What’s the difference between “in collaboration with” and “sponsored by”? No, it’s not a bad Dad joke, but something that can cause confusion in the realm of disclosure.
Firstly – they are different ways of saying the same thing. There’s no “well, sponsored means it was this, and collaboration means this”. If you are paid in product or money to post something pre-written, to write about a product, or to write about an event, you are being sponsored to do this. The use of the word “collaboration” to describe these posts has become more popular in the last year or so, but it’s a word that feels like it’s being used to hide the true nature of the post. Collaborating with someone means that you work with them – but it doesn’t mean that you were paid in some way to do this. (For example, if you worked with another blogger to create a series on your blogs, you would be collaborating with them)
If you are posting an article that has been written by someone else and have been paid for it, then a good way to introduce the post is to put a paragraph like “Today, I’m so excited to have a guest post by Bob about keeping cool in the summer heat.” then at the end of the post something like “This post was sponsored by Bob’s Hot Tub – please check out my sponsorship and disclosure policy page for more details“. An introduction means the reader isn’t confused when the tone of writing is different to yours, and makes it obvious that this isn’t necessarily your opinion (although you’re probably not going to post something that totally goes against your own point of view!). You could also have something at the end of the post asking for your readers opinions on whether they find posts like this interesting and useful – not just useful for you to know what sort of thing, but it could be good feedback to the company who wrote the post.
If you’re given a brief to write a post about something, but you’re given free reign over the content, then you still need to disclose this, again in whatever way works best for you. If a brand or PR asks you to disclose in a way that doesn’t feel right to you, then tell them, and tell them why. Having a disclosure policy means you can set out exactly how you are happy to disclose, and you can direct potential collaborators that way. Never be afraid to say no to someone if it doesn’t seem like the right thing to do to you!
We’re not saying that getting paid in money or product to write about something is a bad thing! (It’s actually one of the most awesome things about blogging that someone is willing to pay for something you do in your spare time). What we’re saying is that you shouldn’t feel pressured into changing how you disclose something to satisfy a brand. Disclose in the way that you feel is best for you and your readers – remember that it must be obvious to a reader who doesn’t know a thing about blogging. With the ASA picking up more and more on blog and vlog disclosure, it’s worth getting this right now.