To be fair to both parties, I’ve provided the links to both sides of the story over the alleged free meal incident. Please read both stories carefully before you jump to any conclusions.
The story according to the Joo Chiat restaurant, Private Affairs, via Yahoo! Fit to Post: S’poreans outraged over ‘free meal’ blogger (23 Aug 2010)
The story as told by Ladyironchef (Brad Lau): The Truth about this Singapore Food Blog (24 Aug 2010)
As a blogger who also works in a media company that organises bloggers’ events, here are some guidelines I personally hold for dealing with invites (you need not necessarily agree with me, that’s fine):
1. If you do not want to write about the product/event/service – do not accept the invite in the first place – the reason PR companies or product owners invite you is obviously to get publicity. If you do not want to feel obliged to write, do not RSVP. If you are not sure whether you will put up an entry but still want to go take a look, make that clear to the PR before meeting so as to manage expectations. Journalists work this way; bloggers should too if you want to be treated professionally.
2. If the invite did not state the number of pax, do not assume you can bring guests along. Check first. If you do bring guests, do not assume that your guests can be free loaders. This is to maintain professional integrity. The event is not your private party and please bear in mind there is cost involved for the organiser for every extra Tom, Dick or Harry you bring along.
3. Timeliness. If the invite is for today, do not assume it’s valid a few weeks or months later unless stated. The invite might have been for a one-time off event that was specially catered for a specified period. I also find it a good practice to finish up my blog entry ideally within three days of the invitation. I know bloggers are not journalists, but events have their timeliness factor too and the organisers also have their marketing/publicity objective to account for. Spare a thought for the hand that feeds you.
4. Humility and courtesy. This applies not just to bloggers, but anyone else.
5. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Journalists get invited to events because they are expected to write about it. This applies to bloggers too. Pay it forward.
For organisers who want to invite bloggers to events, bear in mind that bloggers are not professional writers. I am not referring to the quality of work as some bloggers may even write better than mainstream journalists, but the fact that blogging is not a “profession” for most bloggers. There’s no governing body, no professional code of ethics or guidelines to follow (and it should remain that way as it is part of the beauty of blogging).
To be fair to the bloggers, they are not paid for the time and traveling costs invested to attend your event. Hence always anticipate a small percentage of “negative investment” whereby no blog entries are written after the event or negative coverage by a few bloggers who attended the event. That’s social media for you. Just bear in mind who these bloggers are and you can consider striking them off your list for future invites. What goes round, comes round.
I think life is a whole lot less complicated when you always put yourself in the other party’s shoes and consider their views too.
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