Thursday, January 28, 2010

grumpy old women

Warning: disgruntled rantings and not a single recipe in this post. I wont be offended if you skip over this one. I promise to return with more talk about food later.

With the New Year has come a flurry of unsolicited emails from Australian PR folk.

By the time I got number three this week I was feeling particularly grumpy. I’ve not opted on to any PR-friendly blogger list, nor have I signed up for any press releases. Yet I keep getting these insistent communications.

Often they say how much they like my blog then ask me to flog a product. Beer for instance. Yes I wrote a post about homemade ginger beer and years ago I wrote how didn’t like beer but had a pleasant experience drinking a radler in my homeland. So no, you wont see me writing about this great new lager I tried at a well known Fed Square drinking hole.

Nor will I respect any blogger who does so – well, not without a huge flashing disclaimer about it being a freebie at the behest of the promoters.

I’m more than ambivalent about SBS’s featured food bloggers. This is a straight swap for publicizing the channel on your blog. SBS is a commercial station, it runs ads on both its TV channels and the website, why should we give them free advertising? So, no offence, being a featured blogger is nothing special – all it means is that you have an unpaid advertising deal.

Bloggers will never be taken seriously if we promote without full disclosure. Anecdotally, I'd say it's currently something like 1:10 disclosures to mere gushings.

So, when I sometimes grit my teeth and say – please remove me from your email list, I haven’t signed up for your media releases – the odd PR person gets equally as titchy as me. I guess when you have a job that’s about giving people freebies you’re used to sycophants, not grumpy types who say they aren’t interested. I think I unintentionally offended one recently who replied by email:

“i was of the impression that bloggers were starting to be worthy of the same respect as other media and so have recently added a number of the key ones to my media database
i wasn't aware that you had to live in a city to be interested in writing” (this is a cut and paste; she used no grammar at all. Cool or illiterate, I’ll leave that to you?)

Trying to get someone to promote your product or service for free, is that about “respect”? I’m meant to be flattered to be as respected as a hack? I wouldn’t mind a journalists pay packet for my scribbling but that aint going to happen. The city reference was in response to me pointing out that what she was flogging was in Sydney and perhaps it was better to actually read people’s blogs to see if what they are promoting is at all relevant to what the blog is about. Sure I’m going to fall over myself to post about something in a different city that I couldn’t attend, just so I can feel worthy public relations respect.

I’ve grappled with this gnarly subject before, nothing changes - except the increase in numbers of emails for PR people. If you want to work with bloggers you need to understand us, we aren’t journalists writing to a deadline with space to fill, grateful for a press release to regurgitate. Most of us write for enjoyment, eschew advertising and have very specific niches.

And as you know – no publicity is better than bad publicity.

UPDATE 11/2/10: The latest offer to come my way has been jewelry - a complimentary piece to give an honest review or mention. I turned it down because it's something that wouldn't fit into any of my blogs. But I didn't mind the email. Why? It was personal, from a small business owner not a PR person. It was a short and honest email. The product was good, though not my style. I took the time to reply and wish her well.

Any one else had interesting offers lately?

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22 Comments:

Blogger Ed Charles said...

Quite right. Too many don't take the time to understand a blog and use the same mass market approach they use on the media. look forward to this discussion which perhaps you'll lead at the conference 21 March.

More on that coming very soon.

6:38 pm  
Blogger Reemski said...

here, here. I'm impressed that I seem to have dropped off the database that they all seem to share!

7:03 pm  
Blogger Ann ODyne said...

the facility to create a 'Guugle Alert' has a dark side.

I like to muddle any real names I use ( eg: RealName )so that the owner with an alert, does not come crashing into my blog with threats, but a typical guugle alert would be the a-word whichs ends in bortion, and any blogger who mentions it is going to get the crazies who don't read normal blogs.
aybe your PR person has an alert for 'beer'. Must keep 'em real busy.

8:59 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Hi Ed, am happy to lead a discussion on ethics at the bloggers conference. Let me know more.

Thanks Reemski, any clues as how you dropped of their radar?

Ann - interesting.

9:55 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

AoD - just a thought. Do you think if I wrote "I love French champagne" every so often in my blog then a crate of the good stuff would come my way? I'm happy to try as a little experiment.

And OF COURSE I'd fess up that it was a freebie.

PS: I love French Champagne :)

10:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to hear your stance. I recently stopped reading a v. popular Sydney blogger because every second post was a paid restaurant review or freebie product rave. That and her writing style is stilted and unimaginative.

11:23 pm  
Blogger Lara said...

Hear hear. It irks me so much that bloggers don't disclose freebies! I don't mind them getting them, I just want to know if that's the reason for the high praise of seemingly crap products (or restaurants). At the moment I think I'm witnessing a repeat of the "pomegranate juice" blogging you mentioned in your earlier post - an international chain has recently opened a branch here (in Brisbane) and I've already read several bloggers' reviews - yet not so many disclosures.

Good luck in your quest for free Champagne!

12:31 am  
Anonymous Injera said...

Wonderful rant - so true.

I thought that my mostly negative views on the Organic show would have had me blacklisted from the PRs. Alas, no! The crudeness of the PR approach was shown when a blunt "I haz cats" response to a dog food spruik was met with "well, surely you have friends with dogs?" response.

Agree that non-disclosure of freebies turns me off a blog, as does fawning post upon fawning post. "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" is not good advice for an entertaining read!

10:19 am  
Blogger Zoe said...

AOF, you might want to check @RobertaMuir on twitter - she seemed utterly perplexed as to why people might react this way. @Reemski gave her some good pointers ;)

11:14 am  
Blogger Johanna GGG said...

I don't have much time for this sort of PR - especially after I wrote on my about me page that I don't do reviews - obviously they don't bother to look at my blog! (and on a vaguely related note, don't get me started on all the telemarketing calls re insulation that I have because I am at home)

12:09 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Oh no not the return of the viral pomegranate juice!

Injera, I remember your post and being astounded at the stupidity of the person manning the doggie stall. Well reported.

Zoe - I think my life's too short to educate PR people how to do their job better, so they can bug you with more targeted emails.

11:32 am  
Blogger steve said...

Hiya AOf. I enjoyed this post & I suspect many in the blogging community might be facing that proverbial fork in the road as far as accepting freebies & being scrutinized for popular reviews of products/places.
I take your point about the featured foodie with SBS that it is in effect an unpaid endorsment of sorts. However in my case I thought it might increase the readership of my blog by getting involved-which it did, so I was OK with it.

1:55 pm  
Anonymous kitchen hand said...

There's only one answer: scrupulously ignore any unsolicited request for promotion. There are plenty of naive bloggers around who will take up the slack. These will eventually become the junk mail of blogging.

In the PR and marketing business they are seeing falling circulations, and fewer listeners and viewers and are having to come up with new ways to reach people.

I think the incredibly - possibly unintentionally - patronising tone in your correspondent's reply says it all. She really believes blogs are 'worthy of respect' but naively thinks they will eat out of the PR's business's hand.

Telling 'em to piss off is exactly the right thing to do.

6:59 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Steve - am glad the SBS deal has worked for you (and good luck with your new venture :)

KH - if only PR people actually read the blogs and trawled through the comments!

2:41 pm  
Blogger bri said...

It's interesting reading the comments. Here's an under 30 y.o. (just!) response.

I've don't really have an ethical problem with people getting freebies (heck, I admit I wouldn't complain if I were offered some) but I think that:
- all freebies should be disclosed as such - up front, not as a tiny footnote at the bottom of a post. And if you are obligated to post about it by agreeing to receive it (does that happen?) this should also be stated.
- reviews should be 100% honest, not flowery just because it was free.
- PR posts should be a very, very small proportion of total posts. Only occasional.
- They should be relevant to the original theme of the blog.

I imagine that the most popular blogs much get inundated with PR stuff, and it must get annoying after a while, especially for those that aren't interested in that sort of thing.

In the end though, a blog writer doesn't really have any obligations to the readers and can post whatever they want, however they want. It is disappointing to see a favourite blog slowly become more 'commercialised' though - I've seen this on non-food blogs as well. A side-effect (or perhaps goal, for some?) of success.

What about having ads on your blog? In a slightly more abstract way that's an endorsement of a product that the blog owner is getting benefit from, be it ad revenue or some sort of bonus from the linked business. Ads don't seem to be as hot a topic as freebie reviews, but there are similarities.

That's enough random thoughts from me for now... :)

4:51 pm  
Blogger bri said...

...whoops, that was a bit long!

4:51 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Not too long Bri! Keep chatting while I'm off line for a couple days. Not sure if/what's happening with the food blog day but ads on blogs versus freebies would all make some good areas to discuss.

6:00 pm  
Blogger Ann ODyne said...

Telstra's does.

documented at Sedgwicks some time back when he discussed an issue he had with them.
comments confirmed and insulted telstra ...
zoom! their guy arrived with denial.

we flamed him away after I found his name on Fbook and said

jeez mate you've had that job less time than we have had these Telstra problems so nick off.

just sayin.

8:21 pm  
Blogger Desci said...

Just a quickie, but as another (barely) under thirty I was mentally nodding my head throughout this entire post!

8:39 pm  
Blogger Elizabeth. said...

I'm 25.

I've never been offered anything by anyone, ever, I guess my blogs aren't really that prolific though. I don't know what I'd do if a company offered me free stuff in exchange for a nice write-up. I guess if it was a product I'd use, made by a company I'd support anyway, I'd take it, and say as much on my blog.

I don't understand those people who have wish-lists on their blogs and ask people to buy things for them. Does that still happen? I remember it being a bit thing a few years ago.

I'd LOVE a case of champagne, obviously, or even a case of my favourite cider. *crosses fingers*

12:36 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Thanks all for adding your thoughts (and coming out with your ages) Am pleased this small and probably totally statistically insignificant sample shows know generations difference.

Now the next question - should be bother re-educating PR people?

8:52 am  
Blogger Julie's journey said...

I have been getting a few random comments lately from mainly people offering pain relief etc. Thanks for the explanation about why they are asking me to promote them.

10:37 am  

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