Dealing with PR Companies

Being a blogger involves so many things I never thought about before that first post went to air and one of the things is dealing with PR companies.

As my blog is only around 18 months old I do not have a wealth of experience when it comes to PR companies but I can say I have had experiences that have been absolutely wonderful where the PR consultants involved have been so professional, genuine and caring that it has caused me to send off emails thanking them so very much for the association.

Sadly, not all experiences have been that way.

Mushroom Port Pate

There is an overseas company that is launching here in the first quarter of 2013.  Their stores are currently being built.  A PR consultant recently contacted me asking if I would be interested in promoting their brand through not only blogging but also through pinterest, instagram, twitter and facebook.  There was mention that by return I would be given product and remuneration for the work I did.

It sounded like a great opportunity.  I love the brand and would have been honoured to work with them in seeing their business established here in Australia.  I was asked to come in for a meeting and so drove across town, spent 20 minutes looking for a parking space and then hurried to the meeting.

Great for Christmas Drinks

I was met by a rather young looking PR consultant who showed me to a table in the cafe where we sat down.  What surprised me is that she hadn’t brought anything with her; not even a folder.  The first thing she said was, ‘So Charlie, tell me all about Hotly Spiced’.  And that shocked me because I thought I had been contacted because she was aware of Hotly Spiced and because prior to the meeting she had asked me to forward my Media Kit and this would have told her everything she needed to know.

I asked, ‘Have you had a look at my blog?’

‘Oh, yes’, she replied.

‘And did you get a chance to have a look at my media kit?’

‘Yes, yes I did’.

‘Oh, okay; well that would tell you quite a bit…’ and so I went on but I was confused because if she had seen my blog and media kit she would know quite a bit and I wasn’t sure what more I could tell her.

Fifteen minutes into the meeting she then asked, ‘Do you have children?’  And I tried to suppress the shock I was feeling because if she had seen my blog she would know I have three children.  It tells you that on my ‘About’ page and almost every blog post mentions one of my three children.  And if she had looked at my Media Kit she would have known that the very first page states I am a mother of three.

Super-quick and easy to make

She then told me the company is looking for bloggers from different genres to promote their brand and that the day before the stores open we will be invited for a private tour (after the media has been through first) and that any products we wish to blog about will be available to us (but they need to be returned) and that it was up to us just how much blogging and social media promotion of the brand we would like to do.  And that the bloggers from the other genres had already been selected but that they were still looking for a food blogger.  And then she added, ‘But there isn’t any money to pay you’.  But she also said, ‘And this will be a mutually beneficial relationship’.

And I was confused because I couldn’t see the part where I stood to benefit.

She told me that it would be up to me to decide how much work I would like to do between now and the opening of the stores and that she would be there to support me in any way possible and that any products I would like to use could be made available to me.  After the launch money would suddenly appear and there would be an opportunity for me to be paid to continue blogging about the brand.

There’s four months between now and when the stores open.  That’s four months of this company gaining free access to the social media audience each blogger has established.  Some bloggers have already decided this is an attractive offer and have not only agreed to the terms but have already started promoting the brand.

I asked for a contract and was told the company wouldn’t be offering contracts.

I came away from the meeting feeling disillusioned and unsettled.  If the PR company was suggesting this was a mutually beneficial relationship then I was failing to see how this was of benefit to me.  I wanted a guarantee that I would be given paid work after the launch.  I emailed the consultant and stated that before taking on the work I would need a contract.  This is what she said in reply:

“I have not yet selected the bloggers that I wish to work with.  As I mentioned to you during our meeting, I am taking this time to meet with as many bloggers as possible in order to select the top bloggers for the first campaign.  I made no promise that this would include Hotly Spiced.’

This had me reeling as it was a complete contradiction of what had been discussed at the meeting.  To now know that I could promote this brand for the next four months for nothing, only then to be told I was to be dumped for another ‘top blogger’ meant this was exactly what I feared in that one party stood to gain while the other gained nothing.  Now that the terms had been so plainly stated, I turned down the ‘opportunity’ to work with this company.  Anyone with any business nous would know this was not a mutually beneficial relationship.

It has been my experience that all too often bloggers undervalue themselves and will be so flattered that anyone of any significance is interested in their blog that they will agree to giving themselves away for free.  Not all PR companies seek out bloggers for a freebie though; some will make very attractive offers to the right blogger.  But sadly, there are a few who will not only waste your time by turning up to a meeting under-prepared but who also feel that it doesn’t matter which blogger they secure to the campaign as long as they get one for free.

I believe bloggers have value and that value, as with any profession, be it lawyer, doctor, plumber or journalist, comes with a price.

We need to rise above the expectation that we are there to be used and put a value on what we do.

There’s a scripture in 1 Timothy that says, ‘The worker deserves his wages’.

And bloggers are workers.

Bloody hard workers.

And not for a complete turnaround.  I’m still creating the recipes my mother served at our Christmas Drinks events.  Here is something savoury.

Sealed with clarified butter

Mushroom Port Pate

Makes:  3 cups

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  Considering how much you pay for pate at the shops, pate is surprisingly very inexpensive to make.

  • 500g chicken livers
  • 125g butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 125g mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 250g lean ham, chopped
  • 1/2 cup port
  • 300ml carton thickened cream
  • 100g clarified butter

Clean and trim livers, chop coarsely.

Heat butter in saucepan, add onion, cook until onion is soft.  Add mushrooms, garlic, livers, ham and port.  Cook, stirring, 10 minutes or until livers are tender.  Add cream.  Blend or process until smooth.  Pour into serving dishes.  Refrigerate several hours or until firm.

Melt clarified butter in a small saucepan (or microwave).  Place a sprig of rosemary in the centre of each pate dish.  Pour clarified butter over pate to seal.  Place in refrigerator until firm.

Serve with melba toast.

This recipe has been adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly Celebration Cookbook.

And Melba Toast is so easy to do.  Just buy a loaf of sliced white bread and remove the crusts and cut into triangles.  Place on a baking tray in a hot oven (mine was on 200C and is fan-forced) and keep an eye on it!  The bread will dry out beautifully and turn a lovely golden colour.  They may need turning.  Takes just a few minutes.

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  1. Oh gosh Charlie…that’s a horrible experience with a PR Company! I agree with you 100% that bloggers work hard…and we should be respected if not rewards…if they don’t want to work with you that’s fine… but they need to respect you and have at least visited your blog or have looked at your media kit.

    This really angers me! I don’t really think their launch will be successful anyway… don’t worry about them and at least you know now which PR Company to avoid 😛

  2. Sounds like that young little thing got ahead of herself and needed to back paddle. If it’s such a respected brand they likely don’t know how this little sausage is portraying the brand, because they would likely demand better. Such a shame, and a turnoff. Too bad the other bloggers decided to take them up on it. It’s like Madonna bring late for her concerts (3 hours late), I firmly believe she would change her tune if no one bought tickets or even her songs or CDs! Such disrespect.
    Now here’s an interesting question: do you think it’s possible to give an honest opinion of a product if one is employed by that product to promote it? Seems slightly conflict of interest doesn’t it?
    Your pâté looks and sound wonderful, and the light is beautiful, so summery.

  3. I can’t believe your blog is only 18 months old, it seems soo established, I thought you were a veteran – blogger that is. I’ve had similar offers from PRs and it is easy to feel special for being chosen when really it’s just one way traffic. Literally. We all just have to remember we’re worth more! And your blog with all your followers is definitely worth more. GG

  4. I too cannot believe your blog is only 18 months old. Thanks for sharing your PR experience.
    I don’t do chicken liver so will probably increase the mushrooms and/or ham, will that work? How long will it keep in the fridge?

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Hi Norma, the main ingredient in pate is chicken or duck livers so I’m not sure how this would work without that main ingredient. Personally, I wouldn’t risk it. The recipe as it is, keeps for about a week in the fridge. The clarified butter does help to seal it but once that seal is broken I would use it up fairly quickly.

      • I sauteed about 1 1/4 pounds of mixed brown and white mushrooms today in order to use some of them in a ‘shooter’s sandwich’ and ended up with extra. I wondered what I’d do with it and then remembered that I had a small quantity of chicken livers in my freezer that I wanted to fry up. I think it would make a great mushroom and chicken liver pate for one. 🙂

        No port though in house though.

  5. Getting something for nothing seems to be the PR motto based on what I’ve been reading. And I know that bloggers put in a LOT of time, effort and money to make and present their dishes in the most effective, attractive and appetizing fashion. Some commitment should be made to the bloggers ahead of time or at least some reimbursement should be made for the 4 months of ‘free’ publicity provided.

    The pate (love chicken liver) in its pristine state is beautiful in the first picture but, like a Christmas cracker, the really good stuff is inside. 🙂

  6. I can see why you were disillusioned. Silly girl that interviewed you–she sounded young and inexperienced. But thanks for sharing your experience.

    I love chicken livers; I love port. And I am sure I would love this recipe. Yum.

  7. I am going to go right now and search for that passage in I Timothy. I know of someone who needs to read that.

    Great post.

  8. Only 18 months old and you are now speaking on behalf of us bloggers. Thank you Charlie!!

  9. Lovely pate recipe! Silly PR girl though, I think you did the right thing! x

  10. Pate is on my list of things to make soon! and the cheek of that woman! I can’t believe she could leave her house to go talk to someone like that!

  11. Good on you my friend, this PR company sounds like a scam – bloggers work so hard!
    Beautiful recipe today 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  12. What a crazy story! I’ve actually been hearing this a lot recently, about bloggers undervaluing and jumping at any and every chance. Great to know!

  13. Christie @ Fig & Cherry says:

    Thanks for sharing this story Charlie, you are so right that bloggers should value themselves as real workers with real money (not just product, or worse, returnable product!). I really think that PR companies need to keep a close eye on their juniors, as there are many that need more mentoring before being let loose on clients on their own.

  14. I can’t believe the time and effort you put in for the meeting only to find out that the girl hadn’t even read your blog or press kit. It will be their loss not yours. The pate looks wonderful…I know my husband could probably eat the whole thing by himself.

  15. I can’t believe how rude that PR company was! I’m secretly dying to know who it is now though haha. It does seem as though they’re trying to take advantage of bloggers who are overly excited about getting things for free and who are trying to get work for free…

    I also can’t believe your blog is only 18 months old! Your blog definitely seems like the work of someone who has been doing this for a long time – you have a knack for it!

    Mmm I love pate – I had no idea it was so easy to make at home!! Thanks for sharing Charlie 🙂

  16. Its sad that such level of unprofessionalism survives. Having to return the product is completely ridiculous – unless its a car or something along those lines.
    I guess we should really be feeling sorry for that PR company and the interviewer – they are lacking in many areas, common sense and professionalism being one of them

  17. I see bloggers or those who SHOULD have blogs, plugging away for others and on sites where others get credit.You are right; those people are counting on the flattery aspect.Obviously, since the woman lied from the start about knowing “Hotly Spiced”, they could not be trusted. Good for you that you had the sense to get away from them.

  18. Oh my gosh, what a horrible meeting! I didn’t know your blog was so new…you seem ike a pro 🙂

  19. Good for you Charlie – glad you stuck to your principles. I find that PR companies often give the job of schmoozing the bloggers to the juniors who then don’t seem to have the smarts/experience/interest in dealing with us professionally. Our time and skills are valuable, otherwise they wouldn’t be bothering to look to us in the first place and it’s time PR’s starting working out just what that $ value is.

  20. What a disappointment for you. Your blog is obviously too good for you to give space away. Good for you for turning it down.

  21. What a nightmare. How can they possibly think that that’s a good proposition?! One day they’ll work out that if they want bang for their buck they actually have to spend a bit of money!

  22. I think I would have left the minute she asked if I had children. I know who you’re talking about because there’s only one American chain setting up shop in Sydney. They need to fire that woman because she’s incompetent and full of herself.

    I’m really guilty of not valuing myself. You wouldn’t find my photo in the dictionary under self-confidence.

  23. Eek. And Ick. I have no experience with PR people at all and can’t see myself gaining it in the near future, so this was an eye opening experience and I share your sense of being unsettled!

  24. I haven’t dealt much with PR companies to be honest but it sure sounds like your experience was quite the horrid. You’d think when these companies approach you they would already know you (sounds stalker like but at least they have done their research). After all, they requested to meet you because they like what you do, what you stand for etc. I’m just amazed …. that’s all.

  25. A fantastic post Charlie and I’m so glad that you wrote this. Everyone has value to what they do and so many people get taken advantage of. I think I know the PR of whom you speak and I wish it were an isolated case but nevertheless, her behaviour is shocking. As if you were in the running to do all of this work for them for free and as if you were waiting with baited breath to be one of those lucky ones selected 🙁 It’s very sad.

  26. What a strange experience!

  27. It amazes me how people always want something for nothing – a one way street always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. They are actually devaluing the work. People who do work for nothing ruin the profession (any profession) for others to the point where respect is also lost. Good for you in standing up for yourself and your self worth . I love this pate, I have not made it for years. God bless your mother and her recipes I am really enjoying them.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I know. It’s unbelievable how people can bring something to you where only one party stands to gain – and you’re not that party! Who needs the extra work!

  28. Hi Charlie, thanks for bringing up this topic. I think many bloggers have some disappointing experience now and then, and we all need to be treated fair for our “bloody hard work”.

  29. As a realtor, this interview and subsequent conversation brought up red flags for me and memories of working with terrible clients that I had to eventually unload. Whenever someone you haven’t even begun to work with has an antagonistic or argumentative conversation like this, they’re going to be a pan in the arse to work with. Now that I’m back to work again, my mantra is to only work with people I either know well or really enjoy. Stress like that.. who needs it?! xx ps Love pate.. that has a seriously pretty color!!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Thanks Barbara, that’s such good advice and I’m so glad you too are being picky about who you choose to work with!

  30. What about Deuteronomy 25:4? Do they want to sell products after you’ve used them? Thats a bit iffy too. What a shame Charlie, but thank you so much for sharing your experience. I would have wanted a contract as well, and it seems very unethical not to offer one.
    I do love your Pate though, I might whip some up tomorrow xox

  31. Well said Charlie

  32. Doesn’t sound like a great experience 🙁

    Congrats on running your blog so long! I only hope that one day I can get my cooking skills and blogging skills up to a level where people come over and pay attention! haha. Love your mushy pate x

  33. So beautiful…

  34. Ah well, live and learn… and I think that PR girl needs to. Oh do tell the brand, do do… I have no idea and am so nosy. But like you most of my experiences have been good and really helpful for me in terms of building my blog… not sure what shape I’m building it into, but whatever…

  35. I think in this particular instance, PR stands for ‘Putrid Rat’. The stench eminating from your post reeks volumes, Charlie. On a brighter note – I am an avid fan of pate and will be whipping up a batch this silly season!

  36. Very interesting story about the PR experience! That’s why to this point I have chosen to be promotional free. 🙂 Some things are more trouble than they are worth. I might have to change that soon, so reading about your experience is quite helpful. I’ve been wanting to make a pate’ now for quite a while. It’s the only way I’ll eat liver and I love it. thanks for sharing your mom’s recipe!

  37. I am with you 100%, Charlie. I keep getting approached by firms who think they are doing me a favour and I tell them where to go because of the arrogance involved in thinking they can get free publicity through my blog, which I work very hard on. This is a widespread attitude at the moment towards bloggers and it is up to us to educate them. There is no free publicity coming their way unless it is mutually beneficial and unless their product fits into what my blog is all about!
    I’m so sorry about how they wasted your time like this. What a rude little girl you had to deal with!

  38. I think your blog is doing great on its own right now. Good work, Charlie!

  39. They’re strange creatures PR reps. Some (and thankfully most of the ones I have dealt with) have been really great and are very well researched before contacting people, but you get the odd few that are pretty bad.

  40. well i have never had a PR person contact me (OH NO I feel so left out!) and if i do I shall refer them to you, .. i do hope there are lots of other good companies that you can work with.. I love pate, i think I will stick to the pate! c

  41. Firstly: You did an amazing job within the last 18 month by creating and maintaining a fantastic blog.
    Secondly: I think there is this perception that bloggers are lazy and have the easiest job on earth.
    But the truth is blogging is hard work. It takes a tremendous amount of energy, passion, and devotion to update and maintain a blog. You did the right thing.
    By the way I like your Mushroom Pate recipe.

  42. I’m very sorry that someone, or an entire company, thinks of bloggers as commodities to be used. They obviously were very lazy in their approach, and since they didn’t know anything about you at all, I hope that takes away the sting of a personal snub. There was nothing personal here. I think there is still a lot of ignorance about what blogging is. As a form of communication, information sharing, education, art and creativity, blogging is still not easily identified or understood by many people, and apparently totally misunderstood by this particular PR company. I think you’ll have another shot at someone more reputable and respectful! 🙂

  43. Thank you for blogging your experience Charlie! How unpleasant to be treated in that way! I agree we need to value what we do, whether it be blogging, or other interests and careers we have.

  44. Ooh Charlie, what a bad experience with that PR company! 🙁

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this with us! Much appreciated too! Good luck with the rest! Your recipe rocks! xxx

  45. Well said Charlie!!
    We all need to be on the same page when we are dealing with PR companies, I would hate to think that an inexperienced blogger would be duped by such an unethical offer.
    I am really pleased that you turned down that “opportunity.” I would have done the same thing.

  46. Good on you Charlie! You are absolutely correct and I too can’t believe your blog is only 18 months old! I am almost three but it seems you work way harder than I do!! (please don’t tell me that the company is Williams Sonoma, I would be thoroughly disheartened to hear that since I give them so much of my money.)

  47. Tisk. Some people just don’t get it. No such thing as a free lunch ect 😛 You actually have me thinking about how old I am now.. maybe like 18 months too? eek!

  48. All I can say is that it’s the PR company’s loss where you and your blog are concerned. But you make such good points about the value of blogging and one should always be fairly compensated for their creative time when it is applied for someone else’s benefit. Love your pate…it looks delicious!

  49. I’m so glad you shared your experience with us bloggers, Charlie. You’re very generous and supportive in this community. I still cannot believe this PR lady, and anyone can tell there is no benefit on the blogger side. I’m not sure what product you are talking about but you have to “return”?? Hope it’s something expensive or otherwise I think it’s ridiculous. Your choice was very wise, and how can she ask you have any children. Clealy she didn’t even do her homework. Like you said, it’s a lot of work to be a good blogger, and there is no such free work for anyone!

  50. Been there, done that, got the apron. I feel your pain. Thanks for speaking up for us all.

  51. Good for you Charlie, not giving into the temptation. I as well believe in holding ourselves to higher standard, whether it be what is promoted or said on our sites. Cheers to you!

  52. Way to go! Yes, you should be paid for your work! This pate sounds fantastic! I can almost taste it now. 🙂

  53. Good on you for not being taken in! That sounds appalling – a one way relationship – their way. You are too good to be used like that.

  54. A very good exposée piece of journalism ! (very considerate of you not to name them) The fact is that bloggers don’t have Press Associations and personal liability insurance backing them up as regular media journalists do and they are more vulnerable to libel suits and vitriol on the social networks if they review negatively.

    Like it or not bloggers are viewed as easy prey by many PR companies, who see them as unprofessional, naive and pathetically grateful to be asked. I was once asked for some photos from my blog for a magazine going to every household in a local town and when I suggested they might pay for them, they said no and that they got no money from the magazine, but it was full of advertising so it must have had some revenues? I think they thought I was stupid too. Hey ho!

  55. I wish I could say that this was truly a shocking story but it’s really not. There are a ton of bloggers out there and most are willing to work for free. I’m so glad you made the decision that you did 🙂

  56. I actually just gasped, she seriously asked if you have kids? Wow! I agree 100% bloggers do have a lot of value, and some companies are still jaded on that. Most companies understand and promote, and give back appropriately:-)

    Your pate sounds delicious, I love the addition of mushrooms, and that buttery top sounds like heaven! Yum, Hugs, Terra

  57. lol, I’d have left right away as soon as it was apparent that they hadn’t even looked at my blog – cheeky!

  58. Let’s meet for a coffee. I’d love to talk to you about this and a shed load of other stuff.


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