Next month, my blog will turn four years old. It sounds a bit pathetic giving my blog a birthday and celebrating it as though it were a small child but in essence, it is something that I have dedicated a large proportion of my life to over the last four years and at twenty-five, that’s a large chunk of my adult life. I’ve nurtured my blog and watched it develop into something I’m really proud of but it didn’t happen overnight.
I started my blog as a creative outlet. I didn’t have a clue about PR, marketing or advertising, aside from the adverts in between an episode of Corrie that I skipped as soon as my Sky box would allow me, and really I didn’t have a clue about how to blog. I think that was the beauty about blogging back then, there were no rules.
I had just graduated from university when I started my blog and I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I studied Criminology and then the Graduate Diploma in Law and as my degree progressed I knew that although I was fascinated by what I was studying, I didn’t want to work in that field. I’ve never been a particularly creative person, always an academic however I did have a passion for make up, skin care and fashion. After years of my friends asking me how I achieved a particular make up look or where I bought my handbag from, I decided it was about time that I shared my passion with like-minded people online.
I’d been watching beauty gurus on Youtube for about a year before I started blogging, I can even remember the first video from Imogen of Foxy Locks Extensions, where she vlogged from her messy bedroom in her parents house before she made her fortune with her hair extensions business. The same goes for reading blogs like Zoe Sugg’s. Yep I was there from the beginning of Zoella. Writing online seemed like a very logical outlet for me to spill my thoughts on all things beauty and fashion related. My friends and family weren’t as interested in the topic as I was but there was lots of girls online who were and joining the blogging community really gave me a sense of belonging.
Blogging has majorly evolved since I started out. Granted, it has been around a lot longer than the last four or five years but it has really taken off in the last couple of years, especially in the fashion and beauty category. Now it seems as though EVERYONE is doing it. What once was something I shied away from telling my friends about because they ‘wouldn’t understand’ is now something to shout about. But why are so many girls writing about lipstick now? Is it because of a genuine passion for make up above and beyond the average girl or is it because of the jiffy bag arriving in the post from a PR agency? I’m increasingly beginning to believe that it is the latter and I can’t help but think that the true essence of what blogging is about has been lost.
In the early days, I loved to read about the latest products and what my favourite bloggers thought about them. I was becoming increasingly savvy to the retouching and the total manipulation of images in the media and I was tired of wasting what little money I had on products that didn’t work, all because of a TV advertisement; I guess you could say that I began to lose faith in brands. However if a girl like me was sat at a computer using a product and loving it and I could see how well it worked for her then that would encourage me more than anything to give it a try for myself. It’s the girl next door effect and I’ve seen more and more PRs brands catch on to the power of blogging in recent years and rightly so- it would be foolish not to as bloggers can really add credibility to a campaign.
Studying a master’s degree in PR alongside blogging has really given me a unique view of how blogging has evolved and how public relations has adapted to utilise bloggers through providing products to review, event invites and press releases. However what I have also seen is a shift in the credibility of beauty blogging which I really think is starting to have a negative impact on PR.
Alongside the number of brands recognising bloggers, the number of bloggers has dramatically increased as well. Undoubtedly there are thousands of bloggers out there who write beauty blogs for the love of it but there are so many who start writing with the aim of gaining freebies which is something that poses a great threat to PR practitioners as many are giving out free samples with the aim of securing a review but never actually gaining any coverage. Many bloggers don’t understand how PR works and there is so much chat on Twitter about how they feel as though they should be paid to write posts which not only goes against everything that PR is about, it also throws its credibility out of the window.
While I can understand that payment should be exchanged in a marketing or advertising campaign, it is very different for public relations and this is often difficult for some bloggers to understand as they’re unaware that PR is a credible, earned media. Something that I also think is jeopardising the credibility of PR is that more and more people are beginning to not trust the opinion of bloggers, particularly bloggers not trusting other bloggers, if the talk on Twitter is anything to go by. Sometimes it is because the big bloggers are always gifted the same products but also paid to Instagram, Tweet and blog about the products and sometimes it’s because it can seem as though a blogger doesn’t want to give a brand a negative review because they’re concerned they’ll not get the opportunity to work with them again. The trouble is that for every person who has been gifted an item for free there are hundreds out there who have bought the product themselves so if a blogger bends the truth and raves about a product when it isn’t actually all that great, their credibility as a reviewer is under jeopardy. So many bloggers are sent the same products at the same time, which would make sense when there is a new launch for example, however a lot of the reviews are very similar to one another and a lot of readers really start to mistrust what is being said.
The same goes for YouTube. I can remember the days when I would watch a YouTube video about how a particular blogger achieved their super volumised hair style and I would hang from their every word. You could tell that they were really loving the products that they were talking about and that they had clearly took a lot of time to find out what works for them. Fast forward a few years and I’m watching a similar video where a blogger who is a lover of high-end products is talking about their hair care routine. Sounds like a great video from the outset, until they move onto the products they use and the first is Head and Shoulders, a super budget brand. What they’re saying sounds as though it has come directly from a press release, as though they’re ticking off the boxes of the points they need to make and it is all falling on deaf ears. A quick click into the description box and I can see the dreaded words ‘Disclaimer: Thanks for working with me on this video Head and Shoulders!’ So in other words, they’ve been paid to create the video and talk about the brand in it. Whether they like the products or not doesn’t matter to me at this point because they’ve been paid to make the video and talk about them. They’re not going to make a video telling you not to use these products because they’re rubbish so the credibility of that review goes out of the window to me and it is the mixing of marketing and PR techniques and the exchange of money that brings down the credibility of beauty blogging and vlogging in today’s world. To me, it’s just the same as Cheryl Cole on a L’Oreal advert… but is it worth it?
What are your thoughts?
Where to Find Blogger Relations: