Disclosures and Sponsored Posts Policy

The policy below applies from August 2013 onward:

If you had asked me back in May of 2010 how I felt about sponsored posts and whether or not I would do one, I probably wouldn’t know how to answer. I never would have imagined my blog would become popular enough that a company would be interested in contacting me for sponsored posts.

I’ve discovered though as my blog grows in popularity and I continue to network with people it will be – and has already become – inevitable that I will get the opportunity to write a sponsored post. In the back of my mind I have a very specific idea of what a sponsored post is: It’s a post you get paid to write as a way for a company to advertise. That definition is not all encompassing as I have come to learn and I want to address any versions of sponsored posts.

I’m doing this for the benefit of my readers and for the companies who may be interested in me doing a sponsored post for them, so please take the time to read this carefully so you know where I stand. The points I make here apply to my brand and me universally. If I author an article somewhere other than my blog or post on social media, these same policies apply.

First and foremost, my readers here on the blog and my viewers on YouTube are most important to me.

You guys have made this blog grow and in turn have helped me turn this into a business. I want you to know I would never intentionally do something to betray that trust. If you have any concerns e-mail me immediately.

Sections

How My Blog Makes Money
Sponsored Posts: Paid Posts
Sponsored Posts: Freebies
Sponsored Posts: Non-profits and Charities
Guest Appearances and Guest Posts
Recommendations Posted on Various Pages
Advertisements
Pictures and Video of Branded Items
Gifts and Thank You Gifts
Contests Hosted by The Aubergine Chef
For More Information on Blog Disclosures and Sponsored Posts


How My Blog Makes Money

Behavioral Advertising and Monetizing Videos
This is a for-profit blog and is a part of my business. The main way the blog makes money directly is by advertisements on YouTube videos and iFood.tv videos. As far as I understand, I don’t have control over the advertisements. Those advertisements may be targeted based on companies collecting non-personally identifiable information and storing them on your computer in the form of cookies. An example of this is when I search for products on my online store, often times I’ll see ads that are trying to sell them the exact same thing I was just looking at. This means that the Aubergine Chef does not directly identify with any of those advertisers and has no direct relationship with them.

To learn more about this behavioral advertising practice visit the NAI at http://www.networkadvertising.org.

Official Zazzle Store
The blog also makes money from my Zazzle store where I sell promotional items through their service. I design images, you choose which products the image will appear on, and then you can purchase it. I get a commission from each purchase. Items sold through Zazzle may not have been tested by me and the specific quality may change over time. I don’t have any control beyond the design of the image when it comes to the actual product. I don’t own those items as inventory. Zazzle creates those items as they are ordered. You can visit my Zazzle store here: http://www.zazzle.com/theauberginechef

Personally Held Inventory Retail
I do have some items directly for sale that I hold as inventory. These items, like bumper stickers, were purchased by me and so when I sell them they come directly from me. You’ll know which items are from Zazzle and which are from me because you have to go to Zazzle’s webpage to purchase Zazzle items. Inventory I hold can be purchased without leaving theAubergineChef.com. You can see examples of items for sale that I directly hold as inventory here: http://www.theauberginechef.com/store/items-for-sale/

Affiliate Links
Some links are affiliate links, most notably the items listed on the Recommendations, Equipment, and Sources pages. These links take you directly to the item described on an external site – such as Amazon.com – and if you purchase it or anything else during your visit through my site I get a commission from that sale.

Any items I link you to I personally own whether I purchased it myself or received it as a gift from a friend, or it was highly recommended by a friend (an example of that is in my holiday gift giving guides where I ask friends for gift ideas or who their favorite Etsy sellers are).

If I received an item from a company it will be fully disclosed how I received it, why I received it, and who sent it to me. I will only recommend items, products, and brands that I truly respect and love. If I were to recommend to you a subpar product that would tarnish my reputation as well as the reputation of any other product I recommend. I take my recommendations and referrals very seriously. I will never accept money to recommend a product.

Classes and Demonstrations
My blog also makes my business money indirectly by being an advertising medium for my classes and my private classes and private demonstrations. My baking classes at the Manassas Park Community Center were fully designed by me with no outside influence from companies or individuals. Brands of equipment and ingredients I recommend in those classes are personal favorites – I will never promote a product I don’t use, love, and respect directly. The same applies to my private classes and demonstrations. They are all developed by me with no outside influence and any recommendations and opinions I express during those classes and demonstrations are my own.

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Sponsored Posts: Paid Posts

I will not write a post on a product that I have received money to write. I have thought long and hard on this. While I understand that there are truly good intentioned businesses and companies out there – I have met many including while I was at Eat, Write, Retreat – I just don’t feel that it is the right direction for me.

I don’t judge other bloggers who write posts and promote products and receive money from it. It is a legitimate business practice and an honest way to monetize your hard work on your blog. I personally know many bloggers who get paid to write sponsored posts and I know that they deep down truly only promote the product because they honestly like it. In other words, they’re getting paid to promote a product they already like and would have promoted anyway.

But because of the position I’m in, especially as an instructor, I don’t feel that it’s right for me to accept money to review or promote products. I want there to be no question that I like a product in the most genuine way – I love it and I would refer it to others for free.

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Sponsored Posts: Freebies

Another form of sponsored posts is to receive items for free in exchange for doing a post about the item. Basically another form of product review.

In general I will not accept freebies from companies to review directly. I will make some exceptions to this rule:

1) If the company has made a culinary arts related donation to the Manassas Park Community Center, then as a thank you I may do a freebie post. This is up to my discretion however and should not be misconstrued as a guarantee. If you make a donation to the culinary arts program at the Community Center it doesn’t directly mean I will write a post for your product.

Any donations that you would like to make the Community Center must go through me if you want me to write a post on your donation and product otherwise I won’t consider it. In other words, if you send a donation directly to the Community Center without contacting me first I won’t write a post on your donation or product. I won’t allow my love for the Community Center to be used as a way to force me to write a post.

2) The freebie must be sent to me no strings attached for use at my own discretion. If I like it then I will consider reviewing it on my blog. If I don’t, then I won’t. There is no guarantee that because you send me an item that I will post about it.

I will avoid writing a recipe using brand names. If you give me an ingredient to use and I like it I will mention it in the post but not in the recipe. An exception to this is when I say something similar to “Chocolate-Hazelnut spread like Nutella” where the brand name is a reference. Whether I choose to do this for your product will be left up to my discretion.

Whether I review the item or not, I will not keep the product. If the item is reusable like a pan, then I will donate it, give it away, or use it as a contest item to give to my readers. That way even if I don’t like the item, it will surely find its way into the hands of somebody who will like it.

The exception to this is if it is a perishable or one time use item. If the item is consumed or is perishable then I will keep it if there is any of it left after trying it. Last thing I’m sure anybody wants is a half-eaten jar of grape jelly.

3) The freebie is related to a contest I want to participate in. I enjoy entering culinary related contests and I’d probably enter them even if I didn’t have a blog. So if your competition requires the use of your product and you will send me a sample then I will use it. If I decide to pursue entering the contest and I write about it on my blog, I will give you a mention in the post. There is no guarantee that I will make a direct review of the product on my site. The only guarantee is that I will tell my readers how I received it, why I received it, and who sent it to me. Any items I receive as part of a contest entry I will keep since entering culinary contests is a lot of work and I have yet to win one. Consider it a consolation gift. In my personal experience though, companies that hold contests normally require the participants to purchase the items to use in the contest. The only exception I’ve experienced so far is when the contests are related to a convention you’re attending.

4) The freebie is or will be related to an event I personally will attend or have attended. An example of this is the Eat, Write, Retreat convention I attended in May/June 2013. At Eat, Write, Retreat we received a gift bag (also called swag bag) full of items and I even won a 4.5 Quart KitchenAid stand mixer. Since these items are given to me no strings attached and for use at my own discretion I would consider writing a post about it. There’s no guarantee that it will be an in-depth review other than I will tell my readers how I received it, why I received it, and whose product it is. An example posted on Facebook may be: I won a KitchenAid stand mixer at Eat, Write, Retreat the food blogger convention!

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Sponsored Posts: Non-profits and Charities

Non-profit organizations provide important benefits to the community at large and I am an avid volunteer and supporter of many charities in my area. Besides directly donating my time or money to an organization, I will consider promoting the organization or an event hosted by the organization. Sometimes a non-profit will provide me a free ticket to their event in exchange for taking pictures and writing about their event on my social media and blog. I won’t accept money from a non-profit to promote an event. I will never write or promote a non-profit I do not personally support. For an example of a post I wrote about a non-profit I passionately support and was given a free ticket to attend visit this post: http://www.theauberginechef.com/2014/05/attending-food-friends-chefs-best-dinner-auction

Here is a list of non-profits I support in no specific order and it may not include all non-profits I support: DC Metro area PFLAG, Food and Friends, Independence Empowerment Center, American Red Cross in the National Capital Region, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for children), Equality Prince William, Fairfax Pride, Comfort Cases, Together We Bake, No Kid Hungry, Volunteer Prince William, Volunteer Fairfax, Final Salute, Project Mend-A-House, Matthew’s Center, OAR of Fairfax, Arc of Greater Prince William, and Rainbow Therapeutic Riding Center.

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Guest Appearances and Guest Posts, Pages, and Articles

I love having other people come on the show as a special guest to show us their expertise and share their recipes. There’s a lot of win when guests participate. Guests revitalize the show and can provide recipes and insights that I do not possess. It allows the guests to help promote their brands and products. Plus it’s just a lot of fun.

I will not accept money nor freebie items for a guest to appear in a video or author a post on my blog. If I genuinely like your product or if I think your expertise would be beneficial for my viewers and readers, then I will consider having you as a guest on the show or to author a post. It will be disclosed to my viewers how we met.

If you’d like to sponsor a contest on my blog through your guest post or guest appearance featuring your brand or product I would be open to it.

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Recommendations Posted on Various Pages

The recommendations I make on my various pages (ingredients, equipment techniques, recommendations, links, sources) will follow the above policies on sponsored posts. In short I will not accept money for a brand to appear on any of those pages as a review, link, or otherwise.

If I receive a freebie item and I’m just so impressed with it and I find that it can truly benefit my readers then I might add it to some of these pages. There are new products and resources being developed everyday and there might not be any other way for me to have discovered it than as a freebie item. If I do decide to add the freebie item to the list, I will disclose how I received it.

If you do feel like you have a product or other resource that could truly benefit my readers I’m open to hearing about it. Just as stated in my Sponsored Posts: Freebies policy I won’t make any guarantees that I will share your product with my readers.

Rest assured that the pages that cover food science will always be heavily researched by me and will ultimately be my final opinion. I will never publish any information on these pages that has been influenced by an outside third party through money or freebies. I know my readers trust my research to be accurate and informative and I want them to have as many facts as I can so they can make their own informed choices. I won’t betray their trust.

In the future, I may bring on experts to expand or author food science pages but their work will follow my policies and echo my standards of quality. I’d actually expect them to author higher quality work that my own because of their expertise.

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Advertisements

A while back I had one Google ad (behavioral ad) on the side of my blog that generated very little income, but it added a lot of bulk and didn’t contribute anything to the content of my blog. After speaking with a friend about it, I decided advertisements were not the way for me to go.

My feelings about advertisements are similar to how I feel about paid sponsored posts, I don’t want my readers and viewers to wonder if I’m writing a particular article because I receive money from a particular company.

An example would be my food science ingredients pages. If I were to accept advertising from a sugar corporation my readers may begin to question my views on sugar and its use in baking. I will not allow that to happen.

So at this time I will not accept advertisers, include behavioral advertising, on the blog.

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Pictures and Video of Branded Items

Sometimes I will post pictures of items and my videos will contain items that are branded. This is usually a reference point as people are typically more familiar with brands rather than a generic item. Other times it is just because the item I own or used is branded. If I take a picture of Land O’ Lakes butter it’s because I’m using it inconsequently. I needed butter, I bought butter, it happened to be Land O’ Lakes, it ended up in pictures or in video. Unless otherwise stated in the beginning of a post, I did not receive the item for free and I did not receive money for the item to appear.

The pictures of branded items from this point on will also be taken directly by me. In the past I have used pictures that I got from open source projects like Wikipedia (like Boston Baked Beans on the Dessert Sushi post) but I can just as easily go to the grocery store and just take a picture of the product.

You can see examples of pictures of branded items used as reference points on my ingredients and equipment pages.

If the picture is an example of the product or brand that I am recommending then my policy under Recommendations Posted on Various Pages applies.

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Gifts and Thank You Gifts

Companies that I do business with often send thank you gifts to me as a way for them to express gratitude for my business. An example of this is in 2012 when iFood.tv sent me a box of chocolate covered strawberries during Christmas. I will accept thank you gifts valued at $100 or less. Anything above this value I will either refuse, donate, give away to a friend, or use as a contest item on the blog.

It is up to my discretion where I post about your thank you gift. If I do there is no guarantee that it will be an in-depth product review. If I do post about the thank you gift, the post will always include how I received it, why I received it, and whose product it is.

I will not accept freebie items or gifts from companies where the items are unrelated to their brand. For example: If I wasn’t doing business with iFood.tv and they sent me chocolate covered strawberries I would have refused, donated, or gave away the gift. I will not use those items as contest items on the blog.

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Contests Hosted by The Aubergine Chef

From time to time I may decide to host a contest to benefit my readers or the people in my local area. Contests and their prizes will fall under these three criteria though each contest will have its own unique rules and guidelines.

1) Prizes may be from me directly. This may include an item I personally own, a gift card I purchased as a prize for the contest, or a freebie item I received (see Sponsored Posts: Freebies for more information on that). These prizes will not be officially sponsored by the brands associated with the products since I’m giving them to you personally. It would be like if I gave you a wooden spoon I’m not using anymore. In the case of the freebie item it will be disclosed how I received it, but because I was intended to be the end user the contest wouldn’t be sponsored by the brand.

2) Prizes may be from a sponsor. If I am able to connect with a brand I respect and they would like to give my readers a product directly then I would be happy to help them out.

I will not accept money nor freebie items to run a contest with sponsored prizes. If I genuinely like your product and I think it would be beneficial for my viewers and readers, then I am open to running a contest with your company. The item must be sent directly to the contest winner. In addition, the nature of our relationship will be disclosed to my readers including how we met.

3) Prizes and contests may be co-hosted and co-sponsored by the Aubergine Chef. This mainly applies to local area contests where I work with several businesses in my local area. I’m always happy to help out my fellow local business owners as well as help out my local community. I may write posts to help get the word out about the event but they wouldn’t be sponsored posts as I wouldn’t accept money, freebies, or gifts for co-hosting the contest.

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For More Information on Blog Disclosures and Sponsored Posts

While I was researching what I should include in my disclosure policy I stumbled upon an article at social media explorer. It’s a quick read and explains things very plainly. It was very helpful in getting the policy started and there are tons links to other useful articles. You can find it here: http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/social-media-marketing/disclosures-for-bloggers-and-brands/

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) regulates these kinds of disclosures in the United States and you can read their entire disclosure guidelines in a PDF available for download here: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2013/03/dotcom.shtm (That may update over time. I will try to keep this link updated)

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  1. […] Perhaps the easiest way is to find a local chapter of a national nonprofit like the Red Cross or PFLAG. Another method is to talk to other business owners and friends about nonprofits they partner with and see if any pique your interest. Check newspapers and magazines for press releases or even stories covering nonprofit events. Prince William Living has a section in their magazine called ‘Giving Back’ which features a local nonprofit in my county every month. If you’re curious who I partner with or who I donate to you can see a list of some of them by clic… […]

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