Last week the SA importer for an international brand threatened to sue me for a lukewarm product review. They wanted me to remove the review and make some kind of big deal apology otherwise they were going to sue me for loss of income as well for ‘reputational damage to the brand’ plus their legal costs. How dare I call their products expensive?! Or say that I thought it only worked ‘a tad’…
Fortunately, they backed off and agreed to a ‘truce’ after I took my dilemma to twitter where it created a nice, fat flurry of outrage. People couldn’t believe a brand would stoop to such petty bullying tactics or that they seriously thought they had a legal leg to stand on. I mean, come on now… I was merely expressing my opinion, which I’m entitled to, on my personal blog.
Anyway, I feel it’s important to tell you what happened if only to serve as a lesson to other brands. Misguided attempts to censor how you’re perceived can result in ten times as much negative press.
Anyway, now that that’s all water under the bridge, there are few things I’d like to get off my chest…
#1 I won’t tolerate bullies. But I think you’ve gathered that.
#2 PR people! Please explain to your clients that when you give their products to bloggers for a review, they’re in no way entitled to a good one. Bloggers aren’t like magazines. Our hands aren’t tied in regards to what we write due to the fear of pissing off advertisers. There’s a chance we won’t like every product you send us, but it’s a risk worth taking because a good blog review can carry more weight than those in print. While people tend to spot things in mags, they go online to see what ‘real people’ are saying before deciding whether it might be worth their hard-earned cash. Thus, approaching honest, unpaid bloggers can be a bit hit and miss, but when you do ‘strike gold’ with an unbiased, honest blogger, it’s definitely worth having taken the risk.
#3 I’m often asked what I do when I receive a crappy product that I don’t want to endorse so let me put it out there once and for all: If I come to the conclusion that it’s utter irredeemable kak, I’ll tell the PR person just that. I’ll say ‘I can write this review, but it won’t be pretty’ and then give them the option of scrapping it. Nine times out of ten they’ll suggest I rather leave it unwritten and I’m okay with this. Life’s too short to give publicity to crappy products. Also, my credibility is my best asset. I write for you my readers, not PR companies. I never want to damage the trust you’ve placed in me by endorsing something I know to be rubbish. Still, I want to make it clear that this is just me. There are plenty of other bloggers out there who are very happy to whore out everything they’re given for fear off pissing off the PR person or brand and never being given anything else again.
Now in saying all that, you should know that 90% of the PR companies I deal with are very cool in regards to accepting negative feedback. I often criiinge when I fire off a mail saying I don’t want to help promote something, but more often than not the PR person on the receiving end totally ‘gets it’ and it improves our relationship going forward.
So ja… here’s a big thank you to all of you who supported me via twitter and e-mail the other day; there are too many of you to thank individually, but I appreciated the krag I got from each and every one of you. Oh! And for the record, the PR company attached to aforementioned bullying brand’s importer is one of the nicest I get to work with. Please do not tar them with the same brush.
Now tell me, how do you all feel about all of this? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments section, especially if you’re a fellow blogger. Have you ever had a brand attempt to intimidate you for expressing an opinion? And how do you feel about bullying brands? Let’s talk about it…
Update: Due to my truce with the brand’s importer, I’m not approving comments that reveal the brands’ name in the comments section. Just so you know know…