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!