One of the reasons why I’ve always shied away from pro-blogging is that I am far too honest. I would even go so far as to say that I have honesty Tourettes. I can’t help it. If I’m not happy with something, I can’t pretend that I am and I often roll my eyes at the sight of all the sycophantic blogs that do nothing but praise. I told myself that when I started RockPaperSpirit, I wouldn’t have to tell any lies. I would work only with brands I love. I would blog only about products I believe in and keep my fingers still when I hate something, but does even that silence affect credibility?
I recently decided to write a travel piece. I wasn’t being recruited to do it. It would be written off my own back. My parents had offered to take me, my son and my husband on a day trip on The Waverley. For those who don’t know, The Waverley is the only sea-going paddle steamer left in the world. It’s more than 70 years old and sails daily during the summer months around the west coast of Scotland, relocating to various parts of England in the autumn. It’s well-known throughout the country and is a popular day out in the west of Scotland. So, it was the perfect chance to write RockPaperSpirit’s first travel piece.
Then, it all went a bit wrong. The ship sat out in the Firth of Clyde for around 90 minutes, leaving all the pre-paid passengers on the jetty, waiting. We were told it had broken down. Then it sped off in the direction of Arran before turning and finally docking in Largs, where we were due to board. There was much confusion and no communication from the staff. We were told to speak to the ship’s pursers, but they couldn’t tell us anything. They advised us to phone the customer care line, which firstly re-directed us to the website, then stopped answering, then would hang up after a minute of ringing and then finally switched on an answering service. It was shambolic.
Since I’m not being paid to work with this brand and have no association with them, I feel it’s perfectly acceptable to write facts about my experience. Were they offering me a free trip, I think I would be inclined to either not write a blog or to put a more positive spin on things. I might wait until they had arranged a substitute trip and write about that experience instead. I would feel obliged to promote them and guilty for painting an unflattering picture. This makes me question my own integrity. I had thought that was the professional thing to do, but doesn’t professionalism begin and end with honesty? Who is my blog being written for? Is it the brand or the reader? Does filtering out the negatives make me dishonest? Shouldn’t consumers be given the chance to read negative reviews as well as positive, and shouldn’t they be written by someone who isn’t just an angry Trip Advisor regular with an axe to grind? (I’m not judging, we’ve all been there)
As a blogger, I want to offer a huge amount of value to readers because without those clicks on my site, I have no blog, just written ramblings clogging up cyber-space. But how valuable is a blog that’s strictly edited, with experiences that are filtered and carefully selected? Those who blog professionally would argue that without brands offering freebies and associations, my blog will never be a success. It’s true, but there has to be some balance.
The conclusion I came to is that it’s acceptable to blog facts. In fact, it’s necessary to maintain authenticity. Opinions will have to be carefully worded. While it’s fine to say “This is not something I enjoyed and I didn’t receive the level of service I had hoped for” it wouldn’t be acceptable to say “The woman in the glasses with a huge mole on her face was a rude bitch and shouldn’t even be working with the public.” I’d think it, but I probably wouldn’t write it. That is a fictional woman, by the way! I don’t want to sour any relationships with brands I could potentially work with before they even begin and if my blog is full of angry rants, they may shy away. It’s a difficult balance to achieve and I’m not sure how possible it is for me.
How do you feel about blogs that heavily filter their opinions?