About a month ago, I received an email from “Liz,” a community outreach manager for a print-to-canvas retailer. She wanted to know if I would be interested in a giveaway for “my audience.”
Never the one to deny anyone a freebie, I thought it seemed like a good idea. Except there was just one small catch: In order to host the contest, I’d have to write a review about her product. And I’d have a hard time doing that without calling canvas prints what they are: the décor world’s equivalent of deep-fried sushi.
Audience, I’m sorry if that offends you. I really don’t care one way or another if you like canvas prints and want to hang them all over your house. To each her own. In fact, some of my closest friends own them and I just smile politely when they describe them as “fun” and “something different.” I’m pretty sure people once said the same thing about shag carpeting and corduroy upholstery – and we all know how that turned out.
But still I considered doing the sponsored post. Because I was flattered that someone asked; I also like the credibility that comes along with writing one. Nothing shouts, “I’m an influencer,” quite like a corporate giveaway. I just wish I was approached about a product that I’m an actual expert on, like eyeliner or carbonated water. I welcome the day that SodaStream asks me to write a listicle about the ten reasons why people should give up valuable counter space for something that could be easily purchased on the fly for $1.
I couldn’t decide what to do about Liz, so I took the most professional route I could think of: I ignored the email. And then I forgot all about it until yesterday when she contacted me again asking for an answer. And now here we are.
This would probably be a good time to explain why I’m writing this post in the first place. Generous as Liz’s offer might seem, it was obvious that she never read any of my posts. If she did, she would have realized that I typically write about things that I should not have done – like, for example, drink a cup of honey or try to outrun a cyclone in Madagascar. She would have, at the very least, seen that I host a travel blog and that I don’t have a tremendous amount of patience for people who make ridiculous suggestions. In fact, the only thing more unreasonable that Liz could have offered was to send me a hardcover cookbook in exchange for a series of posts about what I put on the table for my husband every Sunday. Spoiler alert, Liz: I don’t have a husband. Or a kitchen.
And if you think I’m still being too hard on Liz, consider this: I am also a marketer. I do this kind of outreach all the time. And I would never, not in a million years, approach the loose canon who writes a blog loosely organized around the theme of “ways I fucked up last week” without seriously considering that this could go horribly, horribly wrong. (Unless you’re SodaStream. If I were you, I would totally get in touch with me: email@example.com)
Anyway, if you thought it was unprofessional of me to ignore Liz’s first email, just wait until you hear what I did next. I said yes! I figured that if she wanted to put a coupon code for a digital print in my unstable hands, then she should be fully prepared for me to use it to create a word cloud featuring all the adjectives that come to mind when I think of “print to canvas.”
Too harsh? Well then let me offer it to you, audience, with the suggestion that someone print the “Hang In There” kitten on it and hand it off to their Fantasy Football rival this fall as an elaborate and well-planned burn. Or maybe someone can make me a really inspirational word art poster that I could hang in my apartment once I settle down again. Something like, “Follow Your Dreams Into the Sunlight of Your New Life Forever,” or “Do You Have Your Keys?”
All jokes aside, I was sincere in my promise to write a post for Liz. And I was going to take it seriously – right after my small act of defiance in ordering something asinine. I figured I could approach it in much the same way I did when Cision asked me to pen a contributed piece about dating reporters I met on Tinder. Which is to say that I could clean up my act just enough to pass muster with the boss man, but still manage to stay true to my usual snarky myself.
Except I just can’t. I just can’t endorse the canvas print. I know I said yes to Liz, but I have to change my mind. Unless this counts as a post, in which case, I’ll get her a mock up of that word cloud ASAP.
It’s not an issue of selling out. I don’t care one way or another if bloggers accept giveaways or pass them on to their readers. As far as I’m concerned, we write for free, and every now and then we deserve a book or some whitening toothpaste for our trouble. And I don’t think anyone should have to advertise the fact that they did it or apologize for it. Because, by now, everyone should be able to spot a sponsored post from a mile away.
My issue is that I’m a snob. I know my worth and it’s way more than $38 plus shipping – especially for something that I would never buy in the first place. If I decide to go the way of sponsored posts – and I probably will at some point – then I plan to get a lot more than an 20×16 canvas print out of the deal. I might sell out – but I’ll never sell myself short.
You can hang that on the wall.