I do believe that there’s such a thing as professional honesty :)) is what draws your readers to your blog. Like you said, we have to be smart in our choice of words and presentation. We’re adults, after all ;)

  5. Jeni

    I rarely accept free products to blog about, unless it’s something I really want to try and am pretty sure I will like. I’m really picky about skin care products (which is mostly what I write about), and I hate it when I don’t like a product I got for free. I don’t want to lie and I don’t want to be mean and write a bad review. So I mostly end up buying my own stuff, which sucks too because it means I rarely buy anything new to try.
    Jeni recently posted..Robinul For Hyperhidrosis (Excessive Sweating)My Profile

    1. Tine

      Jeni: Fair call, Jeni. I know what you mean. We should be aware of what goes on our skin. I have been quite picky of late with the products I do accept for review. My dad calls me the guinea pig for my readers, and very rightly so :P
      Don’t worry about having to buy new things to try just to review on your blog. I see bloggers who do this, and then worry about spending a lot of money on the blog because of this, and it breaks my heart. There are so many more things you can write about. Tutorials, tips, things that you discovered do and don’t work for you, personal issues that can be beauty-related, and so on. It makes reading and writing your blog more fun too! :)

  6. Megan

    Thank you so much for posting this, I’ve never requested that a PR send me anything to review (I spend enough money buying things to review on my own, I’d never be able to keep up!) but when I have been sent something to review I would often send a copy of my write up to the PR to have a look at first out of courtesy but it’s good to know that I’m not obligated. I’ve just been doing it out of courtesy but it never occurred to me that they may want editorial control!

    1. Tine

      Megan: No, there is absolutely no obligation for you to do so, Megan. At the moment, I think most of your reviews are positive ones, so you wouldn’t run into any issues there. I’m just afraid that when you happen to stumble upon something that you don’t like, that doesn’t work for you, that when you do send a copy to them, there’s a chance one might ask you to re-write it. And that wouldn’t be fair to you as a blogger at all.
      I know that you’re going to be professional in your negative reviews. As such, what you write, even if it’s a negative review, will not hurt the brand, but it will still reflect on your integrity and professionalism as a blogger to your readers.

  7. gio

    Great post! Luckily this never happened to me.. yet. I usually send PRs the link after the review is published, but I would never let them see what I write beforehand and would refuse to work with anyone who asked that. I think bloggers have an obligation to their readers to be honest about a product. If I don’t like something I just explain why and that it might work for others.
    gio recently posted..Product Review: Black Up Pearl Powder in PP15My Profile

    1. Tine

      Gio: Would love to hear your input on the PRs you deal with, Gio. Do you mostly deal with Austrian PRs, or international ones as well?
      Every product from a brand would work for SOMEONE, even if it’s going to be only one person (although I really hope that’s not the case, for just 1 person I mean). So it wouldn’t be fair to say that the product wouldn’t work for you AND others. So yeah, I highly agree with how you would put it. “Nope, didn’t work for me, as I have oily and sensitive skin, but I believe it would work for those with dry skin as this is a rich product”. That sort of thing :)
      I think a majority of bloggers are obligated to hand over editorial control to the person/company who sent the products to them to review for free. After all, why bite the hand that feeds you, right? However, I think I still think that we can all still be professional about our negative reviews and not, well, bite said hand :P

      1. gio

        Tine, I’m dealing mostly with international PRs (especially American and English ones). I have a few Italian contacts too but I find it harder to estabilish working relationships with them.. I think it is because I write my blog in English and they are mainly interested in reaching out to Italian readers obviously and sadly most Italians just can’t speak English at all… I even offered to write the reviews in both languages but that didn’t see to help things.. oh well, I’ll just keep blogging about what I love and just buy the products I’m interested in reviewing anyway.. PR samples are nice but I love makeup and would keep blogging even if I didn’t receive any at all. But the PRs I work with have always been really nice and didn’t ask me to hand over editorial control to them.
        gio recently posted..Sunday Survey, Vol.75My Profile

  8. Jen W

    Thanks so much for clarifying this for us Tine! I haven’t yet faced the issue of a PR rep demanding some editorial control yet, but I feel confidant in knowing how to handle this if it does happen in the future!
    Jen W recently posted..The damage… IMATS Sydney 2011 Haul.My Profile

    1. Tine

      Jen W: My pleasure, Jen. It has happened to some Aussie beauty bloggers (shall not name names), and we shouldn’t be obligated to have to “submit our homework for approval and checks” first, if you get my drift. As long as we choose our words correctly, be professional in our writing, there shouldn’t be any problems at all.
      After all, our honesty and integrity is why readers come back :)

  9. Christina @ Hair Romance

    Great post and I completely agree. I have never sent a post to a PR prior to publishing, but I do send links once the post is up as a courtesy.

    I’ve never done sponsored posts but I would assume this would involve a check prior to publishing, but I would not allow changes to my writing style that would be out of place on my site.

    I think as long as the blogger is honest about the post and has something useful to say I am happy to read both sponsored and purchased product reviews.
    Christina @ Hair Romance recently posted..How to wake up with great hairMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Christina: I believe there’s an exception to sponsored posts. Whenever money’s involved, I think it’s expected that the advertiser would want to check the review first. I have no problems doing that; after all, you did pay for it therefore you have the right to want to read the review first prior to publishing.
      On the other hand, I’m not going to write a “suck-up-to-you” post just because you paid for it, because bloggers and readers aren’t stupid. They’ll see right through you in a heartbeat! :P

  10. Traclyn

    Great share! It never come across my mind to send my reviews before posting them up. I would keep my reviews honest as will also include disclaimers along with it.

    It’s a review to start with, they should be able to accept what say others and that will help to improve the product or take not the suitability for different individuals.

    I have not face such from any PR/brands except for some they gave their products as goody bag but to expect a review out of it. That was harsh but could have quoted nicely from the first place.

    1. Tine

      Traclyn: The bit about the goodie bags is such a grey area. On one hand, they are provided as GIFTS and should be regarded as such. They’re not provided on the sneaky expectation that the blogger will blog about it.
      I’ve had similar issues with a couple of PRs on this. I would review the ones that suit me, but I left out the rest. One PR was particularly nasty about it, but I respectfully told her that it didn’t work for me at all, and if she didn’t mind a negative review, I would do so (even though I really wasn’t keen on writing one for that particular product). Funnily, I never heard from her again.

  11. giddy tigress

    On one occasion, I was asked to rephrase something in my post. I would do it, provided it does not change the entire perception of the article.

    1. Tine

      Giddy Tigress: The person shouldn’t have asked you to do it. Still, if it didn’t change the gist of the article, that’s all right :)

  12. Swati

    Thankfully I never had to face any such Pr’s and to be honest, I have not come cross any rude ones either…yes some are irresponsible and careless but otherwise no problems :) but this is shocking. Its better they open their own blogs to sing praises for their products.
    Swati recently posted..Dry Burshing – Why? {Skin Care}My Profile

    1. Tine

      Swati: That’s good. I believe we can all work together harmoniously without getting nasty at each other. It’s a symbiotic relationship after all :)

  13. Kimmi @ The Plastic Diaries

    I think in terms of blogging we have to make it very clear about the difference between Sponsored content and Advetorials. This would be open to interpretation between industries, but when dealing with beauty clients who have only previously had experience with traditional media, they will be confused if you don’t stipulat your terms. Even with sponsored content, you should never provide the client editorial approval.

    A sponsored post should be the exact same as any other post you would write, but the client has paid a premium to guarantee that you would post about it. That is the only thing a sponsor is paying for. A guarantee to mention their brand, positive or negative (try to keep it constructive though).

    An Advetorial is where a client has paid the author to write about the content in a manner they approve of OR to post content that was written by a client.

    Thanks so much for covering is topic. I think it is really important EVERY blogger have a clear and concise editorial policy available on their blog, included with every product request they send (if you are calling in products) and anytime a brand asks for your address to send you product.
    Kimmi @ The Plastic Diaries recently posted..Rimmel London – Kate Moss Glam Eyes Union Jack HD Eyeshadow Review, Swatches and Photos in Black Cab and True Union JackMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Kimmi: Excellent comment, Kimmi! Thanks very much for sharing with us the definition of Sponsored Posts and Advertorials. I’ve always assumed that as long as there’s $$ involved, the article has to reflect positively on both the brand and the product.

      Would you refer the brand to your editorial policy in your blog (as a link), or would it be fully written out in the exchange of emails?

      1. Kimmi @ The Plastic Diaries

        I am glad it was helpful! It can be a really confusing subject and I would hate to see some newer bloggers handing over editorial control when they really do not have to. It is a sacred thing.

        I simply state in my email to a PR/Brand … “Before submitting any products for consideration, please take the time to read my Editorial Policy, available at [insert link to relevant page on your blog]. I understand if you choose to not submit product upon reading how I may or may not use the product/s. If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me”.

        You can’t force them to read it, but providing that simple paragraph means it is on them to know what may or may not happen with their submission.
        Kimmi @ The Plastic Diaries recently posted..SNEAK PEAK: Napoleon Perdis – Lash Bar and New Faux Lashes PhotosMy Profile

  14. Goingkookies

    I’ve never had the privilege to write reviews for any beauty products as my blog doesn’t have much readers at the moment.

    But I think what you’ve blogged is a really good question. It is true that you’re given the products to sample for free but mainly, you’re not getting paid for your reviews. It’s like going to a store/shop and writing a review on the product.

    And it’s the general public like us who reads it and desires for – an honest, unbias feedback! :)

    1. Tine

      Goingkookies: Haha that’s a good analogy. At the end of the day, as bloggers (whether we do it as a hobby or as a profession), we should all be professional in what we write, as it reflects on our character as a person.
      We can still be diplomatic in our words in negative reviews and not hurt anyone. Your readers will appreciate you more that way :)

      PS: Trust me, your blog will grow, and it won’t be long before you’re approached by brands :)

  15. sesame

    It’s best to have an editorial policy ready to send the PRs when approached for any reviews. That way, it’s clearer and they’ll know whether to proceed further. Editorial policy should clearly spell out about no interference from companies/representatives in the review process and the review maybe positive or negative based on a honest opinion.

    Having said that, I still have PRs who expect me to send them drafts, which I’ll firmly refuse. I think bloggers should know where they stand too and not be intimidated when companies/PRs approach them to edit or retract. You write it, you own it. Advertorials are obviously different and then there is no question on that one but again, you can still spell out the terms of working clearly upfront.
    sesame recently posted..How I store & organize my handmade necklacesMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Sesame: Great idea about directing the PRs to our editorial policy prior to accepting anything to review. This is something I’ve missed out, and will make sure I do so from now on. It’s a good way to avoid any misunderstandings in the future if, say, the product was not mentioned/reviewed, etc.

  16. Bun Bun Makeup Tips

    So will the content of the post be compromised if you were paid to write it? Like, if the company told you to write positive stuff, but there really isn’t anything about the product(s) that is good at all?

    Another question, when did you start receiving products to review? And how do you go about asking for products to review?

    =)
    Bun Bun Makeup Tips recently posted..Eyeshadow Tutorials for Asian Eyes Part 1: Where to Apply EyeshadowMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Bun Bun Makeup Tips: I think that’s where your editorial policy comes into play when in the initial stages of negotiating with the advertiser. I think Kimmi of the Plastic Diaries (she left a very good comment above, on the difference between advertorials and sponsored content) made a very good point about it.
      Still, to be honest, I think it will not be easy being objective about the review when money is exchanged. Ethics will come into question. You can always let the advertiser know that it didn’t work for you, and you cannot, in good faith, write positively about it. Whether or not a refund would need to be issued, that would be up to the advertiser’s discretion.
      As for me I technically started receiving product to review about 6 months after I started blogging I think. It was a small bottle of body lotion from the US. After that, I received nothing until I came to Australia, which was a year later. I did not start asking for product to review until past my 3rd year of blogging. Before then, products were sent to me :)

  17. Omega: Fashion Adjacent

    I’m late to the party here but this is such a good post! Thank you for being so generous and open about the inner workings of your blog.. For a newer blogger like me, it’s invaluable!

    1. Tine

      Omega: My pleasure! I’m just glad it helped :)
      Tine recently posted..Gussying Up and Shaking My Groove Thing My Profile

  18. Tammerly @ Pink Diva Beauty

    Hi gals,
    With the hundreds of hours we put in per month it really is up to us and as most of us are not paid to do this on a professional career level, I think that honesty is the key. I am sure most bloggers would agree??
    That’s my two cents worth :-)
    Tammerly @ Pink Diva Beauty recently posted..INTERVIEW: Becca Gilmartin, Makeup Artist / Body Painter / MentorMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Tammerly: Definitely. I don’t think product given for review constitutes as “being paid”. Can’t pay the rent with shampoo :P

  19. Tammerly @ Pink Diva Beauty

    Thanks Tine – nice to know I am not the only one.
    Tammerly @ Pink Diva Beauty recently posted..What Pinterests You??My Profile

  20. Amy

    I wouldn’t change it. If they aren’t happy with it, they can choose not to send you anything else in the future. But I think it is important to be honest with your readers.
    Amy recently posted..The Worst Things You Do To Your HairMy Profile

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