I love working with brands.  Most of the time.

Working with brands is what allows me to make a living from doing something I love, and it’s also an opportunity to try out products or wear clothes that I otherwise might not have known about. (Or just couldn’t afford, let’s be honest.) I’m incredibly grateful to have that opportunity, and, for the most part, I love it. Other times, though? Other times I kind of hate it.

The fact is, working with brands is awesome… but it can also be kind of stressful. Although it feels like it’s been around forever, blogging is still a very new industry: and because of that, many of the brands who decide to jump aboard the bandwagon don’t really understand what bloggers do, or what goes into producing a sponsored post, say. So they end up insulting us by asking us to do something for nothing, or making demands which make it impossible to do a good job  –  then they’re upset because the post didn’t work as well for them as they wanted it to.

Brands don’t do these things because they’re big ol’ meanies trying to make blogger’s lives miserable, obviously: they do it simply because they often don’t understand what a blogger’s job actually entails. So here are some things bloggers wish brand reps understood…

things bloggers wish they could tell brandsIt takes us a long time to put a blog post together.

If it’s a product review, we have to actually use the item (ideally more than once) in order to be able to review it accurately, and then we need to photograph it, write the review, and make sure the information we’ve included is accurate. If it’s an outfit post, meanwhile, we have to wait for suitable weather conditions to photograph it (Which can be easier said than done for those of us in the good ol’ UK), make sure our photographer (er, husband, in my case) is available, drive to a suitable location, take the photos, edit the photos, and write the accompanying text, being careful to include the correct links and other info the brand has requested. None of that can happen instantly, and yet time and time again I’ll receive an item one day, and have the brand rep “chasing me up” the very next day, impatient to know when the post will be up, and why it can’t be done NOW.

There’s obviously another side to this, of course: I mean, the brand rep isn’t chasing me because they actively WANT to annoy me, are they? Most of the time, they do it because they’re getting pressure from their client too, and that’s understandable. While it seems obvious to me that I can’t take photos of a sundress when it’s pouring with rain outside, the brand is aware that the dress won’t be available forever, and that if I put off posting about it for too long, it’ll have sold out by the time I get round to uploading that post. I get it: I do. At the same time, though, putting pressure on me to deliver the post RIGHT NOW OR IDEALLY YESTERDAY just means that I’m forced to compromise the quality of it, by taking the photos indoors, or otherwise not taking enough time to get it right. And that doesn’t sell dresses either, does it?

We need plenty of notice for sponsored posts.

All of this would be avoided if brands were to just give us enough time to complete posts without it having to be a rush job every single time. If you know you need the post up by this Friday, for instance, you need to have sent me the product at least a couple of weeks before that, to give me enough time to do my best work. Almost without exception, though, I find that brands will tend to give me just a few days warning: time and time again I’ll be asked on Monday to publish a post by Friday – and then the product won’t be sent out until Wednesday, if I’m lucky. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve received a product I’ve agreed to post about just one or two days before the deadline for the post – which means I then have to drop everything, and scramble to get the post up on time. On that subject…

We have other commitments too.

Some bloggers work full-time jobs in addition to running their blogs, and even those of us who blog full-time have families to think about, and various other commitments which can’t easily be changed, just because a brand didn’t send the product we’re supposed to be reviewing until the day before the deadline. Now, I love blogging: it was a hobby long before it was a job, and the fact that I now earn a living from it hasn’t dampened the joy I get from writing. That doesn’t mean I want to cancel my evening out, or have to re-arrange my weekend plans, though, in order to write a blog post that should have been completed three weeks ago, but which I just received the product for today. That’s just not fair – and by expecting me to do it, you’re essentially telling me my time isn’t important, and that I should willingly drop everything just for you. Not cool.

We know our readers better than you do.

You’re an expert on your brand. I, however, am an expert on my blog: I know what works and what doesn’t, and I also know what my readers will accept in terms of sponsorship, and what they’ll really hate. You know what I hate, though? Being told my readers are going to just LOVE hearing about some random product that I know perfectly well will generate no interest whatsoever. There’s no point in trying to promote a product to a disinterested audience – and there’s even less point in you trying to convince me you know my readers better than I do.

We’re not magazine writers.

Some blogs might look a bit like magazines these days, but they’re NOT magazines: and that’s why people like them. If my readers wanted to know what to wear to the Oscars, for instance, they’d buy a magazine, or visit one of the many websites that covers red carpet fashion. If they’re reading my blog, on the other hand, it’s probably because they’re interested in seeing how I wear certain clothes: so why try to insist that I style something “for the Oscars!”, or for some equally-unrealistic occasion, that I’m never going to have to dress for? Let’s face it: I’m never going to go to the Oscars. What’s more, most of my readers aren’t going to the Oscars either. So, if you want me to style that dress, let me wear it in the way I feel is going to get the best response on my blog: don’t try to insist on me styling it for some contrived situation that sounds better suited to Cosmo than to my “personal diary” style blog.

No one cares about your company’s backstory.

Er, that sounded harsh, didn’t it? SOME people DO care about your back story, obviously: because it’s important, and it deserves to be told.  A blog post probably isn’t the best place to tell it, however, because I stand by what I said, harsh though it may sound: the majority of blog readers aren’t interested in reading about how your brand was launched, where your founder was born, and all of that other stuff you’ve asked me to include in my blog post. Some of them WILL find it interesting, true: but most will just skim over that information, because all they REALLY want to know is what the product is like, whether or not it works, where they can buy it, and how much it costs. THAT’S the information I’ll be including in my review: all of the rest will have to remain on your own website, where people can find it if they really want to. Forcing me to regurgitate a press release won’t do either of us any favours, so again, you have to trust me to know my audience, and to give them the information I know they’ll be most interested in.

Hosting competitions has absolutely no benefit to us

OK, I’m speaking mostly for myself here, but what I’ve found is that hosting a competition on behalf of a brand is a lot of work for me, for very little reward. Actually, competitions are one of the most time-consuming types of content to produce, because in addition to creating the post announcing the competition, you also have to manage the entries, answer endless questions about it, write ANOTHER post announcing the winner, and then make sure they receive their prize – which can sometimes mean physically mailing it out to them. In exchange for that, the blogger gets…well, not very much, really, unless we’re being paid for it. Most of the time, though, brands don’t want to pay bloggers to host competitions: they seem to feel that giving away a prize is reward enough for anyone, and will point out that you’re BOUND to see an increase in followers as a result of it.

Now, this is true: most bloggers who run competitions will, after all, require people to follow them in some way, in order to enter. That definitely boosts your follower numbers, but the problem is, the followers you tend to get as a result of running a competition aren’t normally following because they like your blog. They’re following because they want to win the prize – and when the contest is over, they’ll either unfollow you altogether, or they’ll continue following, but never click through and visit your blog. Which is kinda pointless, huh?

Entering competitions has even less benefit

This trend seems to have somewhat died out now, but for a while there I was being inundated with emails from brands, all offering me the “opportunity” to enter a contest, which would involve me publishing a post about them on my blog, and then being entered into a prize draw, for a chance of winning some low-value item. Now, that’s just insulting, isn’t it? That’s like me contacting 50 different dress brands and asking each one of them to send me a free dress, on the basis that I’ll write about the one I like best… and keep all the rest. Awesome “opportunity”, no? Even worse is when the “prize” on offer is the equally awesome “opportunity” (I sometimes think that word means something different to brands than it does to bloggers…) to write something for the brand’s website. So… I work for you for free, in the hope of winning the opportunity to do MORE work for you for free? Where do I sign up?

Bloggers are also small businesses – and they also have bills to pay

I often get smaller brands asking me to do large amounts of work for them for free, on the basis that “we’re just a small business: we can’t afford to pay!” Now, I totally understand how hard it is for a small business to get off the ground: and the reason I understand that is because I am ALSO a small business owner, and I ALSO can’t afford to pay expensive advertising fees. What I don’t understand is why MY small business is expected to support YOURS, when we’re both in the same position? You might not be able to pay my advertising fee, but I can’t afford to work for nothing, because just like you, I’m a small businessperson, struggling to make a living. Just like you, I have bills to pay, and just like you, while I’d LOVE to be able to help you, purely out of the goodness of my heart, if I worked for free for every small business who asked me to, I’d be broke by now. So while I don’t blame you for asking, I hope you’ll understand why the answer has to be “no”.

Phew! That ended up being longer than I thought!

In closing, I just want to say that I didn’t write this as list of complaints, or to call anyone out, and I also don’t think that bloggers are perfect, and never put a foot wrong. There are faults on both sides, but many of them are caused by a simple lack of understanding. Brands don’t understand what bloggers do, and bloggers, in turn, don’t know the pressure brands are under to get coverage in any way they can. I can’t speak for the brands, obviously, but hopefully this post will help illustrate the blogger’s point of view: and if you’ve anything to add to it, you know what to do!

10 Comments
  1. I applaud you for writing this!! So often brands forget that we have lives and other commitments too. I have a full time job and so blogging is not my number one priority, and I make clear what I will/won’t do but some people can’t respect that. I refuse to enter those blogger competitions with prizes that really aren’t adequate compensation. I have some brands/PR companies that I have great relationship with and I really appreciate them.

  2. Such a great post! You cover topics with such honesty and thoroughness.

    I’m beginning to work with brands and am encountering some of the situations you described. After reading your post, I feel better armed to handle these conversations with tact and confidence.

  3. These points just seem so reasonable, it’s weird to think they have to be said! But as you said, blogging is fairly new, and there are a lot of varied types of bloggers, and what they are willing to do for free stuff, so I think that makes it a little muddled. I do like that you put your blog first, and all your sponsored posts make sense.

  4. Countless yeses to this whole post, Amber. If I had a dollar for every time I’d had thoughts like these, I could retire today. I too love, and feel very grateful, to work with many different brands, but am sometimes troubled by the exact points that you raised. Another biggie – perhaps the very largest, come to think of it – for me is when brand (or third party PR company) reps treat you like you’re a child who has been blogging for about all of 3.75 seconds, instead of the established professional (or very serious hobby blogger, as the case may be) that you are. Being talking down to something fierce or having them email to check in 20 times, even though you already thoroughly and politely covered every single one of their points in your own previous emails to them, just drives me up the wall and is something brands really, really need to check themselves on more often (starting by, fittingly, reading a blogger’s About – or similar – page and seeing just how long said person has been blogging and what roll their site currently plays in their life/career).

    Thank you for tackling this typically hush-hush topic. I think you said what many of us have been secretly thinking for years now and I could hug you for it.

    ♥ Jessica

  5. I love how you tell it like it is. Those “contests” always seamed like the oddest thing when bloggers did them. Especially when they wanted readers to vote or whatever. Come on, people.

  6. Oh, yes yes yes! I can’t even recall how many times I’ve felt insulted or not taken seriously through a business email from a brand… The “opportunity” to work for free (or for “exposure” on their site with less pageviews than mine) one is the worst, I get those quite regularly still. I think I might actually start telling them it’s utterly insulting in the future, haha!

  7. Thanks for sharing this! I’m new to blogging, just a hobby so far and juggling a full time job plus toddler! I did a ‘giveaway’ a few weeks ago! Took me ages! The winner got a ton of stuff…. I got a big fat nothing! Lesson learnt!

    Xx

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