This past week I ventured into uncharted territory: asking for, and accepting, contributions from companies.
Read on if you want to understand the editorial safeguards I have tried to put in place to maintain my independence and integrity, crucial for my relationship with you, dear reader.
Tonight, 930pm SG time, August 9th 2020, I will be appearing on a Facebook Live video chat, “Live and Late with Jack & Rai”, a weekly show that is hosted by Singapore’s most famous ageing boy band aka two of my oldest friends. Click on above link to tune in: it’s a special National Day episode to celebrate Singapore’s fifty-fifth birthday.
Last week Rai had told me that a beer subscription service, Subscribeers Singapore, which distributes Singaporean craft beers, would be giving us some beer to taste on the show, as well as offering three packages that Rai could give away to viewers.
Why? Well, I’ve never hitherto thought about using my personal “platform” for any kind of promotion because it’s just not that popular.
However, with the recent modest success of my Singapore GE 2020 election videos, collectively notching well over 500K views, it seems there might be sufficient eyeballs for this to be worth the effort.
Indeed, others are starting to think so. Over the past couple of months, friends have asked “Did Pocky pay you?” and “Did Heineken sponsor you?” (In relation to two videos, one on the election, another on football. Ans: “No” and “No”.)
Separately, one company recently contacted me directly to ask if I’d be interested in promoting its product on video. (I said “No”.)
However, it occurred to me that with this specific show tonight, there could be some alignment of interests, that would allow me to promote a product, get some prizes to some winners, and still preserve my editorial independence, which is sacrosanct.
So here is the template letter I sent out to potential sponsors:
Contribution to NDP F&B pack?
I will be mentioning your product, which I like, this Sunday on a live video chat with Jack and Rai, Singaporean artists/musicians. Your product mention will be part of a section titled: “Not another salted egg XXX. Our F&B scene is on the cusp of a wonderfully creative burst.”
As such, I was wondering if you would like to donate three bottles of your product for special NDP F&B packs that we will give away to viewers? Kind of a special NDP hamper. We already have craft beers on board as part of the giveaway.
Whether or not you agree to donate will not affect my decision to mention your product. I like it, and I’ll be talking about it.
To explain a bit further, I don’t like the way influencers today advertise products, the way they hide sponsorships, and the way they sometimes threaten brands.
At the same time, I see nothing wrong in promoting Singaporean brands that I like. In fact I think it’s good for everybody, for the businesses, for the employees, for our country.
So I’m hoping to do things a bit differently.
At the moment—might change in the future—I don’t want to take any money from brands. But if I happen to like one of them, I do want to promote them, and perhaps “collaborate” a bit by giving away some of their product to viewers (of course this also helps to boost my viewership, no doubt).
So let me know if:
A) You’d like to donate three pieces for the funpacks
B) Purely optional, but might be a win-win: You’d also like to donate 1 bottle each to Jack, Rai and me so we can actually open it and enjoy it on the video show.
C) You don’t want to be involved in any way.
If there’s interest, let me know and we can discuss details. Would be great if you can ship the product to me/us. I will handle the shipping to the three winners.
This conversation is private. Nobody will know if you choose C). I will simply move on and ask the next brand.
And, even if you choose C), I will still be talking about your product. I like it!
Importantly, I wanted to separate the brand’s sponsorship from my editorial line, i.e. I only asked brands I was going to already be talking about on tonight’s show, products that I had already paid for myself and enjoyed prior.
So, dear reader, the above is my current stance and thinking on product marketing.
You may notice that I have so far resisted using the word “influencer”, which I don’t really like. As one friend said: you are probably more influenza than influencer.
My stance may change in the future. For instance, I see no need to accept any money from brands right now. I make enough money from my regular freelance work to satisfy me and my liver.
The problem with taking money is that it compromises you as a commentator. (Can you ever be fair in your commentaries about said company/brand?)
That said, I don’t think there’s a need to be too dogmatic here. Preeti Nair (aka Preetipls), a Singaporean artist I greatly admire, does sponsored work for different brands on Instagram, which I’m guessing helps her pay the bills…and then she goes on to produce incredible free educational content for Singaporeans, like her series of Miss Education videos.
I like the way she does things.
Of course I am a small fry compared to Preetipls, lah, I know…she and her brother Subhas and team raised over $300K for migrant workers in an online drive a few weeks ago. Holy cow!
Anyway, the point is, I may change things up one day. But you will be the first to know. The relationship with you, dear reader, is the most important.
Do share any thoughts!
And do join us tonight: