Breaking Up With Brands (or.. It’s Not Me, It’s You)
Like any relationship, bloggers and brands can hit a rocky patch. But when do you throw the towel in completely? Simply put, I don’t think enough of us do. It’s a little bit like the toxic friend edit we all know we should do, but carry on feeling negative and frustrated because it all just seems too hard and too devastating to make a permanent break. And as we all know about the toxic friend, they’ll use every manipulation trick in the book to make sure that you don’t go your own way and leave them behind.
Well, I can tell you. It’s not that hard. Just as you shouldn’t expect to take all your friends with you all of your life, it’s the same with brands in your working life. Not everyone can stay on your journey and it’s completely okay if relationships are transient. However, it’s useful to learn a little bit about yourself when you let go. Mainly, what I’ve learned is not to let things drag on before deciding that there is nowhere to go.
The complicated bit, especially when you work on your own, is letting the people go, not the products. If you work solo, as most bloggers do, PRs are sometimes the closest thing you have to colleagues. So, while you might feel you have a wonderful PR relationship, you need to assess whether you actually get any more from it than a few press releases and a coffee twice a year. I’ve watched a brand’s marketing department spend money – huge amounts – across social media and every single time been excluded from that. So, either I’m not good enough for the brand, or you’re not (as my audience). Either way I object. However, they’re happy via PR to have as much copious free coverage as they can possibly get. And you know it’s not actually the cash amount with me, it’s the principle. It’s not the money in my hand, it’s the message. In effect, marketing has completely scuppered my relationship with PR. Well done, Marketing! I’ve realised that I’m always going to feel inferior where that brand is concerned if it’s obvious that they can place value elsewhere and nowhere with us, and that’s good enough reason to remove it entirely from my world. Like the crappy friend who gifts you a box of chocolates and then tells you that you need to lose weight. Nobody needs that.
In the interests of being open, I’m giving you the exact reasons and situations, because this is a real life social media situation, but it is something that’s only relevant if you work in social – or, I suppose PR or marketing. I am honestly tired of wondering why I’m not good enough, have realised that my goals were coming from other people’s expectations and not my own. I have no idea why, but this year my whole attitude has changed to the toxic brands. I’m not trying to please them any more – I feel confident I can still provide a service for BBB readers without them and actually, those that I’ve never had any kind of relationship with for whatever reason – I think we’ve carried on quite nicely without and not missed them. I think bloggers can be so one-dimensional in thinking (I’m including myself!). We get caught up in the whole sample thing, we feel left behind if we’re not straight on it, we feel jealous seeing others being favoured by brands when we’re not. This is not good for us, and if you think that other bloggers never feel like this you are wrong. Every blogger feels like this sometimes.
What I’m also guilty of forgetting is that samples are not presents. They’re what allow bloggers to do what they do best – show product to other women like them who are truly interested in beauty – they’re the tools of the job, if you like. And yet, so often, they’re given out as though they are gifts. In fact, one brand sent fragrance around Christmas time with a note that specifically said, “we hope you like your gift”, and then demanded coverage. And, I really did think it was a gift! Conversely, I was sent a gift from another PR who has not once asked for coverage – that really was a gift. It’s confusing! So, you can see where this is going. If you feel as though you are constantly receiving gifts, then you will always feel beholden, so you are on the back foot with that relationship from the get-go. It’s no accident that PRs call them treats, goodies or gifts but they really are their only bargaining tool to winkle their way to your audience. There’s only so much coffee that a person can drink, however charming the company.
I had 4.5 million hits to my site last year and it’s enough to make me think, well, if you don’t want any part of that, it’s fine. I won’t miss you. Bit by bit, I’m gathering back control rather than relinquishing it all the time. And with more control, I have more confidence. And not being made to feel that what you’re doing has no value is very good, I promise, and worth its weight in gold, never mind lipstick.
I reckon that 95% of my blog contains non-paid for content. If I was here for the big bucks I’d be at least 50% paid for (and driving a Mercedes!). Some blogs literally don’t do anything that isn’t funded by a brand – which is entirely their business but it’s not for me. One of the reasons I’m using more affiliate links is so that I can buy product if necessary and bypass the PR/brand relationship entirely.
Saying enough is enough is empowering and exciting (and a bit of a shock for the brands). I work with plenty of good brands who really do see a value and purpose to what we do that actually, weeding out the toxics isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I’m a happier, more relaxed person as a consequence and genuinely a happier blogger. It just so happens that in this case, a loss is a win.
*all products are sent to me as samples from brands and agencies unless otherwise stated. Affiliate links may be used. Posts are not affiliate driven.