Let me start by saying I wrote this post last week and it has been sat in my drafts folder for days because I wasn't sure whether or not to post it. I've recently felt disheartened with aspects of blogging and at this time I wanted to share my thoughts.
A collaboration between a blogger and a brand can be wonderful. Glorious. The brand gifts the blogger with a product, or pays the blogger with actual money for featuring their stuff in a blog post. The brand are rewarded with fantastic exposure, especially if the blogger is well known and receives lots of daily traffic. And the blogger is rewarded with a lovely freebie or some pennies to go into a savings account. I'm not against sponsored content at all - I have worked with many, many brands and companies over the years and made strong connections with the members of their PR team, lovely friendships and nice neat transactions.
But recently I have been feeling the strain and stress that is associated with this type of blogging. Partly it is my own fault. I have been taking on more than I really have time for, and agreeing to work with people because I love the company or I want the free stuff. I'm not pacing myself or my workload. I hope my blog does not come across as a money making machine as it most certainly isn't. Blogging is not my full time profession and it does not pay the bills. The money I earn from blogging is small and goes into a rainy-day fund and also helps me to produce new fresh content on This Fashion is Mine. I try to keep any sponsored posts to a minimum and feature only the products and brands that I genuinely like/would recommend. I always give my honest and true opinions. I have a disclaimer that appears in my sidebar at all times.
I had a little moan on Twitter the other week about feeling a bit 'used' and 'under pressure'. What I meant was that sometimes brands seem to take advantage of bloggers and expect too much. I have set terms and conditions which I forward to the people I work with, but often my terms are ignored and their terms take precedence. Occasionally brands will try to make compromises with my rules or (I feel) ask for too much. I'm not always sure the deal I'm making is a fair one. 'Would you like to feature a dress from our site, please choose between these five dresses, please post at least three photographs of yourself wearing the dress within 14 days of receiving the item and include these two links, please ask your readers to like our Facebook page, oh and don't forget that no affiliate or nofollow links are allowed.' And that's not even an exaggeration. Crazy isn't it. And then I actually worry that the blog post I've created for this company won't be good enough! WHAT!? I worry that my post won't be up to standard for someone else, on my blog! Surely the only standard that matters is my own.
Sending a blogger a product to review is the cheapest form of advertising for a company (Ok - bit of a guess, but I imagine it is one of the cheapest forms of raising brand awareness when compared with the price of a magazine feature, TV advert, billboards, posters, leafleting and online ads such as Facebook/Google etc.) Because of this I think brands should be willing to be a little more flexible with bloggers and appreciative of the hard-work and time put in to promoting their products.
Lots of companies are doing it right. They have positive relationships with bloggers, giving them time and space to choose how and when they will review items. They fully acknowledge their blogger collective as a powerful voice and fruitful members of their PR team.
A few years ago everyone was very new to brand-blogger relationships. They existed but they weren't as wide-spread as they are today. Now brands love bloggers. We review and feature their items for very little cost to thousands of people. The opinions expressed in blogs are those of real people. Which is so much more powerful than just reading the seller's description. How many times have you Google searched for honest reviews of an item before buying it?
I said on Twitter that I would be going ahead with any scheduled collabs and then taking a break from working with brands. I don't think my blog is heavy on product-placement anyway, but personally I'm starting to feel a bit lost. I need to get back to blogging 'just because' and writing about the things I'm passionate about. And yes, I'm often passionate about products. Beauty, fashion, food, a new lens for my camera - but these items will be featured on This Fashion is Mine because I really want to talk about them, not because I've decided to 'take on the job' or I feel obliged because a company was nice enough to send me something for free.
This is not a post declaring that I will never work with brands again. Of course I will! I'll work with all the generous people who appreciate what bloggers do and give me the freedom and leeway to do things my own way ON MY OWN BLOG. I must not forget, that this website is my own to do with as I wish. I can and do turn brands down regularly, but even when I agree to collaborate, I need to remember that I run this show.
I hope my recent experiences are not a sign of things to come. I hope brands fully appreciate what bloggers can do for them and bloggers in turn, refuse to be taken advantage of. We are not PR robots who will promote, promote, promote for next to nothing in return - we are not employed by these companies, we owe them nothing. Sometimes I think bloggers sit down at their desks on a Monday morning and think 'Ok, what am I advertising this week then?' And go ahead and write up 10 blog posts about all the freebies they have received until they are fresh out of ideas. That is until the next package arrives in the post, or the next email drops into their inbox.
Since writing this post I'm starting to feel better about blogging again. I still stand by what I've said and finally plucked up the courage to post this. I'll be cutting down my brand collaborations for a while so I can concentrate on 'me' blogging. Also a little disclaimer, this post was not directed at any one brand/company in particular and should not reflect all of the collaborations I have recently taken part in or the current on-going partnerships. What are your thoughts on brands working with bloggers? Have I just had a few bad eggs, or is the whole nature of the blogger/brand collaboration shifting?