Blogger Or Blagger? Mediaworks, Bloggers and #PRrequest

Hope is an act of defiance

There’s unrest brewing in the blogosphere. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that as blogging has grown it’s become more and more commercial. Lots of bloggers, myself included, make money from their blogs, by accepting sponsored content, advertising or reviews from brand and PR agencies. For some bloggers, this just means balancing the paid content and gifted items amongst their regular programming and everyone’s happy. For others, the shift moves too far the other way. A lot of bloggers have been talking recently about being fed up of seeing outfit posts where everything is gifted, sudden random posts about car insurance from your favourite fashion blogger, or blogs that have ‘sold out’. However, recently, I think things have got a little nasty.

Bloggers and PRs often find each other by using the Twitter tag #prrequest. It’s a way for PRs to shout out what they’re looking for or advertise projects they’re working on, and for bloggers to put out requests for items for giveaways, round-ups posts, gift guides, or just to make it clear they’re PR friendly. For most of us, the tag is a helpful way to find PRs or brands who want to work with us. Now, as with anything, there’s always going to be a few who mistreat it. And I don’t deny that there are bloggers who take the piss, asking for all kinds of stupid things. However, I don’t think it’s a giant disaster. You don’t want to give that blogger something? Just keep scrolling. There are plenty of tweets asking for something you can’t give, so treat the begging tweets just the same and ignore them.

Some people seem to think ignoring them is impossible. A new Twitter account, @buyityourself, has taken upon itself to shame bloggers using the #prrequest in a cheeky way, by retweeting the offending requests. Unfortunately, what they’re actually doing is retweeting a few people who, at least I think, are using the tag perfectly correctly. There’s a mummy blogger looking for reviews for Christmas products, a lifestyle blogger interested in reviewing running shoes…actually there are only three tweets at the time of writing that actually retweet anyone using the tag. Everything else is retweets of compliments, comments about ‘begging’ bloggers, and retweets, somewhat suspiciously, of an article from Mediaworks.

If you’re not familiar with Mediaworks, they work with a variety of clients, setting them up with bloggers for sponsored content and reviews. I’ve actually worked with them several times myself, mostly with their fashion clients. There are rumblings that they are behind the @buyityourself account. They firmly deny this, but there are bloggers who question the coincidence of them choosing to write an article about best practice with #prrequest and using it to link to this account as soon as it appeared. Buyityourself’s account is half tweets about this article. Whether they are behind it or not, I find their response very odd. Presumably, they find a lot of their bloggers through this tag. So why are they slamming usage which appears to be perfectly legit? The article in question, in my opinion, fails to make any valid point, instead turning into a whine about how long it takes to find suitable bloggers. They’ve taken to tweeting this article to bloggers who use #prrequest, a move which many bloggers have found very upsetting. It strikes me as very passive aggressive. It seems a bizarre move. Bloggers talk. Why alienate a huge proportion of them? It’s a real shame. I’ve worked them multiple times, but after this, I certainly won’t be again. I don’t wish to work for a company who have encouraged a lot of nastiness and bullying. I’m sure I’m not the only blogger backing sharply away from Mediaworks.

Blogging is an industry still in it’s infancy, which means there’s a lot of kinks to be ironed out. What is best practice when it comes to brand work and approaching PRs? There are undeniably bloggers out there getting it wrong, but there’s also plenty of PRs getting it very wrong too (note the lack of Twitter account to shame them…), encouraging bloggers into using shady practices, or simply expecting the world in return for no payment. If I work with a brand or a PR, I expect to be paid. I am providing a service. I’ve taken the time to take and edit pictures, gather links for a round-up post, test a product, write a post, push a post across social media and give access to my readership. My time and my readers are not free, and nor should they be. I also expect to be able to reach out to brands and PRs to create positive working relationships, that work for my blog and my readers. I don’t expect the pay back to be snarky tweets from a PR agency or inclusion in a spammy, bullying Twitter account.

What do you think? Has #prrequest been taken over by blaggers rather than bloggers? Are Mediaworks making a very odd move?