Yesterday an email from a PR pinged into my email box.
It was about paid content from an online company that “makes shopping for your baby or pet more intuitive and more fun.”
They were, apparently, hoping that key influencers like me would help us to leave tips, create lists and write content for their blog.
While being included in a group of ‘key influencers’ is a lovely compliment, they have missed one key fact: I am a key influencer for blogging about baby loss.
I have gained my bittersweet success as a blogger because I am an empty-armed mother, my only child Hugo having died in March this year.
Oh, the bitter irony.
I sort of have a pet, in the form of a neighbour’s cat who regularly visits, but that does not really count. The only shopping I do for her is the odd bag of cat treats.
Her entertainment comes in the form of torturing small creatures that she proudly presents us with – I don’t think that would make the kind of cuddly blog post they are looking for.
Sarcasm aside, what really stung is that I do not have a baby to shop for.
Inviting me to write ‘engaging articles’ on breastfeeding, toys for babies, weaning, technology, food / feeding your baby / recipes or caring for your baby is horrendously insensitive.
I would love to have had breastfed Hugo, but that choice was taken away from me.
Hugo has toys in the room that should have been his nursery untouched, not played with.
I will never get to see what foods Hugo would have liked.
I use technology to write about my loss, and promote awareness of baby loss, the pregnancy condition that led to Hugo’s death, and my life since his death.
You see, that, for me is the point of blogging.
As I described in this post, I did not fully appreciate when I joined the world of parenting blogging how much centres around sponsored posts, freebies, reviews and competitions. I know many bloggers benefit from these and it often means they and their families are able to have and do things they would not be able to afford otherwise, and that’s great.
I do not do sponsored posts, because it does not feel appropriate within the content of my site. Furthermore, due to the fact that being offered sponsored posts is based on factors such as reach and influence, I would never feel comfortable accepting freebies (even dresses from my favourite shop) because it would feel like benefiting from my son’s death.
There is no benefit to be gained from my son’s death.
The best I can glean from my son’s death is to help others in his name.
The trouble for me is I have worked in in-house NHS PR for years. I see it as public relations – informing, challenging people to think differently, encouraging people to engage – with issues, not products.
Others see me as a key influencer because I have helped them changed the way they think about baby loss, and have learned about pregnancy conditions through my blog. It makes pouring out my heart through my blog feel worth the effort, and I am going to continue to use my blog to continue that awareness raising.
I will welcome with open arms anyone who would like me to work with them to raise awareness of or improve services about anything I am passionate about (baby loss, positive pregnancy, support services).
To anyone who would like me to review their consumer items, please don’t bother.
My contact and disclosure page has been updated to make my policy on sponsored posts in general, and being invited to review baby products in particular crystal clear, in case the tagline of my blog “Celebrating Hugo. Surviving baby loss. Creating Hugo’s legacy’ or my ‘About’ page are not quite obvious enough.
And yes, I mean every word about the vitriolic response anyone else who contacts me about baby products will receive.
Of course, many will not bother to look at the bloggers’ websites.
They think all parents are cut from the same cloth, with babies to shop for, feed, clothe and entertain.
But we are not.
Working in PR, I know you have to think about your audiences, segment them as far as practicable.
There are all kinds of parenting bloggers: the empty-armed ones like me, parents of children with disabilities and special educational needs (some of whom have reported receiving invitations to review toys that are unsuitable for disabled children). We do not expect personalised emails, but we do deserve sensitivity.
It surely does not take long to check out the subjects of our blogs, and list us as appropriate.
Yes, mistakes can happen. It has happened before, and PRs have sent rapid, profuse, mortified apologies.
To add insult to injury, I responded to the PR yesterday afternoon asking them to “Please take a look at my blog to discover why your invitation is completely inappropriate and insensitive.” Their response so far? Nada, zilch, not a dickie bird.
Update 16/10: I have received a response from the PR concerned with a profuse apology for any distressed caused.