This Is Not a Post About Swag *

*Though swag will be mentioned. Also, if this post is douchey, I am really sorry.  I tried not to be one.

If you were to divide the world of bloggers into two groups, one that is brand friendly and one that is more writerly, then I would land squarely in the writer camp.  It isn’t that I think that I am an awesome writer, it is more that I feel out of place in a world where people give me stuff for free.  I have a very hard time writing about something I didn’t pay my own hard in cash for.  That of course does not mean in the slightest that I don’t like writing about stuff.  I actually adore it.  I feel a certain responsibility about it as well.  If it were not for more experienced mothers writing about their stuff, I am pretty sure I would have barely survived certain points in my daughter’s development.

Even as the proud owner of this wee blog, I do occasionally get offers for stuff.  I also get “please post our press release” and things addressed to “dear blogger”.  I ignore most of them.  Some of them I respond to.  Some of them I would like to respond to with something to the effect of :

Dear PR Person,

You are so awesome for actually reading my wee blog, it is just that I don’t do that kind of thing.  A for effort though.

Sincerely,

A. Sprout

This year at BlogHer, I had a very different experience with brand interactions than I did last year.  Some of it was incredibly good, some of it was not even a little bit good.

First, the awesome.  I got one invite to a private event.  That one invite shocked me more than a little.  For two reasons, one, I have a wee blog.  Two, I use their competitor’s product with some glee.  However, the PR person took the time to get to know me a little, and didn’t laugh when I told her my shoe size.   I can say that my positive interaction with them will at least mean I will consider their product next time.  There was no pressure from them for anything.

The other cool thing was the two open invite, RSVP required parties that I went to.  Last year I missed Social Luxe (thankfully it would seem) due to a delayed flight.  This year I was able to go, knowing that at the least, I would get to hang with my roomate and some other favorite bloggers.  The brand interaction was secondary to me.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by how it worked out.  I was given a chance to talk to a brand I am already heavily invested in, Aveda.  If you know me,  you know I smell like their stuff every day.  The best thing they did for me was give me a much needed massage.  I also got to meet the founder of Yummie Tummie.  I really like their stuff, and the whole getting to meet the founder thing was pretty darn cool. I love picking inventor’s brains.

*Disclosure, some of my Yummie Tummie purchases were subsidized by CGC so I could try them out.  I may actually write a review about them eventually.

The other party I attended, for HP & Aiming Low, was also a success.  It was low key, but did give me a chance to geek out a little with new HP technology.  This is one place where my business and personal life meet.  I’m a geek.  My company uses HP.  I have owned multiple HP printers at home.  I honestly loved getting a chance to check out something that combines my two worlds.  It was low pressure, and very engaging for me.  They also had soft chocolate moose, which made my throat happy.

Last, but not least, the not so good.  While I am not out to get free stuff, like I said, I do like to talk about stuff.  I also like the access to brands that blogging gives me.  I am an information fiend.  Before making decisions I tend to go looking for as much info as I can get.  I like being an early adopter, and I like sharing what I have learned.

My brief encounters with the Expo Hall at Blogher were not positive.  Before interacting with me I was asked at nearly every booth I went to (which turned out to be four out of five) if I was a “review” blogger.  It was sometimes posed to me by asking me what I blogged about, but the intent was the same.  When I said that I was not, or said that I blogged about “my life” I was not treated well.  At one booth, for a company that I have long supported and talked about, I was simply invited to be a “preferred blogger” and when I didn’t bite, I was shooed along.  In another booth, for a toy maker, I was interested in seeing new products in a line we have already purchased for my daughter.  I was extremely interested because one of the new products is something I have been searching for for M.  I knew that if it met my needs, I would likely purchase it myself, and blog about it.  However, because I was not a review blogger, I was again ignored.

The reason that those negative interactions don’t sit well with me is this.  Even though I do not fit the now standard model of a “review” blogger, I am still a valuable interaction for a brand.  See above about being a lover of information and an early adopter.  In many cases, I go out of my way to spend my own money, just to ensure that I offer an unbiased opinion.  If I was going to buy it anyway, even if you offer it to me, I may pay for it anyways.

I will no doubt at some point in the future, review something that I didn’t pay for.   I won’t however be reviewing something just because a brand gave it to me.  I will be reviewing because I want to, and because I have a relationship with the brand that involves mutual respect.  If perhaps any brand people are paying attention to my wee blog, I hope they get it.  Not all bloggers fit the model, but it requires actually talking to us to understand that.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted August 14, 2010 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    I liked this post. What happened to you is a bit annoying. Iwalked through to, and in answer to that I would say “occasionally” and was treated pretty well at the booths where I stopped to chat. The only time it’s sort of acceptable to shoo people along is competitors trying to sneak in to a booth (can’t imagine this at BlogHer, more the semi conferences I’ve attended) – otherwise it’s very lame for them to talk about their their products for reviewers only. I was really pleasently surprised by the P&G “Home” – welcoming but not aggressive in the least.

    So glad I got to see you at BlogHer

  2. Posted August 14, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    It’s funny that you were asked whether you were a review blogger. Most of the reps I approached never asked me anything about my blog…or anything about me at all, actually. Granted, I didn’t spend much time there because of the obnoxious experiences I wrote about at Susan Getgood’s blog (Thanks for the comment BTW!)

  3. Posted August 14, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    It’s amazing to me how much this has changed in the last two years. When I was there in 2008, the expo people wanted to talk to anyone who would listen. Of course, I don’t think there was really a “review blogger” designation back then: and they wanted to get into “regular” people’s blogs more simply because that was what they were — regular people.

    I can only imagine what it would be like now to go to Blogher as a “political” blogger. Something tells me the large majority of people (ie: brands) there would have nothing to say to me. Except for HP. Their people seem to be consistently good year after year.

    Then again, 2008 I think was the first big year for companies sponsoring bloggers to the event if they wrote about them, and it sounds like that is pretty rampant now.

  4. Posted August 14, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    I also noticed a little of what you mention. At many booths I walked by and was simply ignored. In others I also got the question — “What do you blog about?” — and was promptly ignored when I said “life.” I also blog a lot about products I use in regular life, mostly in the context of life stories. Every once in a while I go on a little online shopping spree (either window shopping or actually purchasing things), and I will write what could be construed as more of a review blog post. No one has ever offered me money or products to write about anything, but I do imagine if they did I would probably have the same reaction as you. It is no surprise to me that I am mostly ignored by companies. I will say, however, that I have frequently been on the other side — working a booth at a conference. I have always acted with integrity when working a booth. I treat everyone like a valued person and potential customer, even if they don’t have any buying power.
    Zahra recently posted..Giveaway- New Friends Put a Smile on My Face

  5. Posted August 15, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Your experience at the Expo Hall is so interesting to me for a couple reasons. First being that I am a blogger that does the occasional product review. My blog is not solely about product reviews and the very thought of that reeks of a one very boring blog to read. Do people actually have blogs for this sole purpose? If so no need to forward their URL to me I don’t think I want to check them out ;)

    The other reason is that like I stated our blog does do product reviews and I felt as if I had to pump the info from many of them to give me their info on what I needed to do to get a review up and going for them. I wonder why? Weird.

    By the way I am not sure if you remember meeting me but I think we were both in line for Social Luxe and I was the one who said oh I love the name of your blog (still do!). So sorry you were not feeling well at BlogHer that is such a bummer! I will be coming back often to read about your clever insight of life!
    Abby recently posted..Back to School sales

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