If this blog post was about everything that has been truly wretched about working as a blogger with digital agencies over the past five years, then it would be ‘five hundred things that suck’ instead of just five. But here’s what’s specifically awful about agencies from a micro-influencer’s point of view in 2018 –
1.) Mailing Lists
I don’t mean the kind of mailing list where you get sent junk emails from brands saying ‘let me know if you’d like images or samples ‘ (there are NO samples), I’m talking about the growing trend for agencies to stick bloggers on to a mailing list rather than working with a specific curated group of bloggers for campaigns and events. I’ve seen several agencies I used to work with switch over to this method, I’m guessing because one micro-influencer is much the same as another in terms of reach, so to cut down the work of tailoring campaigns, it just becomes a mass ‘first come first serve’ email sent to everyone. I didn’t care when it was for reviewing a product or getting an invite to a party, but when it came to things like reviewing restaurants, for example, I had to actually juggle my schedule to make plans, and get the person I was inviting to dine with me to shift their plans too, only to get back to the agency and find out I hadn’t been quick enough.
This happened twice with one particular agency, and admittedly I was slow on the uptake – they asked me if I wanted to review a restaurant’s new menu with a friend. I invited someone who works some evenings and had to swap shifts and go through a whole fandango, only for me to have to break it to him that sorry, the offer no longer stood. I felt so awful, and treated him to some food anyway. The second time my sister was my plus-one and had to organise a babysitter. If you have young children, you’ll know this type of expense and organising is no joke, and it was really frustrating to get back to the agency and again be told the spaces had been filled. Finally, it sunk in – they had worked with me for years as an individual, but now just saw me as a someone on the mailing list who may or may not be useful depending on how quick I could get back to them. I really don’t like this way agencies are starting to work. Yes, you could say I could just agree to whatever they’re offering, and then try and make plans at my end. But if I needed to cancel, they’d probably just take me off the mailing list anyway. As it happens, I’ve politely asked to be removed from all agencies that only do these group mailing lists now, I’d rather work with agencies on an individual basis, and to know that I’ve been selected for my blog, like the old days!
2.) First Come First Serve
This is pretty much the same as point number one, but even more infuriatingly some agencies will not reply to you at all if you’re not quick enough to get back to them. They make you feel like you’ve been personally selected for a campaign, often for some really exciting stuff. You reply, saying yes please! Only to get absolutely ghosted – no reply, and definitely no replies to your further emails saying ‘er… hello? Did you get my reply?’ It’s happened to me several times this year, three times from the same agency. At first I didn’t realise; when they asked if I’d like a hamper from a well-known hotel to promote the hotel’s Royal Wedding packages I said yes please, only to get ghosted, and then realised this same agency had offered me blue roses (I was genuinely excited about those), and something else I can’t remember. If they are going to make something first come, first serve, agencies really need to make this clear in the first contact. You can’t tailor an email to an individual offering them something specific and then not respond. I am tempted to get in touch with that hotel and ask them if they are aware how the agency they’ve hired is treating bloggers, it makes me see the brand in a bad light.
3.) Infographic Mania
Once brilliantly described by Angela as the PPI of the blogging world, agencies haven’t stopped offering infographics in endless pestering emails. Almost half my daily emails are people not only giving me an infographic, but the email is longer than the M25 with suggestions on how to present this work of art in a blog post. However, in 2018 agencies are smarter – they know how much bloggers click duh-lete on these emails, so now they offer money. £50, £25, even £100 to whack in this graphic about something that really doesn’t go with your blog, or your style, or have anything to do with anything. Well, that’s good news you might say, at least there’s money to be made from these silly illustrated stats. It just means blogs are full of them, and people are honestly pushing some very dubious angles as to why they’re including them in. I’ll admit it, I took one on before Christmas when I needed the money, though only because I could a hundred percent fit it in with my existing content. However, the saturation of infographics is making us all look silly, like we’ll do anything for dollars. It’s what other writers scorn us for, you know, the serious journo types, and I wish agencies would cease peddling these to bloggers altogether.
4.) A New Breed of Digital Marketers
This one might sound snobby, but over the past five years I’ve seen some truly awful people starting to work in digital marketing. As in, really basic people with poor grammar and writing skills, no evidence of creativity, and when you meet them at events – no charisma. I see so many job adverts for marketing and PR jobs wanting ‘digital natives’, as in people who have only existed as long as the internet has, and have never experienced a world without it. Somehow, this is supposed to make someone take to digital marketing like a duck to water, like it’s somehow innate, rather than having crucial skills of being able to write engagingly and persuasively, be able to communicate in writing and in person, build relationships with people, and being creative as well as thorough. I think if this is the way this industry keeps growing, recruiting people just because of when they were born, rather than what skills they’ve got, then no wonder initiatives seen in points 1 and 2 are what agencies are adopting. This being said, there are some fantastic people in this industry I’ve met in recent years, some who still work for agencies and are so smart, savvy and creative, they deserve to be working on projects far bigger than basic first-come-first-serve campaigns and infographic begging.
5.) They Forgot Our Names
I mentioned an agency I used to work with a lot, they were fantastic and I had some good nights out with the team, some of them becoming friends. Those people left the agency, as PRs and such seem to do a lot, and new staff have my email but don’t know who I am, or care. Groups emails are not a new thing, we’ve all been sent a generic mail or ten that says ‘insert name’ at the top, or ‘Hi Katy, I love your blog’ because they forgot to change Katy’s name to mine. This has been going on for years, but what has changed is that there’s now so many bloggers (literally hundreds of new ones cropping up every year in every genre) and this along with changing staff at agencies, and the increasingly impersonal way in which many work, means they don’t just forget our names by accident now, they don’t know who we are anymore. Yes, agencies have a saturated market to wade through, but the new way in which they work makes blogging more of a factory line than a creative industry – first come first serve campaigns mean they can work with more brands at a time, and they don’t need to know much about individual bloggers at all, really. Whilst the majority of agencies are forgoing personal relationships with bloggers, the ones who don’t do this shine a bit brighter, in my opinion. There are still digital agencies who work closely with individual bloggers and tailor campaigns to their clients’ needs (quality, personalised content, not just links). The industry is changing, and becoming more frustrating all the time, but it’s not all doom and gloom… just yet.