If you haven’t heard about #Bloggergate, (btw, can we all agree to stop putting ‘gate’ at the end of every dramatic event?) you probably don’t spend a lot of time on the Internet. To summarize: Elle Darby, a semi-influential social media persona, contacted the White Moose Café hotel in Dublin, Ireland requesting a discounted or complimentary stay in exchange for social media posts on her Instagram and a property review on her YouTube channel.
If this type of request seems all too familiar, then you probably work in public relations and can empathize with the owner of the property, Paul Stenson. In response to Darby’s request, Stenson took to Facebook (either out of complete and utter frustration or pure purposeful genius) and posted Darby’s email with his response. The ensuing firestorm of support and backlash made international headlines, with winners and losers all over the place.
This entire ordeal exposes the tightrope that brands and bloggers walk in the world of influencer marketing and provides a guide to the complicated structure in which these bloggers and businesses work. At the brunt of it, bloggers and influencers leverage the trust of their audiences for personal gain as well (INSERT $XXX hotel stay for free), not just solely because they’re doing their audience or the brand a service.
The word “Collaborate”
The term collaboration has oft been a favorite of the modern corporate culture quo, included in bios and company visions from Silicon Valley to Timbuktu but now, much like influencers are doing to social media platforms, the word has been diluted in its effect (include how many times she says collaborate). Let us take a look at the dictionary definition of collaborate:
col-lab-o-rate (v.) – work jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something
The traditional interpretation means that two parties come together to contribute ideas and work towards a goal or product together, equally, and typically results in tangible ROI. The watered down version used by influencers and bloggers reads more like this:
col-lab-o-rate (v.) – give me something free and I’ll say something nice about you to my loyal following
One of these things is not like the other…
No matter what side you take in this battle of brawn, the people who decided to attack both Elle and the property/management so personally and vindictively looked like total a**holes.
The Phrase “No Press is Bad Press”
Ever heard of the White Moose Café hotel before? Did you know who Elle Darby was? No? Now you do.
In the last 30 days, Elle has seen an increase of 20,129 followers on Instagram 18,098 new subscribers to her YouTube channel and 4.1 million views. Those numbers alone make her a winner in this debacle, but her transparency regarding the email and how she makes an income most likely gained more trust from her viewers.
Paul Stenson and the White Moose Café
Paul Stenson is an Internet troll who takes his trolling very seriously. He continued to post responses to the various backlash from bloggers and influencers on Facebook, eventually banning the groups from his property entirely. He then held a press conference and designed shirts to sell as hotel merchandise. Finally, he sent billing to Darby for the amount of press garnered in her name. According to ClearStory, a data measuring service, the incident spread across 20 countries with a potential reach of 450 million people, the equivalent of $4.3 million in advertising.
In the end, #Bloggergate won’t upend the blogging industry or band brands together to fight the freebies. What it does show is the value of earned media, and how to take advantage of an opportunity. Stenson was able to drive engagement for his property and subsequently Darby’s channels, and put them both front of mind for a massive audience…for free.
We call that a win-win in PR Land.