Newsflash: I am not a journalist!

by Sally on March 8, 2011

This is a guest post contributed by Hayley, who blogs at Simply Hayley:

I’m a blogger.

I run a blog called Simply Hayley, which is probably what you’d call a ‘Mummy blog’. I am very friendly to PRs and I really enjoy working with agencies on campaigns, posts and events.

But I’m not a journalist. And a lot of the time, PRs act as though I am.

Take yesterday for example. I was contacted by a PR agency and asked whether I would like to write about a video game. Great – my little boy loves video games, and I’m quite keen too. So I replied and said I’d love to review the game.

Except there’s a problem. The PR told me that they didn’t actually have any copies of the game. They might have some in a few weeks but these would only be provided to bloggers who had expressed interest by writing posts about the game. If my post was good enough, the PR said it might be promoted on the company’s Facebook page.

This would work fine if I was a journalist – magazines and websites often write about things they haven’t tested for themselves. I know that journalists and editors will often use a press release in its original format, or use it as the basis of a story.

Bloggers don’t do this. Our blogs are a personal space where we write about our families, pregnancy, food, photography, friends and technology. Our content is almost entirely personal and the content on my blog is my life, in my words.

So why would I write about something I haven’t experienced?

I wish PRs would understand that I don’t get paid for writing my blog, in the way journalists are paid for writing articles. I don’t have deadlines, the way a journalist does, but I do need to fit my writing around my family and my own work.

Many of the PRs I work with understand this. They understand that bloggers won’t:

- Write something for nothing
- Write about something they haven’t experienced
- Write about something that doesn’t interest or excite them
- Run a competition if it leaves them out of pocket
- Write about something that’s not relevant to their blog or readers

So, if you offer a blogger a chance to write about a great new product you have coming out, and you want the blogger to say how wonderful that product is, and you aren’t going to pay the blogger, or compensate them for their time, or even let them SEE the product – what are the chances they will say yes please?

I think you’ll get very few positive responses – and that’s what happened to the gaming company yesterday – most of the bloggers I spoke to on the Blogger.Ed forums who had received the offer had also declined it.

Ultimately, PRs need to remember that while there are lots of journalists who are bloggers there are also lots of bloggers who are NOT journalists, so won’t want to do things the way that journalists do them.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jude March 9, 2011 at 9:11 AM

I received a similar approach the other day – like you, I was potentially interested, but I’m only willing to write about things I have personal experience of. A similar strategy was used by this company to that which you described, i.e. if you wrote about it, you might win ‘a prize’ if they liked your post. So effectively it was a competition. For me, I felt I was being treated less like a journalist, and more like a small child who might, if they were very good, get a treat. Not impressed.

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Nicki Cawood March 9, 2011 at 10:52 AM

Great post. I wrote something similar recently about PR companies & Parent Bloggers and basically how bloggers are treated that might be of interest to you Hayley? It seems there needs to be some re-education across the board about blogging and how PR companies approach and deal with bloggers they want to work with.

Post: http://www.curlyandcandid.co.uk/2011/02/28/hey-pr-companies-mummy-bloggers-have-feelings-too/

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Howard March 9, 2011 at 2:22 PM

In essence, you’re saying that bloggers won’t review something they haven’t seen or had experience of, and journalists will?

I don’t buy that.

Yeah, you’ve highlighted a foolish approach by the agency in assuming that bloggers would write a review about a game they are yet to play.

But why are you assuming that a journalist would happily write the review? It’s a foolish approach to assume that *anyone* would write a review/viewpoint on a product of which they’ve no experience, regardless of the supposed incentive.

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Sally March 9, 2011 at 2:31 PM

I’m answering on Hayley’s behalf but I’d say journalists frequently write about things they haven’t reviewed hands-on, or seen sight of – there are countless product round-ups, previews, ’sneak peeks’ and the like in most consumer magazines, based on a press release, surely? I could pick up any women’s magazine, I think, and point to 20 things written about in there that the journalist hasn’t seen for themselves – the point being this works fine in a magazine or newspaper but not on a blog, where it’s pretty pointless, I’d argue (unless perhaps you’re looking at a shopping blog that specifically focuses on product news)

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Howard March 9, 2011 at 2:53 PM

Extending from Twitter….

OK, I see your point. I think I’m focussing on opinion-led reviews, rather than listings. To stay with the games example, I’ve no doubt that a mag/website would write about the availability of a new game (launch date, pricing, publisher, availability, etc.) based on a press release. But writing an opinion-led review of that game without experience of it – that’s a different thing altogether.

And there I don’t see the difference between a blogger and a journalist.

But the point being made – and a good one – is, I think, about what a PR should expect/hope to achieve with a press release (or any other form of communication) to a blogger without any real opportunity to get hold of the actual product. And the answer is not a lot, right?

In the list (above) of five things that PRs understand bloggers won’t do, the same stands for approaching journalists on points 2, 3 and 5. The non-commercial items. I’m inclined to think that often the differences between bloggers and journalists are overplayed… The same rules of a targeted, timely and relevant approach apply to both.

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urbanvox March 10, 2011 at 11:52 AM

EXCELLENT!!!
kinda makes me feel like sending this link to a few PRs that have been emailing lately…

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Mari March 10, 2011 at 3:30 PM

Great post, I’m pretty new to the reviewing scene but I think I would have been similarly annoyed if I was asked to review a product without seeing it or using it. It doesn’t make sense at all.

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Aaron Huckett March 10, 2011 at 5:28 PM

Hayley – fabulous piece.

I think that the biggest problem is that many PRs are getting pressure to get involved in the blogger world and don’t realise how different it actually is!

I would say try not to think badly of a PR if they do something silly – just let them know why they are being silly. We all need to learn :)

Cheers
Aaron

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