Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The PR / Blogger Symbiosis

So much is being said at the moment regarding the relationship between the PR and the blogger and the value of reviewing.  I felt I'd put my own opinions into a post as it is something that directly effects me.

As in all walks of life there is a massive spectrum of integrity, professionalism and respect on both sides of the fence.  We've all witnessed the PR company that asks us to not mention that a post is sponsored.  We've all received ill thought out press releases, unsolicited items for review and unsuitable proposals that a quick read of our blog could have avoided.  Similarly we know some wonderful PR companies who build up personal relationships with us, help promote our blogs and provide us with amazing opportunities.

Some bloggers/reviewers work incredibly hard to produce relevant reviews for their readers, working with real integrity.  Although a review post does not attract much direct interaction initially, they receive constant page views as people search for information on products of interest to them.  My review vlogs on YouTube receive thousands of hits.  My Disney Jungle Junction Toy review vlog is at 9,588 views...someone is interested in finding out more.  My Graco Ambassador Page and videos from November 2010 still receive page views week after week.  Clearly, consumers are looking for impartial reviews to make purchasing decisions.  Bloggers are not paid journalists and are not answerable to any higher order, so in most cases the reviews are  genuine opinion.  Some people question the integrity, where bloggers are being seduced by freebies and other incentives and therefore do not want to upset PR companies or brands by giving negative feedback.  One of my most negative reviews received a very positive response from the company I was reviewing for, thanking me for my honesty and asking to use my quotes in a meeting with their clients.  (I did feel a little guilty when I wrote it, but what would have been the point of lying.  I was not nasty or unpleasant, but I was honest and pointed out my genuine concerns.)

The term 'blagger' has sprung up of late and is being bandied about as an all-encompassing insult.  This has been used to describe everyone from the unscrupulous people who are setting up blogs with the sole intention of getting as many freebies as they can without doing anything constructive in return, to anyone who does reviews on their blog at all.  The constant badgering for #prrequests on Facebook and Twitter seems so unprofessional.   There are plenty of companies offering opportunities that you can respond to on relevant forums and sites.  This desperation to contact everyone, everywhere is just a little needy and greedy.  We all had to build up our contacts, it is not an overnight thing to be approached by PR companies.  Asking a company straight off for a valuable pushchair, a day after starting a blog is obviously going to erode the credibility of bloggers.

Some blogging purists do not like to see reviews sullying the clear waters of their dashboards.  They would rather that cyberspace was filled with literary works provoking debate or providing a good read.  Of course that side of blogging is wonderful, with so many great writers inspiring us, entertaining us and provoking our thoughts.  However, the blogging world is huge and there is room for reviews to run alongside amusing anecdotes or wordy rants.  That said, I hate seeing reviews which are just copied and pasted from press releases, where the product is not shown in use and no original photography or video is used to showcase the product.  You just know the product sent out to be reviewed is now on Ebay or some For Sale forum on Facebook.  It is the lack of integrity and the dishonest motives of the reviewer that should earn them the derogatory name of 'blagger'.  Don't tar all reviewers with the same brush.

As for the PR companies, many of them seem to be solely interested in SEO and getting the company URL out there, regardless of the quality of the post they are featured on.  I would like to see some more discerning decisions made by PRs as to who they choose to work with.  But this however would be time consuming and require extra effort in an industry that works fast and to tight deadlines.  In life I like to be rewarded on merit and recognised for the quality of work I produce.  I wish it were the same in blogging, then perhaps reviewers would receive more respect!

At the end of the day, the PR/Blogger relationship is one of symbiosis.  They do something for you, you do something for them, ergo it is mutually beneficial.  I do enjoy receiving things for my family that I would otherwise probably not have bought.  Being a Toyologist has provided the kids all the toys they could ever want and being a Graco Ambassador and Quinny Caster will keep Freddy in all the pushchairs and car seats he'll ever need!  In return I have helped spread the word about their products, I've given my opinions, I have pimped links, appeared in the press and I have represented brands at events.  I've never done anything that I didn't think was appropriate and always do the best I can do when I agree to take on a commitment.  My influence and reach is being put to use for the benefit of a brand and their products are driving traffic to my posts.  Win/win.

I am happy to have reviews sit alongside personal posts about my life.  It is still relevant to me and my family and hopefully will resonate with other parents interested in the products.  I almost always include photos and often include videos which  show the product being used or demonstrated and we have fun as a family testing out products.  I love what I do.  It has been such an adventure and yes I have been incredibly lucky and am extraordinarily grateful.  I hope that all the scandals, hierarchy, infighting and unscrupulous practices don't burst our blogging bubble!  I hope the fabulous PR companies continue to recognise the value in the voice of bloggers and carry on working with us in our wonderful virtual symbiosis.   And I hope one day the purists and the reviewers can sit side by side and be proud of their body of work!  It is an exciting, ever growing, ever changing media and I for one hope to explore the potential and possibilities for as long as I can!

Day 8


  1. great post Wendy, I agree with everything you said :) xx

  2. well said Wendy! I love reading your reviews as they are not just a review about a product, it is a insight into your life.
    Keep up the good work

  3. Brilliant post. I trust your reviews and think they are well written. There is definitely a place for them. Hopefully the debate will end some of the less scrupulous practices.

  4. Well written Wendy, I wrote about this to with much the same message, I work hard on my reviews too. Plus you taught me a new word 'symbiosis' I love it - now where and how can I use it!

  5. good for you Wendy your blog your way xx

  6. Totally agree - couldnt have said it better! I love doing reviews and really testing products. I did, at one time get bogged down with way too many, I felt the pressure from PRs and churned out some quick reviews with no thought behind but quickly found my integrity again!!!! Love reading your reviews xx

  7. Excellent post Wendy! You've got it spot on...well done you!
    :) Karin

  8. Perfectly summed up!

  9. Bloody hell I wish I could put a point across as well as you can! Well said, feels like someone really standing up for those who review. You put a lot of time and effort into your reviews - more than I do it is clear!

    There have been the odd things that I've been sent that haven't really been suitable for us (girls stuff) but out of politeness I will do a write up, usually with stock photos, and then pass these onto friends and family who can make use of them. I hope that the relevant prs don't mind this approach as it still gives them the publicity of the product. I now hope that they don't think I have sold them on for personal gain, and I might have to alter how I review these things, or just send them back. Interesting point!

    Being a Toyologist has brought us more toys than we could ever have afforded, and those reviews are just getting so many hits it's untrue, so hopefully they are helping others make buying decisions. That is what I love!

  10. bravo! well done Wendy you have summed it all up perfectly.
    It saddens me that there has become an association with blogging and free stuff. I agree it's about professionalism and what you as a blogger can offer and that's something that takes time and is earned.
    The items you've reviewed clearly in page views justify your ability to review and it's a win/win for you and the PR/Company/product.
    I have seen some 'blagging' and I will call it blagging because that what it is on twitter and it's make my toes curl. It is not a term that I would apply to everyone who reviews. But sometimes I do think; if you want something so badly - go buy it. It has created a greed and competitiveness that doesn't do anyone any favours.

  11. Hi Wendy, Great article. I write as PR for Kiddy Car Seats - these are really high value items and it is important to us to get honest reviews from the most influential of bloggers. We make sure we build up a rapport with parent bloggers so that we are not "giving away freebies" which often result in a strong sales pitch that your followers would see straight through. Bring on the symbiosis and thanks to all for doing a great job supporting brands that you would honestly buy yourselves.

  12. I enjoyed reading your blog and was quite surprised to learn that there is so much dishonesty going on behind the scenes of blogging. I applaud what you do and think it is awful that some bloggers expect to be rewarded for what they do..

  13. I love your blog Wendy and the reviews that are relevant to my family are really useful x

  14. I have noticed a few posts recently about bloggers being blaggers and agree with everything you have written here. I never aimed to get into reviewing, it is just something that happened. However, I too enjoy doing it and only agree to doing them if they are relevant to my family and page. I have had to write negative reviews a few times but we owe it to readers to tell the truth.

    I think you have a fantastic blog and enjoy reading it. Keep doing what you are doing xx

  15. You have such a brilliant way with words Wendy and this post again shows it off perfectly! You have said everything so well.

    You know I have always loved your blog and read and comment on review posts that I am genuinely interested in as they are relevant. Your reviews are always so well written and honest.

    I have obviously been under a rock again as I've missed all this talk about PRs and bloggers.

    I have always been of the opinion of "each to their own". We are all bloggers whether we do reviews or not...even those who 'blag'...just let them get on with it. If we were all the same life would be soooo boring.


  16. Very well said Wendy- and you know I have always liked your blog and comment on the reviews if I find them interesting. Your reviews are always so well written. x

  17. Well said Wendy! I agree with you totally! xx

  18. I'd been thinking about writing something along these lines before the current blogger/blagger storm blew up - I've seen review posts where the pictures have been titled "ebay" - not even trying to hide their intentions. It's frustrating, but I hope this has opened a few eyes. Thanks for putting it better than I could've.

  19. Brilliant post Wendy. Fantastic to see your point of view and really well articulated.



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