My Twitter feed lit up this afternoon with hundreds of bloggers jumping in to offer their opinions on the #bloggerblackmail trending hashtag. It began with a post from Anges de Sucre, an award winning sweet shop in London who recounted a negative experience with a blogger, who had appeared to demand £100 worth of treats in return for a positive review. When this wasn’t given, the blogger posted several negative reviews across her social media accounts, insulting the macarons in particular.
Initially, the fact that an argument about free macarons was trending seemed a little silly to me. I’ve eaten many in my time – some have been wonderful, some have tasted like sawdust (no, I’m not explaining how I know this), and some have been so expensive that I’ve almost cried and had to consider taking out a small loan in order to pay for them. However, a macaron is a macaron.
Except, it’s not about the macarons.
The more I read, the more I understood why so many bloggers were quickly incensed by both articles. It raised questions of professionalism, of integrity and the importance of having clear boundaries when working with companies and brands. Some were also feeling indignant at the bloggers site being referred to as ‘not very well known,’ sparking further discussion about when and how a blog becomes valid and valued within the online world.
In my experience, there are five reasons why a blog is started: for personal, therapeutic use, to connect with other people, to explore a particular niche and/or passion, to develop language and writing skills, or as a way to promote a business, venture, product or book. Each blog, and therefore, blogger, is unique… well, most are, at least. However, regardless of the content, there is one thing that most bloggers have in common:
They take their craft very seriously.
And rightly so – even those who post sporadically will put hours of their personal time into creating something that means a great deal to them, and will defend it to the proverbial death should anyone write anything negative in response. It’s for this reason why the #bloggersblackmail hashtag suddenly became so popular in such a short space of time.
However, this brings to light the ‘dark side’ of the blogosphere (yes, I’m using that word, don’t judge me).
For those who fancy themselves as future professional bloggers, the blogging world can be a very competitive place. As Hugh quite rightly pointed out in his post from yesterday, it’s far more about the numbers than the letters, and for some it’s about how much free stuff they can blag in their efforts to become the next Zoella. I’ve seen it many times, particularly across Twitter, and despite the inevitable protestations that would take place if any of them were ever challenged about it, it’s obvious what their intentions are. It’s also not the first time that I’ve heard negative stories about bloggers demanding things in return for reviews, and it annoys me (and clearly annoys many others too) because it creates a negative image around blogging itself.
I don’t consider myself to be a food/lifestyle/beauty blogger by any means, but I’ve been invited on several occasions to review different restaurants. During the conversations I’ve had with the marketing and PR departments with those companies, I’ve asked for clear guidelines from them on their expectations and what I will be provided with, and it has been understood from the start that I have been under no obligation to write a positive review (although, everything I’ve ever tried has been delicious so it’s never been something I’ve had to worry about).
On the other side, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have been contacted by companies wanting me to promote a product or an infographic with absolutely no compensation whatsoever, and the products on offer have absolutely no link to my content, which makes it obvious that they have just looked at the numbers rather than read it. I always respond with a polite no, but it always angers me that someone will completely ignore the amount of time and hard work I have put into establishing this blog over the last two-and-a-half years and assume that I’m some sort of free advertising tool.
My point is, if a bloggers intention is to be seen as a professional, they should conduct themselves accordingly, regardless of the readership of their blog. And if a company wishes to work with a blogger, they need to make it clear what will be offered, and understand the amount of time and energy that goes into creating even a short post.
What do you guys think? Have you had any bad experiences with products and companies? Do you think it’s ok to demand free things in return for a review?
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