I Can’t Pay My Bills with Cupcakes: How Brands Take Advantage of Bloggers

When it comes to brand sponsorship, I’m careful about who I would sponsor and promote on my blog. They must be a good fit for my brand and a company that I feel has good ethics and is certainly something I would support personally. Otherwise, why would I encourage my readers to?

No offense mommy bloggers, but when I visit your sites and see one sponsored post after another, I’m turned off. Maybe you’re laughing all the way to the bank, but I truly like the organic content on my blog.

When bloggers try a product from a brand, find out they like it or better yet, really love it, we want to share our enthusiasm with our readers. So, we do in a blog post, but why stop there? As a brand ambassador (a paid spokesperson) we can further expand our love of your brand via contests, ads, social media sharing, special events and more.

I approached a major cupcake brand about being a brand ambassador. They were definitely interested and wanted me to share a proposal with them. They loved my ideas but “just didn’t have it in their budget” to pay and were wondering if they could “compensate me in cupcakes.” Based on my fee, this would have equated to 20 boxes a month.

I said no thanks to early onset diabetes. This is a business located in the most ritzy areas of every city. Read: high rent and sky high prices for their sweets. Certainly not a matter of not being affordable, but a matter of seeing just how much they could squeeze me. I wonder if they tried that trick with the electricity company, or their ISP what the response would have been?

Another company, one of the oldest catererers in Atlanta, Proof of the Pudding, asked me to plan a blogger event for them. When I sent them my proposal their response was “We don’t feel comfortable paying to entertain you.” So an event planner shouldn’t be paid? How insulting!

Let’t get something straight. I am passionate about food and writing, but my blog is work. Yes, I want to share a gorgeous image of the scallop crudo you just served me, but don’t you think I’d like to talk to my table mates too? We’re promoting you from the time we get to the event and it continues through writing a blog post and its promotion.

I like to make a habit of under promising and over delivering. The ROI the catering company would have gotten from social posts and blog posts would have far outweighed the negligible fee to organize the event. We’re talking a collective reach in the tens of thousands.

Oh and recipe development? If we need to create unique recipes with your product and include OUR OWN gorgeous photographs, do you know how many hours of time that takes? So, no. Just giving us the product “for free” doesn’t really cut it.

Brands, please stop taking advantage of food bloggers. For many, our blogs are our business and source of income, so we can’t promote your product for free or take payment in cupcakes, barbecue sauce, restaurant gift cards or Uber credits (yes that’s what Uber offered me to be a brand ambassador). For the record, Uber is terrific – but it just comes back to those pesky bills I have to pay each month.

Here are some tips to work with us:

1. Actually put a monetary budget towards social media. Have a brand ambassador that will promote you and plan events for your organization.
2. If you are national brand with target cities, hire a local PR company that already has a relationship with bloggers. They are much more likely to get farther with them than an email blast from a publicist they’ve never heard of.
3. If you only have a small budget to work with, select Tier 3 level bloggers to promote your product. Their following and influence is less, but because they are new, they need this to build their portfolio and are willing to accept less money.