What the creative industries can learn from #BloggerBlackmail
Something incredibly inevitable happened in the blogosphere yesterday. A food blogger approached a small bakery asking to review their products and posted negatively about them online when the bakery wouldn't give her £100 worth of food, at which point the bakery accused her of blackmail on their own blog.
One blog post from the bakery turned into a response from the blogger, which turned into many more posts from bloggers and marketers, and - of course - a hashtag: #bloggerblackmail. Some bloggers took sides, some bloggers stayed diplomatic, and a lot of non-bloggers, sadly, accused the whole blogging community of being expectant and 'in it for the freebies'. Everyone was thankful for learning the difference between 'Macarons' and 'Macaroons'.
My initial plan for this post was to write about why I support the bakery - the blogger didn't discuss her terms before the review, the bakery is a small business and, given that blogs are small businesses themselves, we should be supporting them, and not only is threatening to post a negative review wrong, but actually going forward and bitterly and unjustly criticising a person's hard work online is incredibly damaging. And, quite frankly, really bitchy.
The baker named and shamed the blogger, which a lot of people are hating on her for. But, behaviour like that should be shamed. You can't threaten someone's livelihood and not expect them to fight back.
I won't go into the morals and ethics of this specific event any further, you've read enough about that from everyone else.
Instead, I want to talk about one big lesson that the creative industries can learn from this event: the importance of clear communication during collaboration.
We all know that the secret to success is knowing exactly what you want and how you're going to get it. Whether you're a fashion designer teaming up with a fabric company, or a musician working with a film maker, or a comedian working with a script writer, in order for your partnerships to work, each side needs to be clear about their intentions.
If you're just starting out in a sector of the creative industries, then this is a big challenge - especially if you're dealing with people who have over ten years more experience than you, like the relationships with bloggers and brands. In the situation of #BloggerBlackmail, the blogger approached the bakery but wasn't clear about the terms. Having worked with high end brands before, the blogger expected a lot more.
She wasn't wrong to have high expectations, as that's what she's used to, but if you're approaching a business and you want to be paid for your time, in whatever way, you should state how much you're charging. The blogger thought that £100 worth of cake was a just payment for her work, but because she didn't state that in her prior emails, it all went horribly wrong and she's now faced with having to repair the damage of being at the forefront of a negative twitter trend.
I started this post explaining that this was an 'incredibly inevitable' situation. Don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming to be a psychic. Miscommunication is the fuel of most arguments in any industry - this certainly isn't new. What is new though, is that the power of social media and the voice of the blogging community is stronger than ever - as is the relationship between bloggers and brands.
One blogger's foolish decision is now a reflection of her brand - a brand that she's put a lot of hard work into - because social media turned into a tabloid community and treated her like a naughty celebrity.
Social media is not a force you have full control of. The owner of the bakery only had around 300 followers at the time of publication, all it took was a few retweets for the whole situation to explode.
Successful people always offer the same advice: be professional and don't burn your bridges. The creative industry is the hardest one to find success in, and the top dogs believe that your talent can be replaced by thousands of people with talent.
Learn from this situation. Know what you want, communicate what you want and -most importantly - don't be a dick.