7 Outrageous Requests of a Food Blogger

May 272014
 

Frusted-BloggerA well-known food blogger loves to forward outrageous requests from food companies to me. I’ve kept them them in a file, until now, when I got her permission to share them.

As you know from the countless emails you delete, food companies want product coverage from bloggers. Nothing wrong with that, of course. It’s just the way some ask for it, and their reluctance to pay for hours of work. These are big national companies, not artisan mom and pop shops, after all. They should know better.

Here’s a list of the most outrageous requests I culled from her emails:

1. Cook a dish for the company’s event. A national food product manufacturer invited her to a new product launch. The invite read: “In the true style of sharing, we invite you to bring a favorite dish to share with a small group of 8-10 other local media and bloggers.”

2. Get paid in gas money. A national dairy company wanted to make 30-second recipe videos to promote its ice cream. They invited the blogger to be the “culinary representative” for free, and added, “The shoot will take place at the [XX] studios. I know this is about a hour drive for you so [our company] would be happy to reimburse you for gas if you would like.”

3. Receive a coupon for a loaf of bread. A bakery asked her to write a blog post for free, featuring their bread, and to share it on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Her reward? “As a part of participating, we’d love to offer you a free loaf or baguette of your choice to help you bring your recipe to life. In addition, we’d like to offer you a free loaf or baguette to award your readers and fans!”

4. Promote a company’s contest. A food packager asked her to run a post about the company’s recipe contest, including suggesting she tell her readers to submit recipes to the contest.

5. Use the product in recipe posts, in exchange for entering a contest. In exchange, she could win “some awesome [product name] prizes.”

6. Post a recipe for free so it can be featured on the company’s Facebook page. “Each holiday we will select one or two recipes to share with our fans. In doing so, we’re passing along our thanks to you by encouraging our community to become part of YOUR community.”

7. Write nine blog posts in three weeks. This last one came from a book publisher. The publisher asked for nine blog posts over three weeks to promote a cookbook. “We of course welcome more frequent posts if you’re so inclined!” the email said. Her reward? Unspecified. “We’ll reward you with cash and prizes, not to mention assistance with building blog traffic and your social media platform with the help of [the author's] team!

The fact is that companies wouldn’t do promotions like this if they didn’t think food bloggers would go for them. I hope that food bloggers are learning to say no, or are at least are pushing back by asking for a reasonable rate to do work for companies (with full disclosure, of course).

If you’re a food blogger, do you get requests like this? Do you just press delete, or do you try to negotiate for better terms from the company? Do you think some of these requests are reasonable?

(Photo provided by FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

  88 Responses to “7 Outrageous Requests of a Food Blogger”

  1. Sadly, this is the sort of stuff that appears in my inbox daily. I usually just delete, although occasionally I write back to the marketing or PR firm pointing out why I won’t be doing their job for them, for free.

    • Oh good. Well, the question is whether bloggers fall for this stuff. Maybe not the ones who read my blog, eh?

      • I think there are still plenty of bloggers who are flattered enough to do this kind of thing for exposure or product alone, although the number of those who value their time enough to charge is gradually growing.

        • I agree with Amanda, I get a lot of these as well, and sometimes respond with a reason why I am not intending to take their ‘kind’ offer, but usually delete.

          A lot of writing classes and courses are encouraging budding writers and bloggers to take up these opportunities to increase ‘exposure’ so it’s a catch 22, there’s always someone who’ll say yes.

          • Seriously?!? I teach writing classes and I would never advocate taking them up on an offer. I’d love to know who is telling you to do this.

          • Yes it is very common advice out there to do things for free when you are first getting started. I’m bombarded by this stuff daily so it obviously must work to some extent or they wouldn’t keep sending it. I try to reply back with the amount of work it takes to do what they are asking. Usually that doesn’t result in any reply but sometimes does lead to other things.

          • Hi Dani, great to hear that sometimes your reply has led to opportunities. Most people have said that it hasn’t. I suppose those who are just getting started are more vulnerable, but it seems that almost every level of food blogger gets these emails.

  2. I bet these requests are familiar to anyone who’s been blogging over two weeks. Brands seem to be bolder in their requests. My favorite to date is a request from a chocolate company to review their product and publish a blog post. In return, they would “consider” sharing the posts on their social media sites. My hunch is they thought people would fall over themselves to get a few pieces of free chocolate. My response to similar requests varies depending on my level of interest.

    • Huh. They would “consider” it. That’s crazy. You really think people will do this for a few pieces of chocolate? Are food bloggers that desperate?

      • I don’t know that food bloggers are that desperate. I think it’s simply a matter of new bloggers who get excited at any attention. Also, less savy bloggers don’t realize they’re being used. I’m a neophyte as a blogger (3 years) and I speak from experience when I say it takes time to learn the ropes. My learning may have been shorter than the average because I came into blogging with a lifetime of experience that taught me a whole bunch of stuff about relationships.

  3. I get a lot of emails from companies, more from having edited a food journal than the blog, but I’m pretty up front. If they want to send me a product, fine. I might say somewhere that it sucks, or I might find nothing interesting to say. It would only be on the blog or facebook though, not in print. They never seem to care. I’m honest about it, and sometimes I do say nice things. But I agree, a company asking a blogger to do work for them for nothing is pretty ridiculous.

    • That all sounds fine, Ken, as long as you disclose that you got it for free if you like it. It’s this other stuff that’s insulting!

  4. The ‘write a blogpost and possibly win a prize’ offer seems to be popping up more often these days. Disgusting really.

    • Yeah, that’s a good one. Or write a recipe and possibly win a prize. Oh, and we will own your recipe when you submit it.

  5. same thing, different medium…a local TV station I’ve had a great relationship with (but doesn’t net me any income) asked me recently to tie up the better part of 2 days… to create a few recipes for a MAJOR grocery chain advertiser then come film several back to back sessions “for the opportunity to be on tv.” As grateful as I am for opps there over the years (but i mutually promote them also), I (for once) said I would need to be compensated… we’re talking m.a.j.o.r. grocery chain… I was told that wasn’t part of their contract with the company… I suggested they perhaps renegotiate that contract and if nothing else, offer the chefs that do this weekly a gift card for the store…. if we were talking about a little occasional thing for a local mom and pop I’d have jumped on the chance to help them, but not a gabillion dollar corporation. Just wrong!! And the station ought to have considered the professionals around here they call upon as well…

    • Apparently you already appear on their tv station, so why would you need this opportunity? Odd. Since you weren’t written into their contract, it’s funny that they thought they’d ask you anyway. Good for you for standing up for yourself. They had a contract, which implies they’re getting paid. You should be getting paid too.

  6. Yes, all the time. They will feature my recipe “somewhere,” will I sponsor their contest …. and a lot of things that have nothing to do with my blog. Today, I was asked to sponsor cat eyeglasses! It’s an Italian food blog! I remain amused.

  7. Since I’m more of a reviewer than a recipe blogger, I get more offers to review products and have seen my share of ridiculous requests. In the beginning (I’ve been blogging for 6 years) I used to try and steer the company in the direction of paying me for my expertise, but realized it is a waste of my time, since they will just move on to another blogger who will comply.

    Currently, I use my food blog as a way to attract potential clients (doing online marketing, PR and social media management). However, the amount of work some want me to do for extremely low pay is unbelievable. Many often want to have a “meeting” under the guise of potentially hiring me only to pick my brain and never pay a dime.

    What I wonder though, is how come there is such a difference in the requests made of food bloggers, yet I keep hearing how mommy bloggers are raking in the cash with the offers they get? While I think many mommy bloggers have sold out, I do think there is a happy medium of being honest and transparent, yet still monetizing your blog. Thoughts?

    • Hmm, you are probably right. They probably have zero money for the project. Maybe the trick is to pitch them on something else.

      Yes, I don’t have meetings with people who want to pick my brain. A $25 lunch plus my transportation time is not worth it.

      I haven’t heard that mommy bloggers are raking in the cash. Like our field, there are those at the top, those who do okay, and then everyone else. And I suppose there are those who only write posts for free products or for very little. But I’d like to think there are fewer of those types.

  8. To answer your questions; Yes. Why Bother? Seldom.

    I get so many of these type of requests it’s wearisome to have to even cull them from my inbox. Did someone take your book and create a new edition titled, ‘Will Write for Free?’ and tout that experience as valuable?

    I find it equally wearisome to consider negotiating better terms. When a company starts at the level of free, why waste time on them at all? That offer (?) speaks volumes about their intent and lack of regard for our time and talents and I’m personally not interested in begging them for more.

    Barring something unique the only time I consider doing something under most of these situations is if the event is local and sounds fun for me or if it benefits a local charitable cause or a community service.

    I read over and over ad infinitum about the bloggers who think that doing something for free is an inroad to better situations down the road. Using the old fashioned idiom of ‘You have one opportunity to make a good first impression’ and it seems to me the only thing you have managed to do is set the standard that you will work for free. That standard seems to have permeated the mindset of both major companies and PR firms. We need to commandeer the slogan ‘Just Say No’ and mean it.

    • As others have said here, it’s probably a long shot to try to get some money out of these marketers. But big companies and boards do pay food writers and bloggers, and some of them pay very well. These mass emails are probably the bottom of the barrel, where they’re trying to get the biggest response for nothing.

      Sometimes doing something for free is an inroad. We write our blogs for free. That should be enough! I see no reason to promote products for free, unless they’re books. That is my exception.

  9. It’s like you’ve been snooping in my inbox, Dianne! I’ve gotten variations on all of the above, and while I used to take the time to respectfully decline each one (or occasionally try to negotiate something better, if the pitch was interesting aside from the total lack of compensation), now I just delete.
    Another one I’ve been seeing a lot lately is “write a post with an original recipe, and in exchange we’ll give you a prize to give away to a lucky reader”.
    Exqueeze me? I love my readers, and it’s nice that companies want to give them stuff, but giveaways actually mean MORE work for me and I get little in return besides the winner’s gratitude… meaning it’s basically the opposite of compensation.

    • Oh sorry to hear that, Isabelle. I’m getting idea that it’s best to delete these emails, based on what you and others say.

  10. I was asked to create a recipe on receipt of a bag of sugar once but mainly receive invites by restaurants (via PRs) to review (although my site really doesn’t cover this). It’s the the tone of many approaches that can really jar. Dear Editor, Dear blogger or no salutation tends to go straight in the bin. It may seem petty but I feel it’s indicative of the lack of regard some companies or media have for bloggers and treat them as rent a crowd who should be grateful. The paying in ‘exposure’ aspect really gets me – and I think this is what people fall for most. Received a very jolly request from an agency the other day asking for recipe submissions for their new site that they hadn’t even started promising exposure. Trying to find the email as it’s worth sharing for ‘can’t believe their gall’ value!
    Agree that we all have to unite and respect our own values to change these beliefs and practices.

    • It seems like these type of emails are sent out by low-level people who are not interested in cultivating a relationship with you. They’re going after what they perceive as “low-hanging fruit” which certainly does not apply to you, Sally. What a waste of time for everyone.

      Why do you you think people fall for “exposure?” instead of payment? Is it because so many bloggers just do it as a hobby and don’t expect payment?

  11. I hit delete! And agree with Sally, when it says “dear editor” or “dear blogger” it galls me. I’ve also stopped reviews on my blog, so when PRs email saying “We love your blog, it’s so awesome, review XYZ place” I get annoyed too – you haven’t really read it have you? It clearly states I don’t review anymore!
    Another stupid request I got was a company sending me a sentence and asking me to tweet/FB post that EXACT sentence on my Twitter and Facebook page. I did not do it, but then saw a few food bloggers do so…that annoyed me too!

    • What is wrong with these food bloggers that they would tweet the sentence? Are they currying favor? Hoping for more? I don’t get it.

      And I think these PR companies just get mass email lists and don’t bother reading any individual “About” pages.

      Very annoying indeed.

  12. All of the above. I’ve received some more than others. Including the cook for us for free request more than once. I straddle the line a bit between parenting & food so I cast a jaundiced eye on these requests. Attending an event requires childcare (which has to be paid for) and I normally decline. There are 2 events in the next month where bloggers have been invited to apply to attend for free. In return the bloggers are expected to work for the duration of the event & cover it across their social media channels. A social media professional would be paid handsomely to do this. But sure get a blogger to do it for free is madness. With no professional contract the risk of brand damage is huge. Brands are sabotaging themselves by engaging in this kind of behaviour.

    • Yeah, but it’s cheap! And other food bloggers are willing to do it. So all you can do is be happy you are sticking to your guns, Caitriona. Let them have it.

  13. “Outrageous” is most definitely the “perfect” word for this but why not? I mean, in this world of anything goes, it makes perfect sense for the company to try this out and they will continue to do this as long as there are bloggers who say yes. It is along the lines of your other post (the flip side) of the brand manager complaining about the lousy job bloggers do for their company yet not giving them guidelines or a contract or agreeing on expectations.

    I delete these kinds of mails although once or twice I have emailed back saying “for someone who claims to be familiar with my blog your email makes it just so obvious how little you do know it.”

    • Yes but that brand manager was paying the bloggers a substantial fee, so I think the situation was a little different. And these are not small companies but huge companies that have budgets. They just don’t think they have to spend any of it on food bloggers, apparently.

      • I guess when the day comes that bloggers stop saying yes to doing this kind of marketing for them for nothing the companies will think twice… and maybe start paying.

  14. I get these pitches all the time and typically just hit delete. I assume that there are bloggers that will write a post in exchange for free product. When a brand sent me samples last week along with blogger guidelines I politely told them that I do not write blog posts about food products but if I loved the product I might mention it in my podcast or tweet about it. The requests do seem to be getting more and more, but my least favorite it when they send pitches about something that has nothing to do with my blog. I write a healthy family recipe blog and am not interested in helping to promote the newest sun screen!!

  15. It wasn’t long after we started our site in 1997 that we got our first email from a major nut company (we all know the name) asking us to do free work in exchange for a free can of nuts. Immediately we concluded that this is nuts, and ever since then we use the delete key whenever we get an email like that. And we get a lot. What this mindset did though was it forced us to think about our site in a different way. We realized that if we are going to turn this into something we need a different business model. Everyone seemed to be focusing on exposure, either within companies or within the publishing industry. We concluded back then that exposure rarely produced any results other than getting other people wanting something else for free. At least back then the exposure could possibly lead to a reasonably decent book deal, but as you have mentioned Dianne that is almost unheard of now. So I submit now, as we concluded back then, that bloggers need to focus all efforts on their audience and forget about industry exposure. We concluded in 1997 that once we had a large loyal audience, then we would build something sustainable and the result is we built a great business that we will be able to retire very well on.

    Now I’m sure some would argue that you can do both. The problem is that audiences are very sophisticated now. They know a product plug when they see one and most people look for content now that is unbiased. So if you are plugging products on the front page of your blog I would argue this turns your audience off, not adds to your credibility. It may have added a bit of credibility a few years ago, but not anymore. They also know the difference between an ad and a blatant product plug. Audiences now realize that people need to earn a living so they’ve learned to live with ads if this results in free high quality unbiased content. We keep a firewall between the content and the advertising and it has worked well for us.

    So if you want to use exposure to have a social life then by all means go ahead and work with these companies and network. But if you are looking to grow an audience and thus a good business, then forget about it, because it’s nuts.

    • Hah! Good one, Rick. Yes, so far everyone who has responded here thinks that free content is “nuts,” as you say, so where are all the bloggers who think it’s fine and are willing to do the work? I guess they don’t read my blog.

      I’m not sure readers always know the difference between a product plug and regular content. Some bloggers blur the line pretty well. And some blogs do nothing but they have big readerships. That came as a shock to me.

      • I don’t think all readers know the difference between a plug and content, but I find more and more they do and they are getting more turned off by it. Readers seem to be a lot smarter than they used to be, probably because they have more access to information than they used to. We’ve noticed a big change in the sophistication of the audience even in the last year.

        One other point I just thought of. If companies are starting to get such a negative reaction from bloggers on these free work offers, they need to start thinking about the negative publicity that this will give their brand from these very same bloggers they are looking to get positive promotion from.

        • When I was at BlogHer Food recently, one of the speakers was saying there’s a lot of complaining on Twitter etc., which she found unprofessional. I guess it depends on the message, but in general, I hope you are right about that. But as someone pointed out earlier, hey, it’s close to free to send out these emails, so they have very little to lose.

          Re sophistication, it’s true that we are overwhelmed by information all the time and we must get better at sorting through it, so perhaps it is a natural evolution.

  16. Perhaps my voice here is unwarranted, but just to be a reminder from the other side: I have been blogging more than 2 weeks (four years!) and am one of those still hidden behind the curtains in the blogosphere wings, so I don’t have the privilege of deleting much of anything. My first stock email though gave me heart palpitations. So I can both understand the company who sends and the blogger who says yes. After so many years of waving your arms, it’s kind of nice when anyone notices–even if it is the wrong kind of attention.

    • Your voice is not unwarranted, Amanda. I’m thrilled that you’re willing to comment. It’s great to hear from someone who does go for these types of email. So if I understand it, you think companies deserve a favorable response because they are paying attention to you? To me, the most important people who respond to you are your readers.

      • Oh, no, wait! I do not think they deserve a favorable response. Not necessarily. I have not and probably will not say yes to these types of solicitors, especially when their requests and “rewards” are so head-cockingly off. But I get it. I was thrilled when I received one, finally. Even a bad one. And, yes, readers are the most important. But to get the readership…that is the clincher, isn’t it?

        • Okay I get it.

          Yes, that is the clincher. Everyone will tell you just to write good content and not worry about it.

  17. I particularly identified with No. 3: the coupon for a loaf of bread. I recently got an email with a digital coupon for a bag of frozen blueberries inviting me to create a recipe in exchange for trying the blueberries. However, my favorite request to date was the restaurant owner that sent me an email and asked that I meet with him to develop a marketing strategy for his new venture. Yes, seriously!

    Perhaps the issue is that there is no clear delineation of the term “food blogger.” Let’s face it, it costs very little to start a blog, and there are those that just like getting “free stuff” and posting about it without any journalistic talent or integrity.

    • Really? I guess people think they have nothing to lose. If you are dumb enough to meet with the guy, then all the better for him, eh?

      Perhaps it is flattering for hobby bloggers to be offered free stuff. I guess they don’t think too much about what they have to do in exchange or whether their readers approve of their behavior. It’s about being noticed.

  18. I don’t bother responding to these offers anymore. If it’s a company I really want to work with (highly unlikely, since most companies I want to work with won’t behave like this), then I’ll possibly respond and say something like “I’d love to work with you, let’s find a way to work together in a more meaningful way, yadda yadda…”

    I think the fundamental problem (and this goes beyond just abusive PR pitches) is that email is (essentially) free, and it’s possible for these companies to send out thousands of these emails with very little work. It really just becomes spam at this point, and if they get a couple of newbies who go for it, then it’s a win for that PR firm.

    Imagine if it always cost 5 cents to send an email (or even 1 cent!)? These obnoxious offers would just disappear. (And our inboxes would be a whole lot more pleasant overall…)

    • What an argument to bring back mailed letters, Andrew! If only. A first-class US stamp is up to $.49 cents now, so it’s fun to imagine how much less “mail” I’d have if companies had to pay. You’re absolutely right. I guess there’s very little risk in “free.”

  19. Ha! What a fabulous post. I get dozens of these ridiculous requests every week. The mind boggles. I usually just hit delete, unless they’re clearly offering decent compensation, or if it’s a good-sounding product that they’re offering to send me without expecting anything in return. I received one offer for a cookbook to review where they were expecting me to make and post three recipes from the book at specified times – crazy! I wrote back saying that I would take a copy of the book, but would not be able to participate in the posts, and they said they’d send a copy (which I have yet to receive).

    In any case, Erin Alderson of Naturally Ella and Wooden Spoons Kitchen wrote a great post on how to price a sponsored post that I’m finding incredibly helpful (http://woodenspoonskitchen.com/2013/08/15/blogging-the-money-equation-for-sponsored-post/).

    Thanks for the laughs this morning, Dianne! I agree that we food bloggers need to stick together when it comes to this kinda thing.

    • Wow thanks for the link Alanna – always looking for great tips. :)

      On another note; it’s sad how people try to get away with these types of things, just be honest. Okay you can’t post, sorry and on to the next, but don’t say you will send the book anyway when we know you won’t lol.

    • Thanks for this great link. I just put it on my Facebook WWFF page and will put it in my newsletter.

      I go through this same kind of thing with cookbooks. I say I want to interview the author for my blog, and usually I get a “we’ll see but they’re probably too important for that” kind of email. Their loss.

  20. I am new to the recipe blog world and I am always grateful for your input on these things. I can see a new blogger like myself fall for some of these ridiculous request, like you said either flattered or they think it will really bring more viewers to their blog. But I can understand your point and I am glad I read this for any future offers. I do not think doing things for free to benefit the other company is good. As a content writer and editor (which I have been doing for a while now) I get offers that are ridiculous and it’s sad because eventually they will get a yes to their requests. I had someone ask if I can write a 500 word blog for 25 cents… ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I have better things to do (like build my own blog) then to write something for 25 cents. It amuses me how far off people can be by asking someone to write for so little money. It’s almost a slap in the face. Again thank you so much for your input. I will definitely take your advice to heart :)

    • Hey Kristin, thanks for commenting. It’s not just me who suggests you hit the delete button. Just about everyone who commented here does so. Now you can do so with a smile on your face. I suppose it’s free to ask you if you’ll work for $.25. But so dumb.

  21. Gah! Reading your post and the comments from colleagues makes me so cross! I have a background in marketing, as well as food writing… and for many years I did the PR for an organic producer/importer. I would mail parcels samples of our lines with media releases to metro newspapers and all the glossies, without expectation. I rarely ever followed up on my mail out and yet I achieved an almost 100% success rate in getting mentioned in publications across Australia.

    Now I’m on the blogging side of the fence and the demands of some PRs really irritates me. I am thinking of putting an out of office message to PRs, like one that a fellow food writer and blogger has put on…. advising that the email had been received and not to bother chasing him, he will come back if he is interested in doing so!

    I got an email from a PR a couple of years ago wanting something like 70 recipes with photos in a really short turnaround time! The ones I find most annoying are those that send you one little sample and then harass you wanting to know when you are going to feature it on the blog!

    That said, I am working with some PR companies that are highly professional, respectable and respectful. We have mutual admiration of each other’s work and professionalism. That’s the way I like it! And that’s how it should be.

  22. I’ve heard about this happening more and more. So do you respond to every email or delete them?

    • Most of my commenters favor deleting. These requests go out by the hundreds, and they’re just waiting to see who will take the bait.

  23. Wonderfully written! I was asked to develop recipes for a local company with no compensation for either my time, or the ingredients – not even the ingredients they sell.

  24. I’ve seen all these requests and then some. It seems these national food companies will continue to throw these ridiculous requests out there and see who they can get to respond. Somebody must be, or they wouldn’t continue to do it. I usually just delete too.

  25. I have mix feelings about it! hahah Now, I’m a little more “relief” this bad practices aren’t limited where I live (hey, Brazil o/). But in other hand, seems it’s widely spread anywhere. And it’s not nice.

    I don’t know, but in general I thought you guys (USA or Europe) the “food online business / PR” was more professional (aka you get paid for the job). Usually, here we said the company / PR team “play dumb”.

    After 7 years, I don’t bother myself anymore: delete them all! hahah

    • Apparently the PR companies here in the US are no more sophisticated than the ones in Brazil, Vitor. Thanks for writing. Thanks to the internet, I suppose any company can be annoying.

  26. I must be nuts!! I think that 2 and 6 are a great way to get extra exposure and grow my website. She can send those crazy requests to me. : )

    L

    P.S. Diane, I think I just proved your point. ; )

    • Well, I’ll be darned. Finally someone has the courage to say you’ll take some of those offers. I don’t think you’re nuts. Just maybe not thinking about the biggest bang for your buck.

  27. Lively discussion.
    I hit delete – unless the pitch is aligned with my food philosophy and I can see the company, article, producer, person would benefit tremendously by a little help. I often do stuff for free. Hey, I volunteer almost full time, now. So, I definitely promote products, places, producers and people that I believe in. Usually, without them pitching me. But, when convenient, I will definitely work to assist. These kinds of ethical companies are few and far between. My time is too precious to take the time necessary to respond to silly pitches.
    Reading the conversations is such fun as so many of my cyber “friends” have chimed in.
    :)
    V

    • It’s nice to choose whom to promote, based on your own value system, Valerie, instead of doing so for “exposure.”

      Yes, the comments have been great! It’s always fun to have so many people chime in.

  28. Such a great post. 4-6 almost every single day lately. I usually do write back if they take the time to address me by name (most generic requests I delete). I let them know why it’s not a good fit and I make sure to tell them that the promise of traffic and social media shares on their networks that they think are so great usually result in 0 traffic for my blog. Sometimes I think a reality check is appropriate. :)

    • Hah! I love that you have checked your incoming links for evidence of this “exposure” they promise, and have found none. Fantastic to have a reality check for you too. That’s nice of you to write back if they have named you specifically, but I’m not sure it makes a difference for what they’re offering.

  29. I too get the dreaded, yet highly entertaining, weird requests. I went through a period where I had an equally generic reply quoting a price for my services. Never got a response for one, so I stopped doing it. But I am starting to think if more of us replied to these with a fee request, they might start getting the message. Yes, many bloggers jump at the chance for anything free or that elusive “exposure” idea at the beginning, but do those blogs really take off? Are they creating the audience companies really want to reach? If a company gives a $1 off coupon to 20 bloggers with low readership, it doesn’t cost them much, but do they see a return? If they want to reach bigger audiences, maybe they will soon realize it is
    something worth paying for.

    • I’m not sure it will change things if food bloggers reply that they would like to be paid a decent amount, but it can’t hurt.

      I think there’s a base of food bloggers who are new and flattered by the attention. They are the group that’s willing to do the work for very little. Maybe these companies figure that if they hook 10 percent of everyone, that’s a good enough return.

  30. […] you agree? 7 Outrageous Requests To A Food Blogger via Will Write For […]

  31. Hi Dianne – Not being a blogger but someone who has worked on behalf of writer clients for years and also someone who has been a corporate marketer too, I had a different reaction to your post of outrageous requests. I completely understand why bloggers should be wary of such “great offers” but I actually don’t read these requests as demands for free work. I see how they come across that way but I don’t think it’s the intent. There is so much pressure in marketing, particularly PR, to generate “organic” content, i.e. not paid and not placed. I don’t think the intention is to create burdensome or presumptuous requests, they simply reflect a poor mixture among put upon or less experienced PR staffers, to drum up “measurable” organic content. If a brand pays a blogger, it’s no longer organic content, it’s advertising. Anything higher up the marketing food chain in equated with greater impact, as others have noted. So, I think the desire is not so much about taking advantage of bloggers as much as it is about the pressure for brands to find ways to break through in an overwhelming crowded, fractured media landscape. I think Ken Albala gives very good guidance. Pick and choose what you’ll explore based on what interests you, remain an independent thinker and develop relationships with the rare marketers and publicists who do impress you. They are not the evil empire and someday you might need their help to launch your own product or book! – Todd

    • I appreciate your point of view, Todd. It’s great to have this perspective from the client side. I also worked in PR for a few years.

      It depends which offers you are talking about. I just don’t see why Kettle potato chips should ask a media person to bring a dish to share to a product launch event. Things like that make me mad. They are not some mom and pop company on a budget.

      I am not sure that paying a blogger equates to advertising. Bloggers write advertorial right in their posts and post on social media on behalf of many companies and councils. They are being paid to do so. These companies are not buying ads but positive press by influencers to their large audiences.

      That said, like you, I agree with Ken’s advice. There are reputable companies. I have written about bloggers who are working with them and are being paid fairly — even well. I don’t think any of the companies in these examples would help a blogger launch their own product or book. The commenters so far have said they have been unable to engage the writers of offers like this in any kind of meaningful relationship.

  32. I started my blog December 08. I had no idea there would be opportunities with major brands, etc. Naively, I spent time developing recipes for my blog in exchange for free product. However, all was not lost. This helped to stretch my own recipe developing skills, build relationships with PR people and get some blog exposure. As my blog became a more valuable property, with great photography, recipes and traffic, I began to get monetary offers to develop recipes. I don’t consider this advertising. I consider it pay for an exchange of skill and mutual beneficial social media exposure. As I began to get more offers, I gained confidence to never do a “free” product post again. Now I work under contract with brands, but I make sure I still deliver the best in recipes to my readers. It might sometimes be using a product, but only one I believe in and always within my personal culinary view. It’s great to get paid! Blogging is a lot of work! Full disclosure of course.

    • Yes indeed, this is the path that many successful bloggers have taken. I’m so glad that good business opportunities have come our way, Angela.

  33. I think that list and some of the comment examples are hilarious. It seems like food bloggers get all the fun emails. Doing reviews for fitness equipment has led to a couple interesting emails for me, but certainly not like ones I’m reading about here. Some bloggers generate a crap load of traffic. It’s very bold for a giant, obviously profitable company to ask for free advertising and/or content. Gimme a break lol

    • Yeah, I don’t think there are the same number of bloggers who want to write about gym equipment, John, so you might have an advantage.

  34. […] get these emails all the time…and sometimes they’re really […]

  35. As a blogger who would really, really love some exposure, I would love to get this opportunity.
    I just don’t see how these are funny or outrageous. This feels like a whole post of I’m-too-good-for-your-measly-table-scraps. I would love some of those table scraps.

    But I’ll also admit that I might be missing something, here.

    • If you are new and blogging for a hobby, you might think this is fun and possibly good for you. These marketers are counting on that.

      But many bloggers have been working for years on their blogs, and are looking to get paid for their work, so this system doesn’t work for them. it’s not about being superior. It’s about being respected for your work and expertise, the same way dentists or truck drivers are. I hope that makes sense, Libby.

  36. Got a request a few days ago from a large national PR firm in NY to do a 4th of July grilling segment for a local TV station here in Salt Lake City. I wrote back and asked if it involved promoting specific name-brand products, and what my compensation would be. Turns out there were several brands of products involved. It ended with “This is not a paid opportunity, but of course you would be able to mention your blog.”
    I know the TV station charges $500-$1,000 for companies to have a segment on the show. (It’s a “pay-to-play” show.) The PR firm charges their clients thousands of dollars to set up these promotions. And yet they don’t think the person doing the actual work of the demo — including the prep and clean-up, should do it for free in order to “be on TV!”
    I wrote back and said thank your for the opportunity, but I can’t afford to work for free. Never heard a word back. I’m sure if I turn on the TV on July 4 I will find a blogger or cookbook author doing this grilling segment. I guess if someone wants the practice or “exposure,” that’s fine.
    But I’ve spent over 20 years as a newspaper food columnist, and shilling for branded products would ruin my credibility, so it would have to pay well enough for me to quit my day job.
    I’ve done a lot of unpaid local TV cooking demos to promote my cookbook, “Soup’s On!” They would call me if they had a last-minute cancellation of a paying customer, so I got free advertising and they got a nice cooking demo. I always made a recipe from my book, and the book was shown prominently during the segment.
    But why would I want to do that to advertise someone ELSE’s product? I don’t see a lot of value in that.

    • I see your point about how TV stations and PR firms are charging money, so why not bloggers? I think it’s because the old model is that reporters and feature writers were employees or paid freelancers, so they didn’t need to be paid directly by the company (and in fact, they could not be because of ethics).

      Yes, people do get paid to do demos on television when they are representing someone else’s product.

      So if someone else wants to work for free, more power to them. I suppose they could argue that if they’re fantastic then they’ve got a demo reel to show someone who wants to hire them, and that’s worth something.

      I will shill for books but that’s it, as far as products go. But some food bloggers think certain products and produce are worth writing about for pay, so more power to them, if they can do so in a professional manner.

  37. […] 7 Outrageous Requests To A Food Blogger […]

  38. My favorite was an offer recently, a 50 cent off coupon for a review post. And it wasn’t even an actual coupon, it was torn from a roll of sticker coupons, the kind the company puts on. Even if I was going to work for 50 cent, could you imagine a store employee seeing you adding coupons to a product? It was so insulting on so many levels.

  39. I am a new food blogger but not green behind the ears. This kind of slave solicitation is all a numbers game and it obviously pays off since it continues. I had an experience with a company looking for freelance writers (general content) that blew my mind. Their site was filled with typos, questionable grammatical structure (I’m being overly generous), and several paragraphs of Lorem Ipsum that had never been removed. The instructions for submissions included this line, “Don’t worry about spelling and grammar because we are just looking for filler content.” Wow; just wow. They were astounded I was not interested in their “exceptional opportunity” at $2.50 per 1,000 word article. It’s this kind of experience I bring with me to food blogging but it helps to hear it from the pros, like all of you.

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