Influencer Talk // Ads, Gifting and The Rules

March 29, 2019

Hello! A little bit of a different post from me today and one I've been thinking about writing for a while but it's always a bit of a tricky one to tackle in case it's taken in the wrong way. I'm sure you're aware that whilst I started this blog as a hobby over 4 years ago now, as a way to document our projects/travels/somewhere for me to share photos and never ever expected it to become much more. Over time, as my audience has grown {which still completely bewilders me if I think about the amount of people who follow me on instagram}, and a couple of years ago, brands started to get in touch and offer the odd promotion or review stay or wanted to advertise something. Then came the whole 'boom' in influencer advertising and content creation for this little blog, and my instagram account, have now become my job. Which leads to some good questions about where I stand on working with brands and receiving/promoting gifted items. So I just thought I'd share some thoughts on everything.

What is your job? 
This is always such a hard one to answer as this influencer industry is so new that a lot of people still don't really understand it. Have you seen this meme on the internet? It's so true for my Grandparents. I don't really like the term influencer but it seems to be the easiest term that covers both instagram and blog marketing. So I tend to say to people who I don't really know/have time to explain to that I run a lifestyle website with social media. You could also say that I'm a content creator for brands, I'm a marketer, I'm a reviewer? I'm in advertising? I'm in online journalism? Whatever you want to say, in essence I write this blog and I share photos on Instagram. Sometimes brands get in touch and want to work with me.

Who do you choose to work with?
This I'm very picky about and I don't know about you, but I feel that I actually do very few ads compared to a lot of people in my industry. Because I set this blog and instagram up as a way to document my life and share things that I love, any promotion has to sit within that.
I'm not a member of any of these influencer apps that connect you with brands to constantly earn money. I'm not interested in selling something in every other photo, I will only take on partnerships that are really well suited. It would harm my brand too much if I promoted something just for the money being offered. I don't want to create content for something I don't like or wouldn't use, it just doesn't sit easy with me. I'm proud of my instagram grid and don't want to look down it to see ads that don't sit right in there.

I feel incredibly lucky when brands that I truly love get in touch with me. The White Company is a brand that I've loved and used for years and years. Similarly, Joules clothing, B&Q currently for a garden campaign to name a few. To me, it doesn't even feel like work when I get to create content for these incredible brands that I've long been a fan of. Sometimes brands will get in touch that I don't know much about or haven't used before. And at that point I research them, weigh up if it's something that will fit with my blog/instagram, will followers be interested to know about this? Is it a natural fit? If the answer is no then I won't do it, even if they are offering good money. Because I'd see it as a sell out.

I've always marked any paid partnerships as AD and since I've had the paid partnership tool come available, have put this banner on any paid promotion so that it's clear this is something I'm being paid for.

A note about gifting.
The most common way that brands get in touch and want to partner is not by offering payment, but instead by offering a product to review and feature. Cue comments like 'you get everything for free'. Which it might seem like to some, but this is a huge part of this industry. It's not technically a free product if you're expected to produce some content in exchange for it and share this/promote it on your instagram or blog. The brand is in essence paying for your time in creating that content and your voice in promoting their product.

My stance on this has always been that I will only accept a gifted product if I'm happy to promote it. And I'll only ever promote things that I actually love so I turn down probably 95% of things that are offered to me. I'd hope you'd know me well enough by now to know the kinds of things I do like and would be able to tell a mile off if it was something that wasn't me. Why would I share something that I didn't love? Again, sometimes these can be new brands who get in touch or small brands which I feel it's important to shout about. It can really raise a small brand's visibility so I do try as much as possible to support small brands, and not just by gifted products but by shouting about them when I've bought things from them too. I share pretty much everything on social media so whether it's a new recipe I've tried, a great Airbnb that we've found or destination, a new product in the supermarket that I think it's worth shouting about, it's an honest recommendation.

With gifted products, I'll always state when it's something that I would have bought myself as to me, this is the very best kind of recommendation. If it's something I would have chosen and gone for and want to review/share, does it matter if it's been gifted? Take our buggy for example, I feel incredibly lucky to have received offers from 5 different companies offering us an unpaid partnership in exchange for promoting their prams for our new baby. If I'd have taken one of these just because I wanted a freebie and didn't actually think it was very good then that would be a no go. But if it's something I had researched and would have recommended anyway, shouldn't that be seen as an honest recommendation and review? I will of course mark it is gifted, but to me this feels like how brand partnerships should be - a completely natural fit.

With gifts, some are emailed about in advance asking if you'd like something but others are sent as PR samples once a PR knows your address so with these you have no idea that they're coming until the postman knocks at the door.

I'm always very transparent about gifts, as is most of the influencer industry as a whole. There are now guidelines in place in that you should be totally honest as to if you have a relationship with a brand and as to whether you've received a gift from them. I've long marked things as gifted or declared if we've received something for free before this guideline came into place. But at the other end of the spectrum is when you pay to read, or consume any other form of media, you should remember that almost any recommendation or reviews that they make in magazines/newspapers etc will have been gifted and undeclared. It's widely known that editors have meetings with advertisers and PRs each season who will pay vast amounts of money to get their products mentioned within their publications. Unless it's a journalist that you closely follow and get to know, how can you know if these recommendations are genuine?

In the UK with the ASA and CMA we have very strict guidelines on declaring gifts and marking ads clearly compared to countries like the USA and Australia who are super lax and confusing with terms like spon/partner instead of marking things. So it's worth noting that if you're following any influencers in these countries to remember that they're probably not noting what is gifted.


Recently I had a message saying 'if you would have bought that buggy yourself then why don't you donate that gifted bugaboo to a disadvantaged family' or 'if you get so much gifted, why don't you give it to charity'.

Charity is a very important issue and one that we should all discuss and do more for as a society but I have a few things to ask back to this question.
Do you give to charity as part of your job? Why is is something that people are only asking influencers? How would I find or choose a disadvantaged family to give a Bugaboo to? That would be incredibly patronising and unrealistic. Receiving things like this, granted, is a huge perk to my job but there are perks to all jobs, it's just that my perks are very visible and marked as such. Would you ask a lawyer for example who's company have free tickets to Wimbledon why they wouldn't be donating those to charity?
It's the brands who are saving themselves money on advertising here so maybe we should be asking them to do more for disadvantaged families or charity in general?
My husband and I have four charities, in case you're interested, that we donate to every month by direct debit. These are Oxfam, WaterAid, the NSPCC and the AirAmbulance service. I feel that this donation and payment is much more effective and wider reaching that me donating a one off pram?

Maybe you disagree?

A note about travel
I have always written up travelogues and shared places that we've stayed/been to on the blog and Instagram. I was a honeymoon editor for 3 years for a wedding blog and I'm a Mr & Mrs Smith anonymous reviewer so review stays have always been part of my blog and instagram. I've always made clear what we've paid for or if the brand has provided us accommodation for example but again, these have always been totally honest opinions and I wouldn't recommend anywhere that I didn't thoroughly enjoy and think you would too.

I know a lot of you always tell me not to justify myself when I talk about things like this, and I'm so so grateful to the lovely followers who really appreciate and let me know when you find my recommendations useful or message me to tell me that you've used my travelogue to wherever and loved the ice cream place I recommended or send me photos of your garden after reading my dahlia post or thank me for recommending a small brand that you now love too. I've never covered up that this is part of my job, I have the fact that I'm known as 'an influencer' in my instagram bio. To some, I'll never get it right and I'm probably wasting my time even writing this as it will all get taken the wrong way. It's such a new industry which is changing all the time. But you are my audience at the end of the day so I wanted to make sure I'm clear on all of this.

I think there's a huge difference in people asking these questions with good meaning and wanting to engage in sensible conversations about the industry as a whole compared to those who are simply messaging or commenting to be negative/snark/say something unkind. And these are the people who will probably never be happy with what I share but then I'm not quite sure why they're following me in the first place? I would never dream of commenting on somebody else's life!

I want to be clear that I do only ever share things that I fully believe in.

I would always hope that I offer enough organic, ungifted, unpaid, inspiration/advice/tips on my Instagram and blog to justify a few paid partnerships that mean I can keep going with more content. I will always try to limit these and space them out the best I can {occasionally contracted posting dates mean there are two ads closer together than I'd like}. But equally, I would always tell anybody that if they don't like the content they're seeing on instagram, gifted or paid or not, then there's the option to unfollow. I'd also ask people to consider though that there is a huge amount that goes on behind the scenes and it's not easy to become an influencer. Behind every account there have probably been years spent writing content and I spend a couple of hours on a daily basis replying to messages for people asking advice. So when you do see the occasional ad then unless it's one that looks totally out of character or really deeply offends you, is it that wrong to just scroll on by if you don't like it? Or even better, support those that you're fond of on instagram if they are making content that you like and value.

I'm incredibly grateful as ever for all of your support and never take any of this for granted.

Would love to hear your thoughts. I probably won't always get it right but isn't that true of all of us, whatever our jobs?

R <3 x

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  1. This all makes perfect sense to me! Thanks for all your hard work. I enjoy your content.

  2. Brilliantly written Rebecca. As honest here as you are on your Instagram account Completely agree with all that you’ve written. Sarah x

  3. Great read Rebecca. Your content is always so refreshing and I really look forward to seeing you guys become parents and your home welcome the little one. I think that’s why you shine, you share what’s true to you, paid or unpaid your influence is genuine and rare these days. Thanks for sharing. Emma. X

  4. I think that this is a really well-written and honest post Rebecca. It’s become very clear to me over the years following you that you have very few ads compared to others and they do ‘fit’ with you in all cases. I think it must be a tricky industry to work in, no one else gets criticised for their job so often! But if people don’t like what they see, as you’ve said, they should unfollow. I for one love the content you post, and if there’s the odd ad that allows you to carry on doing that, then that’s fine by me (and actually I’ve had some good discounts or pointers from them, and a great holiday!) Keep up the great work xxx

  5. I suspect when people continue to follow you but gripe about things it stems from Jealousy. Rightly or wrongly people will look at a blog or other social media account and think why is that person getting these freebies and opportunities. Why has their site garnered this attention when theirs perhaps hasn't and as it is a modern job that potentially anyone could do without specific training there is probably a lot of: "why her and not me" about it all? At the end of the day if it upsets people that much they can chose to unfollow. So just do what makes you happy!


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