Another day, another blogger drama … ok, I might be exaggerating a tad. But when a disagreement between a patisserie shop owner and a blogger began trending on Twitter today you know it’s a debate that needs to be had.
For those not in the know, long story short – blogger emails patisserie and asks for free product to review on their blog. Patisserie owners accepts request on own admission that they were hoping for the link to their website for extra SEO juice. Patisserie prepares a gift bag with the standard goodies they gift to bloggers. Blogger arrives with friend and is not happy with just 8 macarons and a cup of tea. Bloggers asks for 3 boxes of products totalling £100 retail value. Staff refuse. Blogger gets cross and leaves threatening bad review. Blogger comes back to buy some product then goes on Twitter and Instagram to slate the patisserie. The owner blogs about this experience citing #BloggerBlackmail. Blogger responds with own post pretty much confirming the details of the encounter but states that it was fair to ask for that value of product as she spends 8 hours work on her blog post. Blogger has deleted the social media posts criticising the patisserie. Twitter erupts with debate.
So here are my two pence worth as a blogger with over 5 years experience on both sides of the fence:
My first reaction was, jeeez… not ANOTHER blogger being a massive blagger. I’ve seen this kind of behaviour at a few events and it makes me very uncomfortable. Just because you’re a blogger doesn’t entitle you to anything. It incredibly unprofessional to slate a company online without talking to them privately first to try and resolve the issue.
My second reaction was, jeeeeez…. the owner was pretty harsh with some of her comments about the blogger.
In short, both parties have not come across very well in this.
The thing is ‘blagging’ in itself is unethical, unprofessional and undesirable. That is, blagging full stop. If you really want something, pay for it yourself.
However, I do strongly believe in the value of bloggers. They are recognised as influencers both to their readers and search engines (as the patisserie owner knew). There is an opportunity for an established blogger with the readership and authority to back it up, to approach relevant companies and discuss collaborations. There is a fine line between blagging and knowing your worth. Therefore it’s up to the blogger to set out what their worth is and why (being a blogger is not enough, you need stats or examples of benefits to the business).
As bloggers we need to set out clearly our own Terms & Conditions and if things go wrong behave professionally, not lash out online. Sure, sometimes a company is at fault, it happens all the time. But the best approach is to call or email them to address your concerns and why your experience was not great. Give them a chance to resolve or compromise on the problem.
I would only post negatively online if no further resolutions could be reached privately OR if it was vital for my readers to know about it.
I have had way too many conversations with brands saying they were put off working with bloggers after a bad experience. I have had long conversations trying to turn some business owners around to working with bloggers, reassuring them that we are not all that bad. That makes me so sad! So easily bloggers get tarnished with the same brush. We need to keep it professional if we want to be taken seriously as an industry, as a community.
As bloggers we are in a position to educate and share our understanding of the online world with businesses. Sometimes things go wrong, sometimes it’s the brand’s fault, other times it’s the blogger.
But if you hold integrity & professionalism at the centre of everything you do as a blogger bad scenarios can be avoided (for the most part).
Top Tips for Blogger/Business Collaborations
* Communicate, communicate, communicate – set out exactly what your expectations are and agree on them beforehand.
* Understand SEO is different to PR – if you want to understand a blog’s influence on Search Engines check on OpenSiteExplorer.
* For PR purposes look at engagement across blog and social channels.
* Be professional at all times – as tempting as an emotional reaction might be, cool off first before responding.
* Know your value and negotiate that effectively before proceeding
* When things go wrong try to resolve privately first before hitting social media.