Saturday, 5 November 2011

Reviews: The Root of all Writing Evil?

OK, now I'm going to speak my mind here.

I review.

Not here- although if I'm paid I put my hand up I will post a sponsored piece here, but you'll know it's sponsored as I will tell you on the piece itself and I will warn you at Twitter and Facebook that you may not want to grace the page as the following piece I sold my writing soul for and was paid to write.

I'm paid not very much for these pieces. The money generally goes towards the bills in the house. The last time I did one was for Disney and the little bit I was paid, paid for Mini's school uniform.

I've reviewed stuff, big, small, cheap or otherwise, for about two years now. I remember the first time I was offered something- which I didn't get.

It was a very nice Buggy. I was chuffed as mine was third hand, but all our cash at that time went into moving from Gillingham to Maidenhead. I waited for a number of weeks, kept my side of things by tweeting about the company (and they were very well known).

Did I get the said buggy. No, I didn't. I know others did. I was disappointed for sure, but I chalked it up to experience and moved on. 

Back then, and it was way back, I was relatively new to the Mum stable of blogging. Things were different. I wasn't asked by aforementioned big name company for my stats (I wouldn't have known how to find them out. I was just chuffed with a comment). I had about 10 followers. I was amazed by that, and still love seeing a new face has decided to follow even now.

The next thing I was offered was by a fellow blogger who is also a PR. A bag of pasta shapes for kids. The excitement at being sent them was brilliant. I wrote about them honestly, just as I still do now, and was chuffed to have been asked.

I joined up for Great Toy Guide. Then I left and joined Mummy Reviews.

That was in December 2009. At that point, Brands and PR firms were falling over themselves to work with us green, easily pleased Mums. I'm not silly- I went into it knowing that we were free advertising. Yes, you get a product, most of the time we get to keep them, although that's not guaranteed. The only thing I've always said I couldn't give back is toys as it would be too upsetting for the Bratlings to have a toy then give it back. 

What you must remember though is these products don't cost to produce what we pay in the supermarket or online. They cost a fraction of that. I worked in enough shops and saw enough lists of products with cost price to the shop and the recommended retail price passed onto the consumer. 

Magazines will review products all the time. The difference is, the people who write about them are paid minimum wage plus for doing so. We're not.

January 2010 I started Family Panel. I honestly wanted to have a separate space for reviews from here at the blog as the first backlash over reviews had begun as the network grew. I thought I may be offered the odd item every few months at best. I signed up, after a tip from a blogger, to Response Source. I never thought I'd be approved being that I wasn't a serious media type.

The month before Family Panel went live, my inbox nearly exploded. I never accepted every pitch- if something didn't suit me, I'd offer it out to whoever wanted it on Twitter- I still do that now. I'm not going to be the greedy cow who gets offered a do in Manchester and cannot get there so just declines. What would be the point? There are always bloggers looking to make links with brands and PRs, as it's an ever growing pool and increasingly hard when another thousand mums have the same USP as you. I know of a fair few bloggers who review now who made links through me, which I've never charged for, not the Blogger, the PR or the brand, yet I know of a few high profile people who earn money by charging brands and PRs to link up with their list of bloggers. Some own up and are transparent, others keep it quiet. That's up to them, of course and I'm not knocking that.

More recently, quite a few Blogs have very obviously started up just to blag. I don't consider myself a blagger as I write very honestly about anything we review. I also very rarely go to Response Source now, as I know I'm on the books of many brands and PRs as someone who will help them out if I can, and pass it on to someone more suitable if I can't. 

My advice is always the same. Get established first. Get your numbers up, make yourself stand out (very hard but still possible). 

There have also been a few sites cropping up from bloggers in the "game" since I began. One has more or less nicked the name of my site. Do I complain- no. Its healthy competition. I love a reason to drive my site to make it the best.

It speaks for itself that, when I took a month off due to Littlest being ill, people stood by me. We've relaunched, quietly, this week. 

In this blogging lark, whether you review or not, there will be those who love your blog, those who hate it, and those who really couldn't give a frick either way. No one makes you read something. Its down to personal choice.

My response to Sorted PRs little "stunt" at Response Source? Well, for one I really hope they never email to engage me with one of their list (I looked, its not really aimed at Blogging Mums anyway). To me, it was a cynical publicity stunt for a small company. They don't care that they've been downright rude and offensive to women who constantly have to guard and talk against people like Sorted PR who don't see us all for what we are. 

We are great, frankly. It wont be the first time, it wont be the last.

It is getting boring, but oh well.

It'll be last weeks news soon enough.

And, just for the record, I've never had a holiday offered to me, I applied for Butlins and didn't get it. Their loss.


  1. I started my Blog as an online diary for my family as they live so far away. I was offered my first product and was truly shocked that somebody would just give me a product. I wouldn't say I get freebies, I work my arse off for PR's and companies to give them a review worth reading. I also review things that I have paid my own money for. I make sure my spelling and grammar are correct and try to give it a very thorough proof reading. I will admit that my blog has been swamped with reviews recently, I found it hard to say no because everything I was offered was relevant to my family. I have passed on things that I couldn't do and said no to stuff that I really couldn't make use of. In today's climate I feel blessed that people are giving me things in exchange for my time and actually feeling a bit sad recently that PR companies like Sorted PR are tarring us all as beggers. At the Baby Show I spoke to a company that I worked with when I very first started the Blog and she said that they love Mummy Bloggers and that they are yet to say no when asked for review products but that with a huge influx of new "review" sites they are going to have to start being picky. Which is fair enough I have seen so many blogs review things when they haven't got age appropriate children and it makes me wonder what they do with the product afterwards! But being picky is a far cry from the slagging off that we are getting recently.

  2. Right if your going to open up then so am I. I review, I do sponsored post etc.

    But my blog is not all reviews. What I hate (and am probaly going to get lynched for this) is the new 'mummy' blogs that have started just for reviews. You wouldn't believe how many I've gone to read then realised that post after post is reviews. And if they were review blogs fair play but they've marketed themselves as mummy blogs and they make me sick.

    I don't get that many offers but when I do, I think how it will fit in with my blog, my readers etc. I don't blag things (not even cake!!) and I wouldn't. I review and my kids get the fun side of it.


  3. Hi Claire,

    (I'm going to be completely honest from the start of this comment: I work for a PR agency.)

    I really appreciated you writing that post. And it does sadden me that this situation ever happened.

    To me, and my colleagues are BOTTLE bloggers are certainly not just freebie hunters! I have been working with bloggers since January and I have made some fantastic friendships during that time.

    For a blogger to take the time our of their already jam-packed day, where they are balancing and juggling so many other distractions, to review a product for me makes me genuinely thrilled. I'd just like to say that I really appreciate it, and certainly never take it for granted.

    Thanks for your honesty Claire and I hope that your interaction with PRs improves.

    Claire Dunford

  4. I must say I really enjoyed your post and I hope many PR professionals read it. You have illustrated the motivations and challenges faced by many bloggers and I think this would help many PR people understand how you work.
    In my post on the subject I made the point that the real issue as far as PRs are concerned is not mummy bloggers in general but repeated demands from bloggers from any sector that ask for a lot of stuff but don't write much (or very well). This has presented quite a challenge for us at ResponseSource.
    In any case the fact it resulted in posts like this makes me glad we released the ResponseSource request that went out last week.

  5. I was appalled at the original post and also incensed with some of the comments. Than about halfway through the comments started to change.

    I actually think the term blagging is incredibly offensive and derogatory. I don't know anyone who does that. It shocks me that people would.

    Great post, well written!

  6. Thankyou for this insightful post. I began blogging at the end of June, and love writing about our family. I have six children aged 5 months to 13 years, so cover a vast age range and could probably fit most products into one of their interests. I have met and conversed with some lovely PR companies, but I must admit it has made me feel apprehensive about accepting products to review, as I do not want to be labelled as a `blagger' It is a shame that a few are trying to spoil it for the rest of us.I shall continue writing and reviewing and know in my heart that I am doing this for my family x


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