What’s the price of a glowing review of a restaurant?
In Doha, apparently it’s in the vicinity of Qr1000 or so I discovered recently.
This post is going to make me very unpopular in some blogging circles but really, this post has been a long time coming.
When I started this blog, I wanted to use my writing skills to talk about my love of cheese. It then blossomed into something different. While I still talk about cheese, I also do restaurant reviews, travel stories and a range of different things.
I work in PR (and have been a journalist) so I know that leveraging positive coverage as cheaply as possibly is important to clients and brands. It’s savvy.
As a blogger I am no clean skin. Yes, I have had and do have commercial arrangements with some brands and outlets. And yes, I do get free meals from restaurants, hotels and third parties and you can read about many of those here (and more to come).
That brands and others believe that my blog connects with people and resonates, fills me with immense pride. They realise that being up front about that association works for both of us.
Further that I have been asked to give workshops and speak to big groups about food, blogging and my social media skills because of this success of this blog is humbling.
Any free meals and relationships are stated VERY clearly in my posts and in other areas of the blogs whether it be a simple invite to a media dinner at a five star hotel through to a free holiday or an advertisement. It may be a giveaway for my readers. It may be an ad by a brand. But it’s all there – spelt out for the reader. They have to the right to know there is a commercial arrangement (and yes, a free meal is that too) of some kind. And, if you want, I can furnish you with my advertising rate card and media kits.
Further, and I will cover all bases here, there are some places I have a great relationship with. I may dine there often or stay at that hotel. I sometimes get special attention, free dishes, an upgrade, a free ride home, presents for holidays. These are greatly appreciated and come with loyalty but as I am also a blogger I try to acknowledge these too.
Smart PRs, owners and managers (thankfully Doha is blessed with some truly professional operators in hospitality and I am proud to be associated with many of them) know this is how the game works. Credibility is key.
I am increasingly dismayed to hear of “bloggers” and other social media enthusiasts who blatantly ask for freebies in return for reviews and positive coverage. Then there are those who “namecheck” brands in their tweets, posts etc with the hope of getting a free meal, an upgrade or whatever.
In the UK these are known as Food Blaggers.
And then there are the infamous reviews. That’s right. Bloggers soliciting payments wrapped up in “contracts” for positive reviews. It’s apparently becoming so common in Qatar’s foodie scene that recently I was asked what my “fee” would be for reviewing.
I can honestly say I gasped audibly during the phone conversation.
“For what?” I asked. “For the review” was the answer.
I can categorically state I have NEVER asked for money for a review nor have I accepted money. Free meals, yes (and for the record I always expect I have to pay anyway).
But regardless who sent the invite, my opinions are my own and I am brutally honest. And guess what? Anyone I deal with – PRs, brands, owners, managers etc – KNOW that.
I can also say this situation is frustrating for many of my friends in the mainstream media including websites (I am unusual in that I kind of straddle both) who work hard to establish their credibility.
I don’t begrudge bloggers the opportunity to make money from their blogs (this is an age old source of tension between bloggers and journalists). A gal needs to pay for her handbags. What I do hate vehemently is the lack of transparency that envelopes the food blogging scene here.
I don’t want to start some kind of war. I also don’t want to name and shame.
You might think who am I to be the thought police? I’m a writer, blogger, a reader and most of all, a food lover. That should be enough.