5 Dumb Reasons to Write about Products

Jan 222013
 

In advance of my talk on ethics for Food Blog South this weekend, I’ve been researching product posts and thinking about what motivates people to write them.

I’ve been trying not to get annoyed when I see so many problematic posts, but it’s not working. So I thought I’d get this subject off my chest.

Of course YOU don’t make dumb decisions like this. But I bet you’ve read lots of posts that make you shake your head. What were these people thinking? I bet I know:

1. This came in my email. I’m so humbled and honored to be chosen! This explains why a food blogger raves about a car, or frozen peas when her blog is about candy.

2. A company gave me this for free. I owe them so much! Other than a polite reply and a responsible discussion, bloggers don’t owe public relations people anything. They owe everything, however, to their readers.

3. It will take me 17 hours to test this product, photograph it, and write recipes for it. And yet the product cost $4.99.

4. I don’t have any opinions about this product so I’ll just cut and paste from the press release. No one will notice when they write in a voice so obviously different from their own.

5. It makes me uncomfortable to say that I got this for free, so I’m just not going to say so. Well, that’s against FTC rules, unless the product came in a conference swag bag.

Okay, that’s my rant. Do you have one? Tell me. (But please don’t supply links. I’d rather not name names, because people tend to pile on in unattractive ways.) If you have another hair-brained rationale to add to this list, I’d love to know.

And if you’re coming to the conference this weekend, I’ll see you there!

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  71 Responses to “5 Dumb Reasons to Write about Products”

  1. Dianne, so well said. #1 and #2 are the two most common themes I’ve been seeing lately.

    It’s natural to feel flattered when someone (let alone a well-known brand) reaches out to you for support. It makes people feel important, and on many levels that’s understandable. But if what they’re offering doesn’t fit your own brand, you’re not doing yourself or your readers a favor. I see blogs as resources – fun/informative places to learn about homestyle Vietnamese cooking, or Middle Eastern cooking, baking or writing tips. So when I feel like finding a blog friend’s family recipe and see a sponsored post for – to use your example – a car, the resource loses value.

    As for #2, I think bloggers fear that eventually the right/relevant brands won’t reach out to them if they continue turning down offers from the non relevant ones. So I suspect many bloggers accept car/soap/whatever product review opportunities in hopes that it will make them more visible to other, relevant PR agencies.

    What are your thoughts?

    • Definitely you are not doing your readers a favor if the product is not relevant. Agree with you there.

      Regarding your second point, I used to get lots of offers for food products. Eventually it must have dawned on people (after I pressed the delete key) that I don’t have a food blog, because the offers stopped coming. Now I get new book announcements mostly, but they are not well targeted either. I guess that’s okay because I the only products I’ve reviewed, so far, are books.

      Perhaps a good policy is to figure out what you’d like to post about that’s appropriate for your readers, and then reach out to the PR people to get the product. Or if it’s inexpensive, just buy it.

  2. I will admit to being absolutely flattered early on when someone wanted me to review something. I twisted and turned and angled to make it relevant to Italian food (it wasn’t always). I grew. I learned. I cringe when I remember. I am of the type who feels “obligated” and once I learned that – I learned how to say “no.” Laughed at the time we put into the posts for a product that costs $4.99! Although most offers are more generous. I accept very few offers these days although I will state that blogging has brought me a few unforgettable experiences. I loved this post. It chronicled my growth as a blogger and lessons I learned the hard way. One way to look at it is – did you start your blog for free offers? (I bet most didn’t.) So really then – there are no worries when you say, “Thank-you but no thank-you.”

    • Claudia, thanks for your honesty. It is so impressive that you admit to some of these mistakes. So many bloggers are thrilled that someone’s paying attention to them, and they want to do the right thing but they don’t know what it is. Sorry that you had to learn the hard way, but I take it that it wasn’t all bad.

  3. I really hate it when bloggers get something for free, have a specific blog post about it and then use it in future posts with “c/o PR Agent Z” on it.
    I don’t need to know where you got all of your equipment from when you provide a recipe. And personally, I stop reading whenever I see that because I assume that even though they only asked you to write one post on it, you’re going to pimp them out as much as humanly possible because you feel grateful for one product.

    • Wow, I have not seen that one, Samantha. They actually mention the PR person? I have no idea why readers would care.

  4. The same filter that’s missing from readers who leave rude, hateful comments is also missing from bloggers who write the first thing tnat pops into their mind without regard for tone or a lack of conveyance of even the tiniest bit of sophistication. I recently read a diatribe about how disgusted the blogger is with rude and mean comments and how we need to learn to get along and remember how you were raised and mean words never help and the blogger has the right to write whatever he/she feels and if you don’t agree then don’t read (how do you know whether or not you agree until you read??) and we can’t continue to spout hate….and so and so. Believe me, I wrote the condensed soup version.

    I found this post utterly astonishing because the simple remedy is set up your blog so comments must be moderated. The blogger is then in complete control of everyword that appears on the blog. This particular blogger is not a novice. Surely, they know that feature exists. It looks like they simply wanted a platform which, in turn, made them look like a middle-schooler pitching a hissy fit. “Pitching a hissy fit” is some of my best Southernese to get you tuned up for Birmingham, AL.

    Best of luck at FoodBlog South. I had full intentions of going this year but changed my mind at the last minute. I did participate in the :”telephone” game and found it to be great fun.

    Y’all be good! How’s ya Mama-n-nem?

    • Yeah, that sounds kind of boring. I’ve read that kind of hissy fit many times, and I don’t know what’s new about it, unless she has been the victim of some campaign.

      Hmm. I don’t moderate comments. I did at first but then it got to be so much work. And I haven’t had to delete a comment for years. People are behaving themselves very nicely, actually.

      Sorry to miss you at FBS, Jackie. What’s this telephone game you’re talking about?

      • Someone participating in the telephone game mentioned you so I assumed you knew about this. Structured after the childhood game of telephone where you relay a message from person to person and then compare the final message with the original, this game shared a recipe from blogger to blogger. It started with Nathalie Dupree’s Roasted Chicken. Each blogger could change as many as 3, and up to 5, ingredients. The method and the head note needed to be changed. We’ve gone through 6 or 7 bloggers so far. I can’t wait to see the final result. You can follow along on the FoodBlog South FB page.

  5. Thanks for an interesting post. My rant is food bloggers who think that they are political analysts. I really don’t want to hear all the rude comments about the party they dislike.

    • It is odd to have someone on a food blog rant about politics, but then, it’s their soapbox. Michael Ruhlman did this during the last election and launched a thoughtful discussion. But then, most people aren’t as good a writer.

    • Mare, I had one political post on my own food blog after the Newtown Shooting simply because I was so upset and outraged at the same time I really needed to have an outlet and my food blog is the one place where I can write and post what I like. But I thought about it long and hard and added an introduction explaining to my readers why I wrote the piece and why I was publishing it on my food blog. And I very consciously made sure that I didn’t spew hate and venom. I do think we as food bloggers should be able to make the occasional foray into other topics but always diplomatically and with respect (I am agreeing with your comment btw).

  6. LOVE this rant, Dianne. Tweeting this and then forwarding the URL to a few “particular” people who aren’t so particular about what they review. I recently relaunched my blog after a very long hiatus, so the product samples haven’t been as forthcoming as the old days, but I do remember the appalled gasps from PR depts when they hear you do not want their unsolicited food products. Apparently, quantity and gratis are supposed to make up for a product not fitting into being healthful or veggie (my blog) and we should all drop our convictions in gratitude. Not!
    Enjoy the conference!

    • Thanks. I think pr people are much more sophisticated now than they were when blogs first started. They’re doing a better job of targeting bloggers who have the audiences that resonate best for them, their requests are more reasonable, and many pr people have contracts that spell out disclosure, which I appreciate.

      That being said, bloggers need the confidence to know what kinds of posts are best for them, and not to be tempted by what seems to glitter, but is not gold.

  7. I usually pay my own way and I think it’s important to review things as a consumer. If I get a freebie, I would say so. I tend not to put down people or products so if I don’t like something, I probably will opt not to review it.

  8. Ah, thanks for this Dianne! I’ve been struggling with this a lot, recently. After a lot of debate with myself, I think I’ve decided to only review products if it can be done in conjunction with the creation of a legitimate and interesting recipe (i.e. I’m not going to review jam and write a recipe for jam on toast), and the vendor is willing to host a giveaway of relevant value, so that there’s something in it for my readers. Still, I sometimes worry that even this is too commercial, although I’m relieved that I’m not falling into any of your 5 “dumb decisions” – I don’t think!

    • You are welcome, Katie. I saw a blog recently where someone just reprinted recipes from the company website, with permission. I thought that was an interesting idea. I suppose if your blog is known for original recipes, though, it wouldn’t fly. You could link to recipes — that would be a lot less work.

      I like the idea of a giveaway of value, although there’s probably a fair bit of competition for that, and who knows what they’d ask for in return? I guess you’ll have to try it and see what happens.

      • I have been paid to adapt recipes from the sponsor’s website, I love that, sometimes the end product has very little ressemblance to the original. And I rewrite the recipe from my own notes so there is no copying in the least. I actually like that, nothing like a challenge to get the creative juices flowing.

        Back to the original point: How about blogs that have little content but posts about products they get for free, or sponsored posts, with content straight from the PR release? Not even original photos of the product. Not naming names, but I’ve seen quite a few of those.

  9. Thanks for another great post.

    I tested the waters by reviewing products early on and decided that, with a few exceptions, it wasn’t for me, for all the reasons you outline above and a couple more. Firstly, that I have my own content, I don’t need someone else to give me a topic, and I don’t always have anything much to say about a particular brand of juice or whatever. But secondly, it was a lot more work.

    One was a not-so-relevant product which I did as a giveaway, so I had to be home for delivery, try it, write it up, photograph it, choose a winner, get their contact details, give them to the company, have them send the product, check the winner got it.

    The other was also a giveaway, but it was a very in-depth review of an automatic espresso machine, which is relevant as coffee is one of main subjects I blog about, so I didn’t mind the extra work involved. To this day, that coffee machine review is my highest ranking post, and I think as a result that I will get around to reviewing some other coffee gadgets here and there. But other giveaways/reviews, even of food products, aren’t worth the effort it takes to write them.

    I also kind of object to the idea of giving someone free advertising. My recommendations are worth something and, as others above have said, I don’t want to undermine my own reputation for making great recommendations by recommending crappy products.

    • I suppose all that work was worth it for the espresso machine review, plus I assume you got to keep the machine.

      What you are giving someone, in a positive post, is far more valuable than free advertising. An ad comes directly from the company, so of course they think their product is great, so readers take the ad with a grain of salt. A product review comes from a third party, saying their product is great, and because it’s assumed the third party has no agenda, the endorsement has much more power.

      Also, I don’t see why you would recommend a crappy product. That doesn’t make sense.

  10. Posting the publicity copy verbatim is definitely on my list (especially when it’s about my book), but even more frustrating are the reviews that are inaccurate ’96 “I loved/hated cooking with such and such an ingredient”…that isn’t even in the book!

  11. Hi Dianne. I dropped in here out of curiosity. I do product reviews/giveaways, but they’re always within my realm; food or food magazine related goods. I understand what you’re saying, but it makes me furrow my brow. You see, I take your opinion for what it is, your opinion on your space. That’s the wonderfulness of blogging, you can write about whatever you choose to write about and use your blog in any way you want to. Bravo for choosing this topic, whether I agree or not.

    In my opinion, there’s one smart reason that people write about products. They need the money. They hope for some sort of long term sponsorship down the road. Everyone has to start somewhere. They know a PR company may ask them to blog about a unique upside-down writing pen today, but they may get to review and get the sponsorship of a line of world class pots and pans from that same company another day.

    Personally, I enjoy doing product reviews, but yes, I do keep them relevant to my blog. That’s my choice. And, I make them beneficial to my readers by telling these PR companies that they need to make the same product available for a giveaway.

    Anyway, I don’t need to make this a blog post in and of itself, I just think what people write on their personal space is their personal business and done for their personal reasons. I don’t know that I would ever say they’re ‘dumb’ because they choose to do what they want on their little bit of Internet real estate.

    • Thanks for dropping in and for not necessarily agreeing with me. I appreciate that.

      Let me address your comments one by one. First, I am not opposed to writing about products. I write about books and recommend them, so I write about products too. I’m just opposed to DUMB reasons to write about products.

      For most people, product reviews involve no money, just free product or a coupon, so they’re not a way to make money. Sometimes they’re a way to get nice products, though. Writing sponsored posts, however — that’s different, and you can be paid to write about a product. I’m going to have a post shortly with a big blogger who makes a decent amount from sponsored posts.

      I’m glad you enjoy writing reviews, and I hope that you continue. It’s nice that the companies also provide a giveaway for your readers.

      Re telling people about dumb reasons, my challenge is that I come from a journalism background, and as a professional writer and editor, some things make no sense to me. I can see how No. 3 might still make sense to a hobby blogger, who doesn’t care that her time comes out to $.30 per hour.

      Certainly people can do whatever they want on their blogs. My readers might start out as hobbyists but after a while, they want to know best practices, and they want to improve.

  12. I’ve been blogging for 4 years and have never had a company reach out to me to promote a product, except for a local Ice Cream company. Do you have any thought on why I’m not approached? How do these companies find bloggers?

    And unless it’s something I’ve been thinking about buying, I don’t read these posts promoting products. Its not why I read food blogs.

    • I’ll trade you. You can get my emails on National Popcorn Day etc. that have no relevance to my blog, and I’ll take an emptier inbox. It sounds like heaven.

      Some companies meet bloggers at conferences, and some have social media staff who correspond with bloggers through Twitter and Facebook. I’m sure marketing people at big companies scour blogs to find out which would be best for their products, but smaller companies might not have anyone who can focus on that. So I’m not certain how they’d find out about you. Maybe readers can answer that.

  13. What a marvelous rant!!!
    Rant on!
    I couldn’t agree more!

  14. Diane,

    Oh my gosh, how timely. I was just pondering this yesterday. And I laughed out loud while reading your post.

    Over time, I have honed this swag policy on my website and it has helped keep pitches received to very targeted ones (yay). http://www.michelledudash.com/2011/04/26/swag-policy/

    And I post the link on my contact page right next to my address, so companies know to read it before sending anything.

    Cheers.
    Michelle

    • Diane,

      Actually, there is one more big reason. To grow traffic in the hopes of getting ad buyers. I have some friendly colleagues whose site has grown by leaps and bounds within a year and they do a lot of product reviews. And they are savvy people, not hobby bloggers who want swag. But their readers clearly want swag.

      So there you have it.
      Michelle

      • Interesting. I guess if you want that kind of blog, where it’s all about promoting stuff, then a strategy like that might work. I can’t think of anything more dull, but then I’m not a big consumer.

    • Excellent disclosure page, Michelle. And I’m so pleased to have made you laugh.

  15. thanks. I needed that!

  16. Great discussion! In the 1950s, my hometown newspaper (and others like it) used original work from their columnists AND advertorial pieces from their advertisers on the weekly “Womens’ Page”. Glossy magazines still do it. The important part is the clear statement that the content is the advertiser’s, not the publication’s.

    I, for one, am glad to see food bloggers say “Such-and-so company sent me this gizmo/food item” and then proceed to use the product and comment usefully. It helps inform the community of quality products and stuff best left on the shelf. But in the same vein as flooding Twitter/Facebook with thousands of reTweets or hourly updates on their wardrobe choices, too much of a good thing can damage a blogger’s credibility.

    I’ll miss seeing everyone at Food Bloggers South, I just couldn’t swing it.

    • That disclosure makes all the difference.

      I like the way you wrote the disclosure. It sounds so natural. Many bloggers do this well, within a useful post.

      I’ll have to have an extra good time at FBS to make up for you not being there.

  17. Price snoroff 15 buy prescription levitra without caps rankings.

    Dianne does your rant also apply to publishers and authors that send bloggers a free book and expect an article in return? Both are someone’s product and both are not that expensive. We get books that tell us what to say in the article. I could be wrong but I sense there is a thinking that one is okay and one is not. Am I wrong?

    • I think that writing about a book you cooked from is different from writing about a product. Not sure why. It just feels much different when doing it. Plus I know the authors in some way that I write about, so I have personal stories. But to each her own.

      • I’m not saying either is wrong, Dianne is the one that brought this up. If you cook with a $15 microplane and love it, that is no different than cooking with a $15 cookbook you love. I personally see nothing wrong with either. I’m just saying that if you are going to make an issue of this, you can’t differentiate. To your audience a product is a product.

        • Definitely. I review books sometimes, and they are products. I always say that a publisher sent me the book, when that is the case.

    • Publicists can TRY to tell you what to say in the article, but you are not obligated to say it, or to review the book, even if you said you would like to read it. I suppose if they keep sending you books and you never review them, at some point they’ll catch on and take you off the list.

      • You didn’t really answer my question about whether books were a product. However you asked for our rants so I’m going to give you mine. You’ve said over and over there is no money in food writing, so that means everything is on the table. As people try different things, nobody knows what is going to work and what’s not. I think it is very premature to call anything “dumb” right now when what is perceived as dumb today could be smart next year or even now. For example a few years ago at a major blogging conference a panelist from a major publisher said that you shouldn’t use metric on your blog. We had been using metric since 1997 so course we ignored her advice and now over half of our visitors come from metric countries. It was the best “dumb” decision we ever made. So I think we all have to be careful about judging others and what they do on their own blog.

        • Sorry not to be clear, Rick. Books are products.

          For at least 80 percent of food writers, there is little money in it. Maybe for another 10-15 percent, there’s some money and decent money. You’re in the remaining 5 percent, Rick, that makes the big bucks. And you’re not even a food writer, but the marketing and technical strategist behind your website.

          What I’m calling dumb comes from my background as a journalist. I’m not saying all sponsored posts or reviews are dumb. I’m saying you should have decent, responsible reasons for writing them.

          Re metric, American publishers mostly do not use metric because the public doesn’t use metric. When they sell a book abroad, the publisher in that country pays someone to translate the measurements to metric. Some American publishers add metric measurements in case a translation for English-speaking countries is not necessary. Their business practices are irrelevant on the Internet, where readers can come from anywhere.

  18. Yes I did bring this up when you were in NZ as well about the paid reviews for awful conveinience products and it is quite frustrating. The only thing I do differently is I hand pick companies who have to be boutique and no giants like Nestle (just an example I have nothing agains Nestle). I do a Producer to plate series. This is different because although I am reviewing their products its more about showing the consumer how a piece of meat, vegetable, yoghurt, cheese or whatever gets to a plate. I also don’t get paid for it. That’s a rationale from a slightly different view but I do find other people’s blatantly bad editorials quite detrimental to what I do myself as the worse thing to happen would be everyone in NZ thinking food bloggers are just a form of advertising.

  19. My blog was never intended to be a marketer’s dream; it’s a place where I share the recipes we love. I get a lot of requests today, most of which I turn down. The few giveaways I’ve done have been for products that I knew I would love and could authentically get behind. The company that asked me to do a smoker giveaway had read my blog enough to know how much I love to barbecue; it was the perfect marriage of blogger and brand.

    Since I’ve started doing a weekly cocktail post, I am besieged by brands hoping I will feature their product. I only select those that I think I can actually use for cocktails that I want to make but even then…there has been some miscommunication that I have to say I find amazing. Some take ‘sample’ to the nth degree and send me a small airplane size bottle of booze. Yes, that is a sample but my desire to create a cocktail and feature their brand is non-existent when all they can manage is $1.00 worth of booze!

    I’ve taken to inquiring if brands are willing to pay compensation for a sponsored post and am most amazed at the arrogance of some of the replies. When I inquired that recently of a PR firm offering a free sample, I received an almost curt reply, ‘Our customers NEVER pay for posts.’ Good to know. Because one thing I have learned? Providing marketing for free in the hopes of establishing a relationship that might benefit us later financially is often a pipe dream. I think all that does is solidify the message that bloggers will work to market products without real compensation and I know that’s not a message I want to send or the type of blog I want to be.

    • How fascinating to have this inside look, Barbara. It conflicts directly with other comments on this post, where some people believe lots of product reviews on a blog will lead to income.

      Re the tiny bottle, I guess they don’t understand that you might have to make a cocktail a few times to get the proportions right. If it’s just $1 worth of booze, you are better off buying it yourself and not going through this nonsense.

      I can see how you might start thinking of yourself as a shill with the type of response you got from the PR firm. I don’t see anything wrong with recommending a product you love. I recommend books, so it’s not so different. But I don’t do it very often, I don’t recommend every book I get and I am not good about getting free copies of books that interest me because it seems like it’s too much work.

      As for making money with sponsored posts, I’ll have a post about that shortly.

  20. I know a lot of bloggers who are making 1000s each month promoting products for various vendors and I think it’s fine if that’s what they like, especially if someone is a stay-at-home mom looking to make a few extra bucks on the side – more power to them. I’ve talked to several and it’s a lot of work the money isn’t just handed to them.

    I on the other hand have been offered various food products to try that I’ve decided on my own to create recipes with. I’ve never been paid to promote the products but have only accepted those that I want to try and feel my audience would be interested in. I have also contacted various vendors for giveaways of products that I have myself and feel my readers would like to hear about. I share my thoughts and give them the chance to win the particular product that I enjoy so well.

    I have been contacted as well by vendors who I’ve turned away either because it’s not something that I’m interested in, don’t have time to review and post, or have my own agenda at the time, and prefer posting about topics and recipes that are relevanat to that time period.

    I understand Dianne how you may feel this way, but we’re all entitled to control our blogs the way we want. Although you may not like some of the content I’m sure there are those that do. With so many blogs online, you have the choice to read those you like and those you don’t. If specific ones rub you the wrong way then unsubscribe – that’s what I do.

    We’re all trying to make a living – you with your book, “Will Write for Food” which I own, love, and have dog eared and hi-lighted like crazy, and others hoping to make their mark and publish a book or become noticed for something they’ve created or posted online. With the economy in the toilet, I say more power to them!

  21. I have seen perfectly good blogs producing quality content – or at least personal content with good recipes – become an outlet for brands – every other post is a brand-sponsored post or a giveaway and I just stop visiting those blogs. Ditto the blogs where the products being vaunted and reviewed have nothing to do with the normal content or niche of the blog. The blogs I regularly follow do the odd book review (as I do) which I find perfectly normal for a food blog to review cookbooks. A couple blogs I do follow regularly (I am looking at you Barb of Creative Culinary) do review products, creating recipes from those products, but they only accept and review products that make absolute sense for their blog and make the review work specifically for their blog. I don’t feel like someone is either selling me something they may or may not believe in or simply posting something for money or sponsor. I do mention products I have received through Plate to Page (as sponsor products/goodie bag items) but I talk about only products I actually love and use and write about it in conjunction with a meal I am preparing. Sadly, there is a quantity of bloggers who have become marketing/review fiends and I simply don’t visit their blogs anymore. I no longer visit blogs that have simply become a commercial or branding exercise, a money-making machine.

    Thanks for this post and discussion, Dianne! See you in SF!

    • I am no longer opposed to sponsored posts, but I must say that if every other post was a product placement, I’d lose interest too. For every reader like you and me, however, there’s more readers who don’t mind. These bloggers you speak of must have big numbers to attract big companies who can pay well, so I guess their readers like this stuff.

      I guarantee you that the big food bloggers who get paid for product posts don’t make dumb decisions like the ones I listed. They are business savvy, and they don’t give away their talent.

    • I should have mentioned that myself but you are right Jamie. I NEVER do a post or review that doesn’t include a recipe that either is from the book I’ve been asked to review or using a product that I know I want to use to develop a recipe. I love to cook and I like to share what I cook with others both at my table or on my blog. Only those brands and products that fit into my culinary point of view see the light of day! Thanks Jamie!

  22. Great post Dianne. I completely agree. Bloggers must (well, should) think smart and first look through the lens of their readers and ask themselves if it is of benefit to them. If it’s not, I would not accept the product. And I’d still think about it. But everyone has to learn their lessons and make their choices.

    I was contacted by a well known company in December who wanted to ship me a case of their product. It is something I use, but I politely said no thanks after we swapped a few emails. I am a big believer in using as much organic as I can. This company’s product was not organic, and they could not even tell me that it was hormone-free. I explained my position and they respected that.

    Conversely, there is a brand of yogurt I’m a fan of and I buy their products. I met several people from the company at a conference last year. They recently contacted me and asked if I’d like to try some new flavors, and I said why yes please. No commitment to blog on it. Although if I like the new flavors (when they arrive) I will say so on social media channels. Really nice people and product. And yogurt fits with what I believe in and think my folllowers would like to hear about.

    When I mention a brand in a post, whether product or tool, it is because I really use it and buy it myself.

    What I am tired of as of late is all of the giveaways! Its seems that is all one very popular blogger is doing. Hope to see you at a conference this year! Not sure yet on IACP-SF.

    • This sounds very sensible and well thought out, Sally. I tend to agree with you about not writing a blog post on flavored yogurts — it doesn’t sound like your thing, particularly. But you can still be a fan on social media.

      Hope to see you too. I’m doing two sessions at IACP, then off to the Food Bloggers of Canada first conference.

  23. Well, I’ll admit it. I’ve been there, done that. Blogged about a product because I was so incredibly flattered that I was being contacted. Created original recipes for WAY less than they were worth. But hey, you gotta start somewhere and create a body of work to show when you Do feel you can ask for (more) money or say no (because when I started out, I felt like I needed to accept every opportunity otherwise I might be missing out). I don’t have it spelled out on my blog (though I should) but in my mind, my “policies” are becoming more clear in terms of products, books and giveaways. When I’ve been invited to take part in promotional events (create a recipe! have your readers vote for you! have them vote once a day for a month! and you could win bragging rights on XYZ site! and lots of ), I’ve actually started to spell out how long an original recipe takes to create, photograph, write up etc… and naming a price. Many PR reps are shocked but I feel that if you don’t tell them, they won’t know and won’t learn to value our time.

    My one big issue remains with events. I get invited to a LOT of events, accepting the ones I am really interested in (and turning many down) but then I feel pressure from the PR reps to write a post about it. Even if this was not stated in an invite (which I frankly feel it should be – you want me to come to your event and blog about it? Tell me up front.)

    On Twitter and Instagram, if I am at an event tweeting pics, I often get a lot of interest but that does not seem to be enough for some PR reps. They want a post. So, yeah, I got a free meal (or whatever) but they don’t seem to understand how long a post takes to write (especially if you are struggling to find an angle). I’ve started to accept and cautiously say that there is no guarantee of a post but many don’t like that. Also, since I tend to plan my blog calendar a couple of months in advance, often there won’t be “room” to schedule an additional post if people want their events written about soon after they take place. I do tell reps now that *if* I post about the event it will be after such and such a date.

    I have to say, it’s a brave new world out there. Every day stuff comes along that I don’t know what to do about in terms of my blog and my writing. Learning to value myself and my time has been the most difficult part of this journey. One day I’ll figure it out.

    • Thanks Mardi. I can see your point. You do have to start somewhere. You are learning what works and what doesn’t, and how to set limits. It’s all good. Work on your policies page, okay? It’s a good idea.

      Regarding events, of course PR people want you to write about it, tweet about it etc. That’s why you’re invited. It’s implied in the invitation, but it’s considered gauche to state it. I did PR in the 1980s and that expectation hasn’t changed.

      No one should be shocked that it takes time to write a quality post. You want to do what’s best for your readers, so that’s why you are putting in the time. Without your readers, you’ve got nothing PR people want.

  24. Ooops – that should read “lots of links back from XYZ site” which of course is most never the case…

  25. I laughed so hard when I read your list – Excellent post – Now I just have to go back and reall ALL the comments :-)

  26. Dianne,

    I am so unbelievably happy you wrote this post! I sometimes review products at my own blog, but only when I feel it’s absolutely necessary to show people those tools that make my life (and possibly their lives) easier. Unfortunately, what this means is that the tools I really love are never free, and I think readers should consider how small investments might improve their lives in the kitchen.

    BUT, what I really felt compelled to comment on was point #2: whether or not you “owe” them anything. I was so empowered by your words that I actually opened my e-mail and sent a “polite” message to a company rep that’s been bugging me to post something about their product every month for six months. Sure, they sent me the sample, but the item is so incredibly specific (it helps you “flare down” the flames when cooking on a grill so the food is less likely to burn), that I just haven’t had a chance to use it. When I looked at the e-mail thread, I saw that the rep had sent me the same two sentence e-mail every month for five months. I thought, “WWDD?” (What Would Dianne Do?) and promptly told him I’d get to it when I get to it (that is, when I grill next) and IF, that’s right IF, I really liked the product, it would receive an honest review at my blog.

    Phew. That felt good. I feel so empowered.

    Thank you so much for these wise (and entertaining) words! I can’t wait to see you at Food Blog South Saturday!
    -Helana

    • Helana, good for you for writing back to the PR person. I’m sure you were very polite about it, and certainly that is an appropriate response. See you this weekend.

  27. Dianne, I did reread your post and do have to say that I do agree that we owe everything to our readers. Vendors who offer us things are great if we feel they’re relevant to our blog. Even then sometimes, the amount of time and effort put into creating a recipe can get to be too much.

    As I mentioned earlier I only accept those items that I feel my readers would like to hear about or something I would like to explore in greater detail. There does come a time though when you have to say no, because the time and money purchasing other supplies to create recipes for products (in my case) gets too costly and time consuming. When we do this too often it’s a dumb decision on our parts. IMO

    As one blogger stated it can be flattering up until the time you realize it’s too much for too little. There are so many blogs out there and everyone can do what they want but I do understand your point of view. In the end, if we don’t like a blog it’s easy enough to opt out.

    I appreciate your thoughts and it did make me think again even for those products that I willingly decide to share with my readers.

    • It sounds like you have a reasonable policy, Vicki. As you go forward you learn which things are too much trouble for your time, and that sounds fair. Thanks for writing.

  28. This is very time;y. I have just stared to receive products like you mentioned. I have been humble and excited. I feel it’s my responsible to repay their kindness in the best way I can, with a great blog post. Just my thoughts. :-)

    • Susan, they are not being kind. They are doing their job as marketers, and their goal is low-cost publicity. There’s no reason to write a big advertisement. Lastly, it’s not accurate to say that you received no compensation, because products are considered in-kind compensation.

      • Thank you SOOO much for the reminder… DUH! I also appreciate your guidance and help. This is my first so, I think with your input I can avoid future pitfalls. Again, many thanks. :-)))

  29. I enjoyed this post so much and just had to go back to it. I really relished all the comments on this thread about product endorsements and what to do if approached by brands. I’ve received a ton of emails from all sorts of products, and with all due respect, a lot of them do not share my vision. It’s always ‘all about them’. I very rarely endorse brands, and if I do, it has to be in sync with the type of recipes I share with my readers. If it’s not, then I politely decline. Glad you posted this, Dianne. Thanks for sharing your valuable insights!

    • Betty, thanks again. You might have to go after companies that share your food philosophy. I agree, they don’t seem to arrive in email.

  30. […] 5 Dumb Reasons to Write About Products […]

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