The Dodgy Brand Tactics Influencers Need To Be Aware Of (And Protect Themselves Against)

I definitely feel like we’re at a bit of a crossroads in the bloggersphere. For so long we’ve been on an upward curve of positivity, commerciality and opportunity, but all of a sudden we collectively seem to be faced with more problems than we know what to do with. From Instagram alorythms and YouTube changes in advertising policy, to more aggressive rulings from the ASA on the declaration of affiliate links and general competitiveness across the board, right now the shine is certainly rubbing off being an influencer. Our readers may love what we do and brands may be falling over themselves to capture a piece of the tasty pie, but under the surface there are so many dodgy things happening that I feel like we need to address. Over the past few months my frustrations have been growing towards a handful of brands and agencies that are attempting to push us to our limits – and completely undervaluing the skill, time and effort it requires to create content. Their tactics are becoming increasingly sneaky and have everything but the influencer’s interests at heart: so if you’re a blogger, these are three (but by no means all) of the dodgy tactics that are being increasingly used right now and how you can protect yourself moving forward. 


I’ve spent the best part of the last ten years with my head in a contract, so I know to always read them and question clauses I don’t think are fair; but I’m also aware that the majority of other bloggers aren’t necessarily the same and can be a touch too trusting. Over the last few months I’ve heard horrendous stories from blogger colleagues that have been roped into an opportunity that looked good on the surface, but when it got down to it they’d practically sold their soul for the sake of a nice dress. On a personal level I have to re-write contracts more often than not, removing clauses that prevent me from talking about competitors for a duration of three or six months, or giving the brand all inclusive rights to my content. That’s not on and that’s not what they’re paying for. If there are a long list of conditions or expectations, ensure you’re being paid appropriately; if there’s an exclusivity clause, then make sure it’s a fair one; if they’ve written into the small print something you’re not happy with, then question it. My advice is always to thoroughly read the contract you’re provided with, don’t be afraid of pushing back and always have someone on hand that’s more au fait with legal talk if you need some advice. 


A tactic that I’m seeing increasingly is brands commissioning one piece of content, only to request the original image so they can then use it within additional campaigns you’re not being paid for. This year I’ve been asked to create a sponsored Instagram image on more than one occasion, only for them to later ask for the image so they can use it for promotional purposes – with no additional remuneration for the time, effort or creativity that went into taking it. It’s like paying for a weekend break but expecting to have access to the room for the rest of the week just because you want it, or paying for a manicure but hanging around all day in the hope people just give you a massage and a facial; we wouldn’t expect it in any other industry, so why is it so common within blogging? I’ve also seen brands using unpaid Instagram posts from an event and promoting them across multiple channels with the singular objective of selling their new mascara; if there’s enough money to promote those images to millions of people online, there’s surely enough budget to pay the blogger for the use of their face. Say no and don’t be made to feel bad for doing so. If you give them an inch, don’t let them try and take the whole mile. 


One of the dodgiest things I’ve seen pop up at late is those rather annoying messages on Instagram that appeal to your vanity and our collective desperation to increase our visibility on a platform that’s currently going through an epic level of disdain. If you’ve not been on the receiving end of these comments, then they essentially say: “We love this photo and would like to feature it on our website. If you are happy to feature, reply #agree.” Sometimes they include a URL to T&Cs, sometimes they don’t, but what you’re agreeing to by replying is unequivocal use of your imagery. I recently received a comment on this image of a mascara; it linked to a set of T&Cs which left me horrified, and a snippet of which is below…

“You grant X BRAND a non-exclusive and non-revocable commercial right to reproduce the content in any form… throughout the world in any medium now known or later developed and without restriction or limitation… While X BRAND will make commercially reasonable efforts to give you credit for your content and provide a link back to your content or account, you agree that such credit is not mandatory and your permission for us to use your content is not contingent upon such credit being given. You waive any right to inspect and/or approve the finished work… Further, you waive any claims to royalties with regards to your content or our finished work.”

In a nutshell, by agreeing for a brand to use your image (which many of us assume means a regram, whoop!) you’re actually virtually signing away the image to be used in whichever capacity the brand wishes to use it – without consultation, credit or financial remuneration. That’s not ok. Many digital influencers spend hours creating that perfect shot, not to mention the money spent on equipment and props, and so deserve to be compensated if a brand deems it good enough to use commercially. Jane from British Beauty Blogger first brought this to my attention via a post on the issue, but in the days since I’ve had two of these messages from worldwide brands asking to essentially pimp out my imagery with absolutely no benefit to myself. Am I up for that? Damn no. Regram away, but don’t think you can get away with using my work to flog your products without even as much as a thank you. If you see these comments or messages pop up, just ignore them because it’s not worth a second thought.

The more we talk about these issues openly, the more we’ll all realise that we can and should be saying no. The more brands are aware of the fact we know what they’re trying to do, the more they’ll question whether they should be operating in that way. The more we say no and push back on dodgy terms, the more likely we are to be well represented. As an industry, the bloggersphere is booming and experiencing a waive of new opportunities – but with them comes the hurdles and hoops we have to jump through to ensure we’re fairly treated. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve 100 or 100,000 followers, we all deserve to be compensated for the time and skill required to do what we do.

Have you experienced any of these dodgy tactics by brands wishing to work with you? Are there any other slightly questionable approaches that you’ve been seeing or experiencing as an influencer?  

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  1. Rhi Liquorish
    May 22, 2017 / 8:13 am

    I'm so glad you wrote about this. I'm a small blogger and if a brand like the one in said mascara photo had contacted me, I probably would have jumped at the chance thinking it meant some exposure. I'll definitely be more cautious now, thank you xxRhi |

    • Hayley Carr
      May 25, 2017 / 1:56 pm

      I think most of us would have assumed the same. I know I've replied saying yes before so my images are probably being used in god knows what, so it's important to talk about stuff like this.

  2. Anca
    May 22, 2017 / 8:56 am

    I was asked for my picture from a big brand. I was excited until I saw their T&C. They are taking advantage of people that like them so much, they are taking the time to take amazing pictures and promote them.

    • Hayley Carr
      May 25, 2017 / 1:56 pm

      It is absolutely taking advantage. I'm all for sharing and helping to promote others, but the T&Cs make me think it's more about making money and not compensating creatives.

  3. Candice Petersen
    May 22, 2017 / 9:20 am

    Thank you so much for sharing these, I am lucky enough not to come across such dodgy brandsCandice | Beauty Candy Loves

  4. Yusra Bagsheir
    May 22, 2017 / 9:26 am

    You opened my eyes! I have been feeling a bit 'meh' about my blogging journey as well because of some of the issues mentioned in your post. I thought it was just me, as I'm relatively new to blogging and I always feel guilty when I say no to brands or reject invites. But when you mentioned the weekend break and "Say no and don't be made to feel bad for doing so. If you give them an inch, don't let them try and take the whole mile. " you helped put things in perspective. So thank you!

    • Hayley Carr
      May 25, 2017 / 1:57 pm

      It's honestly not you – we all experience it, no matter how long we've been doing it. Do what's right for you and only want you want to, every time.

  5. Ariadna Morell
    May 22, 2017 / 9:36 am

    I've personally been luck enough not to have to deal with any of these dodgy tactics, but I agree with you. Brands are getting so sneaky and want more and more for less, which is definitely not fair!! xAriadna || RAWR BOWS

  6. Fa nny
    May 22, 2017 / 12:34 pm

    That's a very interesting post, I have to admit that the hashtag #agree is something I've done quite a lot over the past months, I always read the link they send, but sometimes it isn't really clear if the photo is considered their property or if it is still yours when they are using it! Really lovely post :)

    • Hayley Carr
      May 25, 2017 / 1:58 pm

      The image is still yours, but essentially they say they don't have to ask your permission to use it and don't have to pay you either. That's not cool.

  7. Beekeyper
    May 22, 2017 / 2:14 pm

    I've had various brands ask to reuse my images for free with no credit – it's infuriating!!Beekeyper – Latest: The Orange Edit

  8. Jodie Melissa
    May 22, 2017 / 5:11 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this, incredibly useful and definitely something I'll be referring back to!

  9. Hannah Morris
    May 22, 2017 / 8:57 pm

    I love this! It's so helpful to see what's going on behind the scenes a little more, as it can be so easy to fall into these traps!xxHannah | luxuryblush

  10. Vivian Yuen
    May 23, 2017 / 2:05 am

    The IG hashtag tactic is SO dodgy and not on. Thanks for bringing this to our attention~Vivian | LIVE . IN . LOVEIG | @VIVIYUNN_~

    • Hayley Carr
      May 25, 2017 / 1:58 pm

      I have to credit Jane at BBB – she told me about it and I felt horrified that I'd fallen for it.

  11. Ruth
    May 25, 2017 / 7:22 am

    Well now I feel quite the fool. I recently had a well known brand di exactly what you said in point no 3 asking to use the image. Like you I was excited as in my head I thought regram and possibility of more followers. Thanks for opening my eyes. As a newbie blogger I'm learning as I go and this is a fantastic post for those of us starting out. ??

    • Hayley Carr
      May 25, 2017 / 1:59 pm

      Really glad it helped Ruth.

  12. Lady Writes
    May 31, 2017 / 2:16 pm

    I actually didn't know that about when brands message you asking to use your image – I'll be a lot smarter about saying no now! So thank you! x

  13. Vivi M
    May 31, 2017 / 2:25 pm

    Thanks for writing about this!I agree with what you're saying and since I've started getting a little more attention from my instagram lately these things are good to know.After reading this I just went back to an offer I've already received product for and now I feel completely duped since they will have full control of more than 1 image :-/Live and learn from others experiences.Thanks for looking out for us!xx

  14. The Sunday Mode
    June 1, 2017 / 2:19 pm

    Oh jeez, some of the stuff you pointed out has totally gone over my head in the past. What's your advice/what would you recommend someone do if a brand asks to use a blogger's instagram image? Julia // The Sunday Mode

    • Disneyrollergirl
      June 4, 2017 / 11:50 am

      I have only had this a couple of times but I reply, 'you can use it for social media' but funnily enough never hear from them again ?. Maybe if their t&cs are shady we need to shame them by replying publicly with our thoughts in the same comment thread?!

  15. Kantutita (from a little French blog)
    June 2, 2017 / 9:46 pm

    Thanks a lot for this post! I see brands taking advantage of bloggers with unfair partnerships… But it's sometimes hard to know what we should or should not accept, to know The limites.So really, THANKS for your helpful advice!!

  16. Hazel Strand
    June 3, 2017 / 9:42 am

    Yes I had an approach a couple of days ago from a global organisation to use my instagram photo. The terms were were even worse than what you've described. I responded professionally saying I was glad they loved my photo but I could not agree to the terms. I invited them to contact me to discuss mutually beneficial terms. Early on in my blogging career I did agree to a brand using my photo for the "prestige" value and signed a contract they biked over. The only recompense I got was some products but I had to bargain hard to get them. We do need a collective push for some fair treatment in the business.

  17. highstreet_beauty
    June 10, 2017 / 7:51 am

    Very helpful post, thank you!

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