It had to happen sometime; when things start going horribly wrong between bloggers and beauty brands. I’ve been watching a particular USA based company for a while now called Sunlove whose relationship with bloggers and YouTube reviewers has nose dived into abusive chaos. It’s happened for several reasons, not least because neither party has quite grasped the quid pro quo.
Bloggers – particularly younger beauty bloggers and YT reviewers, desperate to blog about beautiful things, but without the cash to spare to splash on pricy beauty products are quite naturally tempted by offers of ‘free’ product. But, nothing in this life comes absolutely free. I’ve often been told by bloggers that once the initial euphoria of receiving free beauty products wear off, they feel a ‘virtual gun to their heads’ to give a positive review. With no experience of dealing with the media, they don’t have a clue, understandably, about how the unwritten press/media relationships go. So, it is therefore incumbent upon PRs not to take advantage of this or at the very least, be extremely sensitive to it. Bloggers do not have to give positive reviews; just because something is free doesn’t mean you have to love it. It does mean, however, that in accepting a sample of product, you are agreeing to review it or consider it for review. Many bloggers take refuge in not reviewing a product they don’t like, afraid of the repercussions of posting a negative one, and yet a blog is supposed to be the one platform where you read the real deal.
On the other hand, some bloggers do start their beauty blogs because they’ve followed other blogs and seen what booty falls their way. These are very easy to spot and one encounter will tell you whether the relationship can continue. When beauty blogging is so new to the UK, it is almost impossible for PRs or brands to tell the rough from the smooth at this early stage, so it is a question of trial and error all round. A strong example of this was a recent make up presentation to bloggers where many expressed outrage at only being given one free product at the end of the event. But since that is no secret, it has just made it all the more easy for the brands and PRs to spot the genuine beauty lovers from the chancers. Censorship within the blogging community is becoming more and more common, thankfully. The majority of beauty bloggers and YT reviewers feel a genuine responsibility to pass on their comments and views – companies cannot expect to get a positive review every time. Sunlove’s mistake was to view YT reviews and beauty bloggers as a source of powerful publicity for little outlay for them other than a few complimentary products, and also to believe that for every product sent out a favourable review would automatically follow. Although there are several more complex twists and turns to the Sunlove story, it is a salutary tale for those brands wanting to use this particular type of media to get their products noticed. Sunlove have certainly got themselves plenty of attention, but not in the way they intended. When things descend to such a level, it’s time to go quiet. Bloggers can block them, or anyone else who is abusive or difficult, or delete them from Twitter, and Sunlove will have to write it off to experience. Abusive or aggressive emails and intimidating posts or tweets aren’t acceptable from anybody and in these cases the delete button is the beauty blogger’s best friend. I know I’ve certainly used mine!
We’re all feeling our way around this new media: there are going to be mistakes made on all sides. The best way forward surely has to be honesty and openness and learning from the inevitable catalogue of errors.
POST SCRIPT: A couple of comments to this post have mentioned ‘paid for’ reviews. I feel on a personal level that this is a slippery slope unless it is handled extremely carefully. I think it’s fine to be a ‘spokesperson’ for a brand and to be more involved with them than just a fan, but lay your cards on the table. The blogging community is a very perceptive one – one hint of unfair play and word soon gets around. Doing ‘sponsored’ reviews is something that will become more common over time and there isn’t anything wrong with forging mutually beneficial relationships with brands as long as you aren’t perceived as trying to dupe your audience. Be open and pave the way.
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.
Excellent post. I totally agree. I just hope that as both parties learn more about blogging and how it all should work, both sides show respect and maturity. The blogging community has a lot to offer, and banding together we do have a lot of power. Hopefully we will use it the right way.
Agreed! 🙂 x
Amazingly well put – I couldn’t agree more.
Couldn’t agree more with your analysis!
Well said! Great post & very much agreed.
100 percent with you on this! Great post.
Can I give a view from the other side of the fence? A lot of people in marketing simply have no idea what a blog is. They have a budget and a PR company. That there are people out there producing a high quality commentary on the products that they are selling hasn’t sunk in yet. That they can’t simply buy space in it in the same way they can a newspaper or a magazine isn’t something that has even crossed their minds.
You’ve raised an interesting debate BBB, and one I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more about.
Good point Colin – I know that some PRs at huge companies can’t even access blogs on their work PCs. I think we’re in a transitional time for media and a lot of brands are just feeling their way. I hope that the independent voices win out and that the brands don’t just decide to take the easy option and focus their attention on the magazines own blogs. But the line between accepting products to review and feeling obligated to mention them favourably will continue to be a fine one to tread.
I think its also wrong for a blogger to accept a huge cash payment to review a product and then lie to their own followers and pretend they didnt get paid and thean threatan ban and be rude to anyone who asks. They know theyve been paid why lie and act so rudely?
Couldn’t agree with you more – honesty from bloggers combined with an acceptance by PR companies that free products don’t automaically mean great reviews is definitely the way forward.
Very well written post and here are my two pennies.
I think social media is a unique advertising forum for brands and bloggers should be aware of that as much as the PRs should.
It’s not traditional media – there are not always going to be glowing reviews as bloggers are not motivated by the same goals as a publisher is: namely advertising revenue.
If I want to watch a paid commercial I will put on QVC. If I want to watch honest and genuine opinions then I watch YT – or at least I used to.
Anyone producing content on YT has a duty to be both honest but to also ensure that they are not “endorsing” a company with questionable ethics.
However, the oddest thing of all to me about this whole thing is how anyone who did a positive Sunlove review still support an organisation that has been so blatantly unprofessional?
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Great post – retweet, retweet.
I agree, as someone working in PR, that we’re all new to the emergence of social media as an increasingly important medium… we will make mistakes along the way and we will all learn from them.
Common courtesy is not rocket science yet it’s something that SunLove seems to be completely devoid of. It’s a very worrying situation as they seem unable to acknowledge their wrong-doings… I am struggling to believe that it is the co-owner who is infact tweeting… I just can’t get my head around such an awful approach.
However even if it is some work experience (which no doubt it will be blamed on next week a la Habitat), the owners should be fully aware of what is going on with their brand.
Either way, they have a lot to learn… basic manners are just the start.
Thanks for the post.
Well conveyed, its nice to be offered a product to try and we all know they want it reviewed. But nasty messaged ect because you havent done it as soon as it is out of the box is uncalled for or if you find you didnt like the product.
A review should be based on your opinion of it honestly not because in the long run it may hinder you being offered other items to try.
Too high expectations on both sides I think.
Agreed, I thought that was a well balanced and thoroughly though out argument. Well done. I agree totally!
Great post- totally agree with it!x
Excellent post!I’ve been following the sunlove thing with interest. I’m not a beauty blogger, was going to but really http://www.beaut.ie is the best Irish beauty blog and there’s nothing I could add to the area! Plus would need a better camera and live in an area closer to proper shops!
Thank you for the interesting post!
the best thing about blogs is the independent viewpoint, one which readers can trust – not withstanding a very clearly identified ‘special relationship’ with a brand they really believed in, perhaps..it’s the blogger’s job to be enthusiastic and spread the word about great products and be honest about less good ones – it’s up to the beauty companies to ensure the product is good enough! a very interesting thought-provoking post!
Very well put! I must say that I’ve encountered PR people who are quite clueless as to what a blog is and have requested me to write about a product in my “column” when I don’t have one. However I do always inform brands and PR companies that approach me that all product reviews I do come with pros and cons and so far, its been positively received. I don’t know the Sunlove issue but I’m going to look it up 😛
Well said! One of the reasons I’m in the blogging scene is to find out other people’s opinions about products that I’m interested in & to give honest product reviews based on my personal experience. It should always be made clear whether the product reviewed is a “freebie”. I used to be a member of a beauty trial team while living overseas and used to feel bad whenever I gave bad reviews, esp. if the product I received cost a bomb. Negative reviews are parts and parcels of life though, otherwise companies & consumers won’t be able to get honest feedbacks! Hopefully companies could use negative reviews to improve the products. So yeah, it’s a fine line to thread…
What a great post. And very well said. Its funny but I used to work in Beauty PR before and have recently started my own beauty blog, so it’s quite interesting to now be on the other side of the fence. I completely agree with feeling a little torn about how to review products sometimes (can I just add that torn as I may feel, I have been completely honest in my posts on how the products have worked for me) and i’m still learning, but I definitely have a new understanding of how beauty editors must feel about some of the products that are sent to them. Saying that, having worked on the PR side, its so wrong and unacceptable to become difficult and abusive just because you receive a negative review – that’s how relationships are destroyed and not just with that reviewer but with others as well. x
Really interesting post, well written and subjective post, thank you. I follow a lot (seriously, a lot) of beauty blogs and I very quickly cull out the ones that are obviously writing positive reviews of products simply for the rewards – it’s generally pretty obvious which ones they are.
@ Paris B I have had the same silly emails asking when I can ‘publish’ something or when the release date is? WTF?! I also work in PR though and try to ensure that my clients treat bloggers in the correct way, not like Sunlove which sounded horrendous!