AN OPEN TO LETTER TO BRANDS AND PR COMPANIES: PAY AND RESPECT BLOGGERS AND INFLUENCERS
Dear Brands or PR Companies that represent you,
Before I start this open letter, I want you know that it is with great pain that I write these words as for many years, I have tried my best to keep this blog space negativity-free. While I am precisely not all about rainbows and unicorns, I am also not about venting or ranting here on our precious little space in the internet. We have worked so hard to grow it into a reputable place where our viewers and followers can come hang out with us, learn from us, save with us and have fun with us.
I also have to really highlight the fact that we have MAD LOVE and UTMOST RESPECT for most of the brands, companies, PR agencies who have set high and ethical standards for the industry. We work, partner and collaborate with a lot of them and aside from our valued readers and followers, they play such an important role in the growth of our blog. They are, after all, our source of income, projects and referrals. For those who do right by us, we adore them, we provide them with exceptional work, we would bend backwards, forwards for them and go beyond the call of duty.
Consequently, not all brands and PR agencies are created equally. Just like bloggers. We have the good, the bad and the ugly and I’m sure there are horror stories from both sides. What I hope to achieve is at least a little education and awareness and recognize that blogs and bloggers are not silly little passion projects. These are serious entrepreneurs who, day in and day out, put so much of themselves, their time and their energy (and sometimes, their family’s) and this in turn, deserves the proper amount of recognition, respect and remuneration.
HOW (NOT) TO APPROACH BLOGGERS OR INFLUENCERS
I should point out that if you read this letter with an open mind and rare candor, you will realize that this, actually, is a positive thing. I may point to one specific example on this letter, simply because this recent horrible example really highlights the issue. But know that this blogger PSA can be used by different types of brands, companies and PR Agencies across many different sectors. I reckon you can consider this your continuing education of some sort.
Like a FREE limited-time offer for a quick course on Brand-Blogger or PR-Blogger Relationship 101. Maybe you haven’t been in this industry for a long time, maybe you are still learning the ropes but a quick scan of your PR Agency’s website tells me you that guys have been around for awhile. You have represented high quality clients and events yet, your engagement with me, so far, has been less than stellar.
Why is that?
Do you think I’m less of a blogger or influencer?
Do I not qualify as A-lister? Have you placed me on your Tier 3 or some type of D-list group where we don’t deserve to get paid, rather we should be honoured by the mere fact that you e-mailed us . Let me tell you why I am asking you these questions and let me tell you why, right from the outset, I am not taking you up on your offer to feature you for free.
A VERY, VERY SHITTY PR PITCH
I’ve seen some awful PR pitches over the years but I have to say, you take the top honours on this one. So appalling was your e-mail pitch that I used the word shitty in my blog, for the very first time, since we launched it 5 years ago.
I’ve received hundreds of products in the mail, some great, some not, for a potential review and mention in the blog. I’ve been sent pitches to publish articles with affiliate links that barely pay peanuts but at least they’ve offered me somethin’ somethin’. Useless and worthless some of those may be, at the very least, they had a semblance of an exchange.
You however, after regaling me with the tale of the opening of your wonderful property, paraphrased here for brevity because your e-mail, in fact, was very long…
You said: “Have you heard, we’ve opened! This fabulous property marks the brand’s entrance into Canada and this global chain’s first-ever location in Ottawa! Nestled in the heart of ByWard Market, which puts you right in my hood btw (you would know this if you’ve googled me a bit or just take a look at one of my social media accounts. Your property’s spectacular view of Ottawa’s skyline is the same damn view you can see from our balcony. Neighbours!), this incredible property aims to honour the very best of Canadian culture including the best products made in Canada.
So far, so good.
I kept reading… Helmed by some Executive Chef, the hotel’s signature restaurant will serve up New Canadian cuisine inspired by an ingredient-driven menu of local, organic and sustainable (not to mention delicious) items. To celebrate the arrival of Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market, I thought this signature cocktail recipe with you.
This is lovely, I get to come by and try this signature cocktail!
Made with gold and pearls and all premium ingredients from the finest places in the country, this signature drink embodies everything that makes Canada great.
Oh boy, now I really can’t wait!
Then you said: if you’d like to try this super marvelous signature drink, I would be happy to provide you with a step-by-step recipe.
THE CONCEPT OF MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL COLLABORATIONS
I had to read your e-mail many times just to make sure I read it right. I had to double check that maybe, in the midst of all the great big words you used in drafting this e-mail, I missed the part about you inviting me for a drink at your new property. Or I don’t know, maybe sending me one of the ingredients of this magical drink?
So, I emailed you back. In my usual professional manner. Along with my polite reply, I virtually sent my enthusiasm for this collaboration along with attaching my media kit. It list all the services we offer, which includes product feature or sponsored blog post. I didn’t think I needed to spell things out so I was quite relieved when you replied with this:
“Sounds great. We’re working on getting the recipe together with an image for you – so hold tight!”
Wheeew, you get it! You are one of the enlightened ones!
So, I went my merry way to fulfill my obligations to my current sponsors and reviewed some beautiful hotels over the labour day long weekend.
On my return to the office, I opened my inbox to see this e-mail from you:
“Attached is a PDF of the recipe for this extra ordinary drink along with some images. Please let me know if you need any additional details, and my apologies for the delay. We’re excited to see the finished piece!”
I have to say, the photos look amazing. I couldn’t taste it though. Coz I can’t drink photos or whet my whistle with a PDF. Oh right, I do have the recipe. Step-by-step, if I may add.
As I sat there puzzled reading and re-reading your message (again) in case, for the 3rd time, I may have missed something. So, I e-mailed you back, attached my media kit because this seems like a simple oversight. You may have been too busy putting the photoshoot together for this drink that you may have not seen my media kit, therefore, it failed to dazzle you.
NO worries, I don’t mind re-sending it and clarifying the part where we should have outlined the section about this being MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL.
Sadly, I never heard back from you.
AM I INFLUENTIAL TO YOU OR NOT?
So it made me wonder and doubt myself. Your engagement with me made me feel truly awful about myself and the blog we’ve built for years. It was a profoundly insulting pitch and I’ve been in this industry long enough to know a slap when I feel one. It made me doubt what you thought our perceived worth is despite the fact that we even received an award from the Parliament of Canada for all the work we do in fashion and the community.
But this pitch made me feel little.
Do you know why?
Aside from everything I just outlined above, I found out that the day after you sent me your divine drink’s step-by-step recipe, you had an amaaazing grand opening party, which, you didn’t even have the decency to invite me to.
But you did reach out to me, and in a nutshell, asked me to write about your remarkable signature drink, marking your grand opening into our beautiful city. While those who were invited to your grand opening party were lost in the delirious and heavenly taste of this sumptuous drink, I had to scour for the ingredients and follow the cocktail recipe you sent me, step by step in order to create the finish product. Coz you know, you’re excited to see it.
So I had to contemplate my worth and I hate having to think about deep musings like this but you, incidentally, brought it on. Because when you approached me and asked me to write about this enchanted drink for free (Or maybe you didn’t, maybe you were just sharing it as your way of doing public service. And if that was the case, I apologize. It did not dawn on me that you really only simply MUST share this step-by-step recipe.), you either thought – a feature on Twenty York Street would drive interest, awareness, buzz, sales, SEO to your product OR a feature on Twenty York street is worth a bunch of coal!
Conflicting ideas, yes? Coz you have to really think about why did you even bother to reach out to me in the first place when I was not even good enough to be invited to your grand opening event. Do you think we have strong and loyal readership, viewership and influence or do you think we just have some worthless hobby on the side. Which is it?
DID YOU GET PAID FOR DRAFTING AND E-MAILING ME THIS PITCH?
Furthermore, I have to ask you questions that might provide logical insights on why you should pay bloggers, not just in this case . And no, compensation does not always have to be in the form of the almighty dollars. Sometimes, a little respect goes a long the way. I could list the many fantastic reasons why bloggers should be paid just like a doctor does when she performs an operation or in the same way a baker gets paid when he bakes a cake.
But I don’t have to. There’s actually a very simple reason, so simple it hurts, as to why bloggers should be paid and treated with respect, just like other noble profession. The benefits, reach and ROI of bloggers and influencers have been widely documented because they work and I suspect, that is the very reason why you e-mailed me in the first place.
Did you get paid to draft this e-mail and send it to me? Or did you do it just because you are so passionate about this brand and this drink?
You probably got paid to contact me, non? Did your PR Agency get paid, perhaps hired with long-term retainers, to provide marketing and PR services to promote this brand new property and its equally brand spanking new restaurant and drinks? Services that evidently include blogger and influencer programs, which led you to me.
How about the photographer who shot these splendid images you sent me? Or the chef and mixilogist who put together this sublime drink? Or the suppliers who delivered these natural, organic, top of the line ingredients. Did they get paid?
Or how about the out-of-town bloggers you have invited to stay in your property and attend your grand opening event, did they get paid?
So why are (local) bloggers not getting paid?
BLOGGERS AND INFLUENCERS ARE ENTREPRENEURS JUST LIKE YOU
Everybody else who puts in the hard work gets paid and based on my extensive experience, bloggers are just as skilled, creative and they work bloody hard, if not harder than everybody else. They spend blood, sweat and tears and I mean that both literally and figuratively and sometimes, their life’s calling and savings into their blogging business.
These are not silly side projects or passion blogs, these are legitimate businesses and therefore, should be afforded the compensation and respect they deserve.
And no, payments cannot be in the form of cupcakes, face cream, a bar of chocolate or, as revolutionary as it may sound, step-by-step recipe! Taking advantage of bloggers and influencers are such a no-no. It’s 2016 for goodness sakes.
BLOGGERS UNDERPROMISE AND OVERDELIVER
You know what else I know for sure about bloggers?
Most I know, including yours truly, will underpromise but overdeliver. ALL. THE. TIME.
When I work with brands, businesses, PR agencies, whether local, national or national, I give my BEST. I try to impress them with highly creative and unique content and I have a money back guarantee because I always want them to be really pleased with choosing to work with us.
And you know what else I do have? I have fierce loyalty.
You throw me a bone today and most likely, I will love your forever. There’s a reason why we work with the same sponsors, advertisers, PR agencies since our launch 5 years ago.
Sadly, I used to love this property. We have stayed with this global chain when we travel all over the world. Because of this not so wonderful experience, it shades the way I perceive this brand now. Regrettably, actions like this of one employee or one PR representative have longer lasting consequences. Nothing is more valuable than a loyal customer.
So my dear PR Rep, thank you but no thank you. I would have to decline your drink recipe, because one, you have maligned bloggers with the not so excellent way you treat them; two, you have been very disrespectful and you’ve made me feel terrible about myself; and three, I have a lot of other things I’d rather spend my time doing including giving my sponsors, partners and most especially, my readers and followers the best value for their precious time and attention.
As I end this letter, perhaps I can leave you with one possibly life-altering question that I do need to ask you, would you ever go to work but not get paid for it?
Me too, I don’t like to work for free and neither do you.
love and peace,
ML aka @20YS
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