Yesterday, Deb Ng put a big smackdown on self-entitled bloggers who think that conference hotels need to fawn all over their guests or face the wrath of thousands of angry mommy bloggers armed with smartphones and hashtags.
I found a post filled with nothing but entitlement. The blogger, whose name is Jen, posted an open letter to the Sheraton Chicago who will be hosting BlogHer in a few weeks. She wanted to prepare hotel management for what’s to come.
After explaining what a blogger is, because apparently hotel staff aren’t hip or in touch enough to know, Jen goes on to tell the hotel what to expect if BlogHer attendees aren’t treated super special.
Ng’s disgust is understandable. Bloggers want to be taken seriously as writers and journalists, and the problems Jen warns the Sheraton about make it that much harder. It doesn’t help when bloggers are on their worst behavior, not by being loud and obnoxious — every conference in every industry does that — but by being unreasonable and demanding.
If we want to be taken seriously as professionals, and not just a hobbyist with a laptop, we need to act like professionals. Here’s how:
1) Act Like You’re Supposed To Be There
Don’t fawn, don’t gush, don’t geek out, don’t ask for autographs. Red Hot Mama, a baseball blogger, once told me the Cincinnati Reds won’t give access to bloggers anymore, because one blogger in the mid-2000s was given media access and instead acted like a total fanboy. He got pictures taken with players, asked for autographs, the whole works. He was the first and last blogger allowed in the clubhouse. Similarly, when I started covering the Indianapolis 500 for my personal blog, I was told the Speedway would yank the credentials of any journalist who ever asked a driver for an autograph or a photo.
Journalists don’t gush, they act like they’re supposed to be there. They have a job to do, and they get it done. Do the same. Act like this is your job, not a once-in-a-lifetime special treat. Because if you don’t, it truly will only happen once. Act like a pro and they’ll ask you back.
2) You’re Not Entitled To Anything
You don’t deserve the things you’re given. They’re not given to you because you’re special. They’re given to you as part of a media and PR campaign. You can’t march into a conference or special event and demand a swag bag or a VIP pass. (See “You’re Not A Celebrity” below.) Don’t act entitled, be humble. If someone gives you a gift, accept it in the spirit it’s given: it’s a gift. Be grateful for it.
This issue is a sticky wicket, because bloggers will often get free things that journalists are not allowed to receive. It’s one area of ethics that separates bloggers from the pros, and may need to change one day. But in the meantime, if you act like you deserve it, you’ll soon be blackballed by the people you’re trying to write about.
3) Don’t Tweet Your Tantrums
If you don’t get something you want, don’t be a passive-aggressive whiner. Don’t throw a Twitter tantrum. Be a mature and responsible adult. Speak to a real person about your complaint. If they don’t make it right, speak to a manager. If they still don’t make it right, then you can take it outside. Tweeting that a restaurant burned your meal or forgot to put cream in your coffee without giving them a chance to make it right first just makes you look like a brat.
There are a couple of times where going straight to Twitter is not a bad thing. Any company that has a Twitter customer service account can be more easily reached this way than spending 20 minutes on the phone. @Delta has fixed a couple of problems for me in the past this way. But publicly complaining about something that could have been fixed with a 15 second conversation is not the way to do it.
4) You’re Not A Celebrity
I’ve never known a journalist to play the “do you know who I am?” card. They don’t expect to be recognized. Many go out of their way to avoid it. Which means, they never threaten people with “exposure” in their newspaper or on their news program when they’re displeased.
Conversely, I’ve known bloggers and book authors who expect immediate name recognition, believing that people regularly peruse the blogosphere or study a bookstore’s shelves in the hopes that they’ll one day meet those writers. When that recognition doesn’t come, said writers will drop their job title or accomplishments about as casually as a college freshman trying not to act drunk, in the hopes of intimidating the other person into giving them free stuff.
You may have thousands of people who gush about you online or shake your hand after you speak at a conference, but until your face shows up on a gossip rag at the supermarket checkout, you’re not a real celebrity.
5) Don’t Be A Bully
When things don’t go your way, don’t be a bully (i.e. don’t play the “do you know who I am?” card here either). Don’t get all your friends to join forces and tweet someone else into submission.
I’m always amazed at the number of people who claim to be anti-bullying, but will gang up and publicly shame people who they think are deserving of their scorn. Companies that gave them a bad experience will soon be on the receiving end of several dozen, if not hundreds, of snotty comments on their Facebook page.
If you’re a consumer or social justice advocate, that’s one thing. But slashing people with the swift sword of Twitter justice just because you don’t like the coffee makes you a bully.
(No, seriously, that happens. The story Ng responded to included this little gem: “Don’t water down the coffee you serve us. Don’t. We’ll hunt you down and kill you with hashtags. #WheresTheCaffeineSheraton?” While Jen’s statement was supposed to be a joke, that actually happens way more than it ever should.)
We’re going to see a day when bloggers are seen and accepted as professionals, but that day is going to be a long time coming when they act like whiny little gits who expect the world to fall over themselves trying to please them. I’m not just picking on Jen or BlogHer, I’m talking to any blogger who has ever thought their 2,000 readers a month made them A Force To Be Reckoned With.
Treat people with respect, be kind, be polite, and act like you know what you’re doing. Everyone else knows what that should look like, and when you don’t, you just make the rest of us who are actually doing the work look bad.