Make Money

How To Work With Brands Without Selling Your Soul

By Aug 21, 2010 April 11th, 2012 215 Comments

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New to SITS? Welcome!! Go read this to get started.

Bloggy Boot Camp San Francisco is in full swing right now. As you read this, women are busy learning, networking, and making friends. And because we are not all able to attend, we’re bringing the learning to you.

Ciaran Blumenfeld, aka @Momfluential and the creative force behind Momfluential Media, has generously agreed to share key points of her presentation with us so that we can get a small taste of what’s going on at the conference.

Picnik collage2

Ciaran is speaking on the topic:

Selling Yourself and Your Blog Without Selling Your Soul

“Nobody wants to be “that blogger.” We all know who she is – the “swag whore” or “event whore.” They question her integrity, her writing ability, her judgment, her sincerity. It’s harsh and sometimes it’s unfair. But like the slutty cheerleader, the swag blogger is a cautionary tale with some merit. She has lost the one thing that made bloggers special to begin with in the eyes of their followers and “better brands”: her influence.

When it comes to working with brands, most bloggers are conflicted. No matter where you are on the spectrum, whether you have a purely editorial site or a product review site, it’s likely that the idea of working with brands is one that makes you slightly uncomfortable. That’s OK. It should. There’s no proven road map or guide to refer to.

Here Are Some Takeaways On Why We Are Afraid to Write About Products and Brands


While many of us are apt to reveal our deepest, darkest secrets online, some of us are afraid to disclose we’ve used the same shampoo since we were 14. Why is that? Does it make you feel shallow to share this sort of information? Or do you struggle with a fear that your mention of products lacks context after years of carefully editing other brands out? If we are honest, we’ll admit that we are ALL involved with brands in our daily lives. Our lives are full of stuff – cars, food, toilet paper, shampoo. Some of us pride ourselves on buying organic, or the least expensive, or the highest quality. But the fact of the matter is that we all DO live in the material world. Whether we want to admit this or not.

Part of what bloggers do is share. We share advice and tips, and sometimes those tips include product recommendations. BlogHer came out with some shocking numbers on trust and online influence this year. Three out of four women in the US are online daily. Women also actively engage in social media and trust online sources MORE than traditional media as reliable sources of information and advice. That is powerful stuff. That is why brands all want to partner with bloggers.

When Not To Work With or Write About a Brand


We know we are influential, but we don’t want to abuse that power. We don’t want to be seen as product pushers or compromise ourselves. The good news is we really don’t have to. The best brand advocates are the bloggers who tell the best stories, and the best stories are authentic ones. Stories are essential and what keep it real. Forget about reviews. If you want to work with brands and get results without feeling like a swag whore, it’s time to hone your craft and tell your story.”

Now it’s your turn.  Tell your story.  Ciarin is challenging you to think and write about one or more of the following prompts:


You will always benefit by putting great content and authenticity before all else.

Tickets for Austin and St. George, Utah, our final Bloggy Boot Camp stops for the year, are on sale now! Don’t wait to buy yours. We’d love to meet you in person!

And, as always, when you see this:

Leave a comment!


  • I decided to stop by SITS tonight for some insight & this post had exactly what I needed. So today, after more than a year of blogging, I got my first request to join a product review panel. Every 6 weeks the company will send me a product of my choice and I can use & post my review on my site. Sounds great, right? Problem is…it’s an adult toy company! Seriously? My blog is a creative lifestyle blog and my tagline is, “a little bit of sweets, love & craftiness”. And not that kind of love. So, I decided to not sell my soul and keep my integrity to myself, my blog, and my readers. I just couldn’t imaging posting cupcakes one day, a craft the next and “you know” the next. **sigh** I’ll keep holding out until the best match comes along.

  • Viviene Grace Vargas-Bigornia says:

    very catchy title!

  • Lisa says:

    Great advice! I really don’t like reading “dry eyes” product reviews, I like to read the good, bad, and ugly. And if it’s a blogger I really like, they could probably sell me a bridge. 😉

  • Helena says:

    Whoa, what an awesome title!

  • Miss-Rhei says:

    big thanks… mwuahh!! I really am about to give up, I wanted to earn thru blogging, adsense works for me but I’m hoping I’d get to have reviews… but I know my blog’s too personal and sentimental for that – now I know how to do it…

    SITS really rock… I love you already!

  • Regina says:

    This was really great info…thx!

  • Sophie says:

    i have to say, this post really hit home because i’ve always been so cautious about subjects like this especially. but i will definitely take those tips to heart to help myself become a better blogger 😀

  • I’m here and late again as usual for roll call.
    There are just so many places to hang out online…*sigh*
    See you all on Twitter!

  • Embejo says:

    I don’t want to make money out of my blog, but do like to sometimes raise awareness of a cause..and some of these tips are relevant. (This month I’m giving up my birthday to raise money for charity : water)

    • Mama Kat says:

      It’s nice that it also sheds some light on the blogs we read…good to know why they have what they have on their site and how they go about getting it. 🙂

  • lots of great information. thanks for sharing it with us!

  • Jane says:

    Some great tips here – thankyou!!

  • What a wonderful post! TY! LOVED it!

  • Great ideas, thank you!

  • Erin Love says:

    What great writing prompts! Thanks!

  • A lot of my blog is about the brand “handmade”–I make mosaics, and I write about my art, and also other artists and what they have made.

  • I hope everyone is having a fantastic Sunday and that your week ahead is just as wonderful!


    Teresa <

  • Michele says:

    It was a great talk yesterday and I like the idea that marketing isn’t bad. I had some ads on my site but I just took them down because I earned pennies. PENNIES. So not worth it when I’m really concerned about the writing.

  • LOL! “Swag Whore”. I love it!!! And yes, I know a few, and they will remain anonymous 😉 My blog is exactly that: MY BLOG. If someone wants to blab about their product, they can go spend the money on an infomercial, or buy a print ad.

    There’s a certain mother out there who claims to get all other moms out there together, to “tweet” about what they have in common. Truly, it’s just one sell-out trying to turn 20,000 other people into sell-outs, too. They give mom bloggers a bad name.

    Keep up the fabulous REAL blogging!

  • Sazz says:

    Have a great weekend you all!

  • Ads and give-aways have been fairly easy for me to pick and choose but I’ve had a hard time with reviews. So far I haven’t done in any though I’ve been asked to. The thing that I think is strange is that I sometimes get asked to do reviews for some crazy things, what would make these people think I even SHOULD review that? But I think I have a few coming up now that I’m ok with, they fit me, my blog and what I’m about while supporting a small business.

  • Eva Gallant says:

    Good morning, SITStahs! Come pay a visit to my neck of the woods on my blog today!

  • Lydd says:

    I did have some predicaments when I took up some pay-per-post offers. I didn’t want to be a sell-out but at the same time I needed the money. haha. Anyway, thank you so much for this awesome info 🙂

  • Gig Girl says:

    The idea of making money off my blog still kind of daunts me. I’m not sure I’m ready to make the leap yet- but this is great information for when I am!

  • Sunday says:

    Thanks for this informative post. I have turned down dozens of emails for reviews or giveaways because they are completely irrelevant to what I blog about on a daily basis. Also, I don’t want my blog to be taken over by reviews and giveaways. I prefer to have an editorial-feel to my site. I think it all comes down to personal preference.

    I also got rid of the BlogHer and Google ads after realizing they take up prime real estate on my blog for pennies a day.

    For now I offer ad buttons on my blog but have yet to have a company show any interest in advertising their product.

  • CK says:

    Great tips! Thanks again!

  • Kristina says:

    Great post.

    I need help, I have a giveaway that ends on Wednesday (08/25) and no one has entered it. Can I get some SITS love and get some entries?



  • Shelley says:

    Thank you for the good advice!

    Happy Saturday, almost Sunday everyone. I hope you had a great day!

  • Love this post and information!
    And, I love you Ciaran!
    Very interesting topic… I enjoy sharing my favorites with others (makeup, jewelry, decor, clothing, etc.) I’ve been 100% true to what I love, so I haven’t ever thought twice about what others might think of my “reviews.” It is good to look at it from another perspective. Thanks!

  • Hope says:

    Great topic – I was just thinking about this today…I have written several posts about some of my favorites without even thinking that people might think I’m getting paid for it – when I just wanted to share my favorites 🙂 I’ll clarify this from now on 🙂

  • Licia says:

    How timely! I just got a nook and love it but I’ve been afraid to write about it because people might think I was asked to do it. I’ll clarify this on my blog when I decide to post on this 🙂

  • Hi. I’m late today saying hi. I have also done a few review/giveaways. I really like to promote blogs & websites. I’m not sure I want to do giveaways all the time. But when the right opportunity comes along & it feels right then I will do them.

  • Kate says:

    Honestly: there is no “perfect formula” for blogging, but you do have points with making money off of it.

  • Thanks for the interesting information!

  • Ahhh this is a great post. Honestly, I love sharing my “favorites” with my friends, so why not other bloggers, right?

  • Chiming in late but I made it.

  • Great info! Oh I am so excited to attended Bloggy Bootcame in Philly next month!

  • Carissac says:

    Boy I’d like to be a fly on the wall during this conversation!!

    Wishing I were down there with ya’ll today!! 🙂

  • Emma says:

    I wish that I was at Bloggy Boot Camp right now!!!! In the UK we have something called Blogging With Integrity! Basically we add onto any post if it was sponsored or we received the products for free.

    I am quite happy to do reviews and giveaways but only if I like the product and think my readers would be interested….otherwise I don’t do it! I think that way your readers do truly value your opinion!

  • Janet says:

    It’s certainly something to think about. I’ve never been asked to do a paid review, but I do share about things I love once in a while. I wouldn’t feel right endorsing something I don’t believe in.

  • Helen Hanson says:

    It’s an important consideration, because it’s all about integrity. If you can honestly recommend it to someone you love, and it fits within the theme of your blog, have at it. Otherwise, it will look like it’s all about the money.

  • Tamara says:

    This is very interesting stuff, and moreover, interesting point of view!
    Thanx for sharing this valuable info!

  • Great post! Sounds like a very informative talk. I have been on the fence just like she mentioned. I have done a review here and there but it just hasn’t felt just right. I know there is a balance. It just takes patience and finding the right match.