Before we start, I just wanted to give you some context: I am not a full-time blogger. I do not make money from my blog & never intended to. I have a 9 – 5 which pays the bills and therefore don’t need my blog to generate an income. Why do I do it then?? I do it because I love writing & have always loved sharing cool discoveries/experiences with anyone who’ll listen. Starting a blog felt like a natural progression from me simply bombarding my friends & family with info. I also do it because my day job is very technical and I felt like I needed a creative outlet to balance things out. My views, therefore, will likely differ from those who are trying to make an income from their blog… but here goes…
So I saw a post on Facebook last week which resonated with me, mainly because I do think there are bloggers out there who are doing things that cast all other bloggers in a bad light. The post was about a Cape Town blogger who was approaching restaurants asking them for free meals in exchange for coverage on their blog.
Now I don’t know who the particular blogger was, but I do have the following issues with this approach:
- If this is an established blogger with a good following – restaurants will contact you if they feel they want to collaborate with you. You should never try force your way in, throwing your stats and following at them. Just be cool man.
- If this is a new blogger starting out – you need to be creating your own content, proving yourself & building your following, until you get to the point where people start taking notice. Asking for free meals is definitely not the way to get ahead in this game.
Over the years, I’ve been lucky to build some great relationships with a smallish group of Cape Town-based PR companies who I enjoy working with & who get who I am and what I stand for as a “blogger” (I really do hate that term – mainly because people tend to pull a face as they say it). Through them I do get invited to review restaurants from time to time, but I definitely don’t rely on these invites to generate content for the blog. I get my butt out there, I eat out on my own account, and then if I feel something’s worth sharing, I blog about it. If only 1 person ends up reading a post of mine and happens to find it useful or interesting, then that in itself makes me feel all warm & fuzzy inside.
The PR companies I work with also understand that if I didn’t like an experience, I’m not going to blog about it. In these instances I would provide them with detailed feedback on what was not good & more often than not they come back confirming that the restaurant’s taken the feedback on board & made some changes to improve things. So that way, I still feel like I’ve contributed to the greater good in my own small way. I know other bloggers may jump at the opportunity to write a negative review, because let’s face it – people love reading negative reviews, it’s just our inner voyeuristic tendancies that kick in – but I personally feel that if they’ve taken the time to invite me & ask me for my feedback, they’re looking for real input to help them be the best they can be. Me writing a nasty review is not going to help them reach that goal.
I currently don’t add a “sponsored” tag on any of my posts, because even if it’s a free meal, I approach it exactly the same way I’d approach a meal I’ve paid for. I fully consider pricing, the same way I would if the bill was on me, and I always mention if I think something is way overly pricey, etc. I would never edit a post to make it sound better, just because it was a “freebie”. But maybe I should still be adding a “sponsored” mention to the post? (Any input here would be helpful)
As an example of my free meal vs self-paid meal ratio, if you look at the restaurants I featured in my “My top 5 restaurant experiences of 2018” post:
- Of the 3 notable mentions: 2 out of the 3 were invites (ie. free meals) – that would be Coco Safar & Charango Barbacoa. Mulberry & Prince was a dinner with a friend & something I paid for myself.
- Of the top 5: Only 1 was an invite/free meal – that was The Skotness which made it into my number 4 spot. All the others (Indochine, Marigold, Belly of the Beast, Chefs Warehouse at Maison – which was my number 1), were paid for by myself.
So yeah, in summary – a free meal is great. If you’ve worked hard at building a following, these will come to you. You should never expect them to be handed out to you just because you have a blog. I also feel it’s important to balance out “sponsored” content with content that’s true to you & your own experiences.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Any questions for me? Or just general observations about blogging/bloggers, particularly here in SA? Leave your thoughts/questions in the comments section below… (I know my readers aren’t normally the chatty type – but hey, this is a safe space, drop me a line)