This is an open letter to anyone who writes a pet blog, and there are a lot of you out there. I get asked for advice about blogging a lot, and the number one thing I will tell you is this: Your blog and your time have value. It’s ok to remind people of that when they ask you to work for free.
I’ve seen plenty in the almost four years in the blogosphere. To stick it out this long requires a clear understanding of why we’re doing this and what we’re about (neither of which, incidentally, have to do with money. Because ha ha ha.)
The PR representatives who pitch you, with varying degrees of success, products to review do not, unfortunately, understand you the same way I do. At first, of course, the attention is flattering. Oh, wow! I must be an influencer! You want to give me a free sample of your stuff that I’m not even sure I need! Awesomesauce! And then, five hours later when your dog won’t eat the food or the leash is rubbing purple dye all over your cat, you realize: uh oh. This is a lot of work.
Much like Tribbles, such offers of stuff pile on themselves as companies start to realize that hey, here’s another one out there who will write about our product for free. And before you know it, whatever it was you started a blog to write about in the first place is shoved to the back burner as you try to keep up with the piles of products you’ve agreed to review, promote, and plug for reasons you’re not even sure of yourself. The old grizzled, battered veterans of the pet blogosphere have long ago learned to be crotchety and picky, because you have to be.
Thing That PR People Should Know Number One: My name is Dr. V.
I can’t blame the PR people for trying. They’re just doing their job. Though I will blame them for putting the wrong name on the email, or worse yet, “Hello pawcurious,” or even worse than that, just “Hello,” because I’ve made it REALLY EASY from day one for people to know who I am:
Names are important, as Rumplestiltskin and Dale Carnegie will both attest to. If you can’t be bothered to figure out my name before asking me to do you a favor, then I can’t be bothered to respond.
Thing That PR People Should Know Number Two: You are asking me to do you a favor.
I have absolutely everything my pets could possibly need. They don’t need a whole lot. And if there’s something I would like for them to have, to be honest it’s actually a lot less work for me to just go out and buy it than to wait for you to send it to me, photograph my pets using it in good lighting, upload it, write something about it, and make sure the post is properly edited.
I didn’t start this blog to get free stuff. I write about things because I think other people might be interested in them. If I had thought this whole “getting stuff for free” thing through a little more carefully, I would have started a shoe blog, because unlike catnip toys, my appetite for shoes is insatiable. Pet companies don’t offer paid reviews on a regular basis because, well, why should they? We keep doing it for a drop in the bucket free product.
Unpaid reviews are the blogging equivalent of running around in the free logo T-shirt. It’s fine if you wanted the shirt to begin with, but t-shirts get old after a while. Anyone who treats sending me a product sample like I should see it as the thrill of a lifetime is going to be disappointed.
Thing That PR People Should Know Number Three: You Don’t Get to Tell Me What to Write
Offering a product or event invitation to a blogger is a roll of the dice. We can review it positively, review it negatively, or not review it at all. That is the way that it goes. Sometimes a product just doesn’t work for me or my house, and it doesn’t make sense for me to take the time to write about it in an ambivalent manner. Most companies out there, and all of the companies I’ve written about on the blog, get that.
I received an invitation the other day to a movie screening. It was a 3 1/2 hour drive one way to get to the screening, and dogs were invited. It’s not a movie either I or my dog would be interested in, but my kids were. So I asked if I could bring them.
“No,” came the answer, with the additional caveat:
“We expect you to write several posts about the experience:” followed by a list of the table of contents for the posts we would be expected to write. About a straight-to-DVD movie that I didn’t even want to see. I turned that one down too, which is a bummer because I probably would have written a rather meaningful exploration of how movies can open important dialogues with children, but that wasn’t on the ‘pre approved topics’ list.
(I won’t say what company they are with; I’m not that Brave. Besides, I don’t want to be overly cruella.)
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way
I wrote this post not to rant and rave, but because people are always wondering what “normal” is when it comes to blogger-brand relations. In the pet blogging world, this has been my experience- and that of most people I know. And as long as we let companies dictate crummy terms and then accept them, that’s how it’s going to continue to be.
I don’t want you to think working with all companies stinks- au contraire. I’ve made some wonderful connections with amazing brands and small business owners based on one thing: mutual respect. I respect the product they are putting out, and they respect the time and energy it takes for me to write about their product and share it with this group of readers that I adore and feel overly protective of. You guys.
Speaking of respect, small business owners have far and away been the most ardent supporters of efforts like the blogathon and of bloggers in general: Biscuits by Lambchop, Calming Collars, Dog Angel Jewelry just to name a few: thank you for doing it right.
For those just getting into pet blogging, it’s ok to say no to people who ask much and give little. I know the stats, and very few of you are making any money off this blogging thing, so make every word count and be about something you love.