Hi friends & I’m sure there are some skeptics here too. Welcome to all!
I’m happy to be here on my blog talking with you today. An interesting sequence of events have led to this post today. Last weekend a major disaster happened in my life. All year I have been having a hard time, but everything exploded last weekend. I felt threatened in my real life and I decided to delete my Instagram. When I deleted it, I started to receive text messages and emails from friends/acquaintances sending “condolences” about what was being said about me online. I was confused since I had no idea I was involved in any sort of online drama. I have deleted my Instagram 1 other time and it was for the same reason I did that Monday. I can’t share about the incidences in my real life, but they are unrelated to anything anyone can say about me online. I actually don’t know what has been said about my directly, but I don’t care. I live a public life and it is open to criticism. What I do know is that a few fellow “influencer” friends have sent me some recent outrage posts that are related to me and them. I am here to address that today.
First things first, the word “influencer” has a bad stigma. Literally every single person on this planet is an influencer so I’m not sure why it puts such a bad taste in people’s mouth.
On the issue of working with pharmaceutical companies:
I want to say I am proud of all the product endorsements I do on my platform. I feel as though I have been very transparent about my relationships with companies (pharma or not) but I hope you gain more clarity from this blog post as I lay it all out.
I understand that there are some people that have an issue with social media ads highlighting CGM’s. The biggest reason I have heard is that CGM’s are unaffordable to a large group of people. Second, I have seen that people complain that Abbott pays certain people to promote the Freestyle Libre and some of these people actually use Dexcom. (This is NOT true btw. If Abbott knew of someone being a Dex user but collecting money from Abbott, their contract would be voided. There are some influencers who have made a switch though!)
My 2 cents on the above: I will never stop promoting the Freestyle Libre whether I get paid to talk about them or not. I am a TRUE lover and advocate for this product. Before the Freestyle Libre there was never a CGM on the market that I felt worked with my lifestyle. At the time the Dexcom was large, I didn’t want alarms to interrupt my life, insertion was a whole event and no way I could afford the price tag. I never tried the Dexcom. I have been using the Freestyle Libre since November 2017. At that time, Abbott did gift me 2 sensors for me to review on my blog. I was the one who reached out to them and asked if this was a trade we could do. I did not receive any compensation and I did an honest review of my likes and dislikes on my blog HERE. (Super outdated now but still up.) The day I put on the Freestyle Libre, my life changed. I felt like it was too good to be true. I felt freedom I hadn’t felt since before I had diabetes. No more finger pricks! Now it is coming up on 3 years of me wearing the Freestyle Libre every single day. It is easy for me to shout from the rooftops about how much I love this product and how much it has changed my life. I had been talking about the sensor and it makes many appearances in my photos because it’s always on me. I have bought and paid for many Freestyle Libre sensors with my own money. I did not sign a contract to make content for the FSL until Sept 2018 and it was for 6 months. Then I signed another one again in September 2019 and that one was for a year. It is about to expire, and I will resign again if offered. I feel extremely lucky to have the chance to share and talk about a product that never leaves my body and get compensation for it. I understand why people would be bothered if someone gets paid to promote the Libre yet is a Dexcom user. That is just plain wrong. That is not my situation though. To touch on the other point, it is completely valid to bring up the fact that CGM’s are not affordable to everyone. While that is a fact, the FSL is the MOST affordable option on the market. When I first started using it, I did not have insurance. I used a RX savings card to afford it. It ended up costing me the same as I was paying for test strips. Once I finally got insurance, my insurance didn’t even cover the FSL so I continued to pay out of pocket with the RX savings card which is available to everyone.
Now I work with Abbott beyond just Instagram and social media ads. I am a patient voice for interviews which I am NOT paid for. I am also a patient spokesperson at events and conferences which are not happening right now but I hope I will get to resume next year.
I have seen social media ads promoting the Gvoke glucagon pen. I have not been paid to promote any Xeris product ever. I have been paid by Xeris as part of their advisory board. I have received 3 payments in total from Xeris. Twice for keyholder events. What does that mean? They brought together people who are active in the diabetes community and paid them for their expertise. Most people who work in the medical field don’t actually live with the conditions they treat. At the keyholder events they asked us to describe how we felt when having a low, what language we use to describe lows/diabetes, under what circumstances would we use or have used glucagon. They had us watch TV commercials they were working on along with brochures that they would hand out to doctors/patients. Basically, they paid us to critique their work and give them a voice of a patient. The third time I received payment from Xeris was when they flew myself and other community voices to San Diego to create fun content around diabetes. This is the video I made for them.
Xeris did not invent or change the glucagon formula itself. All they have done and created is a version of gluc that doesn’t have to be mixed in a time of emergency. The price of glucagon is the same as the original glucagon. (Correct me if I’m wrong on pricing.) I don’t feel like they are bad guys the way I feel like insulin manufacturers are. I think it’s amazing that they perfected the delivery of a lifesaving product. I actually had to use glucagon for the first time EVER on Monday, August 3rd. I will forever be thankful I had the Gvoke pen with me. I have never had the old school red case glucagon because I never felt confident that I could use it in an emergency. I never felt like those around me would know how to use it. When the Gvoke came out I used my own insurance to buy it. During the beginning of COVID they were running a deal for $0 copay with commercial insurance and it would be delivered through Pillpack. I used that to get a set of 2 at no cost to myself. I do understand not everyone has commercial insurance. I haven’t had insurance most of my adult life. I will be partnering with Xeris to tell my story more in depth in the future. I will receive compensation because I am using my time and resources to film and share. They will also use the video for their own channels to tell a real patient story.
InPen from Companion Medical
Now I do have some big opinions on this whole debacle. I have used the InPen from CM on and off for the past 3 summers. In the summer of 2018 I was getting really annoyed with my insulin pump. I started googling alternatives and found the InPen. This was before they even had an online presence. I had never heard anyone talk about them on social before. I reached out to them and worked out an agreement that they would offer me an InPen to try in exchange for my review. I wrote a blog post about how I switched from a pump to injections with the InPen. I loved the product so much that I kept using it on and off over the years. Maybe a year passed, and I reached out to them to see if they would want to work with me on a contract basis to develop their influencer program (which I have done for other companies), but nothing ever came of it. Fast forward to 2020 and I was approached by a third-party social media agency that they had hired to create paid campaigns to promote the InPen. Since I already owned 2 InPens over the past years and used it as part of my diabetes management, I was excited to create content for the brand and receive compensation. Also summer was just beginning and it was about that time where I would go on the InPen full time. As I was starting to think about my content, I started seeing every single person with a few thousand followers post about the InPen. I felt like there was an overload of posts all at once. I messaged the social media agency and said that there were so many posts going up at the same time. She let me wait until the very end of the first round and post on a day when no one else was posting. I was still proud to post since I am an actual product user. When I posted there were still so many people who showed interest and had heard about the InPen for the first time. After that I was hired to create 1 additional round of content (post + story.) I still continue to share my InPen since it’s what I’m using as my full-time insulin delivery and people continue to be curious and want more information about it. I do feel as though the social media campaign was very poorly done. It was TOO much all at once. PLUS it seemed fake since a lot of the promoters were insulin pump users. It really put a bad taste in the mouth of many in the community. Also, I have heard that price is again an issue. I am not even sure how much the InPen costs full price because with my insurance it was only $30. Again, I understand not everyone has insurance. I can only speak for myself. When I share it is just making people aware of the options they have. No one is forced to buy it and it is NOT a necessity. Still, the InPen for me has been such a blessing because I would not feel confident taking pump breaks without it. I will continue to share about it as it feels natural. I am about ready to go back on an insulin pump soon though since summer is coming to an end.
Eli Lilly/Novo Nordisk
I have NEVER accepted money or worked with any insulin manufacturer. I am not sure they even need to advertise considering they make extreme amounts of money and people have no choice but to buy it. I have myself been in desperate situations where it was tough to afford insulin. I filmed a video about my journey to get insulin from Mexico and even that got a ton of hate from people in the diabetes community. At the time I was nearing a divorce, my husband hadn’t worked in months, we were paying $1,000 a month for health insurance that didn’t cover our basic needs (like insulin!) I only had the opportunity to be part of the video by chance. A friend of a friend of a friend of my ex-boyfriends knew the reporter. The reporter Ciara asked this guy (who I don’t know) if he knew anyone with diabetes. He said “I don’t but I think my friend Julie knows someone.” So he asked Julie who knew Joe my ex-boyfriend and it all came together. I didn’t even know she was filming a video when she called me. She just asked me how I get/afford my insulin and I said that I knew some friends who recently went to Mexico to buy some and that I was about to do the same. She said “Can I come with you?!” and that is how the video came to be. It would be totally hypocritical for me to work with an insulin manufacturer considering I can barely afford it at times. I do not need to promote or team up with a company who supplies a product that should be a basic human right.
Here is where it gets complicated. I have had diabetes for 7 years. The first time I met someone with diabetes in real life was through the American Diabetes Association (ADA.) From there my only in-person events and interactions were through JDRF. I volunteered as a camp counselor for JDRF. My family all got together to do the walks every year. Then I became an ambassador for Beyond Type 1. I created content for them. I held events that I paid for and organized on my own but attached their name to it. I did fundraisers for them. Later I was able to travel to different JDRF conferences to speak on panels and do presentations. I have never received payment for any of my work with these organizations except for travel accommodations. It actually costs me money to work with these organizations. To be on the Global Ambassador Council for BT1, you have to commit to raising or giving a certain amount of money. The GAC no longer exists but that is how it worked. I always felt like these organizations were doing good things. Most people have warm memories of JDRF from diagnosis. They were the first place people could turn to for real human connections. Now I am not so sure how to feel about these organizations. I am aware that a lot of the money they collect does not go to research or a cure. I am aware that they accept money from insulin manufacturers which seems to be counterproductive to the #insulin4all movement. I do think these organizations do good things with the money also. All the in-person events make such a difference in the lives of people with diabetes. It is hard to take the good without the bad. I am just being honest here when I say I am torn. Will I be giving my own money to them in the future? No. Will I attend an in-person event? Who knows? There is so much pressure to be all or nothing. I need to think about this more. I appreciate all the advocates who are educating us on the behind the scenes of these organizations because without them I wouldn’t know any of the bad.
The above companies/organizations are what have been mostly in question. I have done a blog post in the past listing all my partnerships but I will provide an updated list below.
Long term partnerships
This means I am under contract to provide space on my social channels to share my own opinions and create content for these brands. I am NOT paid per sale.
Abbott- As I shared in detail above
Truvia- I get to get create and show off how I use Truvia in recipes and in everyday life. This is such a natural partnership since Truvia has always been part of my family recipes!
Frys Food Stores- I am actually not under contract with Frys but we love working together and I get hired consistently to promote their weekly ads and create content. This is such a special little thing for me because I am a SMALL town girl. I grew up without a grocery store but then a Frys was built in my hometown when I was in high school. It is the HEART of my small town and now I get to be Miss Frys lol. I love when I mention groceries or something related and someone brings up Frys! J
Crest/Oral B- Similar to Frys, I am not under a long term contract with Crest but I get hired consistently to create content for them. Last year I did have a year long contract but when it expired I started to get hired to partner from time to time. I have seen that a few of my fellow diabuddies have also had the chance to work with Crest this year! Makes sense since people with diabetes have to take extra good care of their teeth and gums!
This means that I do NOT get paid for posting or creating content. I chose when to post and how often and I provide my audience with a promo code. If someone uses that code, they get a discount and I get a commission.
Myabetic- Promo code GLITTER for 15% off
MedAngel- Promo code GLITTER for 20% off
Sheree Cosmetics- Promo code GLITTER for 20% off
Dermatonics- Promo code GLITTER for 15% off
These are companies that reach out to me when they have something for me that is a perfect fit. No certainty when or what it will be but I love working together.
Past partnerships that I love
Phoenix Premium Outlets
These brands are companies I was already a fan and have been lucky enough to be gifted products. There is no expectation for me to post but since they are a natural part of my life, I do. I have received gifted products but I have also purchased many, many of their products with my own money and will continue to do so.
Companies I used to talk about but don’t anymore
Real Good Foods- I used to LOVE RGF. I used to buy their products all the time and also had the opportunity to do a few sponsored posts for them. I haven’t talked about them recently because I just slowly stopped buying their stuff. Nothing wrong with it. I just haven’t craved it in a while. They do have a lot of new products out so maybe I’ll give them a try. For now, I just don’t have the craving for it so I haven’t shared about it.
Lauren’s Hope- I used to always wear a medical ID. It was natural for me to talk about Lauren’s Hope because they make such stylish jewelry. As I’ve become more seasoned with diabetes, I slowly stopped wearing a medical ID. There are occasions that I will still put one on if I’m traveling but very seldom, so I don’t feel the need to talk about it or promote them.
Girly Go Garter- I used to use this product ALL THE TIME! I had an affiliate code with them but I always had issues getting paid by them. I called them out on it and said I wasn’t going to work with them anymore. That was like 4 years ago. I still have 2 of their garters that I wear but I haven’t taken any photos or promoted them in a long time. I get a lot of messages in my inbox asking about wearing a pump with a dress and I will still always recommend this product.
Sola Bread- OMG I love Sola products. They are so so so good! I just haven’t posted about them because they aren’t sold at Frys (where I grocery shop) and also because I don’t post a lot of food content. I had done some sponsored posts for them in the past because I believe they have GREAT products. I just haven’t bought any of their stuff in a while because it’s inconvenient to get my hands on it.
I am being as transparent as I can be here. I will still continue to use my social media channels to share my life and my favorite things. That includes a wide variety of things from medical devices to makeup and hair. When I share it is because it fits in MY life and there is NO pressure to buy. Also following me is optional as you know. If you unfollow or don’t like my content or how I live my life, that is totally okay. Please let me know if I can answer any additional question related to this blog post. Thank you to everyone who read this post!