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Alright, let's get serious for a moment, and hopefully I don't ruffle too many of my fellow bloggers feathers! I've partnered with my friend Katherine from The Slightly Savvy, who aside from being a blogger is a PR professional to talk about bloggers bashing brands & why it needs to stop. I hope you guys will head over to her site after this to read more about this topic from the PR perspective!
First I want to say, I love blogging. I am beyond grateful that it's turned into my full-time career. I've worked with amazing clients on getting their blogs live and amazing brands who are making a seriously positive impact on the world. Blogging is an industry I didn't know the power of when starting out, but quickly realized the connections and impact it has on the others.
As if I wasn't excited enough about blogging, it's becoming a mainstream viable career option and industry. If you've watched even one season of Younger (seriously who else is obsessed with that show?!), you know that publishing houses today are looking to bloggers as their next best seller! Which is pretty awesome when you think about it! Furthermore, brands know that the consumers they're trying to reach have ad blockers on and skip commercials, so they're turning towards bloggers with influence to aid with their marketing efforts, #winning!
Everywhere I turn, it seems these long-standing industries are now pulling in bloggers to help them do their thing effectively. Which I think we can all agree is amazing! However, you want to know whats slowing the blogging industries growth? The bloggers.
Yep, I am going to talk some hard truth today to my fellow bloggers. I know you guys want to be taken seriously. I know you want to share your passion with the world and make some money from it (because, who wouldn't?!?). And I know just how much work goes into being a blogger. So it really frustrates me when I see fellow bloggers ultimately bringing the industry down.
Bloggers bashing brands is nothing new. However, I don't think their's a conversation happening around the true detriment it's having on the industry. Before I get into all of that, let's first get on the same page about what I mean when I say “bashing brands.”
3 Ways Bloggers Bash Brands:
1) Straight up naming the brand and calling them out on a blog or social media.
This one is pretty obvious, most bloggers have seen someone do this and cringe. Most bloggers are smart enough to avoid this tactic altogether. So let's hop into the not-so-obvious brand bashing…
2) Condescending emails directly to brands that “educate” them.
I will be the first one to admit I've sent these. Whether it was a bad day, or on a “high” from a Facebook group where everyone was cheering one another on for “standing up to the man”. I think it's something that every single blogger falls pray to at some point in their career. You can only take so many “do A, B,C, and X, Y, Z for free, plus give us your first-born child in exchange for this $15 trinket!”
But here's the thing, after the adrenaline wore off from sending those emails, I felt like a brat. Sending emails where you “play dumb” to make a point comes off as plain rude. It's like you're talking down to the brand.
Example of this type of e-mail: “I certainly hope you wouldn't walk into a marketing agency or photographers office and ask them to work for free.”
Do we as bloggers do the work of both a photographer, editor, marketer, and so much more? YES! Do we need to get that point across like this? Hell no! Aside from it being rude, it's simply not factual as Katherine explains here, many marketing agencies and photographers work on spec!
Like I said, I'm guilty of sending emails like this when first starting out. Call it immaturity, call it naivety, call it whatever you want but don't call it okay. Most receivers of that email won't think, “oh wow, I never thought of it like that! I want to work with this person!” They just won't. Most people emailing bloggers to collaborate fall into a few camps:
a) Small business owner: They don't have a ton of money and are hustling themselves and probably working just as hard if not harder than the bloggers they're reaching out too. Trust me, as someone intimately familiar with the start-up grind, please don't be rude to these people, they are probably getting burned and making countless mistakes at every turn already and they don't need to be talked down to.
b) Newer/Younger PR professionals: I equate PR professionals to a counselor at a mental health agency. I have a lot of empathy for them. Basically everyone is looking to them to F something up. Think about it, they have a boss, the brand, and the blogger to answer too. If one thing falls off, everyone is yelling at this person. Sometimes its the persons fault, sometime's it's not. To make things even more fun, it's a highly competitive industry and so many get fired quickly. You can't blame them for asking for free first, then offering payment second, bloggers do not sign their paycheck at the end of the week!
c) Seasoned PR and marketing professionals: These are obviously all of our favorites. They know a bloggers value, have already done crazy amounts of research on the blogger and are emailing with a budget and a game plan to work with. These are the rays of sunshine that keep everyone moving forward together!
Tangent over, back to the not-so obvious ways bloggers bash brands:
3) Not naming the brand, but still going on social media and being super vague/subtweeting about recent collabs that have screwed you over
Listen, I get it. We work our asses off and sometimes brands take advantage of it. I've sent my fair share of “educational” emails that later leave my stomach churning with embarrassment that I thought it was okay to talk to someone like that. I'm even guilty of copy and pasting some of my responses in small private Facebook groups.
Look back on those three things, and I ask you, what business do you know acts like this? Your blog isn't yelp and you can't ask a brand to treat you like a business if you're acting in any of the aforementioned ways.
When It's Okay To Vent
On that note, I want to clarify something: When a brand screws over a blogger, I totally get wanting to vent. The need to vent even becomes visceral and the blogging community is so supportive. I think it's perfectly okay to vent. PR people are probably venting about you to their circle too! But be smart with how you're doing it. If you're in a very small private group of people you trust by all means go ahead and vent.
In fact, in some ways I would encourage it! We as bloggers need to be transparent with one another on when it comes to working with brands. How else are we going to negotiate our way up to be taken seriously? My issue comes in when bloggers are taking things public outside of private circles. When PR professionals, consumers (who don't understand blogging), and other laymen can see it. That's when bloggers look petty AF and hurt the industry.
Seriously, just take a step back and think about your blog as a business. Businesses don't take to social media if a client doesn't pay. They go behind close doors and take care of things. Otherwise they get mud on their face and look petty, greedy, and lose respect.
As an example: there was a brand that I wrote about when I first started blogging, I used affiliate links, posted it, and didn't think twice about it. A few months down the road, this post took off on Google and Pinterest. I started to get affiliate sales notifications every single day. Sometimes over 50 in a day! I decided to approach the brand and ask about a formal collaboration. No response. I Googled to see other bloggers experience with the brand and stumbled upon a post that had a similar experience as mine. She loved the product but felt snubbed by the brand and updated her post to show the poor exchange she had with the brand. Want to know what the comments of that post said? Well it was a bunch of consumers (non-bloggers) all calling her greedy and petty.
Here's Why Brand Bashing Hurts Us All
At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, “Well Rachel, that's kind of hypocritical for you to say that we can talk about stuff in one setting, but not another… like that's not authentic.”
So hear me out: My entire goal with this post is to elevate the industry of blogging, not leave you feeling like this post is a personal attack about you. I really want you to re-read that last sentence and internalize it, because I want you to truly hear these next few sentences:
Bloggers need to share insider info with one another to elevate the industry. We need to know if we are under charging, we need to know what brands notoriously take advantage so we don't waste our time, we need to lift one another up and support each other through the frustrations.
Not all brands are dream brands to work with. No matter how big of a blogger you are, I've still heard horror stories about what brands have said to bloggers. This post is not to excuse those brands, but this post is to remind bloggers, “when they go low, we go high,” as Michelle Obama would say.
Which leads me to…
The major issue when bloggers bash brands:
The blogger isn't just burning the bridge with that brand in particular, it's bringing down the entire industry. Just think about these scenarios:
– Direct impact to the blogger: When bloggers act poorly directly towards a brand or talks poorly about an experience with a brand, even without naming the brand publicly, that blogger should assume other brands are seeing whatever they just put out there. That will probably make brands not want to work with said blogger. Then said blogger gets upset that they can't find sponsorships, hurting their self-esteem and bank account. Furthermore, I want to revisit the consumers comments on the blog post I mentioned above. Not only is this type of negativity hurting the bloggers self-esteem and bank account when brands won't work with them, but they are also probably repelling readers.
– Blogger to Blogger effect: In a given week, I can't even tell you how many screen shots, text messages, or DMs I get that start with, “did you see what so&so said on (insert social media platform)?” Seriously, who needs this negativity in their lives? I don't have time for it. In fact, I've been actively removing myself from those conversations, unfollowing people doing that, and leaving circles were said people are. I don't have time to feed off their vibes. I want to go places, I want to do things.
– Most importantly, the Butterfly effect to the blogging industry: The blogger talks negatively about or too a brand. The brand gets salty, takes it out on the next blogger they work with (because we are all human and LBH, this happens on both sides of the fence). The new blogger, get's irked and get's salty right back at the brand. Now we've created a salty cycle that is basically giving this brand a negative experience of bloggers.
You see, the blogger isn't just impacting their relationship with the brand, they are impacting the lens that brand looks at bloggers through! Thereby pulling down the entire blogging industries ability to be taken seriously and elevate itself.
Bloggers, We Are Valuable!
People don't understand what goes into running a successful blog with true influence over an audience. People think we take a few pictures, hit publish, and spend our days getting blow outs and brunching. We know, that's not true. We know it can take four hours to write a blog post, four hours to take and edit photos, and then 10 hours of promoting it, all for a few hundred bucks.
People (not all, but there are people out there who think this) believe we blog because we couldn't make it in a real career, we are lazy, we want to sleep in and watch TV all day. All things my family has said to me. Meaning we have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously. We have to know the creative side and the business side and maintain authenticity without getting burnt out. That's no easy feat. So why are we making it harder on ourselves by putting things out there that could chip away at our credibility?
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but I strongly urge you to think things through before putting something out there. Here is a good example of a photographer talking about a brand who doesn't pay. What makes it good? Well he talks about how past brands who have made the same mistake as this particular brand did, responded in kind. The brand was over the top rude to this photographer. Still, the photographer shared based on facts not emotion. He wasn't cryptic and condescending, but factual and authoritative.
On that note, please keep in mind this is not a personal attack on you if you've done these things, this is something I think we are all guilty of when starting out blogging, I owned my fair share of this type of behavior in the post. Also keep in mind, I left plenty of opening for exceptions to every rule. There is a time and a place to “stand up” but this passive aggressiveness needs to stop if we want to be taken seriously.
I strongly hope you will: Pause before responding to the email or sending that social media post and ask yourself, is this from a place of emotion and ego or facts and self worth? I hope you will take this pledge with me!
Want to hear more on this topic from the PR side of things? Hop on over to Slightly Savvy's to read her perspective. Also make sure to sign up for her Summer Camp! She's using her ability as both a PR professional and blogger to break down the walls of communication between PR professionals and bloggers.