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Dear BlogHer Sponsors… They Don’t Speak For Me

by Fadra Nally on July 17, 2012

This post is for brands and bloggers. For brands, it’s more of a caution and clarification about who bloggers really are. For bloggers, think “What Not to Wear” for blogging. We’ll call it, “What Not to Do.”

Blog conference season is in full swing with the grandmommy of them all right around the corner. BlogHer ’12, the world’s largest women’s blogging conference, is headed to New York City for their annual conference during the first week of August. As things heat up, you’ll find a LOT of chatter on Twitter using the hashtag #BlogHer12. But I have to warn you… it’s not all pretty.

It was two years ago as I was gearing up for BlogHer ’10 that my eyes were opened to the true character of some bloggers. There was a lot of buzz on Twitter about a private party that was going to be announced for Schick Intuition. The party was promised to include a big name musical act and the tension on Twitter was palpable. Everyone (including me) was waiting for the invite link to go live. It was promised at 2pm.

The time came and went. They announced they were having technical glitches and that the invite link would be live soon. I waited and watched. It was for Gavin DeGraw, after all. I wanted to hear him perform so I was willing to wait in the virtual line. And having working in software, I know that technical glitches are more often the norm than the exception.

And then it started…

“I’ve been sitting around waiting for an hour for this.”

“You don’t do this to bloggers.”

All tweets directed at the sponsor.

I was astonished and embarrassed all at the same time. It was a sense of (unfounded) entitlement and even sounded a bit like extortion (Oh yes, that’s gone on before too. Ask someone from years gone by about the famous Crocs story).

Two years later and I’m a little wiser and a little less flabbergasted at this kind of behavior. But I don’t like it anymore than I did then. Frankly, it gives bloggers a bad name.

Don’t believe me? I witnessed a Facebook exchange a few weeks ago between a Marketing Fella and Prominent Social Media Director.

Marketing Fella asks the question, “Why do brands want to work with bloggers? More importantly, why do bloggers want to work with brands?”

Prominent Social Media Director (who works with a lot of bloggers) responds, “Free stuff.”

Ouch.

You see, bloggers, they’re onto you. You may promise posts and tweets and glowing reviews in exchange for a free wardrobe, loaner car, or even a full ride by a MAJOR brand. But many of them know your full ride is often simply a free ride. I’ll caution any brand to think carefully about sponsoring a blogger without some sort of ongoing relationship with them.

(For those brands that don’t know if their offer/relationship is a good one, I’d be happy to advise you.)

And now, on behalf of professional bloggers everywhere, I’d like to formally apologize for those conference attendees showing the following kinds of behavior:

  • Begging, pleading, whining about and for every private party invitation out there
  • Lacking tact when it comes to flaunting party invitations
  • Commandeering the #BlogHer12 hashtag for said begging, pleasing, whining, and flaunting
  • Randomly tweeting out the need for sponsor for BlogHer (although this has surprisingly worked for some people)
  • Searching EventBrite for any possible invitation to a private event and responding, even if not invited
  • Signing up for events “just in case” they want to go
  • Planning to bring wheelie carts to the Expo Hall to collect as much swag as possible
  • Actually bringing wheelie carts to the Expo Hall to collect as much swag as possible
  • Whining because they didn’t get some really awesome swag
  • Lack of interaction at booths (because they are only interested in swag)
  • Grabbing things out of the booth that aren’t even intended for swag (yes, this has really happened)
  • And of course, too much drinking and all the ramifications that go along with it

While there are plenty of bloggers that will fit the bill, my personal experience is that, like you, we are professionals. We like to have a good time (truly, we are a friendly bunch), we like to try out really cool things, and we really like expanding our network and meeting new people.

With that said, I wrote a post just for brands when I returned from BlogHer last year about what to expect after the conference. We have expectations of you too.

Whether you are a blogger or a brand, I’d love to have the chance to connect at BlogHer’12 this year and talk down and dirty about the state of the blogosphere. Be sure to follow my personal account on Twitter (@allthingsfadra).

(P.S. A quick note about the Schick Intuition party, I sent a quick note on Twitter to the party sponsor apologizing for the other blogger’s behavior and to let them know that there were many of us that were gracious and simple hoping for an invite. I got a DM telling me not to worry. That no matter what happened, they would put me on the VIP list. Which they did. See? You do catch more flies with honey than vinegar.)

  • Gooddayregularpeople

    Love your perspective on BlogHer. You do the best, most honest write ups. WIthout blasting anyone.

  • http://amandamagee.com amandamagee

    Beautifully done. Again.

  • http://twitter.com/AleyshaProctor Aleysha Proctor

    Great post Fadra! I totally agree with you, the sense of entitlement has gotten old. The key to successful blogger and brand connections should be a rewarding mutual relationship – not free stuff.  :-)

    I hope to meet you at Blogher 12!

    Thank you,
    Aleysha

  • http://www.themakermom.com/ Kim Moldofsky

    I think (or like to) that a lot of the bloggers who complain loudly are newbies who don’t understand the nuances of the tech or PR world. The more experienced among us know that delays, glitches and miscommunications happen despite best intentions. IN the words of the recently deceased Stephen Covey, “seek first to understand before you seek to be understood.” Like a bit of honey, putting Covey’s advice into action can win a gal a lot of friends.

  • http://thetechmom.ca Krista House

    Great post! Thank you for sharing. I’m still trying to navigate my way in connecting with Brands. I’m very happy to see that I’m not in the minority in my feelings towards the craziness of the BlogHer12 hashtag stream.

  • http://twitter.com/jennyitup Jenny Rapson

    I really, really, really like this post. I haven’t been to BlogHer since ’09 because it was so crazy w/ this type of behavior. And it’s not the conferences’ fault, but it was so overwhelming w/the SwagHags and what-not (I was there for the Crocs near-stampede), that I’ve just gone to smaller conferences since then. I do want to go back next year, I just hope people are better-behaved by then.

  • http://www.mommywords.com/ Brittany at Mommy Words

    Great post Fadra.  As a blogger I am interested in meeting companies and learning more about them and getting to know the people.  Do I like to sample products and tell people how I feel about them?  Sure, if they are really a fit for my family.  I want to build a realtionship with companies I trust, not walk away with stuff I don’t or won’t use.

    As a brand, I want to interact with people who want to build a relationship with us.  Believe me, being new to social media we have already seen those who just want the stuff and then never say a word about us or even a thank you.  Professionalism is key.  So is being friendly.  So is looking me in the eyes and not simply ogling the products.  Being new to social media with this brand, we are working hard to find bloggers who want that real connection.  We had some great conversations at Type A, but felt that BlogHer would be too much swag and too little time to connect.  Maybe next year.  We want to work with bloggers and have a long-term view of these relationships.

  • http://twitter.com/goodgirlgonered Andrea B

    Well said. Though I need to apologize because I fell into a trap of seeing someone post about an open party. And I thought it looked interesting and cool (topic was, anyway) and so I signed up. Turned out someone scoured the eventbrite site to find it. Uh, yeah, whoops. I’m good as is. And I cannot imagine someone snags stuff that ISN’T SWAG! WHAT? Sigh. Shaking my head. Thanks for this!

  • http://ChristinaGleason.com/ Christina Gleason

    Great post! So many times, I want to tell someone, “Oh, honey, no…” or just, “Don’t be that guy!”

  • Brandy3

    great post, I may seem ilk done of those swag huggers this year, but I am not. I am not staying in the city. I will be taking the train home every night, so I wil be crying the bags I get around. 
    You should see all the hype right now about Getting gorgeous, people are going crazy on Facebook

  • BrandiJeter

    Perfect, Fadra.  I fear the folks that would get the most out of this post won’t get an opportunity to read it, but at least it helps those of us on the other side to not feel so alone!

  • http://SavingsLifestyle.com Andrea Deckard

    This is such a great post! 

    As my roomie, Jenny Rapson, mentioned already, BlogHer 2009 was SO intense because of all the parties and running from here to there and I have no plans to do it that way. Looking back, the best memories were rooming with Jenny and seeing our other preggo roomie (Jill) in Spanx. Makes me smile just thinking about it! Or laugh. I’m laughing now… :D

    I know there are so many parties this year that I will be missing out on because I’m not stalking twitter. As a matter of fact, I think I have three total confirmations as of now and I’m totally fine with that. I’m also going to see WICKED and going to the GMA morning show on Friday. So, it’s NOT all about the parties and swag – it’s the people and experiences for me.

  • http://misadventuresofmrsb.com/ Mrs. Jen B

    Well said.  I heard about almost nothing but negative behavior after last year’s conference, echoing what you talk about here.  I’m glad you have your head screwed on straight!

  • http://www.thecentsiblelife.com/ Kelly Whalen

    I get that some people do have the ‘free stuff’ goal, but I think (and have seen it played out many, many times) that it’s a general lack of business sense or outside view that causes this kind of behavior. If someone were to just step back and look with objective eyes at what they are saying they would be embarrassed. Ok, maybe SHOULD be. As you said t’s important for brands to know, those who participate in this kind of behavior don’t speak for all of us. Certainly not for me!

  • http://awholelotofnothing.net Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing]

    Unfortunately, the Schick party debacle is not an isolated case. I feel like being a mommy to other women and explaining in my best mommy voice: “Not everyone can be invited to the party. You’re special in your own way, dear.”

  • http://www.loulousviews.com/ Loukia

    I am cringing! People actually DO stuff like that, like bring wheelie carts to the expo hall? OMG. People. I’m embarrassed for you!

  • http://www.spanxswimwear.com/ Spanx Swimwear

    It was amazing when I was invited to speak at BlogHer some years ago in Chicago, and therefore got into the conference free. 

    Also, Real Simple magazine invited me to a lovely dinner with other bloggers at the swanky W Hotel, and gave us purse makeovers. I was in awe when they actually put one of my blog income posts on the big overhead screen. 

    It was a good time.

  • http://carefulcents.com/ Carrie Smith

    This year will be my first BlogHer event and I’m very excited about it. I didn’t originally plan to go, but I got a great sponsorship opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. I have established a pretty good relationship with sponsors and other brands but I had no idea other bloggers considered them a “free ride”. I also try not to feel entitled about anything because after all, we are just humans on an equal playing field. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, as a newbie blogger and going to BlogHer12 for the first time – this is really great advice.

  • http://www.simmworksfamily.com/ Danielle S.

    I think I might love you. ;)

  • http://www.charlenechronicles.com/ Charlene

    I totally agree with everything you said, though I think tweeting for a sponsorship can be done with class rather than just begging on Twitter. For example, I have tweeted, but linked to my “Partnership Page” which outlines more about me and what I can provide. It may not lead to a BlogHer sponsorship but perhaps a relationship down the road. I also wrote a post about my horror from last year’s BlogHer if anyone is interested in reading it (remember the half naked construction guys?) I think some of the ‘free-stuff’ mentality is perpetuated by the brands too. http://www.charlenechronicles.com/technology/bloggers-brands/. Great discussion Fadra!

  • Steph – Generoussavings.com

    Fadra, this is the second post I have read by you in 24 hours. well, actually the first one was your video of the 10 faces of blogher. anyway, I love you! ok, that might be a bit forward, but I love reading what you write and I am so glad I have found you through this whole blogher twitter hashtag thing. 
    Anyway,  I have never been to a blogher before and hope to make it this year. but I have been to my state’s art teacher convention. I actually have a colleague, who steals the swag that is not really swag. I have  to like run and hide, when I am with her. 
    It is amazing the things some people say and do.  
    Don’t get me wrong, i am all about free stuff and I am not perfect.
    But I am all about relationships and being real too. Being sweet and  understanding will get you a lot farther than being that complainer, plus I believe in do unto others as you would have do unto you. anyway, I am rambling, and I am not perfect, but I loved this post! thanks for sharing 

  • http://twitter.com/SandraBrannan Sandra Brannan

    Great post. Many of these things are reasons why I’ll be attending select sessions and no parties at this year’s BlogHer.

  • shelly

    I haven’t had the opportunity to attend BlogHer at all, but I do enjoy reading all about it from people who have been there.  I also like hearing from different sides about what some consider “free stuff” and others consider “exchanged for posts as part of the job”/debate.  Thanks for your insights!

  • DMBastian

    I had not yet heard about the Schick incident, but I’m not surprised. This is my first year and I’ve seen some already. I’ll confess to a little party ‘schmoozing’ on Twitter, but never begging and certainly not being disrespectful. I also heard about the Crocs thing – whoa. Sickening. As great as this post is, thank you, sadly there will still be this behavior. I’m grateful to be going, I’m grateful for the parties I am invited to and I’m not afraid to call someone out, but hope I won’t have to.

  • http://twitter.com/TheSalesLion Marcus Sheridan

    Fadra, exceptional post with exceptional honesty. As a guy that’s never been to BlogHer I can’t say I fully relate, but much of what you say here happens at other blogging conferences as well…and it’s nice when someone shouts with a voice of reason versus a voice of foolishness.

    Well done!

    Marcus

  • http://7onashoestring.com Staci Salazar

    This will be my 1st year and I must agree… it has already driven me crazy. I have steered clear of the Twitter feed some days because of how insane it gets. I have not been begging for invites and yet my calendar is still full! Thanks for sharing!

  • http://janasthinkingplace.com/ jana

    All of these posts make me glad that my number one goal for BlogHer is to have fun and not worry about what other people are doing. Since I don’t deal with brands necessarily, I’m there for the fun. And maybe some fun swag :) But not a rolling cart full of it. 

  • Darcy

    Great post! I haven’t gone to BlogHer before but have been surprised at some of the public (I.e. Twitter) behavior I’ve seen. Of course one can feel disappointed about missing out on a party everyone is raving about, but I try to limit sharing my disappointment to more private discussions.

  • homeeverafter

    I think we’ve all brought home our own horror stories from conferences of what not to do!  It’s shocking that there are still so many unprofessional “professional” bloggers!

  • http://somebodyhealme.dianalee.net/ Diana Lee

    A BIG Amen!

  • http://fourplusanangel.com/ jessica

    Such a great post Fadra, this is my first year attending and even all of the hype leading up to it has been eye-opening for me.

  • http://www.losingtheshadow.com/ Jen

    I have fallen into that trap of being upset that I get overlooked by brands with no invites etc but this will be my 3rd Blogher and I know the ropes. It is what it is. I still have a great time and have made some lasting friendships through the conferences. I am looking forward to this year’s conference but in a more subdued mood. 

  • Gina Burns

    thanks for sharing ..i think it will impact us bloggers badly.the ones that just want free stuff..ugh

  • Condo Blues

    Some of this behavior is the reason I took a break and didn’t attend Blogher11.  While like most bloggers, I am selective as to what swag I accept I will be one of “those” people with a wheelie bag for my camera, iPad, 8 zillion business cards, etc. because it saves my shoulders from a heavy bag, pain, and a migraine which I get at every conference unless I use the wheelie bag. 

  • http://www.bargains4wahms.com/ Sandra R

    This is an awesome post!  As a blogger myself, I like to review products and offer my readers the chance to try something they may not have heard of if not for my blog.  I know some brands think all we want is free stuff and they don’t get anything out of it.  My question is if that’s what they think, why give stuff away!

  • http://twitter.com/bargainbriana bargainbriana

    Great post but I wouldn’t assume that someone with a bag with wheels is a Swag ho! I think it actually makes sense when you consider how much you are walking around with your laptop, water bottles, snacks, and etc to be smart and have something with wheels so your shoulder doesn’t tire out! But now, I’m reconsidering because I don’t want to be judged because of my choice of bag! ;)  

  • http://CrowningVictoria.com/ CrowndVic

    Thanks for sharing. This is my first BlogHer and I’m all deer-in-headlights as I watch a lot of this go down. I didn’t know parties were such a big deal and can’t help but feel hurt when I don’t get invited, but this isn’t high school. I’m excited to meet people and hone my craft.  And I’m not gonna lie, I like free stuff as much as the next person, but only if it’s applicable.  What would I do with diapers since I don’t have kids?!   I approach this conference knowing I want to have a good time!

  • http://www.jeanstshirt.blogspot.com Kia S.

    I will admit I’m guilty of the evenbrite thing, because i do that for just regular events. I didn’t see that would be something forbidden or out of the norm for blogher (i’m a newbie) because its totally normal for me to do it for local events. I am now informed. 

  • http://DoFoodBetter.com/ Linda Carmical

    Really good post and a great reminder on blogger etiquette.  Thanks Fadra!

  • http://twitter.com/SomebodysParent Somebody’s Parent

    Fadra, for real.  I am getting super freaked out about the weirdos I expect to run into.  If I find one.  I’m coming to you, pronto!  It’s no fun if we don’t point them out.  :-)

  • http://twitter.com/Hatchedit_Megan Megan Brown

    Thank you Thank you for this article.  This will be my first time at BlogHer, and our first time at a major conference.  As a startup company this is a huge investment for us, and though we are super excited, I have been very nervous about what to expect!  I really can’t wait to connect with some great people-but at least now I am going into the conference a little less like a deer in headlights!  Hope to connect there!  :)
    Megan Brown
    Founding Partner
    HATCHEDit.com

  • http://twitter.com/Hatchedit_Megan Megan Brown

    Thank you Thank you for this article.  This will be my first time at BlogHer, and our first time at a major conference.  As a startup company this is a huge investment for us, and though we are super excited, I have been very nervous about what to expect!  I really can’t wait to connect with some great people-but at least now I am going into the conference a little less like a deer in headlights!  Hope to connect there!  :)Megan BrownFounding PartnerHATCHEDit.com

  • http://www.daddymojo.net/ Trey Burley

    This post nailed it to the floor, fine points and a good reminder for blogger to keep it classy.  

  • http://brothatech.com/ BrothaTech

    Good post. 

    It’s cool to get free stuff, but it’s soo much more worth it when you’ve “spreading the good news” for a brand, just because you like them and what they do – and BOOM! a relationship…with free stuff blossoms*Did I just use the word blossom?*

  • Bernettastyle

    This is my first time to your blog and I really enjoyed this read. I am new the the networking side of blogging and amazed how crazy this atmopshere is already. WOW! Thanks for the heads up before I started doing any of those things!

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