Just Charlie G
09. 01. 2013

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I recently had an experience which as a blogger wasn’t great and I wanted to share it with you so that other bloggers can try to avoid the same situation.

I was recently approached by a social media agency and asked if I’d like to try out a product. Now this happens to me all the time, most things I feature on this blog come to me as a press sample and I always feel really lucky. I am selective though and there are many things I turn down as they are unsuitable for my blog, or I don’t think I will like them, or for whatever reason. However on this occasion I really liked the sound of the product so I said yes please, I’d love to try this. This is standard stuff, I do this several times a week. Would you  like to try our product? Yes Please or No Thanks. Product comes. I use it for a period of time, then I blog about it when I’m ready.

However. After I’d said yes please and provided my address, the following day I received an email from the social media agency saying that it had been posted out to me and they were looking forward to hearing my thoughts. Other bloggers should be nodding along at this point, it’s all standard stuff. Only thing is In this email sent confirming the dispatch, was a note giving me an extremely short deadline…at this point, a more experienced and knowledgeable blogger would have said…er no! But I didn’t, I replied saying it was very short notice but I’d do my best.

Lesson One: blogging should be on your terms, unless you are being paid.

They agreed it was short notice but hoped I’d be able to mange it anyway. Now see at this point they had me in their claws, because I like to think I’m an honourable blogger, once I’ve received a product, I feel I have to blog about it… after all, I’ve been sent something lovely for nothing, that’s how I feel. Very rarely I won’t blog about something, usually if I am completely indifferent to it, and I just can’t think of anything to say, but mostly, if I’m sent a product, I review it. I don’t feel happy taking something for nothing, so I view taking the product as a sort of payment. Which in all honesty is fine with your standard blog posts, but when people start giving you instructions then  it becomes less about blogging about lovely stuff, and more like unpaid work….

And that’s when I was provided with the list of keywords I had to insert into my blog post. My blog post which I was given just a few days notice to write. Despite my backlog of things here to write about. Again, the more experienced and knowledgeable would have said, oh no, you can stuff it. In fact that is exactly what I was advised to do by more experienced blogger friends. But oh no, I had product on its way to me, which meant I personally felt honour bound to write the post.

Lesson Two: blogging should be on your terms, unless you are being paid.

And as it happened, the item turned up one day before the deadline. Hardly enough time to try out and review anything much if you want to maintain integrity. But again, stupidly, I felt honour bound to do as I was asked. What I should have said was, no, there’s no way I am doing this, the time scale is too short and I never agreed to use any key words.

But I didn’t because I’m clueless about this kind of thing. But perhaps my experiences might help someone else. The problem from my point of view was the agency didn’t disclose fully what they expected from me in the first instance. If they had have contacted me saying would you like to review xxx product, and could you include these key words, and also we have a very short deadline, do you think it would be possible? I would have probably declined. But I feel this was sneakily done. I accepted the product, it was dispatched and then the various terms were mentioned. And not in one go either.

So bloggers, don’t be a fool like me, if you don’t want to do something or if you feel something is unreasonable, say so, don’t do it, or ask what is in it for you? As a friend said to me recently on this subject…

“bottom line is that
you don’t jump through hoops – they want something from you, not the other way
round. Unless it is a million dollar ***, don’t bother.”

Stick up for yourself and don’t let yourself be taken advantage of and ask when approached by social media agencies in particular, if they have any terms you need to be aware of before accepting the item for review. I did review this product by the way, because I don’t think I’ll ever shake this thing of feeling I need to blog about something if I’ve been sent it, but I won’t be making this mistake again!

Hope this helps someone!

EDIT: just to add, this is by no means entirely the fault of the agency, certainly I have to learn to be more assertive and confident, it’s always been an issue for me sadly!

22 responses to “Bloggers Beware…”

  1. Jade | Beauty Butterfly says:

    I think because there are so many bloggers out there, agencies think they can take the p*** when it comes to what they ask from a blogger… I guess they see it as if you say no there’s plenty more fish in the sea. But it was wrong of this particular agency not to be transparent enough to let you know what they expected, I think it’d be a good idea for bloggers to ask what is expected before the item is sent out!!

    thanks for sharing by the way, it’s alright us knowing the lovely sides of blogging but things like this don’t often get shared

    Jade | Beauty Butterfly Blog

    • Charlie says:

      Definitely agree, bloggers should ask what is expected of them if the agency isn’t clear in the first case, thats my fault and I won’t be doing it again!

  2. Helen Gray says:

    I think PRs are now getting smarter, knowing there are more and more bloggers starting everyday. They think that they have control, but you are right the bloggers are the ones with control. This is really useful Thank you x

    • Charlie says:

      We are only the ones with control if we assert ourselves though aren’t we, and thats something I absolutely fail at but am going to work much harder on in future!

  3. Have a feeling I may have been contacted by the same agency Charlie. It threw me a bit too and I was undecided about what to do – you’ve just made my mind up for me!

    I don’t think of a sample as payment as in my mind the brand stands to gain a lot more than we do, but I am much more selective about what I accept these days.

    Nic x

    • Charlie says:

      Glad to be of service! I know my view isn’t right! I just can’t help it with the samples, when I was a much smaller blogger I thought products were the best form of payment ever and I just can’t shake that, even though it’s not right!

  4. Lori - Glasgow Beauty Blogger says:

    I have a feeling I know who you are talking about too, I’m definitely going to be a lot more assertive from now on when it comes to samples for review.
    I was pretty annoyed and considered just sending it back but oh well lesson learned for next time x

    • Charlie says:

      Oh no, not you too. I considered sending back also, but thought in the end it was too much hassle. Lesson learned eh!


    Hey Charlie, interesting blog. DO NOT FRET as after twenty years as a magazine beauty journalist I still have guilt when not featuring some products. It is actually impossible for me to ever write about everything as I am lucky enough to be sent at least 30 products EVERY WEEK. Far too many to ever test/write about in the magazines I freelance for. I have guilt when it is a very small brand/start up and I know their samples are precious. So I say no if I know there is nowhere I can feature it and if I do test and like it but cannot put it in a magazine I simply tweet to my 5,000 followers about it instead. I had no idea ‘social media agencies’ sent out products. I only get sent them direct from companies or their PRs. So I guess the blogging and magazine worlds are still very different. Thanks Charlie.
    Love Lynnette x
    Beauty Director of Saga magazine and MD of Lovely’s Vintage Emporium

  6. nav says:

    Thanks for this post. I feel the same way, if I am sent a product to review I must write about it or review it. The stuff that I think must have been made of a donkey’s excretions I don’t blog about. I think that’s fair because I would give such a terrible review no-one would want to try that product ever. For everything that is between 1-10 I will blog about, just not the 0s. I always say to PRs I will write a review but in my own time. I definitely think that this PR was unfair to you but I think you should have also said something! Lesson learnt though! x

  7. nav says:

    P.S I love your widget showing where your visitors are viewing from because I’m always in a different place and love watching it change 😀 x

  8. Charlie says:

    Thanks nav, I should definitely have said something, you’re right! As you say though, lesson learned, x

  9. From working in PR/ to being a blogger myself, sometimes i think both are as bad as each other. In this case the PR clearly has no idea what they are doing, in their mind they view you as quick coverage for the end monthly report, not whether you actually had time to give it a full run down. We had similar situations in our office and we did blogger shout outs for ‘speedy reviews’ aka we need a review turned around asap. I guess the PR just doesnt seem to have common sense, especially if they didn’t even bother to make sure it was speedily sent.

    Some times you just think ‘DUH!’

    I’ve had two emails today:

    1) from a cleaning brand that wanted to send me free products, i politely declined because it doesnt fit in with the context but thank you all the same, i got a stark reply from them telling me they had done their research and apparently it DOES FIT ACTUALLY, o..kaay – carpet stain remover.. fashion.. i decide that one thanks!

    2) addressed me by my blog name asking for a free link placement, i again politely responded saying i don’t place random free links, and signed it ‘Sarah, my actual birth name.’

    call me petty but christ it felt good LOL


    • Charlie says:

      Funnily enough I also heard from both of those people, the stain remover folks also tried to tell me it did fit in with my blog when I said it didn’t!!! Thank you for commenting!

    • Charlie says:

      And also, I have never had this issue with traditional pr. x

  10. Jen W says:

    Oh Charlie, that sounds terrible! They clearly do not understand bloggers and how they work- we blog for love, and unless it is a paid post, we are not staff!

    I totally understand though why you felt like you wanted to do it for them anyway, despite the little voice in your head telling you otherwise- I’ve done this too on too many occasions.

  11. Had a similar experience myself with a (non-beauty) large organisation a couple of years ago, who offered me a small product in return for a review. I accepted, as it was something I was genuinely interested in, then they started hassling me about putting specific keyword phrases into my review. I explained that had they told me this in advance, I would have refused as the (several) keyword phrases wouldn’t sit comfortably with my review style. They continued to hassle me, I posted a review (without keywords) and they sent me a really nasty email. I immediately took the review down and didn’t respond to them any further.

    I’ve all but given up doing reviews these days – the whole blogging/PR/review thing has changed (and not in a good way) so much in the almost five years since I started blogging. I am not a performing seal, and I will not jump through ridiculous hoops for a free DVD (or whatever), thank you very much. If I needed to sell my soul, it would be for more than the price of a nail polish!

    I don’t read many blogs these days that are review-driven, but I really like yours as it always feels genuine, and you clearly take the time and trouble to properly test-drive the products, and give an honest review. Too many (particularly beauty) blogs have turned into one long infomercial, it seems.

    • Charlie says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. And thank you for the nice comments about my blog. I do work very hard to be honest in my posts and thank you for noticing! Awful you had such a horrible experience, it’s just not on!

  12. OPI Addict says:

    Oh no! That’s horrible 🙁
    Never feel like you have to blog about a product that you got. I only blog about a product if I feel like it, and I don’t put myself on any timelines!

  13. Fiona Hutchings says:

    I blog about music mostly but think this post contains useful advice for bloggers whatever their subject.
    I do have PRs or friends of friends approach me asking me to listen to their latest offering. I always listen to the music and only write about music I actually like.

    No one has asked me to include key words or the like but thank you for the heads up 🙂

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