For many who read this blog, it is pretty evident that I do not pay for all the food reviewed on this blog. As someone who writes reviews on online, or indeed on prints, we sometimes get invited to food tasting/review sessions. I make it a point to put those posts in “By Invitation” category, there are already over 50 posts in there as of this writing.
Some insists that all reviews done via this matter shouldn’t be trusted as the writer did not pay for their food and got preferential treatments, hence they must be biased. There’s some sense of truth to it, but it isn’t the topic we’re discussing today.
Sometimes, the owner or a friend of the restaurants owner contacts myself for these reviews. Other times, it is the in house PR personnel who does the invitations. However, there’s also an increasing trend of restaurants hiring PR agencies to engage bloggers (and other media outlets) for food reviews.
In the last case, there’s money involved. Now I might be over simplifying things, but they usually goes:
Restaurant pays PR – PR gets bloggers to eat – Bloggers write reviews
The PR agencies might also have more detailed arrangements with the clients (restaurants), including numbers of free meals the restaurant is responsible for vs how many reviews (positive or otherwise) should turn up on blogs, number of unique hits, etc.
While it might sound like an awesome deal, free food and all, the reality is quite a bit different. Most serious food bloggers will haul along their SLR & other photography equipments; trying to enjoy dinner interrupted with many photo taking sessions and talking with the PR/restaurant owner; and of course, spend hours editing photos and writing the blog post after the meal.
All these can amount to quite a bit of work, and you could probably agree that the least a writer can ask for is to have decent dining partners to go with. In my case, it is Haze, and sometimes part of #porkgang.
So a yesterday there was this article from Fit to Post (Yahoo! Singapore) titled “S’poreans outraged over ‘free meal’ blogger“, basically stating that a food blogger – ladyironchef, and I quote – “demanded that he and his three companions be given free meals at an upscale restaurant”. The article also quoted several other food bloggers condemning ladyironchef of being a “freeloader” and “bringing down the good name” of them.
Conversations on Twitter and forums this one was full of people throwing in their punches while the said blogger’s site was down.
This morning ladyironchef posted his version of the story, which came out to be something I’ve sorta suspected. While his record was not entirely spotless in this debacle ( throwing credit card on table), I think that the PR consultant did a lot worse in this case.
- The blogger did communicated the fact that he’s bringing 3 guests both on email and SMS.
- PR consultant was not there during the meal
- PR consultant did not advice the restaurant manager on the interview with Yahoo! SG
This is assuming the said PR consultant wasn’t the one who get the story out in the first place. Now that the blogger’s version is out, the PR/restaurant just made an ass of themselves, same goes with those who condemn the blogger without knowing the full story too (at least hungryepicurean put up an apology, bravo!)
Lesson from this story?
- know both sides before condemning anyone
- if an article cited blogs including those idled since 2008, read with a soup spoon of salt
- food review isn’t all pleasure and no work
- many PR consultants are awesome people, but just like bloggers, some of them are asses
p/s: for the invited reviews I find not worthy of recommendations, I usually skip the write up completely instead of writing a review on lousy food as I believe people visit this blog to look for good food and not having to sift through a lot of bad ones at the same time.