Poll: Should bloggers and 'influencers' disclose freebies they get from brands?

A peak PR body is concerned about how gifts and payments are handled by ‘passionate amateurs’.

By Conor McMahon Deputy editor, Fora

THERE IS NO clear blueprint for how bloggers and ‘influencers’ should handle gifts and free offers from brands.

So says Sinéad Carroll, chief executive and founder of the Irish Blogger Agency, a newly-formed group that mentors the country’s top snapchatters, instagrammers and the like.

While any exchange of money between bloggers and brands must by law be disclosed as an advertisement under consumer protection laws, when it comes to free gifts and services from marketing agencies or PR firms, the rules are muddier.

She said that bloggers would often only review products or services they liked rather than “slate” companies that send them freebies.

The head of the Public Relations Institute of Ireland (PRII), John Carroll, described ‘social-media influencers’ as “passionate amateurs” that don’t have a clear code of ethics like journalists.

The PRII warns its members that it is unethical to only provide freebies in exchange for promises of favourable coverage, while its boss also said that bloggers’ apparent unwillingness to negatively review free products was bad for consumers.

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In order to protect the public, he said, there needs to be “clear and appropriate transparency” by all parties when there is a collaboration between brands and bloggers.

With that in mind, we’re asking Fora readers this week: Should bloggers and ‘influencers’ disclose freebies they get from brands?