Why do so many PR professionals think my job is to shill for them?
Today’s 21st century wine marketing question: Why do so many public relations professionals expect me to shill for their products?
I am asked to do that regularly, and got two just the other day – one offered me a “collaboration opportunity,” while the other asked: Could we “partner with you” in sending wines for review?
Let’s explain this one more time. The blog’s existence depends on the trust and goodwill I have earned over the past decade. People do not come here because I am collaborating or partnering (and don’t get me started on what an abomination that word is) with a producer, but for the exact opposite reason: Because they know I am completely independent, and probably too independent for my own good.
But since this is the 21st century, what I want or believe doesn’t matter. We’re all here to sell crap, because isn’t that what the Internet is for? And I’m just a blogger, so I couldn’t possibly be as smart or as sophisticated as the people offering to “help” me. And the idea that some of us think we have a moral obligation to be impartial, and that our responsibility is to our readers and not to a marketing flack or the hooey they’re peddling? Why, that’s as quaint and as old-fashioned as typewriters and carbon paper.
I’m not the only one, of course, who has to endure this. A.O. Scott, the New York Times film critic, saw it during the last Star Wars release: “The spoiler warning sent by the Disney empire instructed journalists to ‘continue to be our partners on this journey,’ and defiance is unthinkable, even if ‘partner’ is taken as a synonym for ‘shill.’ ”
So, for the benefit of everyone who thinks my job is to write nice things regardless of what I actually think (and for Disney, since A.O. Scott is sort of a friend of the blog), here’s how it works:
I’m a critic. I review things. I don’t accept payment or any other quid pro quos for my reviews. Send me a wine, and there are no guarantees. If you don’t like that, then don’t send me any wines. That’s fine with me.
And please, please, please. Don’t tell me you’ve read the blog and enjoy it when your next sentence says you want to partner with me. Because who is kidding who then?