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Sunday, 17 February 2013

About a Blog ..

A little cup of irony for breakfast rather than my usual strong cup of coffee today. Whilst I sipped it I realized that I may have changed. The old Maxine used to dash straight into things, without a thought or a care, sure in the knowledge that the fact that I was right was enough. That moral outrage would see me through and that the world was such a place that everyone would see that I am right and order would be restored.

Maybe I haven’t changed, maybe I have just learned that this world is not based upon the right thing, but cowardice and the easy options. The irony of this morning is that I am blogging about blogging. More specifically my distaste for certain bloggers. A blog is a blog is a blog. That is it, they are used for so many reasons, even as a business. More usual is that they are a diary, an online diary, a voice, interesting words written by people who want others to read them. Some have topics like weddings, events, photography and more recently, food. This is where I begin to lose my mind, and all sense of reason. There are many food blogs, of which I am a major fan. They discuss recipes, and tips on cooking, and foods and display a love of food in general. They have advertising, links to other blogs, and websites that are useful.  Then, and this is where I get frustrated, the reviewers. They are a different type of blogger.

I myself in the past have blogged about restaurants, usually when I have had a bad experience. I have blogged about hotels, holidays, the state of the driving in the UAE and Christmas cards and the lack of desire I have to write them. I write about my life and what’s happening in it.

I see a rise in Food Blogs that are actively e-mailing PR Managers of hotels and suggesting that they have a ‘reach’ or a ‘following’ and that a review by them, of the hotel restaurant would (if it is a good one) improve the footfall into the restaurant. How anyone has the balls to do this is beyond me? Dear PR manager, I think I am aces, I have loads of followers on twitter and if you don’t give me a free meal I will tell them that your restaurant is terrible, kind regards Food Blogger. It is mind boggling.  My main problem is these reviews are done not by a food critic who has discussed the finer ins and outs of the food itself, not by someone who knows food, not by someone who loves food with an obvious passion, but by someone who loves Social Media, and the power that it wields.

I happen to have, due to my 16 years in the country a large and varied network of people in the hotel and PR industry, and it still amazes me that people here forget that Dubai is miniscule. However, and this is my major problem, the ‘reach’ that these bloggers have is real, it is not as the blogger themselves believes to be, it is not an ardent following of ‘foodies’ who are hanging off every typed phrase and horrific photograph waiting to either rush out and book if the blogger says so, or to neatly cross of the list of potential outlets if the blog says no. Indeed it is not. The reach is that a hotel or outlet or brand can become hounded on twitter. They can be besieged by the blogger and the close knit group of people who follow. It becomes a witch hunt and then the word of mouth. Before a hotel knows it, they have been discussed on twitter and a few retweets later the damage is done. The reality of it is that the people who follow don’t enjoy it either, they just don’t have the balls to say so. I will no doubt be harassed for doing so myself. However, I care not. I have the many emails these food bloggers send to people to read through and laugh at.

If I hear one more PR Manager say to me, but if we don’t give them the free dinner they asked for they will come and give us a sh*t review, I will scream. Let them come. Let them review. The people who listen to them are not your customers anyway. If you would read a food blog and make a decision on a restaurant that you like the look of based upon one persons review then who would want them.  We live in a world of sheep, if one person has a blackberry, then it becomes the ‘must have’, if 2 sunglass clad fools spend 12,000 dhs at a nightclub, then it must be the place to go. Regardless of if everyone is standing about wondering what they are doing there. If I hear one more tale of emails about free hotel stays, free holidays, free samples I think I may have to resign from twitter. It isn’t how it is done. When you show me your statistics and what you can do for my company in black and white, in numbers then maybe I will entertain you. Until then ….

What these bloggers don’t know, is there is a silent group of people who don’t barge onto twitter and share things, but email each other, from hotel to hotel, from PR to PR, from Journo to Journo, laughing. Laughing at you. Thinking to themselves that 1 dinner really isn’t the end of the world to just keep you quiet. That’s the problem. It’s easier to keep you quiet than to just put an end to it. One day. One day a PR manager somewhere will just hit print screen and this will all be over. Sadly it won’t be me.  I will keep the e-mails and I will re-read them and laugh.

The point of my somewhat rambling note, is that the concept of a mystery shopper is a brilliant one. If you get a free meal, you will be served differently. If you don’t get a free dinner, but you let them know you are coming, paying and reviewing  Same. Thing. They will treat you differently. The only way you can guarantee that you get a fair idea of a restaurant and how it operates is to just book and go. Then try writing about the atmosphere, the parking, the service and the food. Because a night out is an experience, not just what’s on your plate.

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