My Integrity and Honesty is Not for Sale

Sitting on the grass as a baby with pink tracksuit and white hat smiling

I feel compelled to write this at 6am on a Sunday morning because thoughts are still whirring through my mind. I’m confident I’m in the right and I’m confident that I did the right thing. Because I know what my job is and what it entails.

What is interesting to me is the amount of people that thought I wasn’t. And I really think the most of it comes from not completely understanding what the job role is. The amount of people who told me “to be grateful” or to “stop being an entitled…”, or the worst of all, that I should “lie to help the business as that’s what they’ve paid me for”. I was flooded with messages throwing abuse at me for doing my job.

The comparison I used the most was “a good critique gets their food for free and if it’s shit, they say it’s shit”. Thanks for that one, Amy. I highlighted that if somebody went and ate a restaurant after reading a review and experienced terrible service and saw rats and got food poisoning, I’m sure they’d never listen to that food critic again. Of course, this is an extreme case, but you get the point I’m trying to make.

I’m not going to echo a message I don’t agree with just because the company believes them to be true. I shared that I didn’t agree with all the “selling points” of an experience and received lots of abuse from individuals.

This post is not about that experience and not a slating of either business even though recently there has been miscommunications on a recent experience instead it is an address to viewers who do not completely understand what professional reviewing is.

There are many different ways that PR companies will hire or invite bloggers, influencers or content creators to stay at their site and it’s nearly always for their benefit.

There are many different ways that PR companies will hire or invite bloggers, influencers or content creators to stay at their site and it’s nearly always for their benefit.

Companies pay PR companies hundred to thousands of pounds each month. In fact, on average, a company will pay a PR company around £60,000 a year to represent them, write their press releases and gain them online and offline media advertising, including “influencer outreach”.

Influencer outreach is a powerful alternative to traditional advertising. It’s one thing hearing about a company on the TV in the ad break between the soaps whilst making a cup of tea. It’s a whole other ball game when you’re seeing first hand the experience and being told it from somebody you trust and/or feel like you personally know and/or feel like you’re friends with.

This trust should never be broken or jeopardised.

Using this example, imagine if I boasted how wheelchair friendly the accommodation was and somebody booked for themselves or their relative and found it to be the complete opposite. I am sure they would be not only annoyed with me but also never trust anything I’d say again. I’d expect them to unfollow me and/or send me an email sharing how disappointed in me they were. I’d wholeheartedly accept that. When you are invited to share an experience with a lot of people watching, it is very important to be completely honest even if that comes across as being ungrateful for the opportunity.

I would much rather receive ten messages telling me I’m ungrateful than receive one message from somebody who had booked and wasn’t able to enjoy it because it was inaccessible.

An influencer or content creator has the power to naturally promote a brand message to an exceptionally large number of people. To put this into perspective, 3 million people watch our videos in some way a month, it was reported by a British tabloid that 3.35m tune in to watch Eastenders.

With audience trust comes responsibility.

Working with any company on a press invite is not a free holiday. The company will hire or invite you to attend and you are contracted to provide social media coverage and provide a high quality review. In many cases, I’ve been asked to meet face-to-face or have a phone call with a member of the marketing team or even the site manager to discuss the positives and the negatives and go through plans of action of how to improve in future.

For example, one campaign I worked on, I met with the director to champion for British produce to be served at breakfast for their “British breakfast”. They were using Spanish sausages and bacon so we discussed how swapping to British bacon and sausage would improve guest satisfaction as their “British breakfast” would be as they expect. I gave them recommendations of where to get hold of products among other points we discussed.

Working with any company on a press invite is not a free holiday.

Providing high quality constructive feedback is a valuable source of information to businesses. Finding out what needs to improve from a customer point of view is an invaluable source to improve their services, boost future customer satisfaction and to therefore gain profits.

Usually, you’d be expected to provide coverage too. A high quality review and coverage. If the coverage is good, the PR company may also receive a bonus too. This would be for good performance, for a finder fee or as a gesture of good will.

Which brings me to the point of ungrateful. I am never ungrateful to be invited to stay somewhere and I am flattered that a company would see me as a good fit to promote their brand. But effectively, I’ve been hired to do a job and it is my responsibility to do that job well. It is not my job to lie and any company who writes in a work contract that I have to lie would be not getting my signature.

It is my responsibility to do that job well. It is not my job to lie.

Again, this is not a reflection of any business in particular or their view. No business has asked me to lie, only some followers. Interestingly, I ran a poll on Instagram and 62 people thought it was reasonable for an influencer to lie about their experience because they’d been paid. We need to change this mindset. This responsibility falls upon all of us to take a stand against false advertising and transparency.

To reiterate, a gifted press invite rather than paid press invite means the content creator loses money, whilst the PR company and the company gain money.

I was told that, especially during the current climate, I shouldn’t be sharing any negatives because “it’s difficult times for companies” and “disgusting” to share my perceived negatives when people can’t holiday at the moment. I have to say, I disagree. Now, more than ever, sharing the negatives is the most important time to do so. After many holiday cancellations, it is ethically wrong to lie about travel when people are currently in the planning stages.

Just like people in their own country will be having staycations rather than overseas travel, this is the same as Spain. But when travel is up again, the travel industry will see one of the biggest booms it’s ever seen. I know there are people who are searching for places to go on holiday to have something to look forward to and to spread the costs across a longer period of time. A long awaited holiday that people work hard for. I will not be responsible for lying. I would feel distraught and guilt ridden thinking that somebody may book and experience a “less than perfect” experience that we’d painted. Especially when it comes to extra costs. Although this might be a minor inconvenience to some, it might not to others.

Sharing the positives and the negatives is a responsibility.

I will never only share the positives. I will always share an accurate account.

Interestingly, somebody else said that “it is my job to promote the company so find the positives and only share that”. This is also not true. It is not my job to promote any company, at all. My job is to run a social media account for a few brands.

Any person who is expected to share the account to their own audience should remember that you have a huge responsibility to be truthful. If I was an in-house social media manager for a company, then it would be my responsibility to promote the positives. If I was running the social media account for the business, I would only focus on sharing the positives at all times. I would be a faceless person operating on behalf of the brand.

I would also argue though that even operating on behalf of a brand you should still be transparent.

I want to be absolutely clear that our recent experience was not at all a bad one. We really enjoyed it and I’ll be writing a full review in due course. In no way at all was it a terrible experience. There were minor inconveniences and a couple of mishaps through lack of organisation and disappointment from a few rude staff interactions.

I shared these because I feel it is my responsibility. I shared these because I will never lie to promote a company. My integrity is not for sale.

I would urge other content creators, influencers and bloggers to ensure that they are doing the same thing. With an audience comes responsibility, in a world of “fake” we need to make it the “norm” to share all sides of the story, so people are not surprised by reading a balanced review.

I also wanted to touch on the “money aspect”. I was told to not be ungrateful and “boohoo your fella took time off work for a free holiday and now you’re moaning that you have to pay £20”. This is actually a very important point. Alex took time off work to travel to complete an assignment. Alex had to lose money whilst companies gained money. Refusing to provide us with 20€ bedding hire whilst it was on our booking as included is unacceptable and I would share this whether we were invited or not. We paid a lot more in petrol, tolls and dog sitting. The PR company provided us with the accommodation which on the receipt shows as £75. In comparison, we have paid £60 in dog sitting, £30 in petrol and £15 in tolls plus all food and activities. This has not been a free holiday by an means. It has been a discounted holiday which we’ve had to provide a work service on.

We wouldn’t have came if it wasn’t because we’d been hired. Alex is a semi-professional photographer and worked at the London Olympics stadium, there is no way a company could hire a photographer for £75 an hour, let alone an entire weekend. We have an audience of 3 million, in advertising terms alone that’s worth around £10,000. (Not that we have ever charged anything over £100).

I wouldn’t have minded and I wouldn’t have shared this because at the end of the day, it was a nice chance for us to go away for the weekend. Alex drives to work everyday for an hour and his petrol is obviously never covered, we’re not daft to expect that it would be covered. Everybody knows that your commute to work isn’t included. Nurses don’t have their parking for free at hospitals (which I personally think is outrageous) and teachers pay out for stationary. This isn’t the part I’m focusing on, so please don’t read too much into this part – I only shared our outgoings as some people believed we’d had everything covered so I wanted to share that that’s absolutely not the case. This was not a free holiday all-expenses covered sort of package (which some trips are).

If we worked away, Rio would always need dog sitting. So it’s not the paying out, it was the extra paying out when the companies are already gaining. I only shared it because if somebody else like us hadn’t been somewhere like here before and arrived to no bedding and had extra fees to pay, I would feel it’s injustice to have not shared that. It’s my responsibility to give the whole picture.

One last thing, I completely understand we need to be a little more patient with businesses at the moment. Especially hospitality. Things that are in place due to the pandemic can not and should not be used against a company. There were protocols in place in some places on our road trip that made for “less than perfect” experiences but I would never hold that against a business who are trying to do what they can to remain open. Additional charges that are always in place, or unclear information on a company website is something totally unrelated and should be addressed to avoid future guest problems.

I really hope this has helped you to understand a little more into what the job is. Although the benefits are absolutely lovely most of the time, it’s still important to be completely truthful and honest. Whether that’s something minor, like an unexpected cost which would potentially affect and disrupt future guests, or whether it was something major. If I am sharing it on my social media or my blog, I will share the positives and the negatives (if there are any!). If there’s too many negatives, then it won’t even make my social media page. I just wouldn’t talk about it, at all.

You will get the full picture because I will always be honest.

Which brings me to the cover photo of this blog post. Why did I choose it? Because I have always been brought up to never tell lies. I was brought up that lying would make people lose trust in you. You say the truth and take the responsibility that comes with it. Perhaps in this case, telling the truth has lost me some followers but that’s okay because I hope that to others it’s showed that I will always be truthful about experiences, whether paid, gifted or not. And that’s my promise to you.

Lauren x

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Hola! I'm Lauren ("Loh - run") — A twenty-something, engaged, English girl living on the Costa Blanca, obsessed with travel, love and elephants.

12 thoughts on “My Integrity and Honesty is Not for Sale

  1. Lauren
    You do a fantastic job. My belief is people are jealous at what you do. I often comment on trip advisor and always give a true report including any negatives.
    Keep up the marvellous work you both do
    Ann

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    ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lauren. You and alex are doing a fantsstic job. You say whats got to be said. Take no notice of horrible comments and people. Long may your blogs and walks continue. Well done again. Love from kay simons xxx

    Like

  3. Abso-fricking-lutely Lauren! I honestly could not believe how you were being targeted last night! As if we would lie because we’re being paid/getting a free night in a hotel – which fyi isn’t ever actually free! 😂😱 LOL!
    Integrity is everything and without it we simply wouldn’t have a job! Xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Integrity cannot be bought! Keep up the good work. You are correct in what you say and do, people need to know the little things that, Like you say, the extra charge for the bedding, that’s an important fact, that makes all the difference! Your doing a great job. Xx 👍🏻❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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