After two weeks of house arrest in front of my PC, I finally got that much needed break. Marc and I are at Fontana Leisure Park in Angeles City with my college friends right now, taking a very short vacation over the weekend before we tackle another tiring, work-laden week ahead. I made a vow to really take a break, and just brought along this laptop for the sole purpose of pleasurable blogging. But I guess sometimes, it’s really hard to avoid not to sneak in a bit of work if you’ve been so used to doing something more productive than getting morning glory on my eyes from too much sleep. I know I should be enjoying it, but for some weird reason, I find the peacefulness of the place a bit unnerving—it gives me this uneasy feeling that I’ll have another load of work backlog when I get back.

But then again, I have to admit that all these nature stuff (for once I could actually hear myself think, albeit the crickets and occasional croaks of nearby frogs) and peacefulness are helping me to finally get my thoughts in order and blog about something I’ve been longing to write about but haven’t had the time and energy nor the inspiration to do so: Blog Disclosures.

Some of my friends have already made their say on this issue. Others I agree with, but some, I honestly don’t. But then again, disagreements do happen even between the best of friends—because after all, people have different views on things, and stand for different priorities and advocacies. So yeah, you can either agree or disagree with me. But allow me to give you my piece.

I’m a strong believer of transparency, and of how that transparency helps you protect your integrity. I don’t why, I guess my parents just brought me up that way. Besides, I myself have been an unfortunate victim of underhanded tactics, which probably pushed me further to this line of thinking. Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.

So what does this have to do with blog disclosures? A lot, I think.

First of all, I really think it’s simple courtesy to disclose any form of payment or gift (yeah, free food is still considered a gift; it was given to you freely, it’s not like you asked for it, did you?) to your readers when you’re blogging about a product, service, or company. Why? Well, think of it this way. Blogs are personal in nature—a personal perspective of an experience. You can be blogging all about tech or lifestyle, but the thing is, you’re the one blogging it and you own the “platform” where you publish your entries. That’s why people will associate you with what you publish on your blog (I notice this often during blogging events, where people are very much associated with their blogs), which, I believe, is what makes a blog personal.

I can’t help but feel that there’s a real, live person (or a group of people) behind a personal blog. I won’t need to actually meet the person outside the Net, but the fact that I know that someone is conversing with me through his or her blog makes me feel that there is someone to communicate with—not just some automated script or algorithm. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer trusting a personal blog more than a press release I’ve read on the paper or a commercial I’ve seen on TV. The blogger shares his or her experience with the product, and because of that, I tend to trust that more for the simple reason of having the impression that the review wasn’t just based on market studies or was aimed to sell me something. And that trust is what I believe that blog disclosures can protect.

Saying that you’ve received a gift or payment when discussing a product or service gives your readers a chance to consider their purchasing decisions. I’m not saying that your readers will blindly follow what you say, but if people believe that your opinion is worth something, they would consider it having more value than a typical ad.

Say you get invited to a press event and got “tokens” in return for your attendance, or they treat you to an expensive dinner while showing you a presentation of their products. Suppose you haven’t actually used the product. Would you rave about it? Probably. Maybe as a form of “thanks” in return for what you got. But what about your readers? You don’t know if the product is actually good, and you still write a rave review (or as Connie puts it on PR Policy entry of Abe’s, “praise to the high heavens”) without saying that you’ve gotten something out of it. Wouldn’t that be misleading? Even if you’re scared to “bite the hand that feeds you,” hence the “unavoidable” raving without actually experiencing the product or service presented to you, I think it’s courtesy that you tell your regular readers who find your blog valuable that you got paid or received a gift for it in return for writing about it.

You can think that the company won’t require you to write about them. Come on now. Why would they spend money on treating you dinner if they don’t want anything in return? It’s not like you can’t buy your own food—you aren’t a charity case. Sponsorships and events may seem like they’re given away freely (out of the sheer goodness of their hearts). Dude, that’s advertising. It’s clever advertising, but still advertising. If you don’t believe me, go get yourself a textbook on Marketing 101, and you’ll see lobbying, sponsorships, and events under “how to advertise your company.” (Disclosure: I was a management major in college, and I totally forgot the title of the textbooks we used for our Advertising subjects hehe).

Yes, sometimes it’s really hard to say something negative after you’ve been treated like a king or a queen. It might be your blog, and you might think that you can say anything in it without regards for ethics, but for you to even consider blogging responsibly, you’d have to think about your readers too other than yourself alone. It doesn’t seem right misleading people with undisclosed stuff like payments or gifts, in my opinion. But if you really don’t about that, well, you can always think of it this way: the benefit you get from blog disclosures is that people can find your transparency a major plus point to your blog’s integrity.

Simply put, I think blog disclosures would really just depend on your moral compass. If you think there’s nothing wrong with raving about some product or service that you haven’t actually tried but whose PR team gave you something to be happy about, by all means, go ahead. As I have said, every one of us has our own different opinions, which, most often than not, stemmed from our own personal experiences.

I’ve said my piece, what’s yours?

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Here’s an interesting read on blog disclosures, which I conveniently found from Abe’s entry. ReadWriteWeb discusses more specifically when and how to disclose. Take note though, it’s not going to tell you if you should or shouldn’t disclose. It’s a post on the premise that you do disclose, and discusses to what extent that you should.

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If ever you agreed with me, here’s a chance for you to practice it! Hehehe. Aileen contacted some bloggers help spread the word that SM Hypermarket is once more sponsoring a blog party. Yes, you won’t need to ask for food, it’s going to be freely given to you 😀 I don’t have the exact details yet of what’s going to happen, so I’ll probably just create a separate post for it once I do have them. For now, you just leave a comment on this blog (or on Marc’s blog) if you’d like to join the party, meet fellow bloggers, or simply want a chance to do a blog disclosure for a sponsored event! Hehehehehe. If you’re shy, you can send either of us an email (mine’s kutitots [at] gmail [dot] com and Marc’s email is marcvill [at] gmail [dot] com) with your name and blog URL we’ll pass your name along the list of attendees.