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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What Bloggers and Brands Can Learn From #BloggerBlackmail

Gift Box of 18 Macarons - Classic Assortment

My Twitter Feed was full of comments about #BloggerBlackmail yesterday. I didn't know what it first referred to, and then I saw a bunch of memes clarifying the difference between coconut macaroons, French-style almond macarons and their fair market value. What?

As it turns out, it was an internet war between what appears to be an inexperienced blogger hoping to build her personal brand and a small bakery that reacted unprofessionally. While both may have talents in their respective genres, their handling of the situation before and after the controversy exposed their naivete. You can see Mehreen A's story from Wrap Your Lips Around This and Anges de Sucre's account on their sites. It's interesting to note that I have seen their posts change several times in the last 36 hours in their defense as a response to social media.

At its core, a blogger was pitching what was an advertorial involving writing and photography and expected to be compensated. The bakery did not understand this and the staff thought they were being extorted for the product. Both cried foul publicly.

Here's where an established professional blogger would have done things differently:

-A blogger looking to be paid to write a review that would benefit the brand is selling a marketing service. You're doing the job of an advertising salesperson for a publication that happens to be your own in addition to creating content on their behalf.

-While selling any service to a potential client, you would include what makes your business special, your credentials, and your qualifications. Show past posts and campaigns and the results.

-Any professional blogger I know has a media kit and thorough knowledge of its demographic, reach and accolades to share in their pitch to a potential client.

-Be explicit on the deliverables and what was expected as compensation.

An established blogger rarely would have to approach a small, unknown brand to do a review in the first place. Any blog with influence already gets inundated with brands looking for a review of their product. More established brands work with bloggers on larger campaigns that are compensated beyond offering product. While Mehreen A. has recently added a list of big brands she supposedly worked with in her post, she clearly did not make this a part of her pitch to the bakery before this incident.

Here is how an established business owner would have handled this differently:

-An up-and-coming food business needs word-of-mouth and good publicity to thrive. As an entrepreneur, the best bang for your marketing dollars would be through social media and influencers if you don't have a huge advertising budget.

-When a blogger pitches you, it doesn't take a lot of effort to check their credentials and reach. If you don't have the time, just ask them for their media kit or portfolio. You wouldn't buy an oven without checking the specs and user reviews would you?

-If an influencer or member of the media was coming to review your business, make sure your entire staff has been notified, and they are clear on how you would like to treat the reviewer.

-As an entrepreneur, you would not work for free, so why would you expect someone else to? Would you spend days assembling a beautiful wedding cake so that someone could hand you a little trinket for your time?

In Ange de Sucre's recent update to her defamatory post, the owner Reshmi Bennett states that she has great relationships with other blogs (like Mehreen A's post, something she did not list until recently). If she were savvy about media or influencers as she wants the public to think she is, she would have known whether Mehreen A's blog was worth her time or not in reach. She would have understood that writing and photography take work.

Rather than chalk it up to a misunderstanding and rescheduling the review of the cafe, Mehreen A. ended up purchasing items. She then gave the products a negative critique on social media. While that's the prerogative of any unhappy customer, it seemed petty in light of the situation. The owner chose not to address the criticism of the product. (It never occurred to the owner that the sweets could have actually been bad). Instead, she shamed the critic personally and professionally, by name and on her website. The blogger took her posts down. The bakery did not.

The result? The internet world thinks bloggers are greedy, entitled bullies. Established media and bloggers will stay far away from working with this bakery. Since French macarons are already  the unofficial dessert cliche mascot of both foodie and fashion bloggers, the real pain both parties are going through now is an online joke to everyone else.

Macarons photo from the Ange the Sucre bakery

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