What are your values?

positive street art

‘Values’ is such a funny word, isn’t it?

It means very different things to different people.

One summer, a long time ago, I had a part time job at one of the Edinburgh Festivals. It was nothing very glamorous – just some front-of-house work – but I remember overhearing my manager talking about me to another staff member and saying that I had ‘good values’. It remains one of the highest compliments I’ve ever been paid.

I think very often when we talk about our blogs, and question what the ‘value’ of our blog is, we usually mean in a monetary sense. There was a great post about that over at Geekalicious the other week, written by Molly from Mothers Always Right

But I think it can also be useful sometimes to consider the other meaning of the word. Are we blogging with integrity? Are we staying true to ourselves? Does the image of us that our blog projects align with what our values are?

I hope mine does, but I can’t be sure.

I’ve been all over the place recently trying to pin down my blog identity. After getting slightly overwhelmed and disillusioned by the massive commercial presence at BritMums Live, I decided not to do any reviews on my blog at all for a while. I’ve relaxed that self imposed rule now, and have recently run a couple of reviews… but I still question myself quite strongly before saying yes to PR requests.

If I’m honest, I think I can probably write one vaguely entertaining review of a craft box, or a photo book, or some cosmetics, but if I tried to do it every week it would become boring for me as a writer, and boring for you as a reader. No matter what the request is – however big or small it is – if I say yes to things just to get a freebie, rather than because I think I can write something interesting about it, I see that as compromising my values.

Similarly, I would struggle to write about a product or attend an event if the company producing it didn’t share my values.

Recently I’ve had to start asking those questions in relation to journalist requests too. At least once or twice a week I get an email or a tweet asking if I would be happy to be featured in this or that magazine or newspaper, talking about this or that issue. Sometimes the opportunities are brilliant – I spent this morning having my photo taken and taking part on a roundtable discussion with some incredibly inspirational women for an upcoming feature in a women’s glossy– but very often they’re not.

Every time an older male celebrity marries a younger woman, I can guarantee my inbox will be flooded with interview requests… and every time I turn them down. I chose to write about that aspect of our marriage once – and was lucky enough to have it published in a newspaper whose values mainly align with mine.

But even when the financial rewards would be high, I don’t want to repeat that in other publications. I feel like it would be hugely hypocritical of me to write a lefty, green, feminist blog, and then promote that blog in papers with an opposing agenda.

We all have different principles, and priorities, and that diversity is part of what makes the blogging community so interesting. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing to step back sometimes and ask ourselves what the values are that define us, so that we are better able to stay true to them, and to try and blog in a way that reflects them.

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35 responses

    • Ta. I’m a bit worried on re-reading that it comes across as holier than thou, which is not what I was aiming for AT ALL. People can do whatever the hell they like on their own blogs – if they write reviews so that their children can have toys they wouldn’t otherwise get, or take sponsored posts to pay their mortgage – I am not criticising that in the slightest. Just think it’s good to be thoughtful, because otherwise it’s so easy to get swept along and only realise too late that your blog has gone somewhere you don’t want it to.

  1. Interesting post (thanks for the linkback to Geekalicious btw),

    I think “intergrity” means different things to different people. Some are happy to feature reviews, sponsored posts (let’s just park the follow/nofollow rule for a min although it’s relevant) and take on advertising and some are very happy with what I call a “clean” blog. The commercial side of blogging (from the past couple of years) is very easy to get sucked into and there are a completely different set of “rules” when compared to blogging in a non-commercial sense.

    Oh and when I say “rules”, I mean declaring monies on every level – i don’t mean there are “rules” about what you can and can’t blog about.

    I’m constantly reassessing what my blog is about and what it means to me. I need to get back to what I call “real writing” soon but I do love the daily interaction that my blog brings.

    • Ta Nickie. I think that’s a good point – there are definitely two sets of rules to be aware of – the self imposed ones if you’re just blogging for fun, and the ‘official’ ones if you’re blogging for money or products.

  2. Interesting post. I wrote about valuing your blog not long ago because I have noticed how bloggers are willing to accept lower offers and ridiculous requests. We all have a different idea of monetary value and while £50 per sponsored post to one blogger is reasonable, £20 to another blogger might be generous. But to me, too many bloggers are devaluing their blogs by accepting low offers which then opens a new can of worms. The PR who makes the cheeky offer is rubbing their hands together because they’ve found a cheap way of advertising for their client. Therefore, that PR won’t go to the person who asks £50 a post because the person who only wants £20 is far more beneficial. But this means that eventually, the £50 blogger will miss out and thus need to start reducing his/her fees. PR’s are getting very crafty with their offers and I feel quite strongly that bloggers need to make a stand and remember the “value” of their blog, how much it means to them as the blog author, the person who does all the work. I won’t work with PR’s or outside companies for many reasons, but one is because I prefer to keep my blog as my own. I won’t advertise for anyone or do sponsored posts. The requests still come into my email box of course, and occasionally I reply telling them to read paragraph 4 of my About Me page on my blog, which if they’d read it in the first place they wouldn’t have needed to send me the request.

    CJ x

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post, especially because I recently wrote something on my blog that I then took down within 24 hours. I believed in everything I said, I just didn’t like that I’d written it in anger, it didn’t sit well with me. I’m currently trying to rewrite it!
    Values and integrity are very personal; I think the main thing about blogging is that you believe in what you write and are proud of it.

    • Oh that’s really interesting – props to you for taking the time to do that, because we’ve all written things in the heat of the moment. Your comment has inspired me to go back and check over the post I’ve written about today’s US election, so thank you ! Xx

  4. Absolutely! And no, you didn’t come across as holier than thou, you came across as someone pondering these issues as something imp to you, and which we all need to ponder, whatever those values are. The whole issue of blogging integrity is a big one, not just in relation to the whole issue of being used as a stage for promoting corporates, but in relation to being true to ourselves and what our blog is about. The pressure, particularly amongst women, to conform and not to hurt other’s feelings, is great and very real, but we need to be courageous in sticking to what WE think, o/w what’s the point of blogging? Just one big pat on each other’s backs? There’s a skill to doing this without offending, and that’s something I’m always careful of when writing. And then there’s the really difficult issue of whether we paint a true picture of ourselves, partic as parents. That’s something my blog deals with alot, the whole thing of comparing ourselves with each other, and so I’ve tried to keep fairly anonymous so i can be as honest as i need. I’d better stop withering…..maybe you should start a blog hop on this issue?

    • Ooh, that’s a very good point about how honestly we portray ourselves on our blogs – it’s probably not possible to be 100% honest without hurting other people, so I imagine the majority of people have to be selective in some ways (although as you say, less of an issue if you blog anonymously) – but it’s good to be aware of the extent you do that.

      Also agree with what you say about the balance between acting as a supportive community and calling people out if you think they are acting without integrity. That links into what Crystal Jigsaw says I think – our blogs are our own space, to do what we like with. But what if the things you do in your space affect what I do in mine? How do we deal with that sensitively?

  5. hmmm, like many of your posts you have me sitting here pondering, I completely agree that we should all have our values and stick with them. I’ll take some time to ensure I’m still sitting right with mine.

    Thanks, Mich x

  6. I think you’ll always find yourself pondering these issues as long as you blog – that’s the case with me anyway. Blogging changes, the nature of blogging changes, just as life changes. This can bring about a shift in values or a focus on different things. I think it’s good to take a step back and think about it every now and again, otherwise it’s too easy to get sucked into forgetting what we care about in the first place. It’s something I’ve been thinking about lots recently, not just with the blog but with life in general. Great post – and thanks for the mention! x

    • Totally agree with all that – very easy to get swept along by trends isn’t it? Ta for commenting and thanks for providing the inspiration with your initial piece ! Xx

  7. Values are so important as a blogger. It doesn’t matter what those values may be funnily enough, more that people who read your blog learn of your opinions and values through your posts and talking to you and that if you then do something or say something outside of what is perceived as your core values it can make people think differently of you.

    I know that it shouldn’t be about what anyone else thinks of you but of how you feel about yourself but when someone blogs it is linked in to the readers, those who come and share their thoughts in comments. We work hard on our blogs and in turn our reputations to some degree.

    People shouldn’t judge each other but I fear most do.

    I got offered £50 to post a link to a 2800% apr payday loan site on Blog4Charity of all places last week and it filled me with rage and upset that someone out there thought it was ok to write a generic poverty post and whack a link to a debt company in it. Hand on my heart – I would rather go hungry that do that. It upsets me to see people being asked to drop these links in willy nilly and as Crystal Jigsaw said, there’ll always be someone willing to do it for £20.

    My values are changing at the moment, I’m turning a bit of a corner I think, having done a few sponsored posts on a couple of my other blogs I can’t say I’m happy that I did them and knowing I did actually keeps me awake some nights. A lot of the time I feel like there’s the values I hold in my right hand and in my left are the lesser values that I can afford to have. Tricky ,tricky.

  8. When I felt like I was losing my blog direction I sat down and wrote down the reasons why I blog. I then made sure I included those reasons on my disclosure page. When I have any doubts as to whether to do something or not I go back to that page, and read it, and see if what I’m doing fits in with my reasons for blogging. It’s a constant little reminder to me of my values.

    I don’t blog to make money or to get free stuff, so I don’t do sponsored posts and I’m picky about the brands I work with. Blogging is a hobby for me, I have a day job and I don’t want to do anything for relaxation in the evenings that feels like work.

    I’m a big believer in trial and error though. I only leaned I didn’t like writing sponsored posts after writing a couple. I only learned that it takes me longer to write reviews than any other kind of post due to the pressure I put on myself to research my facts and to do a good job after writing a few. It’s a constant voyage of discovery. If you’re unsure of what you’re doing I think it’s a good idea to step back, take stock, refocus on your reasons for blogging and then things will become a lot clearer.

    • Ooh, what a good idea. Off to have a nosey at your disclosure page… Thanks for the interesting and thought provoking comment. Might try the exercise of writing down why I started blogging. Xx

  9. I agree with Mammasaurus and Geekmummy – it’s tricky and trial and error. I actually like reviewing for the Hell of it, but now I’ve realised how long it takes to do properly I’ve actually gone right off it and it’s not often I read them on other blogs because they’re normally paid for and favourable. Being on an old fashioned Blogger blog is quite limiting but that’s OK because it keeps youf focussed but, then again, when offers do come my way and I’m a single Mum with two kids and two students £50 is attractive, only I generally have to turn them down because of the no follow non-sef hosted thing. At least it keeps things clear. Good for you for staying sincere – it’s something we have to find out how to do for ourselves as we muddle along. I’d love to see that article you wrote for a newspaper about marrying an older man though. Please tell X

  10. Great, thought provoking post. I started my blog in the summer to give some impetus to my own efforts to live my values. Now I’m starting to find my blogging feet I’m pondering where I could or should take my blog. How much do I want my values to be in people’s faces? What do I want to achieve by sharing my personal wranglings with the world? Thanks for some food for thought!

    The whole corporate thing is interesting – I hadn’t thought about this at all until recently (and don’t yet have the readership to worry about being flooded with offers!). I gave a big corporate a slightly back handed compliment in a recent post. It is a position I’m comfortable with, but did make me think about the interplay between my job, where I work with big brands a lot, and my personal blog which could easily be read by colleagues and the brands I work with. In theory there’s no conflict as I work for a strongly values driven organisation, but I feel even more pressure because of that to maintain integrity on all fronts. Public profiles are fascinating, if slightly scary things!

    • Thanks for commenting! Having that kind of job must add a whole other level of things that you have to contemplate and be aware of when you’re blogging. Eek!

      It’s great you’re thinking about this so early on instead of waiting until you’re a year down the line and getting in a pickle about it like I did!

  11. Well written and thought provoking. I had a similar dilemma recently when I was asked to be a Cow and Gate Brand Ambassador for their food and not for their formula, but I decided to turn it down because I’ve always been proud of breastfeeding and promoting it, so even though I wasn’t promoting the cow and gate formula, just their baby food, I felt that even being associated with a formula company would be compromising my principles as a breastfeeding advocate!

    • Well done you missus! That’s exactly the kind of example I was thinking of — and to be honest whatever you’d decided it would have been the right decision – it’s just that awareness that you need to give things some consideration and think about them that’s important :) thanks for commenting xx

  12. I’m a little late to the party here! Great post. And you are absolutely right – i think its important to be as congruent as you can be on your blog or it will lack authenticity. On my personal blog I don’t do any reviews etc as I only want it to be about my writing. My other blog however is a little more commercial and I allow a few sponsored posts and reviews on that one. You come across and thoughtful and intelligent – not holier than thou! X.

    • Thank you for reassuring me. Goddness knows I don’t have the wisdom or the years under my belt to turn into one of those people who tells everyone else how to blog. xx

  13. Another brilliant post, I can’t keep up with you! I’ve made the decision to keep mother.wife.me a mainly ‘me’ blog, i.e. there maybe the occasional piece of sponsored work on it, IF it fits with mwm, but in the main it is my personal space.

    My new project, Ma Puce, is a different matter. It is a site with a blog attached and the aim is to make it commercial. The look and feel of it is very different to mwm and it is providing a service / information to those who come and visit it, so I feel totally fine about monetising it.

    Just a little word – with my ex-PR – hat on about the whole ‘freebie’ thing. I wish everyone would stop referring to press samples sent for review as ‘freebies’. In the case of bloggers, who don’t get paid for their time, there is nothing free about a product that you are expected to write about. Most of the time, if you gave yourself a day rate to use as a comparison, the value of the product sent to you for review wouldn’t even cover the time you spend writing about the product.

  14. I love this post. To me its less about reviews and managing the commercial aspect of blogging, and more about having our blogs reflect our true authentic selves. I know for me, when I took some time out, I really struggled for a bit, because I no longer feel that blogging about prematurity is enough, as its not a big part of our lives anymore. But then I realised that the true values of my blog are biggger than that – supporting families, honesty, truth, compassion, charity – and that gives me a strong base to move on. Values are what drives my blog and they are bigger than a single issue.

    I think too, when we know what our values are, decisions as to dealing with external agencies become easier. First to thine own blog be true.

  15. Very thought provoking. I think that once you are offered things for ‘free’, or some money for copy and pasting some text into a blog post, it’s very difficult to turn it down, especially when you see plenty of others doing it. I notice so many blogs that start off really well, then they reach a point where they are just reviews and sponsored posts, and I think that’s a real shame. Of course everyone is entitled to blog about what they like, but they lose me as a reader. It’s a really important subject to think about as a blogger, so thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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