Corduroy leggings, American Eagle
Boots, Old Navy
"Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly." (Franz Kafka)
I've been thinking how to approach this subject -- and really, trying to figure out what exactly I want to say. More than anything, it has to do with brands, PR, and blogging -- and the vastly awkward exchanges that occur in emails between bloggers & PR departments. Let's just be real -- at first, it's hard to know how to speak to PR people, who ask for reviews, who offer products, who are sometimes treated like crap by other people. And at times, it can get downright tricky and what if your response isn't the one they want, but the completely honest, and right, one?
Here's the thing: Last week I received an email from a PR company offering me a selection of tea products in exchange for writing a blog post about them. Here's the bummer: They thought I was English. Ahem. As flattering as that is, a quick read of my blog yields the word "Oregon" way too often for me to be from England. That was my first moment of unsureness. They seemed okay when I told them I was from the U.S., and then promptly asked me if I'd be willing to buy the products myself and be reimbursed later.
And while that seems like a fine plan, I don't really have the money to be buying myself $40 worth of tea right now. And I'm not even supposed to be drinking caffeine! And even more, I'm one of the few people in the world, it seems, who have opted out of having a Paypal account. Yes, it's nice to use it on eBay, but I'm just not comfortable with the idea of Paypal -- I could do way too much damage with it. It's a personal choice. This meant that there was no way to compensate me and I couldn't buy the products on my own.
What happened next left me very confused. I received an email saying there was no other way for them to reimburse me then, but, oh, if I wanted to, I could still write the post if I wanted.
...Without a product to review? That was what I took from the email; they still wanted me to write them a post about their product, but without providing me with the product. The big thing is, this is a PR firm representing a very well-known tea brand in both the United States and the United Kingdom. This wasn't a itty bitty firm. This was a big name. I was pretty shocked, to say the least.
I sent back an email further explaining my situation, because I felt it was necessary. I commented on the fact that I pride myself on being an honest blogger; I'm honest about my situation in life, including my financial situation. I don't put myself up on a pedestal. And I would never a review a product without trying it, ever; the things I review I buy entirely with my own money and if I were to receive products free, I would only review them with complete honesty. That was my entire message and I have still not received a response.
Ultimately, the message I wanted to send in that email was this. Bloggers are not free advertisements. I can't understand why a PR firm would think it appropriate to ask a blogger to still write a post about their product when they say, flat out, they don't want to waste the postage to send them the product. We are not huge businesses and we have personal integrity. Personally, the minute I write about a product and give it a good review without seeing, touching, or using the product is the day I delete my blog and move on. I would rather delete my entire blog than do that, because that's what I would really do; I would destroy my own integrity. Why would any reader ever trust me again if I did that?
My point in sharing this with you guys is this: I value my honesty. I value the fact that I do what's right. I only want to help you guys and it's not helpful to review something dishonestly. The truth is, I really did want to review a bunch of awesome tea for you guys. I wanted to work with that PR firm, and that company! But there are things in my life I just can't change -- I won't be getting a Paypal account anytime soon and for the foreseeable future, I won't be able to afford any tea splurges. But I do know this: I would rather have my integrity, and my reputation as an honest blogger, than a bunch of tea.
I hope I always remember that: the important this is my personal responsibility and how products fit into my life, not just making a company happy. I did what's right, even if it felt really strange at the time.
I hope you all have a wonderful Monday! Thank you for reading.