Let me first say, that I am so grateful for the trainers, sports bras, leggings and energy bars that I have received over the years as a blogger. I do my best to rigorously test and share the products I like best with you on my blog and social channels, and donate, recycle, gift or sell the rest for charity (we recently raised £500+ for the California campfire survivors and another £50+ for a school in Madagascar – my Mum’s personal passion project after visiting in October!).
I just had to write a rather awkward email to a PR, she was asking when the kit they sent me would feature on my Instagram.
I get this quite a lot. However, in this particular instance, the kit was sent two months ago and was not actually the style that I would wear at all. I had chosen an outfit from the look book, but when the actual outfit came and was nothing like the picture (I’m talking hoody dress with foiling). If you’ve ever met me – you’ll know that I am not cool enough to pull that look off.
The truth was I hadn’t heard from the brand since telling them that the outfit looked awful on me and I wouldn’t feel comfortable posing in it, and that if they wanted to collect it, they could. A month passed… I donated the outfit to charity.
Then they emailed me.
It was recently brought to my attention, while doing my taxes, that HMRC are now looking at the extent to which ‘freebies’ – gifts, products etc, are being given to bloggers, athletes and celebrities, and in future, these freebies will be included when calculating taxable income. How these are valued for tax purposes is currently being disputed, however, the reality is that gifts and products are going to have to be declared as part of our ‘income’. Lawyer and fitness blogger, Lucy (lucyfitness), thinks this may only be for payment in product situations or when bloggers sell the freebies for a personal profit, rather than simple press drops, however it will be interesting to see how this develops.
As Laura Dryden (LauraFat2Fit) put it, it may literally not be worth accepting product for review unless you’re paid aswell otherwise you’re out of pocket paying the tax on the item.
And where will this leave us when it comes to unbiased reviews such as my post on the Best Commuter Running Backpacks?
Combine this with the fact that many brands are now requiring bloggers to disclose freebies as ‘ADs’ when no money has changed hands and, journalists and publications are not (I’m looking at that ‘nutrition win’ by Herbalife in Women’s Running – conveniently a major sponsor of the magazine, but maybe that is a different story for a different day).
I asked in a UK Fitness Blogger’s group that I’m part of how others felt about freebies, and whether having to declare them on their tax bill would change their attitude. Bethan (aprettyplacetoplay) explained that often the things she’s sent isn’t what she actually needs, and wouldn’t have bought it being on a low income (she’s writing her PhD) so wouldn’t want to be financially penalised when it comes to tax season. ‘Others simply said they either refuse all gifts/freebies due to increased posting expectations.
One of my favourite non-running bloggers, In the Frow, wrote an article about the ‘End of the PR Package’ citing, the packaging and waste and product overkill as reasons why she thinks the blanket PR drop has and should be stopped/reduced.
She discussed a need to;
- reduce the packaging that gifts are sent in
- ask the receiver whether they want it (this will be even more important if bloggers will have to pay tax against the value of these gifts)
- let the receiver choose the product to ensure it’s something they will actually use
Personally, when I see bloggers show their massive deliveries from brands, it feels like a bit of a humble brag. I am not one for box opening thank you’s on my social media, I’d rather use the kit and share the ups and downs with you guys in a more constructive way. But each to their own.
Similarly, when a brand sends running kit to a bunch of bloggers/influencers who vocally don’t run (or share any pics of them running, ever) Who is that helping?
I realise that this may be an unpopular post, and that many will think I should be grateful for the things I do receive. And I really am. However, I agree with Victoria (inthefrow.com) that something has to change, not least to cut down on the waste created.
Realistically, I probably get a lot less than other bloggers out there do, both with a bigger and smaller reach then mine often because I say no to products that I won’t use, and won’t post every single thing I’m sent. I don’t accept payment in product (I know many others feel this way, or simply don’t see product as payment), because lets face it, trainers won’t pay the mortgage, and I don’t do unboxing videos. I am not a PR dream!! lol – and maybe this post will make me even more unpopular. However I am passionate about sharing products I genuinely use and love with you. As well as being truly honest about the items I don’t love.
And thank you to all the PR’s who take the time to ask if a product is of interest before sending, and work hard to ensure that what they send is relevant, useful and a good fit for me.
Bloggers/influencers, and readers – I’d love to know your thoughts on this.