Shit Fashion Bloggers Do: Dealing With PRs

Because dealing with PRs is forever one of the most contentious issues in blogging, I though I’d put my spin on things. A lot of more established bloggers forget that, once upon a time, starting to get emails from PRs is actually a nice thing – it shows that, somehow or another, you’ve been recognised as having a voice and implies you’re doing something right.

Well, as Taking Back Sunday once sung, don’t let it go to your head. I’ve seen a ton of girls who’ve been blogging for about six weeks and get this idea in her head that Chanel should be sending them an umbrella as soon as there’s a cloud in the sky, and that Oliver Peoples’ PR department should be sending free sunglasses the second that cloud disappears. To those girls, I would say this -
1) They don’t know you exist.
2) They don’t care you exist.

Fluffy Fashion Beans (or whatever that, no doubt, derivative and cliched blog name is) only has 4 GFC readers and its author only has 104 Twitter followers, and you have to do a hell of a lot more than that before the superbrands come knocking at your virtual door.

PR is a business. Unless sending you a gift is going to result in at least two sales, there isn’t any point in doing it. Shocking though this may be to some bloggers, brand PRs aren’t there just to help people get a new wardrobe for free. Yes, it’s frustrating that some bloggers are like ‘LOOK AT THIS OUTFIT MADE ENTIRELY OUT OF GIFTED STUFF, LOL’, but if you’re that bothered about lining your pockets with free stuff, you should probably reconsider why you started blogging in the first place.

All too often I see bloggers bitching about PRs on Twitter, sometimes even namechecking the brands and individuals involved. On a scale of 1 to HORRIBLE IDEA, this is about an 8. (Well, except for the one by this blogger, because it made me laugh endlessly.) Yes, PRs can sometimes be massively annoying. Like sending you emails that start ‘dear blogger’ and end with ‘when can I expect this to go live?’. But just as you wouldn’t (I assume…) spit in a snooty shop assistant’s face, you shouldn’t email a PR with a massive rant. Why?

1) There’s a person at the other end, one who probably hates their day job (I’m assuming again) as much as you do. Imagine how soul sucking it must be to spend all day forwarding ‘press’ releases about stuff even they’re not excited about.
2) They talk. I’m friends with enough PR peeps (hell, even my dad is one of them) to know that they’re not exactly a quiet bunch. They sometimes make ME seem like a mute. They also, just like bloggers do, have a bit of a pack mentality. Mess with one of them, and it’s taken as an insult by all of them. Tread with care.

A while back I heard a story (from a PR…of course) about a blogger who’s pretty well known. She started firing off these snotty emails to PRs saying how lame their events were and asking to be taken off their lists, she had a semi-public spat with a paper who supposedly ‘implied’ that she lied about her stats and she now insists on being called a journalist, not a blogger. Even though the main place she does her ‘journalism’ is a…err, blog.

Seriously, I thought this trite sense of self importance was reserved for characters in Gossip Girl. I had my photo taken by a magazine once, does that make me a model? I cooked some spaghetti last night, I’m only responding to chef now. One day I’d like to have a regular column in a fashion magazine or something, but even then I doubt I’d insist that people refer to me as a journalist – I’m officially, and you can quote me on this, ok being referred to as a blogger. You only have to look at the comments on just about any article about fashion bloggers to realise that it’s this perceived attitude problem that turns the general public, as well as a lot of PRs, against fashion bloggers. Don’t give them any more ammo.

So, yes, it may be annoying when a PR emails you something starting ‘dear blogger’ or expects you to post about some fairly mundane product or invites you to an event that doesn’t even have a free bar (shock horror). But remember, there are newbies out there just wishing for emails like that to start arriving.

26 comments

  1. Lauren

    Excellent piece, you hit the nail on the head. Sick of seeing bloggers who’re so full of their own self-importance. It’s time people started being kinder to PRs; they’re only doing their job, as you say.

  2. Ondo Lady

    Great post and I agree with a lot of your points but I think the relationship between PRs and bloggers is a bit more complex than that. As the industry is new there is a lot of grey areas on how the two parties should work together. Some PRs get it right but also some do get it wrong and some bloggers react to it. There is no call for unprofessionalism but it is useful for bloggers to reply to PRs if they feel that they have acted inappropriately. Self entitlement is indeed an issue with some new bloggers expecting to be elevated to the heights that seasoned bloggers are at but they will learn the hard way. The only way we can move forward is to communicate more effectively with each other. PRs won’t always get it right and then neither will bloggers but we can help each along with the process and the only way to do that is by providing an open channel.

    • stu

      Absolutely right. Some PRs cross a line, and bloggers should call them out on it if and when that happens in a fair and even-handed way. An open channel sounds good…it might be a pipe dream, but it sounds good!

  3. Duck

    I agree that people should try to be polite when dealing with anybody else, whether in a professional context (if we’re assuming blogging is in any way a profession) or in our private lives. Not just because people talk, but because, you know, we should try to be good people… And I’m almost certain I know of the blogger you single out in your post – and another twenty just like her who have a serious attitude problem.

    BUT…
    There are also bloggers out there who are quite happy to go about their daily lives *not* interacting with PRs, getting free stuff or attending “blogger events”. It can become quite tiresome when so many PRs are constantly emailing about brands you’d never wear or write about (they’d be able to tell if they looked at your blog before clicking ‘send’), inviting you to events in cities you don’t live in, or sending you ‘copy’ they’d like you to publish when you only really blog about your own life. Once you start getting more than 50 of these emails a day it becomes impossible to reply to them all and even quite difficult to find the real emails amongst the mess of what is essentially spam. If blogging isn’t your career and you actually do something unrelated to fashion/the internet, I can totally see why this can lead to frustration and eventual venting on Twitter etc…

    PRs are only doing their job, but often in the same way that cold-callers trying to reclaim that PPI you never took out are also only doing their job. Maybe if PRs did their research a bit more and bloggers tried to have slightly more patience the internet would be a happier place.

    • stu

      Sure, you’re absolutely right – this post only deals with some elements of the situation, because there are too many to address in a single post. For those bloggers who really DON’T want to be contacted by PRs, I guess the only solution is to never post your email address! Hardly the ideal solution though…

  4. Kylie

    Interesting post! Some bloggers probably loose their rag after the millionth email of asking them to work for nothing. I know PRs are given a budget and they need to keep costs low, but I do get offended when I am asked to basically give my time to them for nothing in return. Not sure it is blogger self importance, rather objecting to being used. Saying that bloggers should always keep a professional head and send back a rate card rather than a rant. You never know who you are going to work with or want to work with in the future, like you said, the industry talks! I am baffled that a blogger would be so angry about being invited to an event, was it a sadism party? haha

  5. Cherie City

    A good PR-blogger relationship works two ways. Being a great PRs means that you understand how all kinds of press operate and provide them with everything they need, whether it’s high res images, relevant brand quotes or a sample of a product/experience where suitable. It’s also about having impeccable manners and etiquette and representing your brand with dignity. It’s disappointing when some PRs don’t acknowledge a story or say thank you when bloggers have spent an hour or two writing about their client. Many forget that press coverage isn’t a right and it should be valued.

    On the other side, bloggers that brands want to work with are the ones that make a positive impression and don’t have a diva strop on twitter and tell PRs how they should be doing their job (when many haven’t ever worked in PR). Everyone gets irritated sometimes and needs to vent, but if you need to, keep it general…flaming a brand in public is unfair.

    As a blogger, I get lots of daft approaches, but for my sanity, I just hit the delete button and forget about it. Life is too short to take on every badly-addressed ‘dear blogger’ email.

    • stu

      Great points, you sound like one of the good ‘uns! I think deleting stuff that comes across as impolite or demanding is probably fine too, certainly better than having a massive rant.

  6. Magdalena

    I agree! Instead of rant, just send rates….. As much as it might be tempting to accept any free shit when you start, that won’t get you any closer to the “elite” bloggers (whoever they are they days…). Quite the opposite – you can be sure that same “unique” tee you’ve been sent will be featured on 100 other blogs that same week :) oops! And well, if you don’t have anything to write about – then don’t write!
    Rant ended.
    I love your fashion bloggers posts Stu! :)

  7. Tiiu

    Awesome writing and amazing insight. You’re truly an inspiration to bloggers AND journalists everywhere. Laughed lots — you are tons of fun and totally on point. Just stumbled upon your blog, and can’t wait to read more. Love from Montreal, Canada!

  8. shophopper

    This piece makes for some great reading, but I seriously disagree with the following: “it shows that, somehow or another, you’ve been recognised as having a voice and implies you’re doing something right.”

    I think it’s absolutely possible to do plenty of things right and not receive any (or any noteworthy) PR-pitches. I loath the idea that PR and blogging are naturally, logically, inherently intertwined. You probably didn’t mean it that way, but it sounds as if somehow bloggers should validate what they do in terms of relevance to companies. I’m not turned off by the supposed vanity of bloggers, or by their attitude. I’m turned off by their eagerness to ‘work’ with brands in order to get alms. I read blogs because I’m interested in the writer’s style and aesthetic vision.There’s few people who manage to balance money and authenticity and most bloggers seem pretty careless about it. That’s what turns me off, because it makes me feel cheated. When I buy a magazine, at least I know the difference between advertisment and content, and I know I should read the content critically because it is in some ways influenced by the companies that buy advertisement space. Blogs are much more unclear in that respect.

    Anyway, just my two cents.

    • stu

      Yeah, I’ve probably pushed that point too hard – all I mean is that if one’s insecure about whether or not anyone reads their blog a PR getting in contact can be sort of reassuring.

      I certainly didn’t mean that bloggers should actively work to please brands – I have no doubt that I’ve put a few brands off with my…playful approach. But equally, a few probably quite like it!

      Appreciate your comments – I always enjoy reading some insight into the industry from other bloggers!

  9. morganvsmorgan

    TRUTH. It’s amazing how valuble people think their blogs are to other people – realistically unless you’re reaching a large chunk of a brand’s target market – you’re of no use or interest to them. I used to read IFB, and it admittedly made me a bit c/o hungry (I guess thats what happens when it’s all geared towards making a business out of blogging) – but even then I just ended up resenting my blog being anything other than a representation of shit I love.
    It’s never going to be a business – if theres an oppurtunity presented to me thats right up my alley, then sure. But I’m not “entitled” to it just because I take a bit of time out of my week to write about shit i wear.

    Also i think I’m in love with your blog.

    • stu

      Yeah, my blog will forever be a place to talk about shit I love (and hate). If I make some money, cool. If it leads to something ‘bigger’, cool. If not, I’ve had fun with it, haha.

      Thanks for the blog love :D

  10. crystal

    You don’t need tons of free goodies to have an awesome blog. With accepting Free stuff is comes responsibility. The pr firm wants publicity and you have to create that for them while keeping your integrity. That is not so easy when you recieve something that is well…not your cup of tea ( i got a hideous. Eyeshadow a while ago and I am still figuring out a way to be honest and yet polite) .

    The key between bloggers and pr is….here we go….communication and indeed RESPECT .

    • stu

      Sure, and that’s why I make pretty sure I like a product before I accept freebies – I don’t want to get into that awkward situation of having to choose between posting a negative review and compromising my integrity!

  11. mat

    wicked posts stu, i don’t think i’ve lost touch but i sure do just delete a whole load of emails cos they don’t relate or start with “dear blogger”. if anything I will reply to some of them in a nice manner today, even if it’s a no. Nice to get my thinking

    • stu

      Haha, cheers Mat. Deleting is probably the least harsh method of rejection – if something’s not for you, it’s not for you. I wouldn’t worry about it, especially as your blog is looking great!

  12. LoudPen

    Stu! I love your blog and this was an excellent post. I was just complaining to a fellow blogger that it’s so hard to find great writing on blogs. Moving right along, I’ll admit I’m guilty of Twitter rants about bad PR pitches. But usually, I don’t rant until after a bad exchange with a PR rep. Also, I NEVER drop any names. In essence, I’m tweeting not only to vent but to offer advice to PR reps as I come across bad pitches, etc. Plus I double as a Blogger and Publicist so I constantly wear both hats. Having said that, I understand both sides of the coin. As a blogger, I don’t post more than 3 times a week unless it’s fashion week and I only post high quality content as far as writing and photos.

    I actually love working with PR reps (even more now that I do PR) because they send me images, the press release, get me into events and more so that I can create great content. As a Publicist, I love working with bloggers because they are more likely to respond to my pitches and actually feature my clients which tend to be independent artists and emerging brands.

    I totally agree with this post but just wanted to add my 2 cents. Loving the blog & will be back!

  13. Miss drifted Snow White

    Brilliant post, Stu!

    This actually reminds me of the debate that was going on on Twitter a while back of bloggers being pissed off with VO5 for featuring a model/actress to pretend to be a blogger in one of their ads and how VO5 should’ve featured real bloggers and stuff. That entitlement really pissed me off. What makes us bloggers in any way more entitled to be featured in a VO5 ad that goes out in prime time tv that Unilever probably pumped millions into making and airing than a model/actress who does this shit for a living? Just because we share our opinions on a website doesn’t make us any more important! As if any dentist in toothpaste ads or any family in any cooking ad is in anyway real!?! These ads are targeted at masses and those masses don’t care and don’t know bloggers exist and could probably not even tell the difference even if VO5 had featured a blogger in their ad. Also, VO5 is trying to sell a product, not a “lifestyle” (yes Im gonna go as far as calling blogging a lifestyle LOL!)

  14. Emma

    Nice one Stu. It’s pretty embarassing when bloggers get up their own arses even though they clearly LOVE to hate getting emails and then whine about them. It shouldn’t be too difficult to just be nice right? Nice people get the biggest rewards and by being snotty they just look insecure and people will stop reading their blogs.

  15. Debs

    Love this post Stu – I really like your writing style its so conversational. I agree. When I started to get PR emails and it was a very happy moment for me I try my best to interact with them fairly and make sure I say no if a product is not right for my blog etc. and so far the relationships seem good.

    debs x