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.
Dear Jane, I read you every single morning the moment I open my eyes. And then I read you several times a day. I read everything from you in my inbox. You make me happy. You are a joy to read! I am happy with you and sad when you’re sad. I wish you as much happiness as ever possible and more! Lots of love. Yours, Julia xx
Thank you Julia.. you have no idea how much comments like this give me such a boost. xx
You always word these posts incredibly well. As a fairly new blogger (2 years), I always find these posts extremely interesting as much as I love to see your product posts. I blog part time as I work as well as other things and sometimes when a brand offers to send me something, and then email me, Tweet me and Facebook message me a few days later to see why I haven’t gotten a review up yet, I feel incredibly pressured and stressed because yes it is lovely that they are helping my blog, but I don’t get paid for any part of my blog, it is a hobby to me – I wish I could turn it into a job but I don’t have that sort of knowledge. Even in these two years, I have seen a huge change in the way PR companies work – one huge brand worked with me at the very beginning when I had very few followers etc and now that I am getting around 1000 page views a day, they don’t want to work with me, or even send me their press releases. 1000 views a day is nothing compared to the huge beauty bloggers such as yourself, but to me it is an achievement and I don’t understand why they wanted to work with me when I had very few views but now don’t. I always posted reviews in a timely manner, I did swatches, I took photos of products as well as the products on myself. But didn’t hear a word as to why I was no longer good enough. I then see another huge UK beauty brand gifting their products to bloggers with very few Twitter followers, or page views etc and I admit I do get jealous – it is such a confusing world to be in lately. Thank you for your insight into Bloggers and Brands xxx
Reading between the lines, I think what happened is that the PR changed. It sounds like at the beginning there was a really good PR looking out for new blogs, and another came along and just reverted to their own ‘known’ list. It will be absolutely nothing you’ve done. So, put it away and don’t revisit this one – I will guarantee it’s nothing that you did or a reflection on your blog. It’s circumstance xx
Thank you for taking the time to get back to me. Your blog is one of the ones I read daily, I always admire your honesty and love to see all of the gorgeous products you share with us. Keep doing what you are doing – you don’t need the brands that have caused you to write this kind of post. You are fabulous xx
Jane, this is why we love your blog. The community is in desperate need of honesty which you always deliver without naming and shaming!
Just love this and I have to say you’re our “touchstone” as you’re the voice of common sense and realism and we decided over two years ago to drop all this and just ignore and do our own thing –
We love blogging and the very people who are supposed to “help & assist “were sucking the joy out of it ……… so we just did our own thing and hey presto life is better.
I think part of the problem is retailer’s/ brands have way too many folk telling them what to do and they themselves have no idea ……… lots of critics without credentials …..
Good for you. I feel pleased for you. Feeling respected by the people you work with is essential, be they your colleagues in the office or in your case the Brands.
You have a fabulous blog, with a very loyal and interested readership. If some brands can’t see the value in that, then it’s their loss.
Good for you Jane. I love this C S Lewis quote and I think you might too as it feels absolutely appropriate for where you are at present:
” Integrity is doing the right thing even when no-one is looking”
Love the blog, love your values
thank you ..that’s an awesome quote..
I’ve just discovered you Jane and just like the first comment I love clicking on your blog. It’s a daily ritual and very enjoyable it is too! I now feel that I can only trust the bloggers like you, Caroline, Ruth etc and not magazines for a really honest review . Bloggers should be respected and I feel
It’s a very risky move by the brands to ignore the power of the blogger. Keep going, I for one love you!
thank you so much.. and welcome! x
Really insightful post. But holy shit, 4.5 million hits! And you’re being sidelined by brands, that’s insane! I do wonder about their choices, it’s baffling. I really hope the affiliate works out for you, it’d definitely be more freeing.
I agree with this although at the same time it’s important to maintain editorial integrity and I think you do this superbly. My blog is six months old and most of my content is written about things that I love and enjoy. My day job is working at GQ in the commercial team so I do understand and see both sides. I guess with a blog you have to decide whether you’d like to focus on personal loves with the support of PRs or whether you’d like to add commercial elements and hugely change the balance of the relationship.
I’d really appreciate your feedback about my blog if you have the time! X
Thanks .. you’re right : there is definitely a pay off for working commercially (which I do) but it is possible to keep your integrity while you do so. You just need to be working with the right brands.
Jane your blog is a total treat. I am not a blogger but I am beauty mad. I watch a few beauty tutorials however I don’t read anyone else’s blog.
It’s the first thing I reach for in the morning and I have a night time ritual to check it again for anything I might have missed during the day!
Your experience in the beauty world is so valuable and I trust your words are true to how you genuinely feel and I never feel a brand is rammed down my throat.
Thank you for all the work that you do to bring this to us. Do what makes you happy x
thank you so much xx
Jane thank you for your insight into what sounds like a professional minefield. I read your blog for your honest, integral and no beauty bs (sorry) approach, as well as hoping for the next BBB box . It’s a more wonderful beauty world with BBB in it! Keep up your amazing blog, we are with you every post, every word of the way. Xx
thankyou so much x
Your honesty is so refreshing in a place filled with people who at least seem to be in just for the money!
Jane, I read your blog every day – and have done for a few years now: you’re genuine, honest and trustworthy, and I really feel from reading your content, that your blog is totally geared towards us, your readers, which I’m really grateful for. Thanks for all your hard work!
Wow Jane! Well said! I honestly don’t trust many brands anymore due to the same PR tactics, using people for free as much as they can. And not to mention the same looking people. There is no diversity. I really thought the internet would allow me to see some realism and different looking people but they all ended up looking alike. Scary since the entire universe is become one big blob!
I don’t think you should be insecure. I think it is the other way around. The brands are more insecure. I am sure some of these brands would not have made it when the internet didn’t exist because they have no individual personality. Which is why you shouldn’t be insecure. You have a personality that is/was built from actual face-to-face experience, not some virtual world of minions who just blow smoke up your ass!
Amazing post! Thank you so much for this!! I have felt all these feelings before with the previous blog. I ended up quitting. It’s a shame but thank goodness I’m not alone!
Mel | http://www.thegossipdarling.com
This is why I have a huge respect for you and trust your blog completely, Jane. You are always truthful, witty and insightful. I don’t need to be patronised about a lipstick – I just want the facts and the opinion of someone who will tell it how it is.
4.5 million of us cannot be wrong. Let’s hope those PR people manage to catch up one day. X
Well said, stick to your guns and what you believe in
I agree that PR has changed massively, there’s too many high expectations of getting stuff for free. It doesn’t work like that! I work on both sides, as a part time blogger and also PR assistant and I think it depends on the company and their attitude towards bloggers. No one should expect bloggers to work for free, especially now in the digital age! X
Wow, Jane! i would never have thought that you could wonder why you’re not good enough. I think you are the most inspiring, honest, witty and reliable beauty blogger i’ve ever read (and i read dozens.) i especially always look forward to your opinions on skincare. keep on being fabulous!
thank you for such a kind comment!
I’m a hobbyist food blogger, not beauty, but I see the same thing with food PRs.
Jane, you are the ONLY blogger I read / follow and my finances do not thank me for this 🙂 I trust you implicitly, there are brands I am wholly converted to now that is 100% down to you. I would not have even heard of them if not for you – and even if I had, I don’t even bother to try things now without your recommendation. Know that your followers are fiercey loyal, keep doing what you’re doing (brilliantly) and anyone who ignores your huge influence is (IMHO) an utter fool.
I count myself lucky every day! I really do – you, and anyone who reads this blog are just as much a part of what makes it what it is as me or the brands. The brands see you as numbers; I know you’re people. Stupid brands!
Thank you Jane, as a ’40+’ reader I welcome your integrity on this matter. Excellent blogging, long may it continue! Xx
To be brutally honest, Jane, the only blogs I now read every day and really trust are yours and Caroline Hirons’. Both of you are very open about what is and isn’t paid for and you’ve both got so much experience in the industry that I trust your opinions and your impartiality. I also really value your insights into the industry and refer my students to your blog for information on the ethics of blogging. No doubt I’ll be quoting you again when I next talk about integrating Social Media into a marketing campaign.
Thank you! I just realise that I need my dignity more than I need to chase brands and I’m lucky to have incredibly supportive readers who are just as much a part of this blog as me and beauty products.
Hi Jane, I’m from Spain and I started watching youtube and reading beauty blogs about 5 o 6 years ago. I’ve been subscribed to lots of beauty channels from around the world and have left them along the way because they ended up being totally sold to certain brands, but I do read your blog every day because I think you’re really honest and I trust your opinion.
Thank you for all the time and the effort that you put in your work.
Love from Barcelona
Now this right here was truth! Raw truth! And I appreciate honesty over eyeshadow anyday, well done x
Excellent reading, as ever Jane, and never ever doubt what a really worthwhile blogger you are. Perhaps it’s the age thing with the PR people — you know, being ignored if you’re over 25. But whatever it is, it’s definitely their loss.
I had given up on beauty blogs until someone pointed me to yours as I was fed up of each review being “I got this free and it’s awesome, buy it.” If you’re going to fork out hard-earned cash on something you want to know if it does what it says, if it’s for your kind of skin, if it’s worth the money rather than having the PR puff regurgitated. I admire your stance on beauty for older women – we’re not all shrivelled hags content to slap lard on our face and use up old 70s lipsticks found in a drawer! Women of all ages, shapes, colours, skin types, professions etc have common ground and individual needs, we’re not defined by just one of those items and your blog reflects that. If a brand can’t see that then I’m not sure I need them in my life.
My feeling is that if a brand insists on a good write up for “gifting” a product to a blogger then they can’t have faith in their product. If I made something that I knew was good I’d be happy to give well-respected bloggers samples in the knowledge that the product will encourage them to spread the word to a wide range of people, some of whom will also like the product enough to tell their friends. If they pointed out a flaw in my product then yes, it would be a blow to my ego, but might be enough that I consider reformulating or changing the wording to increase sales. Obviously if a reviewer was plain mean that’s something different but constructive criticism from someone who knows the business and products of the competition is surely like gold dust to companies?
The bottom line is if you don’t feel appreciated by a brand you have every right not to deal with them and that’s their loss.
I think the brand that tipped it for me is deluded about their audience.. it’s more in hope than anything that they chase younger women. You just have to realise sometimes when it’s best to pull out completely and save your dignity and passion for beauty brands for the ones that are great to work with.
I am a bit confused – I always thought you were not influenced by what you are sent ‘free’ in order to review. In your article you say you feel like you’re not ‘good enough’, however, when a brand overlooks you (I.e, doesn’t invite you, send you their items) – and I wonder: if you are truly independent, should that matter? On one hand you are honest and genuine, on the other hand you do actually want to work with brands? I don’t think these two ‘wants’ go well together. Most people who read blogs by now know perfectly well which ones are ‘sponsored’ and personally they are the ones I’m no longer interested in – I might as well just look at ads. I am glad you’re not one of them, but don’t understand why you attack the principle behind this independence?
Well, out of context, I see your point. However, brands actually want to be on sites like mine because they reach exactly their perfect target audience. Women who are already interested in beauty. It’s my job (as I see it) to sort out my content so that readers get a really good all round experience of beauty with some opinion, some news, some reviews. I blog about 5 times a day so it’s important to keep content fresh and different. Products that are sent to me for review tend to be sent because the brand wants to be seen on here and it’s a risk they take as to whether I think it’s great or not. I take sponsored content when I think it’s an appropriate product or brand for the blog and they want information, about a campaign for example, to be read. If it doesn’t interfere with the general content of the blog then I am happy to do it (it’s always properly declared). The majority of brands I can work with really well.. paid or not paid .. (about 95% of content on this site is not paid) but brands that send a lot of product and spend a lot of (my) time on building personal relationships who then pay any other blog but me – sorry, but it’s not a good use of time and it’s very bad for confidence. It makes me question the entire relationship right from the beginning and rather than try and unravel it, I’d rather walk away. I don’t see how you’re making the connection that working with brands would make me not honest. It’s not an attack on the principle, it’s an observation on how blog life is sometimes not at all easy. It’s a very fine line to walk between being in the hands of brands and being a conduit for their products.
Congratulations on claiming back your blog. I see so many people just give into PR, until their blog becomes a walking advert, so sad! I do agree if you love a sample you should share it, just no phoney posts! 🙂 Hard to figure out whats real and what isnt after a while 🙂
Sorry if I didn’t express myself well enough – I am also not a blogger so don’t know how much of a relationship exists between a blogger and a brand’s PR. As a reader who enjoys reading your blog and watches the odd beauty youtuber, I see any paid-for comment/review as an ad. It’s not dishonest, the opinion can be totally truthful, but the fact that money has been exchanged establishes a business relationship here. As a viewer/reader I have therefore stopped watching those that feel more and more commercial, – understandable of course considering that for some it is now their full-time occupation and everyone has to make a living, I just find I can relate to bloggers who don’t give a thought to what a brand thinks of them – probably these brands don’t even know of them – and literally just say what they think, which is what makes them so very different from, say, a magazine. I’m 42 and am happy to watch and read content from any age group as long as it is genuine. Please don’t think that I think you are/would not be honest; I did not know that you have a good relationship with some PR and then they ignore you, ‘rewarding’ others. This may seem obvious but have you raised this with them/asked them directly why this is?
Not at all.. don’t worry! Happy to answer your very valid questions. Okay, I suspect what happened (and is happening industry wide) is that the marketing strategists don’t work closely enough with PR – they’re making money decisions that undermine the relationships that the PRs work very hard to build. But ultimately, if the two departments aren’t talking to each other, that’s their issue. I’ve worked hard not to be income dependent upon my blog – so I have other things where I earn money (beauty boxes, collaborations, consultancy etc), but I genuinely think that there is value for brands in exposure to an audience that wants to know more and loves beauty. BBB is 8 years in the making.. I have people who have read my blog from the very beginning: I don’t want them sold short or undermined as ‘valueless’ any more than I want my work to be seen (by some) as valueless. This month I’ve turned down two lucrative sponsored posts because the products just didn’t work well enough to get my backing. Late last year I turned down a job with a really big brand because again, I just didn’t see a way that it could be at all credible or a good fit for my audience. Honestly, the days when blogging really just was showing your favourite lipsticks really were the glory days – and I didn’t know it!
These posts are a big reason why I read your blog ( & that of Sali Hughes – another “say it how it is” commentators). Please keep being true to yourself, producing searingly honest product reviews (really *much* better that totally glowy posts…) and realistic views on the beauty industry. This is the reason your blog speaks to me.
As a 30 something beauty obsessive I love what you do. I have money to spend on luxury things, but want honest, frank reviews on products that work! Your blog is great at this. Really good to have a voice that isn’t of another 20 something whose voice (however genuine) doesn’t relate to me.
thank you so much.. :-)))
Yet another compelling post! You are one of the few beauty blogs that I now read and trust. I have stopped reading some because it became so obvious that they were being paid for content.
I had a talk at uni and there was a sentence that really stood out for me- “Be the change you want to see in the industry”. I think you really embody that thinking. You don’t put up with ageist rubbish which I love (I’m in my 20s but I have a mother in her 50s who they are obviously targeting and I also just can’t stand the advertising stance); you write these honest posts on the industry and I never get tired of reading your posts.
thank you so much..what a lovely comment xxx
Please don’t ever stop blogging Jane, I wouldn’t be able to face the day without my BBB fix x
ah thank you! :-))
It’s rarely about you.
On the occasions that it is, the reasons why these brands aren’t allocating budget to you, is because you post passive aggressive, badly written, whiny rubbish like this.
person on the inside, of beauty industry.
Thanks Anon! Keep being awesome 🙂
Just to echo so many of the positive comments and support for your confidence in what you want to do. I follow few beauty blogs but as someone who has only just got into any beauty stuff since getting to 65 (!), your blog is one that I love to follow, and one which has made me realise what fun and delight make-up is, and how wonderful it is to cosset oneself with lovely skin care products etc. I know that whatever sponsorship/affiliate links etc you have, your voice is your own and you bring knowledge and joy to the whole thing. Thank you very much for what you do!
Thats the nicest comment – thank you so much. It IS a delight, you’re right! x
Great post, Jane! I can imagine what a dog eat dog world the blogosphere has become. I love your blog because as a woman over 30, I find myself drawn to blogs that cater to my age group without being condescending. I don’t want to read about how to contour for selfies using Urban Decay or MAC. I also love your HONEST reviews! You have a huge readership, so forget those annoying brands, it’s their loss!
thank you so much xx
Good on you! I’ve been there (albeit my blog was nowhere near as popular as yours) and I got really tired and sickened of the weird games I had to play with PR companies. I feel so much better now after getting back to what I originally loved about blogging in the first place.