When you search for a definition of free, you come up with things like 'costing nothing' or 'not controlled by obligation or the will of another'. So how does this apply to bloggers reviews? Do we receive a product and there is absolutely no obligation on us to do anything except enjoy it? Yeah right! Numerous times I read threads on forums or tweets from bloggers who have become overwhelmed by the number of 'freebies' they have received and now they have a whole ton of review posts that they are either feeling guilty for not writing or in some cases being chased by PR's to write.
I recall when I first started to accept reviews on my blog last September (so a good couple of years after I actually started the blog) how chuffed I was to be offered things for what I thought was free. I fell into the new bloggers trap of thinking that these PR's liked me or they thought my blog was great and that was why I was being offered things. I look back now and wonder why I said yes to some things, did I really want to go to so much effort for a £10 CD? Probably not, but it's OK, we all have to start somewhere. These were items I knew my family would enjoy, so I was happy to play my part and review them as well as I could. I know some people can knock out a review post in no time at all, but mine are always the ones that take the longest as I feel an obligation to make them read well and be interesting, both for the PR that has given me the product and for my readers.
So nowadays I have learnt my lesson and I say no, this is a very good thing. In the early days my blog email address might receive 2 or 3 pitches a week, now I receive 8 - 12 a day. How would I possibly find the time to say yes to everything? Blogging is not my life. I would say that I probably say yes to about 1 request in every 15, I just do not have any more available time than that.
So many of the blogger events sound amazing - the Savoy, The Ritz, Posh restaurants and I have a moments pang of longing when I say no and then when I see all the tweets from the event but I know it is far more important for me (and this is only about me, I am not judging you) to stay local and drop my girls to school half way through the day and to turn up to work when I am supposed to. With 3 kids, a husband, job, friends, Church and voluntary work how would I fit in a ton of blogging events?
Sure, if I wanted to turn this blog into my income stream, that networking might be invaluable to me but CyberMummy really did remind me of why I blog and that was not for loads of freebies or days out - however nice they may be. It was to share the ups and downs of parenting, being a Christian and having an eating disorder; to remind people they are not alone and to offer strength and hope to those who need it.
Talking of CyberMummy was anyone else appalled at the amount of stuff we were given? I know at least one blogger friend was, we had a chat via DM on twitter and she summed the freebies up well, as 'consumerism gone mad'. I may seem ungrateful but I can buy pasta for 50p at the local shop, why would I want to carry it home 50 miles on the train? and sorry, whoever informed you I had babies and wanted packs of wipes, dummies, baby lotions etc was clearly mistaken. My youngest children will be 4 next week. CyberMummy was not supposed to be about coming home with the biggest swag bags - was it?
Like anyone I love a good review product, last week I went to see Wicked at the Theatre, this week my girls will open some gorgeous wooden toys courtesy of The Wooden Toy Shop and these are the reviews I treasure, ones that have real value for my family but I have made a firm decision not to just take stuff for the sake of it and I certainly will not be accepting any £3 products with an obligation to write a post around them. My time is worth more than that. I value me and it is my responsibility to ensure that the PR's I work with do so as well. I think I have been lucky as I have not come across a poor PR yet in my blogging journey or is it because I show courtesy, reply to all my emails and be nice that they just reciprocate? Then, when I say I will review something I do, doing it well and in a timely manner. You know what they say, what goes around comes around.
So for any new bloggers reading this, who are wondering why other bloggers always seem to get much better 'stuff' than they do, I say this - Do not expect to have an established, well read blog overnight. Most people with well read blogs have worked very hard at them, many are journalists and writers with a real talent in this area. Others, like me are just grafters.
My top tips would be to -
- Work hard at the content on your blog, publish frequently and write well,
- Engage with your readers and build a community that people wish to come back to time and time again,
- Accept some low value reviews to build up relationships with the PR's,
- Treat your PR friends well, be courteous and prompt,
- Remember that you are a blogger and not a blagger! Those who just ask or expect things for nothing will be very disappointed.
So where do you stand on this? Are bloggers being given too much stuff now? How can we be expected to keep up? Are you with me when I say that I do not just want to take things for the sake of them being free?
I'd love to hear you view, blogger or not. Leave me a comment and I'll come back to you. Cheers Mich x