I probably have 3 or 4 drafts that I never published here, totaling at least 10-12,000 words, discussing my stance towards sponsorships and sponsored campaigns.
It’s an extremely complicated and messy topic. Even today, an attempt to break things down resulted in 2500 words that still didn’t fully articulate things.
We have taken part in a couple of sponsored campaigns over the years, and with each opportunity I weigh a number of factors.
What are we being asked to do?
Is this a tool, brand, or retailer that I support?
Is the sponsor trying to influence me?
Are they trying to put words in my mouth?
Can the potential results fit their goals?
We’ve said no to some opportunities for advertising and sponsorship, and yes to others.
But, I tend to say “yes” where opportunities are fitting, and I won’t apologize for that.
I am lucky in that I can and will turn down disagreeable advertising and sponsorship opportunities. If it ever comes to ToolGuyd’s continuation or my sacrificing my ethics and ideals… my ethics come first. There have been tough times in the past, and there might be tough times again in the future.
However, I’m not so lucky where I can turn down opportunities that feel like a good fit for ToolGuyd. If an opportunity checks all the boxes regarding interest and ethics considerations, I will consider it.
Saying “yes” to opportunities I agree with allows me to say “no” to opportunities I don’t.
I am open to alternative ideas.
The industry has changed, and things are more complicated, with some brands and retailers giving more opportunities, information, and samples to sponsored parties, eschewing or even eliminating traditional press release, media communications, and sample submission practices.
We’ve seen and heard of influencers and media sites purchasing social media clout in order to chase such opportunities.
I will continue to turn down opportunities which are disagreeable, and there was one a few months ago where I agreed but then backed out when conditions changed and it became ridiculous what I was asked to do. It’s okay to “leave money on the table.”
Sponsored projects or explorations help to support ToolGuyd, certain content, and also contributor content and certain reader giveaways. They also sometimes provide testing opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be possible, in regard to sample availability and also time commitment or effort justifications.
Each opportunity is a learning experience, and although each partnership or arrangement has been unique so far, it might eventually be the case where I can figure out a more streamlined or “standard” approach.
To me, sponsorship makes possible “above and beyond” time and effort, such as a project that focused on a particular brand or product exclusively, or an exploration that crams extensive hands-on opportunities into a specific time frame.
One thing I am still not open to is the idea of sponsored reviews. Most proposals I’ve received in the past have been flexible enough where terms can be modified. And when they weren’t, I declined. I recall at least one arrangement where reviews were kicked out of the contract and replaced with an advertisement either preceded or followed unsponsored content.
The entire tool review industry, and media industry as a whole, has shifted.
I’m open to any suggestions, recommendations, or feedback you guys might be willing to offer.
We’ve said yes to opportunities in the past, and if there are future opportunities, I will consider them on a case by case basis as well. Here’s the hard part – striking sponsored reviews from the list, and striking out anything that might feel unnatural (such as the robotic endorsements you’ll find on the radio), what would you do if in my shoes?
I tend to make ToolGuyd-related decisions from a I Am the Reader standpoint, a philosophy that goes back to the beginning of our 11-1/2 year journey so far.
So, maybe put yourself in my shoes. What might you be open to as part of partnerships or sponsored arrangements?
To me, the sponsored component is for time and effort beyond what I could or would offer or deliver for free.
In a comment reply in another post, I wrote:
The approach I took here means that in an alternate reality I would have posted this same exact post in the same exact way, except unsponsored, without mention of any partnership, and at a much later date (if it wasn’t caught up in the black hole that is my backlog). Isn’t that how these things should go – that one should’t say anything under sponsorship that wouldn’t still hold true otherwise? But given my schedule and how I rotate testing tools into my mix of go-to’s, it would have taken maybe a year for me to give the tools half the hands-on time.
It’s a very loose analogy, but I enjoy making and giving away pickles. If a friend or even an acquaintance asks, sure – here’s a jar of pickles. Now let’s say someone asks for a jar of sauerkraut. That’s something I’d be interested in experimenting with, and could find a way to work into my schedule down the road. But now their timetable is specific, disrupting my schedule, they want 4 jars, requiring more work, and the experimentation might require ingredients or equipment I don’t already have. They’re willing to pay, and I am encouraged to share about the experience. If it turns out to be foul, then nobody gets sauerkraut.