Read the entire #BloggersGuide series here
This is the 10th and final installment of my 'Blogger's Guide' series, in which I've addressed many differing elements of blogging, from getting started to dealing with PR requests, building a social media following and making friends (and occasionally money) through blogging. For the most part all of the posts have addressed the more interesting and upbeat side of the blogging community, but last week I read about an incident which definitely revealed the darker side.
You might have read it yourself, but the crux of it centered around 'blogger blackmail.' I'd not come across this phrase before but when I read about it, I was shocked. A blogger contacted a client to ask if she could visit their establishment for review purposes. A small token offer was made to the blogger who then asked for more, and when this request was denied, she made a purchase and promptly took to social media to make remarks of a derisory nature about the products she tried (these were later deleted). The brand then picked up on these and used her visit to make equally derisory remarks about the blogger, her following, and her unprofessional attitude. Phew!
Fireworks ensued, mainly because the exchange took place across social media and both parties were named. Social media channels are often used to make thinly veiled remarks but it's a rarity for either of the groups involved to actually name and shame the other. This is what happened in this instance, with the blogger writing a post that was quickly countered with the brand's side of the story.
This whole exchange irritated me because I could see the faults on both sides. As a blogger, I would never presume to approach a brand and ask for a freebie; if it was a brand I absolutely loved, or a restaurant or venue that I felt didn't get the exposure it deserved, sure, I would perhaps reach out and ask whether I could feature them on the blog, but in this instance I would not expect to receive recompense if it was something I was hoping to use as a great blog post anyway. Sure, if I was given a token of thanks, even better, but this would and should not be an expectation.
The blogger in question here turned up at the establishment with one idea of her expectations, and the brand had another, and the two didn't match. This is the tipping point that, in my opinion, set the whole sorry story in motion: if the two had communicated further and knew exactly what was expected of the other, the whole uneasy scenario might have been avoided.
And so to the brand: whilst I appreciate that the brand owner felt the need to defend herself against the blogger's stance, it's had to be objective about a company who is prepared to publicly name and shame an individual in this way. I believe that as a blogger, your integrity should not be compromised by money, product or, in this case, fear of your opinion causing Twitter drama! By so vocally outing the blogger, the brand may find potential compromises in working with individuals in the future.
It's a difficult situation, but here are some tips that I try to adhere to when working with brands or businesses:
- Be polite: Even if you hate the product you've been given to sample, someone has still taken the time to make it or organise for it to be sent to you. There are ways of being honest without being rude; they aren't mutually exclusive.
- Hold an expectations exchange: If you are traveling to an event or to visit a brand, will you be paid for the travel? What do they want from you in terms of social media activity? Will you be paid in money or in goods? All of these questions need to be answered before you leave the house to make a special trip, to avoid any embarrassment or confusion.
- Be realistic: As a new blogger, starting out with a small following, you won't have the social media clout a huge blogger has. Don't expect to be given hundreds of pounds worth of goods; small businesses can't often afford to hand out expensive samples when the return often won't match up to the expenditure.
- Be nice: If things don't go to plan, take a few deep breaths before posting any social media content that could cause embarrassment or anger. You can always send an email to your contact after you've calmed down with some suggestions of how things could have been done differently, but it's important to protect the integrity of your own brand, and not see it damaged by social media mudslinging.
Of course, it could be argued that by holding a very public argument, both blogger and brand have quickly and easily augmented their social status; after all, many social media sites have been abuzz with the story, meaning great traffic for both parties! However, I have to say that I think I would prefer to remain dignified rather than be drawn into an argument such as this. What do you think about it?