As of late I’m hearing in Hispanic communications circles much ado about whether or not marketers should pay Latino bloggers for posting brand-related content, product reviews, etc. While this topic has been fully addressed in mainstream circles, the issues take on greater complexities in the Latino blogosphere. For the benefit of those of you who are more on the advertising side, I’ll provide an overview of the general debate around guaranteed content vs. earned content and how it plays out in the new social media context, and then I’ll share my views of how these issues take on a complex twist in the growing Latino social media sphere.

Traditional advertising and marketing strategies ‘guarantee’ their creative messages reach intended audiences by outwardly paying for its placement.  Traditional PR outreach can only ‘guarantee’ that brand messages are presented to journalists and media outlets so they may be interested in pursuing a full editorial story on the subject, product or initiative. If the PR efforts succeed in generating third-party media coverage, this coverage is considered “earned media.” Now comes social media, in particular the blog space, which is propelling a convergence of these strategies and creating an “arroz con mango” (mango rice!) for brands and their agencies as they strive to define what is guaranteed or earned independent editorial at all?

The blogger as an “influencer” is rising to consumer relevance, and therefore marketing relevance. When defining a blogger in its simplest terms, it refers to someone who creates and invests in their OWN website. The blogger engages an audience who is either intrigued enough with the content, or just plain attracted by the author and her/his opinions and posts. Marketers and communicators have realized that blogs present an opportunity to match that blogger, or author, and their ‘influential voice’ with products, services or initiatives that they can discuss or present to their audience.

So why not pitch these bloggers to cover a story without payment? You can and bloggers may choose to write a post for their readers because the subject resonated with them. But given that the blogger has funded the creation of their blog and built up their audience independently, then being paid to represent a particular brand or initiative seems fair. These are not major independent media outlets. Blogs are self-funded websites with an editorial slant toward what the author presents to its readers.

As I said, the subject has been openly discussed in general market circles. In a recent post – Five Reasons Why Bloggers Should Get Paid – Clever Girls Collective co-founder, Stefania Pomponi Butler (@CityMama) describes the evolution of blogs, bloggers and now the current payment options for brands and agencies to engage bloggers and their audiences.

The general sentiment among bloggers is that their influence, blog space, readers and time creating posts, updates and engagement with their followers, and by extension engagement with a brand  presented to their readers- has value. Bloggers question why they should be required to develop promotional content for a brand for free? Why guarantee potential product/service sales for a brand and not be compensated in some fashion? It is important to distinguish between independent product reviews (unpaid editorial) vs. direct campaigns- i.e. a brand ambassador. Don’t marketers pay a spokesperson fees for representing a brand? Then, why not carefully selected bloggers?

The added layer of complexity I see is that Hispanic publishers and media outlets have historically received a disproportionately smaller share of marketing dollars. Will this inequality continue into the Latino social media realm? If we, a collective group of Hispanic marketing professionals (be it PR, advertising, branding, etc.) don’t see the value in supporting the development of the Latino blogosphere gaining value- then who will? Our community drove the trend for support of dedicated Hispanic marketing, communications budgets and agencies via professional organizations like the HPRA, AHHA and others since way before I entered the space in the mid 90s. Here we have a similar opportunity to help one of our professional communities grow and prosper.

Perhaps a key factor that influences my perspective is that I see most bloggers as aspiring entrepreneurs. Bloggers have invested much time in the development of their brand, website, audience, and influence. Unless the blog is just a fun hobby (in which case this discussion doesn’t apply anyway), they deserve fair compensation. However, strict guidelines for full disclosure must be adhered to.

The most crucial and simplest way around the issue of payment is ETHICS. If a blogger is working with a brand they must disclose they are doing so. The FTC Guidelines Governing Endorsements, Testimonials  should be applied to bloggers precisely as they are for the PR, advertising and marketing industries.

The Latino blogging community is gaining strength. Judging solely by the growing number of dedicated Latina/o bloggers, blogger networks, as well as non-profit groups like LATISM (Latinos in Social Media), I know the ‘value’ can only increase.

“Pagar o no pagar?” I say… let’s pay.

Saludos, Cristy

Cristy Clavijo-Kish is CEO & Partner of Hispanicize – a leading platform for Latino social media trends and content, as well as digital engagement services. For full disclosure, Latina Mom Bloggers is a division of Hispanicize which focuses on creative paid blogger campaigns.

Cristy is a content contributor for several online platforms regarding Hispanic and multicultural marketing, communications and social media trends and issues. She has spent more than 15 years in the PR, marketing and media industries. Cristy is invited to speak at conferences nationwide and this October was featured at the Public Relations Society of America International Conference in Orlando to discuss Latino social media trends. She is a founding partner of Hispanic PR Wire, LatinClips and Hispanic Digital Network- media properties that were acquired by PR Newswire in 2008.

You can follow Cristy on Twitter via @latinomarketing and contributing on @hispanicize, #hispz, #latinamoms #belatino and the Being Latino Online Magazine.