What’s wrong with quid pro quo?

Silence of the Lambs: Quid Pro QuoAs a single parent, earning money to cover our ever-increasing expenses is rarely far from my mind. My oldest is driving now (insurance? a car?), my boy is not far behind, and of course they all want smartphones, at least as good as what dear old Dad has. Now I’ve long since mastered “no” but it’s a fact that the cost of keeping a child increases as they get older. Clothes, entertainment, even food goes up, not to mention a mortgage, insurance, health insurance, and funds for having fun. Nothing radical there.

It should be no surprise that I use this blog as a small revenue stream as best I can eke out. It’s not much, maybe $500/mo total from various campaigns and sponsored posts, etc, and I – of course! – always disclose so you, dear reader, are never being shilled or scammed. Not really my style and I know that situation reversed I’d be pretty grumbly if you approached me with a marvelous opportunity or splendid product without bothering to actually mention that it’s your brother’s company or you were being paid $$ to promote it.

Turns out that there’s a thriving marketplace for companies seeking to tap into the influence of mom bloggers and, to a lesser extent (mostly due to their myopia) dad bloggers, so companies come along and offer neat stuff and cash in return for us parent bloggers helping spread the word. Heck, I have the entire first season of the Angry Birds cartoon show heading to my home because they want me to sponsor a giveaway, while another company is sending a couple of Big Nate books for my kids because they know that a) we like them and b) I’ll share that with you.

That’s a quid pro quo, as they call it in the industry, a Latin phrase that essentially translates into “you do for me, I’ll do for you”. In game theory, which I studied back in college, it’s “tit-for-tat”. Whatever you call it, the idea’s quite reasonable: If I’m going to do something beneficial to a commercial enterprise, there should be something in it for me, whether it’s a free meal, a new book or a check. But apparently I might be in the minority with this and I find it puzzling how many parent bloggers (okay, how many “mommy bloggers”) are fine being the shills for a company simply because the company asked them nicely.

I’m basing this both on my experiences over the last few years and something happening right now on Facebook, where I accepted an invitation to join a group sponsored by a large restaurant chain, a group that now has about 150 members, of which I am the only Dad. Yup, 149 Moms and me. Yikes.

Here’s what’s weird: as of yet the company hasn’t offered us any promotions, free t-shirts, opportunities, special deals or even coupons as a thank you for us being willing to participate. Yet most of the members show up and post notes about how they’re “excited to be part of the group”. What I don’t get is why? There’s no quid pro quo other than the invitation itself, but that and one thin dime won’t buy me a cup of coffee, so what’s the big deal?

If you work with sponsors or agencies, do you accept deals that are skewed in favor of the merchant, vendor or corporation, or do you seek some sort of parity, a quid pro quo? Remember, most of the time the corporation is paying the agency to find and work with parent bloggers, a budget that likely includes a line item for paying influencers in cash, products or services. I think it’s eminently reasonable to expect some of that trickle down to the people in the field who are doing the actual marketing (us bloggers).

Otherwise, I just don’t get it. Maybe someone can explain it to me? Otherwise, I have to wonder, are there that many suckers?

5 comments on “What’s wrong with quid pro quo?

  1. Low self esteem? We also see something similar in the writers’ community. Many writers work for free today, one reason journalism is in such sad shape at the moment. Yet the free writing often comes with a real benefit – exposure and possible link juice.

    Bloggers everywhere should know their worth and expect to be compensated in some fashion.

  2. Many people haven’t worked for themselves or been in a position where they bill for their own hours so they don’t always think about their time and why it is valuable.

    It is a mistake.

  3. How many of these other bloggers are looking to get a foot in the door. Perhaps thinking if they can put up a good showing about one company, others will come calling. I see the flaw in this thinking, because after you give it away once, how can you expect to be compensated the next time.

  4. I have no idea why bloggers would do this. As a blogger, I get approached almost everyday now to promote something for a company. For free. Why would I do this? Its ridiculous, I just push delete for the most part.

  5. This happens all the time. A company or organization makes a blogger feel like a VIP and the blogger will bend over for them.

    I also agree with Christian, as this happens all the time in the writing world. Writers will work for free simply to see their name on a byline.

    Both of these issues are frustrating for those of us who write and blog professionally. I’m not sure if there’s a solution, however, because there are always newbies coming into both fields and they don’t know any better. I try to educate young writers and bloggers not to give it away for free. Ultimately they are only hurting their future selves. I always tell young writers that if you work for free in the beginning you are not only hurting those of us who have been at this for awhile, but they are setting their fee at $0 and it’s hard to start charging once you’ve been giving it away.

    Part of the problem is, in my opinion, that many mommy bloggers are simply hobby bloggers, so they are okay with feeling like a VIP – that’s enough for them. For those of us who are trying to make a living at this game, giving it way isn’t an option.

    I once heard a wonderful quote about how you’d never ask a doctor, lawyer or accountant (or even a prostitute) to “give it away.” So why do people constantly ask writers and bloggers for free PR? It’s up to us, the writers and bloggers of the world, to realize our worth and make sure we’re getting what we deserve.

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