Regular readers of this blog will remember that way back in the day, I wrote this anonymously. Quickly (ish) realising that I’d never get any decent information that way, I had to have a rethink. In the intervening period however, I was outed twice – once by a social media specialist agency who decided to put a video on YouTube of an event that I attended and secondly, and deliberately, by another journalist in an online publication. Once I phoned the editor of the online publication, she was horrified and did what she could to rectify the situation. The social media agency, on the other hand, were less than impressed at my reluctance to be on YouTube and while they did take the video down, I’ve clearly been relegated to persona non grata and never been invited to anything they’ve done since. Like I could care, by the way. Nowadays, I don’t really make any attempts to be anonymous. I work in the beauty industry as a writer so what could be more natural than to have a blog as an extension of that? What wouldn’t be so natural of course, would be if I was for example, a lawyer, an accountant, a nurse, a doctor, a detective or a police officer. Most beauty bloggers are just regular folks with regular jobs who blog about their passion as a hobby. Again, most beauty bloggers and some YouTube reviewers use pseudonyms to protect their identity. You don’t necessarily want to be going for a high powered job and your prospective employers Google you (an increasing practice) and you turn up extolling the virtues of the latest Benefit lipstick. Your professional personae and your private personae are immediately bound together, thanks to the Google machine, in a way that may well not be in your best interests. And this is exactly what’s happened to several You Tube reviewers and bloggers, causing untold upset. One You Tube reviewer has had to go the extreme lengths of closing her (extremely popular) channel thanks to a social media agency using her full name on a website set up on behalf of a beauty client. Everytime someone Googles her full name, what pops up? Her You Tube channel. Google owns You Tube, so it is prioritised in listings. The agency listed every other invitee by their pseudonyms and a clunking error in data processing meant she was the only one listed by her real and full name.
Other bloggers who attended the same event have found their photographs on the website and there is a general air of having been taken for a ride. Now the social media agency looks fantastic to their client at the expense of people who love beauty. Tempted by offers of high street vouchers, they pitched up to view the products, not realising they were merely fulfilling a client brief for an agency that wants more work from the client.
The person in question, who wants to remain anonymous, was treated with something near contempt in her attempts to get the agency to rectify the situation, and in the end had to turn to the press office to force any action. The situation wasn’t closely monitored by the press office, and she was made to feel that as ‘only a blogger’ their time was far too important to spend on a mere detail. My blood boils. I know who it is…it’s only out of respect to the You Tuber in question, who still feels intimidated by the whole experience, that I’m not naming and shaming.
Time and time again, I have said on this blog that the responsibility to behave ethically lies with those who have the most experience. Bloggers usually do not have experience dealing with media issues and are a very easy target for those companies anxious to get on the social media bandwagon. Outsourcing to ‘specialist’ agencies removes the client from their responsibilities. How any UK new media agency can be called, at this early stage in development, ‘experts’ I don’t know. We are all still exploring this new way of reaching out.
Being tripped up is something bloggers are just going to have to get used to; in time, they’ll learn. But in the meantime, take it as a salutory warning that if you don’t want your personal life and your professional life to collide on Google, you’ll take extra care.
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Perfect post – I know the issue to which you are referring and I think PR companies need to be extra aware of this issue – the exposure of this youtuber is completely unacceptable, and the dismissive attitude with which she was treated is disgusting.
When we agree to review products, we agree to give an honest opinion about the product, we do not agree to our personal details being published all over the web(lets not kid ourselves – this is why we use pseudonyms!), and we certainly do not agree to the possibility of work colleagues or even friends and family discovering our hobby and then being judged on it. As you have expressed so succinctly, we all portray ourselves differently in different sectors of our lives – I act differently at work than I do at home, than I do on my YT channel, and I am entitled to keep those things separate and no PR agency has the right to violate that.
Really interesting article – you’ve definitely given me some food for thought!
You are so right on this. I don’t want to imagine walking onto the ward and every one looking at me like- yeah you are her royal poshness. It won’t go down well. That’s why I tend to just stick to my blog and major trade events.
I know what you are referring to as well – they have used my real name (not surname) on the website, which is okay but still not ideal! As I am sure some of you know, I actually work for a PR agency for beauty clients so am totally involved and passionate about the industry as I love make up, hence why I have a blog (which I had before I started working there) That’s why I don’t use photos, as I don’t want my clients knowing who I am and putting pressure on me to feature their products – some I love and write about, others I don’t. So that’s why I miss out on most of the events, as I am usually at them, but I would never reveal anybody’s name as I am in the same situation!
At the risk of being controversial, I want to add my ten penneth..
If you put yourself out there, via a blog or YouTube site, there is always a risk that you may be discovered by someone you know in the ‘real world’ – it comes with the territory. I think individuals should seriously consider this before embarking in the above. If you are fortunate to become ‘popular’ on YT to the extent that you have 1000’s of subscribers there is a risk that you will be picked up by the media and ‘outed’. I would never feel ashamed of a potential employer discovering my YT account, it is something which I undertake in my own personal time and should have no reflection on my ability to carry out my profession. If I discovered that this was the reason I was not successful through seeking feedback, I would certainly be pursuing this with that company as my ability to do the job should be based on my skills and aptitude.
As for this fairly recent realisation of PR companies that Blogs are a source of excellent advertising. The carrot has been dangled, and once you’ve chomped on it you can’t then complain that you didn’t want the carrot in the first place (If you get my meaning?!). If you question why beauty bloggers accept these ‘freebies’, i’m sure you’ll agree that it’s because everyone likes a little somethin’ for nothin’. Most of the time this is fine, but when things turn sour, it’s a different story. I disagree that the responsibility lies solely with the companies in question, these Bloggers must enter into this having given it serious consideration.
I hope this point of view gives people food for thought and is not ‘moderated’.I hope this particular YouTuber acts as a cautionary tale to aspiring and existing bloggers.
I’ve been thinking for a while that the big mass blog events aren’t that great for bloggers, and that’s before you get slip ups like this.
There was nothing in the invites about pictures/names of blogs being used on a website like this; I hope that the participants were told about it before it was published.
I was thinking the same thing – if you make YT vids are you forgetting your face is on the net?! What’s in a username? Chances are you’ll be found anyway if somebody’s looking hard enough.
Same goes for blogs, if you do FOTDs and post pics of yourself then you’re putting yourself ‘out there’ and should be prepared for whatever comes from that.
The PR company were wrong in the way they totally dismissed the YT’er in question when she approached them for carelessly posting her real name on their site but thousands already ‘knew’ who she was long before the PR company got involved.
If you want total anonymity for fear of being “spotted”, then don’t put your face on the net – simple!
I think it’s very different if someone is looking for beauty-related content and chances upon you, than having someone google your name and finding you. Unless you get mega famous and the media inevitably outs you, why should accepting a carrot mean you lose any control over this delicate balance??
The internet is big enough that you can be pretty confident that using an alias will suffice to protect your identity in a niche area such as beauty reviews.
If the plan was to create a website, this should have been made clear from the start, it might have induced more caution. Usually bloggers understand that they are expected to review said carrot, not that they are surrendering their souls as pawns in a bigger game beyond their control.
All this could have been avoided by exercising some professional ethics.
Seriously, how hard is it to contact someone and ask their permission to use their likeness and/or name for promotional purposes?
I hold the agencies clients responsible too. Its not good enough to simply hold up your hands and claim ignorance. The very media you’re exploiting can also expose you.
Very well written and i totally agree.
I think the lure of freebies got to some but the agencies themselves should respect the level of privacy a person has maintained for themselves.
I suppose I am on the fence. On the one hand, if you don’t want to be outed, then don’t put your face on the net. But then again, beauty reviews are a niche segment of the internet, and an alias should be quite sufficient to hide your hobby from your real world networks. Unless you’re insanely popular and are on the front page of YouTube all the time…I guess there’s not much that can be done except the blogger being careful in the first place.
Thank you for the interesting post. It made me think about some things
Great post (and I love you when you’re angry!) It’s shameful that people have been used in this way. The problem is that the internet is such a minefield when it comes to exposure. And it’s amazing what pops up when you Google yourself – some of it you’ve generated yourself but other stuff that people have appropriated or used without your permission. The worst thing is how people assume at press launches that they can take pictures of you. I’ve always felt that was out of order without your express permission.
I agree that all of this could easily be avoided if publicists at these agencies simply were professional and ASKED PERMISSION before publishing names. (It’s like – duh – if the person is using a pseudonym on their site/channel, that would be the first clue that they want to stay anonymous!)
Sadly I think good PRs are extremely rare these days. Even though I’m a beauty editor AND a beauty blogger, I often feel like I’m just a cog in the wheel – there’s no personal connection anymore, they just want warm bodies to fill the room at events (and be photographed without permission to “prove” it happened!). Bloggers have it even worse as there’s a blatant expectation that you’re going to write about every single product that gets sent to you. I’ve have some very ugly discussions about why I don’t promise coverage up front.