As a ‘veteran’ of blogging, I feel somewhat of an obligation to champion bloggers in the ever-changing digital world and let them know they’re not alone in the way they’re sometimes feeling. If everyone just trickles along feeling like they’re doing it wrong, being treated unfairly or missing out on opportunities because they’re not overwhelmingly happy about everything, then nothing ever changes. I can pretty much guarantee that any kind of episode experienced by a fellow blogger has also been experienced by many, many more of us – it’s just that nobody speaks up. Right now, there’s definitely something in the air that’s causing much frustration and discontentment; the root cause is essentially being made to feel like a second class citizen. It’s well documented that blogging has taken the beauty and fashion world by storm, bringing information to consumers in an easily accessible way that’s also incredibly relatable. Blogging is the way forward and print magazines are dying out at a surprisingly fast rate; that’s fact. (Don’t get me wrong, I still love a glossy mag and hope they’ll be around forever – but the fact is that their circulations are dropping year on year. We’ve lost some of my favourite titles already, and undoubtedly many more will close their doors in the next year or two as they struggle to be commercially viable.) However, it seems that the brands we often work with still find it incredibly hard to grasp this change and amend their strategies accordingly.
The objective of this site is to bring my readers news, product reviews, genuine opinion, helpful advice and recommendations. I don’t claim to know everything, but I do want to help people make purchasing decisions or feel more connected to the beauty industry. I’ve got a fabulously loyal and vocal community that allow me to work on my blog full time (alongside other projects,) who I know make purchases off the back of my recommendations or features. I take that responsibility seriously; I edit down the hundreds of products that land on my desk to the ones I genuinely want you to know about. I try to be as in depth with my commentary as possible, picking products because I like them – rather than just because they fit in with a theme or look good on the page. I want and need to know the stories and facts behind products; I want and need to forge long-lasting relationships with brands to make that possible. But many still aren’t understanding the need for a little bit of effort for a long-term benefit, and it will undoubtedly come back to bite them on the behind.
In the last week alone I’ve been left feeling like a total second class citizen on about five different occasions; if I was traveling on the Titanic, it would have been the equivalent of trying to get to the first class dinner table and being pushed back down into steerage to eat porridge. And I know I’m not alone. It’s not about being treated like a princess, but it’s about being respected as an influencer who has a significant impact online – sometimes so much more so than any comparative print or digital magazine. Times have changed and it’s no longer ok to just fling a blogger a cupcake and lipstick, while print media get put up in hotels, taken on holiday or treated to five star dinners in comparison. Although some brands are amazing and support us in a way that’s more than mutually beneficial, taking the time to build relationships that are forged on understanding and respect, many are still completely missing the mark.
Recently I was invited to an ‘afternoon tea’ to celebrate the launch of a brand’s Christmas collection; I cleared the time in my diary to ensure I could really immerse myself in the new products that I knew would be fabulous. However, when I arrived to see a selection of journalists leaving their rather exquisite sit-down three-course lunch and was presented with a canape by way of compensation, it became clear that I wasn’t deemed ‘important enough’ to warrant anything more than a bite-sized crab cake in the corner of a dark room. It’s not about the lunch; I’m happy with a cup of coffee and an hour of someone’s time to talk
through a range of new things that they think I may be interested in. It’s about the obvious disparity (and complete lack of subtlety) between how bloggers and journalists are treated – like we can just be thrown a canape and glass of champagne and be expected to rave about a product (that by the way, we weren’t even given to review.)
In the last week alone I’ve popped into multiple launches and been completely side-stepped in favour of a journalist. The PRs have been happy to spend as long as it takes to talk them through the product, show them around personally and ensure they have all they need; I’m lucky if I even get acknowledged before I leave feeling disheartened and downtrodden, none the wiser about any of the new products that were on display. Even when I popped by a new boutique launch I spent half the time trying to find a brand rep to talk to; surprise, surprise, they were all giving the journalists guided tours while us bloggers lingered at the back feeling awkward while trying to take Instagram shots. My social channels may not be the biggest, but I have more
Instagram and Twitter followers than all but one beauty journalist in
the UK; some fellow beauty bloggers have upwards of 250,000 followers,
but unfortunately they’re still deemed not to be as important as their
print media counterparts. In that instance it was crazy to me that the people with a huge audience were ignored in favour of those that have a fraction of the following, just because they weren’t journalists.
We don’t ask for much – we just want to feel valued, respected and treated in a way we see print media being handled on a daily basis. We’re not necessarily after the trips, the eye-wateringly expensive dinners or designer gifts; we just want to be treated like we’re not a mild irritant that’s taking up valuable time and drinking champagne that could have been consumed by a journalist. You would have thought that in 2015 things would have progressed more positively, but unfortunately my experiences are not unusual. I asked a few other bloggers for their anonymous stories and experiences, to corroborate my own. The results were shocking, but equally rather unsurprising; here are just a few to give you a taster…
“I was invited to go up to London for an event for a big department store. When I got there, I was granted with silence and as if I’d just intruded. Within the first few seconds I had been ignored, pushed out the way and when my boyfriend asked a question about a very expensive jacket to the PR, he was told he had to wait as they needed to go speak to a journalist. It was just awkward.””At a recent event the only time I was approached was when someone took my coat. I asked someone about the Christmas products, and I was told they were displayed around the store – but to be careful not to knock anything over! I approached someone else to find out more and said I was a blogger; the response was literally “oh yeah one minute, I have to introduce magazine person to Erica”. I gave up as I was really annoyed that I had been passed over multiple times.””My favourite experience of late is when I left an event and patiently waited for my goodie bag, only to be told “these are for our journalist friends, thank you for coming.” The whole point of a blog is to review products from first hand experience – what a waste of my time.””I’ve noticed that at a lot of events recently, there’s been an obvious difference between the goodie bags for journalists and bloggers. Whereas we’re lucky to get one or two products from a range, they seem to get every single new launch – in every single shade. It seems ridiculous to me that they just use a stock image and write two lines on a product, but are deemed to be the better place to invest sample products.”
“Unbelievably, I was recently invited to an event on the basis that I would guarantee a blog post at the end of it. When I declined, they ‘downgraded’ the requirements to an Instagram post. Since when was attending a launch a guarantee of anything? To me, that just proves that bloggers are there as an easy way of achieving coverage with very little effort required.”
“I attended an event in the summer and when it was time to leave, we were told by the PR that they were ‘running low’ (not ‘run out of’) goodie bags, so we wouldn’t be getting one. No apology, no ‘we’ll send one over’, no appreciation for our attendance on what was a very busy day. They were obviously keeping them for the journalists. I’ve never experienced anything like it, but it does indicate how little regard some PRs have for bloggers.”
Like I said before, this isn’t in any way about demanding fancy trips or gifts; this is about not being made to feel like you’re an inconvenience or after thought. I just don’t want to work with brands that don’t understand bloggers or the digital world, because it’s far too much effort for absolutely no return. I’m in a fortunate position where I can pick and choose which brands I work with, but many other bloggers are left feeling like they’ve done something wrong – or worse still, simply stop going to launches because it makes them feel horrendous. I’m always wary of writing posts like this and sounding like a self-important twat, but sometimes it gets to the point where I just have to verbalise what so many of us are thinking. This is by no means any fault of the journalists, but the fault of the out-of-date approaches so many PRs are still using in order to generate coverage. Enough is enough.
If you’re a blogger feeling like you recognise some or all of what I’m saying, then don’t put up with it. Explain to the brand where they went wrong and offer suggestions as to how they can fix it, or do a better job next time – if we don’t speak up, they’ll be none the wiser. If you’re a PR reading this, here are some tips I can give you to make the most of your blogger relationships and ensure they don’t leave a launch feeling like it was a complete waste of their time:
1. Develop your blogger strategy at the same time as your print media strategy; don’t leave it as an after thought or tap it onto the end of an existing event. We notice. It upsets us. It makes us feel dirty.
2. Greet and treat bloggers in the same way as you would a journalist. Just because we’re digital doesn’t mean we need any less information, or care. Take ten minutes to have a chat and make them feel like you’re grateful for them taking time out of their day to see you; don’t make them feel like they should’ve just gone to Starbucks and hung out with the barista instead.
3. Understand that bloggers fundamentally rely on products to write their content. We can’t work from a press release and a stock image, so be prepared to provide us with samples – and make sure those samples are relevant to our interests and needs. (Actually asking us what products we’d like to try is a great start; following-up afterwards is even better.)
4. Forge relationships, don’t just rely on bloggers to tick a box or achieve quick wins. Don’t make assumptions that they’ll lovingly write about your product because they turned up; focus on creating a long-term relationship that will be far more fruitfull.
Times are changing and we all need to keep up. I’m well aware that PR has evolved beyond all recognition in recent years, and that those working in the role are being forced to learn new skills and juggle multiple jobs at any one time. However, it’s not rocket science. The ones that aren’t keeping up are going to fall by the wayside and will struggle to build relationships in the future – because blogs are the future. The stars of tomorrow could be the bloggers you ignore today; if you don’t make an effort now, then it’ll be practically impossible to penetrate their force-field in the years to come.
If you’ve got a story you’d like to share, please do feel free to leave an anonymous comment below. If you’re a PR, I’d love to know why you think this is happening so often and how we can work together to fix it. Because, quite frankly, it’s making me feel disheartened and undervalued.
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