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Where Do We Draw The Line as Bloggers?

I recently worked with a company that sent Madison a few toys to play with and write about her experience, the big picture was basically, promote the toys since it was the holidays. When Madison received the products, she was super excited. Why? They were toys that she knew about and she had actually asked for one of them for Christmas. As most of you may know, this holiday I had no intention of doing a Holiday Gift Guide. I had no intentions of promoting toys or writing reviews for any said toys for the holidays. This year my Holiday Gift Guide consisted of products received from the Amazon Vine exclusive review program of which I am a member. This time of the year was all about spending time with my family.

Well, let's get to the heart of my problem today. A draft was required of what we thought of the product, and of course of Madison playing with said product. Obviously as a blogger, you expect some edits from companies who would prefer you say something a tad different but still be authentic while keeping it real. Now those edits I have no problems with but one that bothered me was that "Madison wasn't playing with the toy correctly because she has it backward, and we can see the battery box on the bottom of the toy".

Now, this toy required you to play with it in the air which the photo showed her doing. Having it turned backward did nothing in terms of the playability of the toy. It still worked and did everything that it promised that it would do. She was happy, she was having fun and she was most of all smiling in a very natural setting. Now my regular readers know that it's very rare to see Madison smiling in ANY photo, unless she's either super excited or truly incredibly happy, and even then sometimes you still don't see a smile. It was a very rare occasion and I told her to "go and play with your new toy", while having my camera in hand while she played. As for the battery box, since she had it in the air, you were able to see where you had to insert the batteries.

So I ask, where do we draw the line when it comes to authenticity? Where do we draw the line when it comes to our blog posts and our voice? I've tried steering clear of advertorial and controversial posts. I love what I do and I like to think that I sometimes do it very well. So then if you're going to ask of my opinion and I then give it to you, why would you want it changed to what you want to say. Doesn't that now make my post inauthentic? It's no longer my voice, it's no longer what I think, but what you want me to say.

While I know some might say, "well I'd just do it and get paid", this isn't about the money. Growing Up Madison has never been about money. While I do make a good living from the blog, most of my income comes from my retirement check from the US Army. What I make here is for me to "play" with and has helped with vacations etc. However, if I stop blogging tomorrow, I will still be able to pay my bills and I'll still be able to take those vacations.

So are you selling your soul for that mighty dollar? Are you taking any job and doing whatever, even lying about said products because you're getting paid for it?

People read our blogs because they want the truth about products and I'm going to be honest here and say, if I don't like a product, I would NEVER write about it, no matter how much you offer to pay me. I've said it over and over again, I NEVER post what I don't truly believe in. For example, and I'm once again keeping it real, I've gotten offers from McDonald's to write about their menu items over and over again, and each time I've said no. Why? Because I don't believe that McDonald's food is healthy for you. I don't eat there and I will never encourage any of my readers to eat there, but I will not tell you not to, if you do. If you do, then that's a choice you made on your own without any encouragement from me.

I have seen countless reviews from bloggers both on their blogs and on Amazon about products and how they're the greatest thing since sliced bread. However, we all know that most of these products are made in China and are practically junk. Products that you wouldn't even let your dogs near, much less your child. Products that smell so bad, you wonder if they were in a landfill before they got to your house. However, they got said product for free, or they received payment in exchange for a review. We then wonder why readers don't believe what we write when we do get a product for free. It's all because they think that we will say anything because we're getting paid to say nice things about the product. It's also one of the reason Amazon has now limited said reviews.

OK so by now you can guess I'm very upset. I'm on my way to Disney World right now and should be having fun but when my authenticity and creativity is in question I have to say something about it. So once again I ask, where do we draw the line as bloggers when it comes to companies?

Annmarie John
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  1. I love this post. I think it's really unfair that the brand brought up the battery pack. It's much better to have an authentic photo than one that looks staged in my opinion :)

  2. You know, that certainly is tough. While I do try to work with companies, I still keep in my policies the right to keep my posts authentic and real. I think that should be respected because I will not write fluff about things I do not believe in.

  3. I think every post should be authentic, even the sponsored ones. There's always a way to make everything personal to us. One of those ways is to only accept things that relate to us.

  4. Staying authentic and still getting paid can be a challenge. The key really is to approach everything on a personal level, whether it's a birthday post for the kids or a sponsored post for XYZ.

  5. It's got to be real. Thank them for their insight, then do what is real. In the long run, that's what matters.

  6. Wow, you would think that the fact that your daughter having a great time with their product would be awesome to them. With that it seems as though they would just pay you for advertisement instead of an honest, personal review.

  7. This was a very interesting read. I have not gotten to that point with my blog and I have never been in that position, but I agree with what you wrote, and I think we definitely should draw a line right there - where what you write is no longer your opinion. When reviewing a product is more about the ad than about your experience as a real person, I think it's no longer valid.

    I hope you will still have a good time at Disney!!

    Carlota |

  8. It amazes me that so many companies forget that this your personal opinion on their product. The fact that your daughter was having a great time with her new toy should have spoken volumes for them. Im so sorry that you had that experience.

  9. It's so hard to stay authentic as a blogger. It seems like everyone wants "our voice," but they don't really mean it.

  10. That is a fine a line, people should be able to give a review and tell the good AND the bad. If something is ALL bad then yes share it with the company.

  11. The voice and self expression behind a blog is extremely important, so if you feel that is being hindered, then you definitely have cause for concern. Keep in mind this is your site and you make the rules!

  12. You certainly raise some good points to ponder.
    I respect your steadfast view for product integrity.

  13. very unique post! agree with what you are saying, I really try hard to not accept any products that already have poor reviews

  14. This is one reason why I have a hard time taking what is written in any blog - because of companies like this who make it about the product and not about the true opinion of the blogger.

  15. This actually had me shaking my head profusely as I read through it, because I always think some products are just JUNK and they come from China so it cost a penny and is being sold for $30. When I see reviews for certain things, and people going insane, I just roll my eyes and carry on with my own opinion knowing the product is not actually as good as people are claiming it is! xx Adaleta Avdic

  16. I struggle with this as well. I don't want to post anything that isn't "me" but I struggle to find the balance.

  17. What a great post and nice topic, I enjoy reading this and good information.

  18. I agree with everything you said. What I do is just choose products that I am really using in everyday life. I know our authenticity is always in question but what's important is that we give our honest opinion regarding the product. P.S. Forget about this for awhile, have a great time in Disney! ;)

  19. Your blog is interesting to read. I like your attitude. Very straightforward and you're so brave telling things that you don't want to do. Great!

  20. Are you kidding me! That's crazy! To me it makes it more realistic for a kid to play with a toy up in the air backwards, forwards, and upside down... because KIDS.
    I'm totally with you about NOT selling your soul. I'm very picky about what I put on my blog, which sometimes I wonder if it hurts me. However, I have to stick with my own ethos. :)
    Great post!

  21. I never work with a company on a product review that wants edits. It is not worth my time. The only way I agree to edits if it is a high paying sponsored post. For that, I do expect edits. With that said, I would fight for the photos as I am the creative force behind it. If they don't like it, I withdraw the photo, but I won't take it over again.

  22. I think I would have just posted both images, the "real to you" image and the one the sponsor was requesting. You have so many memories already, one photo shouldn't make too much of a difference

  23. What a great thought provoking post. I know so many people who did sell their soul to blog. Hello can we say bladder control panties overload this year (lets be honest everyone this year seemed like they were raving about those liner or panties). I am also with you with certain fast food campaigns...I decline because I dont eat there so why lie for some dollars. I get there is money to be made but its never that serious to have to overexaggerate or nitpick at little things for a perfect blog post.

  24. I have great issue with this…and glad I haven't bumped into a company like that. First off, it sounds like the company is treating you like an ad campaign they bought and paid for…and have a direction team to make sure everything is in the right light, frame, etc. Companies should not direct bloggers to have picture perfect photos, moments, experiences and whatever they'd dream up in a regular ad campaign. Bloggers show real life…how real customers will genuinely interact with their products…they need to take notes instead of criticize.

  25. So many valid points here!!! I like to think I keep my voice pretty authentic. I turn down some pretty big gigs because they just don't work for me. My hubby gets mad about it, but like you just have to sometimes. Some things are just not believable. Like me talking weight loss lol... I get pitched constantly for weight loss things & it's like have you looked at my pictures? I doubt my readers will believe weight loss advice from someone who never had a weight issue... there is a line you can't cross no matter what the paycheck is!

  26. I'm so sorry you had to go through this but it certainly made for a thought provoking and important post! While I've been blogging for several years, it's just recently that I've started to monetize my blog and accept sponsored posts every now and then. Like you, my blog is not my main source of income so it's nice to have that freedom to choose what I want to feature and write about. Before anything, I think it's important to be authentic and honest with your readers. I think it's one thing if the product was displayed backwards let's say in a product shot but if it's a shot of your child playing with and enjoying the product, I don't think it should matter.

  27. This is so real and I love it. I have read some reviews and looked at the product and said no way did they love that product, but they said they did to get something for free or get paid. Now, the credibility is lost.


[name=AnnMarie John] [img=] [description=AnnMarie John is a lifestyle blogger, mom of 4, retired army veteran and a huge Disney lover. Formerly from the beautiful island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean and now living in colorful Colorado, she loves sharing her opinions on everything, crafting and food.] (facebook= (instagram= (twitter= (pinterest= (

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