Bloggers, influencers, blaggers, whatever you call us, our job is to try things and tell you about them. And sometimes – full disclosure – that stuff is free.
On the whole, our motives are pure and this is especially true for food bloggers. We love to eat, we love to share and we want to help everyone else find great food.
However, with lockdown still ongoing and restaurants closed, it’s left a lot of us with very little to say.
It’s no secret that a lot of food bloggers are offered freebies in exchange for promotion.
The general gist is we are occasionally offered a free meal or product in exchange for some nice photos and a review. This has created an unreasonable expectation on the part of some bloggers where it is believed that having a platform entitles you to a literal free meal ticket.
Social media sites are awash with angry small business owners sharing their inboxes containing begging messages promising exposure. There is no handbook for us hobby writers but as a rule, asking for free stuff is a no-no.
It’s a conversation I have had with fellow bloggers, with strong arguments being offered from both sides.
All cards on the table: I have enthusiastically accepted most of these offers and in turn, I have written my true feelings on them.
However, now the PR machine has ground to halt and many of our favourite places to eat and drink are all but boarded up, can we in good faith continue to accept these perks when the hospitality industry is on its knees?
I have had offers from restaurants asking if they can send me takeaways and products in exchange for some exposure and each time I think about saying yes, I feel the mission I started on my blog 12 years ago, to promote and support, gets further and further eroded.
Am I really interested in trying these things or am I addicted to the draw of a free meal? Am I really doing my ‘job’ promoting people I think are doing great work if I am being spoon-fed my next blog post or Instagram pictures via a free dinner for two and a bottle of wine?
It is now time to refocus on that path and support a faltering industry with cash, not likes. For me at least, the era of the freebie is over.
It can’t be ignored that influencer marketing is a hot subject right now and brands partnering with popular social media accounts with high followers can be fruitful for both parties.
However, these brands have huge marketing budgets whilst a small independent bakery will be struggling to break even, let alone able to afford a few rounds of free cupcakes.
They should not feel pressured to give people like me, with a modest following, their goods and hope a few extra sales are made with the lockdown affecting their profits so badly.
I want to give my future recommendations to people knowing I have contributed honestly to the till when I look back at this dark time for the British hospitality industry and will not be waiting for someone to send me a free pizza.
As true influencers, we should be leading by example and let our wallets do the talking.
I am not Kylie Jenner, I am just a woman with a computer who eats. Perhaps we as bloggers should all take a minute to remember this.
Our online food diaries should not be propped up at the expense of others, especially when our chosen focus may never recover.
Charlie Harding is a food and lifestyle blogger, and a freelance social media consultant and copywriter. Read her blog at bedsitbonnevivante.com.
Main photo by Charlie Harding