Middle of last week, a blogger friend of mine whom I haven’t seen for quite some time dropped me a Facebook message. This was after I posted a modified press release sent by a PR agency for a brand that I have been supporting for years.
Background: I started establishing a relationship with said brand when they were still doing blogger outreach internally via their marketing team. This team let us bloggers try out their products before they came out of the market. In exchange, we wrote about our experience and spread the word through our websites. Build up the feature before it launches.
It went on for a couple of years until they hired their first PR agency. Since then, campaign launches for the brand became less intimate and exclusive. The agency also sent press releases via email, most of the time, without us bloggers being able to try out the product before it launches — just like before. And sometimes, the only compensation we get from posting is, well, “Thanks for writing about it.” Unlike before.
Still, I care for the brand. And admittedly, it brings in views to my blog. But primarily, it’s because this is the first brand that I’ve established a long-term relationship with. I’ve connected not just with the brand name or the logo, but most especially the people behind it. And so, sometimes, when I have the time, I post releases for them, even if it’s made by the third-party agency and there’s no compensation but “thank you.”
I alter the press release, though, including the latest one. I want it to have my voice. And then I post it.
And this is when my blogger friend told me, (translated to English) “You’re too kind. I won’t post if they don’t give compensation.”
I know that she has my best interest in mind. And she has a point. All the effort of rewriting the given content so it won’t look the same as others who’d copy-paste, uploading photos, publishing the post. It takes a lot of resources: time, thinking, typing. Seems simple but, really, it isn’t.
It isn’t any different from the recent issue of the local starlet asking “graphic designers” to make him a cover photo for his YouTube account in exchange for a shout-out on Twitter.
Well, maybe the levels of popularity? The brand I work with (for whom third-party agency created a PR for bloggers to publish) is more popular than “that celebrity.” The shout-out offered by this person, on the other hand, is not enough compensation. I guess it would be a tad different if he’s at the level of, say, Michelle Obama (sorry, first famous person to come to mind). But no.
That’s why a lot of actual artists and graphic designers — those who treat the craft as their bread and butter — reacted strongly to that “shout-out” tweet.
“It won’t pay the bills.”
“Art is not given for free.”
“It devaluates the artwork and the artist itself.”
Which I agree with.
I’ve been working in an industry related to Creatives and I understand the effort that comes with developing artworks and designs. And these are people who spent money to learn it in school and made money with it eventually.
“Shout-outs can’t pay the bills.”
I can try going to the grocery and say that, though. I’ll let C-list celebrity know the store’s reaction. On his Twitter.
Familiar with Full Metal Alchemist? In the anime, there’s what they call the First Law of Equivalent Exchange. “To obtain, something of equal value must be lost.”
I believe it’s the same with content creators: bloggers, writers, visual artists, graphic designers. Here in the Philippines, such group of individuals is relatively underpaid and undervalued. Well, lucky to those who earn really big for it, but most of them — most of us — who spend a lot of resources to create something great don’t.
Some would ask us to use our skills for free or for a discounted rate.
But would that be fair? Especially if the party asking you to utilize your skills to his or her advantage has the capability to actually pay you right?
X-deals — if the deal exchanged is of equal value and would truly compensate for the resources you spent, yeah.
A shout-out is nowhere near an x-deal.
But then again, it is up to the discretion of the party asked if he or she will accept it. If the person is willing to do it in exchange for a “thank you.” And some exposure.
Because most of the time, it’s the exposure that gets them to the point wherein they can charge for their work in the future.
Truth be told, I had to blog for years before I was comfortable to ask for compensation. It’s still murky territory for me.
Sometimes, I still post pro bono, but it’s because I believe in the brand and that it benefits my audience.
I wrote something similar years before, when I encountered the post of Wil Wheaton about artists getting compensated for their work. Back then, I was the blogger that needed the “exposure.”
His point: if the company or agency asks you to do something, they should pay you. Most especially if they have the capability of doing so.
A PR agency would be given a budget by the brand to spread word about new products or services.
A celebrity, albeit minor, earns decently to pay an upstart artist for his or her work (also I’m pretty sure the celeb’s YouTube account is monetized, so he’s got some more eggs in another basket).
Bottomline: If an artist, writer, or any content creator knows the value of his or her output, he or she should ask for fair compensation.
And if clients have the monetary capability, then they should pay for the content creator’s services.
Exposure and “thank you” can take you only to a certain point. Past that, you should receive equal value in exchange of the effort you’ve given.
And unfortunately, shout-outs have no value in the real world.
Look, if my neighborhood grocery frowns on me shortchanging them by Php 0.03, I’m pretty sure they won’t accept a shout-out to compensate.
I could try, though. Will let you know how that goes.