My thoughts on the ‘Blogger Blackmail’ story

I set up my food related blog comparatively recently and I do it as a hobby. I’ve written articles in the past for local newspapers and other publications – sometimes for a nominal fee but mostly for free – because I enjoy writing and I get a little thrill when I see something I’ve worked on in print. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some suppliers of foodie items / ingredients and written about their products, which they have kindly sent me to test or I’ve created a recipe for them. No money has changed hands and I have written honest reviews on the goods I’ve received. Yes, they were positive reviews because I liked the products. If I hadn’t liked them, I would have contacted the suppliers and told them that I had reservations and why. I would not have printed a negative review without speaking to the supplier and to be honest, I believe that giving them feedback directly would be more useful than writing a scathing article advising people to steer clear of XX product.

Likewise I’ve written honest reviews of restaurants, tea shops and cafes that I’ve visited in different towns. I’ve always paid for my food and drinks and the venues have not known that I was going to review them. It shouldn’t make a difference anyway because good food and service should be provided at all times and not just when you are aware a review may be carried out.

There are many excellent food and lifestyle bloggers who are fortunate enough to make a living from their blogs and associated activities and that’s great. What isn’t so great is when you hear of people trying to use their ‘food blogger status’ to obtain free stuff from a supplier and when they don’t get it, writing a damning post or article about the company in question. I heard about something like this last week (you couldn’t avoid it really as it was all over social media) and was quite shocked how so much ‘dirty laundry’ was aired.

It seems a food blogger contacted a bakery to ask if she could try their goods and write about them on her blog. The bakery agreed but when the blogger turned up, she was unhappy with the small selection of macarons and sweet treats she was offered and apparently asked for several boxes of goodies which would have cost about £100. The bakery declined and then the blogger wrote a negative piece about her experience after having purchased two (namely ONE macaron and ONE marshmallow) items herself.

The bakery then retaliated in print and it all got quite difficult. You can find out the ins and outs of this particular case on Twitter or Google by typing in the phrase ‘blogger blackmail’. I appreciate that there are two sides to every story and the whole incident probably came down to poor communication by both parties but the ensuing fall-out resulted in negative publicity for both the blogger and the bakery.

I am one of hundreds (probably thousands really) of people who write a blog and I would be mortified if anyone thought my intentions were not honourable. While I write for pleasure and in my free time, if I can build relationships with people who produce goods and occasionally test out things for them, I’m happy to do that. I have approached one or two suppliers of things I’d wanted to try and when they have sent me some items, I’ve written about them and commented about them on Twitter and Facebook. I’ve also recommended certain ingredients that I really like whether they were free samples or paid for.

What struck me about the blogger in question is her assertion that it took her 8 hours to work on a blog post including her research time, taking good photographs, making notes, typing up, etc. This vast effort – in her opinion – fully justified her request to the small bakery of £100 worth of goods. I seem to recall supermodels saying in the past they didn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000. Is £100 of cakes and biscuits the blogging equivalent of this?

The blogger also remarked that ‘writing doesn’t pay well’ and she doesn’t make a habit of using her free time producing content and marketing a brand ‘for peanuts’. She added that she has a right to value what she produces and politely negotiates this. Unfortunately her conduct with the bakery in question doesn’t support that. Interestingly, she states that she is an engineer by trade and that her blog, in so many words, is ‘amateur writing’. I’d respond to that by saying that as an ‘amateur’ and not being so well known in the blogging world (although she has now gained a certain notoriety thanks to the joys of social media), she should treat prospective contacts with a little more grace.

The bakery in question said they agreed to her request for some free samples in return for a positive review purely to get their name up on the SEO rankings. The owner said that when they refused the £100 boxes of treats, the blogger insinuated she would give them a bad review. She returned later to purchase her two small items and later posted unflattering photos and comments about them, although these have apparently since been deleted.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that a blogger and small bakery have both received some adverse publicity they could have done without. I believe the unfortunate event was potentially due to a lack of communication on both sides about what the expectations were. I hope it doesn’t put companies and suppliers off working with bloggers because mutual respect and understanding can foster excellent long-term relationships which benefit all parties. This incident really does demonstrate that biting the hand that feeds you is not a good idea.