Blogging and Promoting with Integrity: How I Make the Tough Choices

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I recently received a pingback on an article about how socially-minded consumers can create a powerful message against disingenuous companies. The article refers to how several green bloggers, myself included, “crashed” a Twitter party promoting Teflon as a safe product for families.

This blogger lauded us as heroes which made me feel great! But it also inspired me to reflect on my own personal and professional mission, which I fear may get clouded as I am offer more monetarily tempting blogging and social media opportunities. I don’t ever want to be on the receiving end of ire for promoting a truly questionable brand.

For several years I have been very clear and unwavering about the types of clients I will take on with my public relations firm. This is my primary business and I work tirelessly to garner press attention for these brands. The beauty brands I work with must be free of any toxic or questionable ingredients and uphold strong sustainable values. Other products must create sustainable alternatives to existing consumer brands. Community, education, and non-profit clients do not have to have sustainability as a primary mission as long as their goal is creating positive change in their communities. An art school, a community festival, or a fitness studio all fit comfortably in my wheelhouse.

With my blog there is a bit more gray area. I will not blog about any brand that I see as harmful to health, community, or the planet. But I may blog about a brand that is less than perfect as long as I am able to point out its flaws and encourage improvement. For instance, I went crazy over some CrossFit toys for kids, but stated upfront that this was not a sustainability-focused brand but all the information I had pointed to safer plastics and brand transparency.

Recently I have been dipping my toe into a new arena for paid promotion: social media campaigns. I have been offered compensation to post about brands on Twitter. I struggled with accepting these engagements at all but had to admit that I needed the money. So my policy is to only tweet about brands that I would use for myself and my family. I also try to promote the most sustainable angle without green-washing. For instance, I was engaged to tweet about an electronics company so I made sure to do research on their corporate sustainability policy and recycling programs. In that case, I had no problem tweeting about a cool camera. I was also engaged by a conventional pain relief brand that I thought long and hard about accepting. But I have always been a believer in integrative medicine and have never read anything negative about this common pain relief medication. Plus the campaign was all about volunteering and charity work through physical fitness, something I could absolutely get behind and even personally relate to.

That said, if there was something negative about any of these brands that I wasn’t aware of, I would be perfectly OK with being called out on it. If it turned out that one of these brands was using a questionable ingredient or poor labor practices, I would take that opportunity to learn the truth and even see if I could personally ask the brand about those practices. In fact, I’ve questioned several brands I’ve worked with and been pleased to actually see them phasing out certain ingredients or exploring new packaging. When I posted about dairy-free foods I had no idea about carrageenan. But when readers informed me about this potentially harmful ingredient I asked Stonyfield, for whom I am a blogging ambassador, and was assured that it was being removed from all products.

I will state that there is no gray area when it comes to a few hard rules. I will not promote the following products in any way:

  • Products I would not feel comfortable purchasing for myself or my family
  • Personal care products and cosmetics that contain toxic or questionable ingredients
  • Foods made with artificial ingredients, hormones, or GMOs
  • Products made from PVC plastic or that otherwise contain toxic chemicals
  • Companies with unfair labor practices

It takes a tremendous amount of research to be sure I am upholding my standards and I welcome anyone to bring to light any bad business practices I may have overlooked. I don’t need the brands I work with to be perfect – but they must be honest, transparent, and hold consumer health and safety as the number one priority.

Do you have defined parameters for integrity for your blog or business? How do you make sure you stay true to your mission while still earning income?


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