Friday, 3 June 2011

Parent bloggers - giving the internet a bad name?

I know I shouldn't have done it, and actually I blame Nicki Cawood:

Brilliant article on @Tots100 Should PR Agencies pay Travel Expenses For Bloggers?less than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

My gut reaction to the question was to snort "No!" and leave it at that, but then I made the mistake of clicking through the link and reading the article. Still working against my better judgement I left a comment.

Before I get ahead of myself, the gist of the piece is that PR companies should pay the expenses of bloggers that they invite to attend events. Then there were eight comments in agreement with the blogger. I felt it was time for some balance, so left a dissenting comment. It wasn't an attempt to be controversial, I just happen to disagree with the post and commenters so far. My comment got a couple of responses and I replied to some of them, but there is more to say about this and I don't want to appear to be a troll over at Tots100 so I'll marshall my thoughts here.

So - should bloggers expect to get travel expenses to attend marketing events paid by PR companies?

No. If you really want to go find a way to pay for it. Otherwise, don't go and write about something else. As I said in my comment, you've decided to go it alone as a parent blogger and you have to live with that choice. If you want to work for a media organisation with a budget for travel then go and do that. But it's better to make what you're doing work for you. If you attend the same product launches as everyone else your blog will be just like everyone else's. Surely an advantage of running your own blog is the freedom to write about what you want, when you want, how you want? Don't be a mouthpiece for big business; do your own thing.

But we're only hobbyists, we're not running a business here.

I know. My hobby is photography and if I want to go to London to take photos I don't expect to get train tickets sent in the post by the London tourism board. If it's your hobby, it's kind of the idea that you pay for it yourself.

PR agencies who did an occasional blogger outreach out of London would get a lot of kudos (and probably some good write-ups for their clients).

Yes, but your review of something should depend on the quality of the item, not how well you're treated by the PR company.

What I think is saddest about this is that the bloggers are letting themselves be partially driven by the agenda of the PR circus. Blogging should be about doing your own thing, writing what you want to write. A day spent making a six hour round trip to London for a thirty minute event could be spent finding local contacts. There will be people making stuff near you, there are baby groups you could visit, and local newspapers who might want columnists. Rather than be driven by the marketeers use some of that initiative you showed when you learnt to self-host WordPress, get out in your communities (real or virtual) and bring in your own stories.


  1. Not sure how I managed to get blamed for this lol!
    Hugely busy this morning so have replied to this on the original Tots100 article.

    Now back to work!

  2. James I suspect you are being deliberately obtuse, to give you something to write or rather rant about. Maybe this is how you get the content that you state on other blog we should all strive to get.

    The context of the original piece was more as an advice to PRs not a dig, and the author also references the advice she give to PRs that she advises.

    If you read the comment of one PR who discusses cancelling events for number of reasons, surely the advice given on correct budgeting and planning would prevent cancellation of events? Surely a PR cancelling an event starts to create doubt in the clients minds?

    Maybe your not being obtuse, maybe your reading was just clouded by you obvious disdain for parent bloggers. Which is a shame because you are missing out on some quite exceptional writers.

  3. Nicki - I've responded over in "the other place."

    I largely stand by what I've written above, although as you'll see I've a clearer idea of why the piece was written now. I am sorry if you thought I was being belligerent towards you this morning; that wasn't my intention.

  4. Dean I don't think I was being obtuse, but yes I'd admit to trying to be provocative.

    I'm not sure which comment you're referring to with regard to event cancellations, but if it was Helen's then it was written two hours after I blogged this, so hard to account for in my post.

    I disagreed strongly with the original post, and do an extent still do, although I've now got a clearer understanding of where it comes from. I thought that rather than go to town on it in the comments on Tots100 I'd do it here and make the mess in my own back yard.

    As for my disdain for parent blogging, well some of it is formulaic and appears to be shouting into an echo chamber. Some of it is excellent. Most of it is better disciplined, more focussed, and read more widely than anything I attempt here. Also, it's worth mentioning that I rarely do Follow Friday tweets, but this morning I gave an #ff to Richard Jones who writes this delightful blog.

  5. I don't normally follow people round the internet to argue with them - leave that to the husband - but I couldn't resist an attempt to clarify (though I think you do 'get it' a bit more already, so may be wasting my time)...

    Your main argument seemed to be that if we couldn't afford to go to a PR event we shouldn't and we should find something else to write about. However, you've got it topsy turvy. Most of us don't want to go to these events. Most of us don't want to write 500 words about a broom or a new cleaning fluid, or children's shampooo. Most of us have plenty to write about without attending any events or writing any reviews.

    Which is the point Sally is making - if the PRs want some of the top and influential parent bloggers (not claiming to be one of those myself, here) to write about their (client's) product, then they need to offer something back (whether that be freebies, expenses, remuneration or an opportunity to get together with friends and catch up).

    If we truly didn't have anything better to write about then, frankly, our blogs would be pretty boring (and, yes, I'm aware there are plenty of boring blogs out there - parenting and otherwise - and you may well find mine as dull as watching the X-Factor - or duller) and the PRs certainly wouldn't be sending us invites to events (paid or otherwise).

  6. Tasha - thanks for dropping by. I don't see you as being argumentative, just joining the conversation.

    But I don't think your defense stands up. If you don't want to write about about brooms and bleach then don't. If the PR pays your fare, organises childcare and gives you a years supply of cleaning products is it worth going to the event and writing a post about it if it's not what you want to include in your blog?

  7. All this commenting across two blogs is doing my head in. I responded to your point on the Tots100, kind of positively. I'm not doing it again here.

    And by the way, if they come round here with pitchforks because I did, I'm blaming you. I'm saying you gave me £100 and a free vacuum.

  8. Oh go on mysterious Coffee Lady - you know you want to.

    Any one who comments on this post can have £100 and a free vacuum cleaner, but they have to be collected from London and I'm not buying you all train tickets!

    I can't work out who you are at Tots100, none of the commenters there seem to have coffee related names, and I can't keep up. But thanks for stopping by.

  9. I'm right at the end. My comment only just got moderated, to be honest, so might not yet have been there when you went over.

  10. Oh yes it's there now. You're the voice of reason.

  11. I think you are missing the point, if it's a marketing event the PR's want bloggers there to advertise to their(the bloggers) readership why they should go out and buy their(PR's) product more than the bloggers want to be there.