First I just Tweeted about this offer because it was so outrageous. Then I decided no, it’s worth sharing with you.
Amy Sherman of Cooking with Amy sent me an unsolicited email she received from a company that wants her to feature its product on her blog. That’s not unusual, right? But read on, and you’ll find some crazy requests. Here’s how the email begins:
“The event is at a culinary trade show in Italy. You would be picked up at the airport for the event, lasting two days. We would put you up in a hotel and cover all meal expenses for the 2 days of the show. “
Sounds reasonable so far.
But now it gets suspicious:
“We would also want you to cook a unique recipe for 30 to 35 people at the show.”
Make dinner for 35 strangers, for free? At a trade show? And to top it off:
“They don’t have a big budget, so you would have to pay for your own airfare. However, our thinking is that you could really generate some nice attention for yourself by blogging about the event. In addition, we would be able to support you through our digital press releases.”
So she should develop a recipe for no compensation, fly to Italy at her own expense, make the dish for 30 to 35 people at the show, then post about it on her own blog to “bring attention to herself.” (Because she has no way to bring attention to herself normally? Hello? She has a blog, people.)
The Cost of an “Opportunity”
I called Sherman, and she and I figured out what this oppotunity costs. A flight to Italy costs $900 to$1200 from California. Recipe development is $350-$500. Then say, $25 per person (because she’s not paying for ingredients and it’s only one dish prepared on site) to cook and serve a dish for 35 people = $875. She’d be out anywhere from $1575-$2125.
Sherman, as you might expect, was exasperated. “It’s not like ‘Oh, we’re inviting you as a guest.'” It’s ‘We’re inviting you to come and work and not even pay your expenses.'”
“Food bloggers are the new slaves,” she added. “You should do all this stuff and consider it a great opportunity — to be taken advantage of.”
Next Sherman decided it WAS an opportunity, but not that kind. She wrote the marketing company a long, polite email, educated them about how how she works and what she charges. She’s hoping to turn the company into a client for future recipe development, content for a client’s website, spokesperson work, or marketing writing for brochures. (For those of you wondering how to make money with a blog, I hope you’ve re-read this paragraph.)
She might as well work it. “My experience is that some of these people come back, and they come back with money. You have to set the ground rules of what you’re willing to do,” she said.
What’s the moral of the story? Amy has a message for food bloggers. “It’s fine if you want to blog as a hobby, but once you start doing this kind of work, you’re playing in a professional arena.” she said. “You can’t call yourself an amateur anymore.”
“They would never pitch this to professionals chefs or to professional food writers,” Sherman continued. “They would never ask Lidia Bastianich to come to a trade show on her own dime and cook for free. But somehow, it’s acceptable to ask bloggers to do this.”
I suggested to her that marketers would not make offers like this if they thought no one would take them. She agrees. “There’s this whole category of food bloggers who are putting their toe in the water as professionals, but they’re not conducting themselves in a professional way,” Sherman concluded.
Got an outrageous blogger request of your own to share? Tell me how you handled it.