Monday, 29 September 2014

Bloggers and Brands | Feeling The Strain


Let me start by saying I wrote this post last week and it has been sat in my drafts folder for days because I wasn't sure whether or not to post it. I've recently felt disheartened with aspects of blogging and at this time I wanted to share my thoughts.

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A collaboration between a blogger and a brand can be wonderful. Glorious. The brand gifts the blogger with a product, or pays the blogger with actual money for featuring their stuff in a blog post. The brand are rewarded with fantastic exposure, especially if the blogger is well known and receives lots of daily traffic. And the blogger is rewarded with a lovely freebie or some pennies to go into a savings account. I'm not against sponsored content at all - I have worked with many, many brands and companies over the years and made strong connections with the members of their PR team, lovely friendships and nice neat transactions.

But recently I have been feeling the strain and stress that is associated with this type of blogging. Partly it is my own fault. I have been taking on more than I really have time for, and agreeing to work with people because I love the company or I want the free stuff. I'm not pacing myself or my workload. I hope my blog does not come across as a money making machine as it most certainly isn't. Blogging is not my full time profession and it does not pay the bills. The money I earn from blogging is small and goes into a rainy-day fund and also helps me to produce new fresh content on This Fashion is Mine. I try to keep any sponsored posts to a minimum and feature only the products and brands that I genuinely like/would recommend. I always give my honest and true opinions. I have a disclaimer that appears in my sidebar at all times.

I had a little moan on Twitter the other week about feeling a bit 'used' and 'under pressure'. What I meant was that sometimes brands seem to take advantage of bloggers and expect too much. I have set terms and conditions which I forward to the people I work with, but often my terms are ignored and their terms take precedence. Occasionally brands will try to make compromises with my rules or (I feel) ask for too much. I'm not always sure the deal I'm making is a fair one. 'Would you like to feature a dress from our site, please choose between these five dresses, please post at least three photographs of yourself wearing the dress within 14 days of receiving the item and include these two links, please ask your readers to like our Facebook page, oh and don't forget that no affiliate or nofollow links are allowed.' And that's not even an exaggeration. Crazy isn't it. And then I actually worry that the blog post I've created for this company won't be good enough! WHAT!? I worry that my post won't be up to standard for someone else, on my blog! Surely the only standard that matters is my own.

Sending a blogger a product to review is the cheapest form of advertising for a company (Ok - bit of a guess, but I imagine it is one of the cheapest forms of raising brand awareness when compared with the price of a magazine feature, TV advert, billboards, posters, leafleting and online ads such as Facebook/Google etc.) Because of this I think brands should be willing to be a little more flexible with bloggers and appreciative of the hard-work and time put in to promoting their products.
Lots of companies are doing it right. They have positive relationships with bloggers, giving them time and space to choose how and when they will review items. They fully acknowledge their blogger collective as a powerful voice and fruitful members of their PR team.

A few years ago everyone was very new to brand-blogger relationships. They existed but they weren't as wide-spread as they are today. Now brands love bloggers. We review and feature their items for very little cost to thousands of people. The opinions expressed in blogs are those of real people. Which is so much more powerful than just reading the seller's description. How many times have you Google searched for honest reviews of an item before buying it?

I said on Twitter that I would be going ahead with any scheduled collabs and then taking a break from working with brands. I don't think my blog is heavy on product-placement anyway, but personally I'm starting to feel a bit lost. I need to get back to blogging 'just because' and writing about the things I'm passionate about. And yes, I'm often passionate about products. Beauty, fashion, food, a new lens for my camera - but these items will be featured on This Fashion is Mine because I really want to talk about them, not because I've decided to 'take on the job' or I feel obliged because a company was nice enough to send me something for free.

This is not a post declaring that I will never work with brands again. Of course I will! I'll work with all the generous people who appreciate what bloggers do and give me the freedom and leeway to do things my own way ON MY OWN BLOG. I must not forget, that this website is my own to do with as I wish. I can and do turn brands down regularly, but even when I agree to collaborate, I need to remember that I run this show.

I hope my recent experiences are not a sign of things to come. I hope brands fully appreciate what bloggers can do for them and bloggers in turn, refuse to be taken advantage of. We are not PR robots who will promote, promote, promote for next to nothing in return - we are not employed by these companies, we owe them nothing. Sometimes I think bloggers sit down at their desks on a Monday morning and think 'Ok, what am I advertising this week then?' And go ahead and write up 10 blog posts about all the freebies they have received until they are fresh out of ideas. That is until the next package arrives in the post, or the next email drops into their inbox.

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Since writing this post I'm starting to feel better about blogging again. I still stand by what I've said and finally plucked up the courage to post this. I'll be cutting down my brand collaborations for a while so I can concentrate on 'me' blogging. Also a little disclaimer, this post was not directed at any one brand/company in particular and should not reflect all of the collaborations I have recently taken part in or the current on-going partnerships. What are your thoughts on brands working with bloggers? Have I just had a few bad eggs, or is the whole nature of the blogger/brand collaboration shifting?


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15 comments

  1. I really agree with you Gwen, great post! <3

    Freya Blendell

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  2. I totally know what you mean - I always feel under so much pressure when I do posts about products I got from PR, I don't want to have back to back posts on products I got for free for but they obviously want the products they gifted to get up on the web asap. I don't know, it's a weird problem I guess - us bloggers just have to stay strong and stay true to how we want our blog to be like.

    Great post btw xx
    www.elinlikes.com

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Elin, I think so too - we should think of sponsored posts or freebies as fantastic opportunities and ways to earn a little money but remember to write/run our blogs the way we always intended to.

      x

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  3. Really agree with you! We shouldnt feel under pressure to write about brands, we should just stay true to ourselves and post how we want to, afterall these are our blogs!

    Eärendil

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  4. It is really good that you could identify this problem and actually step away from it. There are a lot of people who seem to do only sponsored posts and no "me" blogging whatsoever.

    nueyork.blogspot.com

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  5. I have struggled with a lot of the same thoughts, though I'm fairly new to blogging and don't get many sponsors (yet. hopefully?) But I think it's important to remember why you started blogging, and to always blog about what you love. In the end, the people who love your blog will appreciate that more than anything :)

    xo Kenzie
    easy, lucky, free

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    1. Hi Mackenzie, I hope when the sponsor requests come rolling in for you, (they will!) you are able to craft them exactly how you'd like for your blog and remember to not be too excited by the 'big' companies as they don't always treat bloggers as well as the little companies!

      x

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  6. I'm really sorry that the brands are putting you under too much pressure. I think you're right to give it a pause, and remember that you don't have to say yes to anything. Also, they want exposure on your blog for a reason, and they recognise your value when they ask so they should remember that when they negotiate the deal.

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  7. While I do agree with you in some respects, you can just say "no" to PR requests. It's not OK for PR companies to demand anything of bloggers.. but on the other hand, bloggers have a tendency to demand quite a lot in return. They not only want freebies but they expect to get paid for their time writing a blog post.

    I'm a blogger but also a small business owner, so I get to see both sides. I frequently get asked for free products in exchange for "exposure" in a blog post. Bloggers expect to get freebies just by asking, they don't realise that they are essentially asking someone to work for free.

    While I know how much time and effort goes into blogging (I blog daily AND run a business - it's hard work), blogging is not the same as running a business. You can stop blogging if you want to; you can refuse PR requests; you can make decisions to lighten the pressure or workload.

    So while I have sympathy when PR companies act like bullies, you can just say "no."

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    1. I agree Sophie, and partly that's why I said I am to blame. I was taking on far too much and didn't even question why! So I need to lighten my work load and learn to say no. I do turn down a lot of PR requests, certainly for brands I feel don't sit with my usual content.

      I also understand your frustration with bloggers asking you for freebies, for a small business that's really difficult to provide and it's a little cheeky for them to make assumptions. Of course no one should ever work for free.

      Sometimes I do think PR companies don't class what bloggers do as 'work' - and giving a blogger a freebie (worth to them maybe £5-10?) is fair enough pay for the many hours of work with shooting the product, editing and crafting the post (as well as the advertisement.)
      (Obviously that's only the odd occasion most brands are willing to pay much more!)

      I could ramble on about working for free and the idea of unpaid internships in a whole new blog post - the whole thing really grinds my gears!

      x

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  8. I have stopped looking at a lot of blogs because their just talking about a new products, advertising this and that not everyone one want to see it.

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  9. This is ever so honest!
    Love
    http://dressedbys.blogspot.co.uk/
    S xx

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  10. I'm a really new blogger and feel overwhelmed by the idea of having a brand contact me. Of course I want it to happen but I'm also suuuper scared for all of the above reasons! You've definitely shown me the importance of remembering that it is your little space on the internet and not theirs, and that you should be able to negotiate terms with them! http://cottonandcandie.blogspot.co.uk/

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  11. I definitely think you have to lay down your rules for your blog. If a PR company wants to work with you, it's because they should like your blog and what your blog is all about.

    Lizzy at Nomad Notebook

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  12. I must say I do agree, I recently got overwhelmed by several boxes of free food and now I don't know what to do with it all! I'm yet to even write about it, i could say i'm feeling a bit blue and similar to you in this situation, it's great having the free stuff but i'm starting to resent companies a bit, so i'm doing the same as you and taking a step back to write about what i want to!
    These are OUR blogs after all, not theirs!

    Adele x
    http://adelesmithsjourney.blogspot.co.uk

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