The days of asking for free goods and services in exchange for “exposure” are seemingly coming to an end. At least, the days of being able to do so without getting a snarky response are over.
An influencer found this out the hard way when someone claiming to be their PR person contacted a wedding photographer and asked for free services in exchange for exposure. Unfortunately for them, the photographer decided that “exposure” wasn’t even worth a sarcasm-free response.
Laura Dunning, who manages at Betrothed & Co, shared images of the correspondence to her Facebook account. The initial email, sent from someone identified only as Melissa, starts off, “My client is a well-known social media influencer who is to be married at the (WITHHELD) on April 10th, 2021. In the lead up to her wedding, beginning this summer, she would like a documentary style video (an hour long) and photos taken at bridal fittings which can be shared with her followers. On the day of the wedding, she would like a video documenting the whole day (must be 1 hour+ in length) and a package that includes approximately 1,000 photos.”
In exchange for this relatively large job, the influencer and her team made a (sadly) typical offer. “In exchange, she is willing to extensively promote your business to followers on Instagram and Facebook (combined amount 55,000) including Story Shout Outs and will offer a discount of at least 25% on your packages.” If this wasn’t bad enough, the offer ends with “Just so you are aware, we have approached four other similar businesses in your area so a fast response will be beneficial to your business.”
Dunning shared Betrothed & Co’s response, which made it clear that they were not impressed with “exposure.” Their message begins innocently enough, “Thanks for your email, and we really appreciate the offer. We don’t usually offer our services for anything other than our going rate, however, we would consider making an exception in this case.”
Things quickly took a turn, however, when they started questioning how much influence the bride-to-be actually carried. “Firstly, we would just like to check if there might have been a typo in your original email,” the message continues, “specifically relating to a missing zero on the amount of combined followers your client has across all their platforms? As I’m sure you probably know, 55,000 is not usually the level of following which can command the free transfer of products worth between $3,700 - $5,000 in total, especially when you take into account bots, duplicate accounts and the types of followers who are not our target audience. As another example, we have friends that have more than 55,000 followers on one single platform, and they have even been known to pay certain suppliers a fair days wage for their goods and services.”
Betrothed & Co continued on to say that if the influencer could guarantee that their follower count increased dramatically, they’d be happy to oblige. They also say that if the influencer doesn’t hit specific numbers, then they would pay in full. It’s unclear if this was a real offer or a sarcastic suggestion.
They close out the email by explaining that it’s bad form to reveal that other companies have been approached as well. “Finally, we really appreciate how valued as artists and professionals you have made us feel by informing us that you have only sent this exact same email to four other companies and that a fast response will secure us the wedding rather than any artistic considerations. Likewise, please get back to us as soon as possible if you have any further questions, and we can start to get something locked in the diary.”
Melissa apparently wasn’t amused by the response, and replied, “Frankly my client and I find that kind of unprofessional email appalling and we will no longer be considering you as contenders to shoot what would have been a very lucrative wedding for you.
“It would have been a great opportunity for you to network with other social media influencers and some celebrities who will be making TV appearances later in the year,” Melissa continued. “On top of that, we have had other businesses reply to us with additional offers of goods and services (basically paying us to work with them) rather than giving us a load of gyp like what you have.”
Melissa then revealed some surprising information about the wedding, specifically the bride’s mother. “This wedding is really important to my client as her mother has been diagnosed with cancer and it’s really unfair of you to be so mean when you could (have) just said no politely.”
The email ends with the warning, “Please don’t email us again as we will have to name and shame you if you continue with this abuse.”
Betrothed & Co was apparently unfazed, and responded, “First of all, I would like to offer you a few apologies. I know we did encourage you to get back to us as quick as possible and whilst we do really appreciate your swift reply, we would have been equally happy for you to take a couple of deep breaths before hitting ‘Reply.’ Believe me, no-one hates grammar pedants more than I do, but giving your email a little once over might have been prudent given that you supposedly work in the communications industry.”
The response continued, “Secondly, apologies if our forthright attitude means we’ve forfeited the opportunity of networking with ‘Celebrities who will be on TV later this year’ (or in non-PR-speak: ‘People that have never been on TV’). We’ll just need to take this one on the chin and try to rebuild our business as best we can.”
At this point, Betrothed & Co then pointed out that the irony in someone claiming to be “abused” and then using what many consider to be a “racially abusive term.” According to them, “…if you can point out the offending “abusive” passage we’ll apologize straight away. (As an FYI, abuse doesn’t include sarcasm or snark – which I’m occasionally guilty of! – but for example, using a term such as ‘gyp,’ – a racially abusive term derived from the word ‘gypsy.’)
Betrothed & Co then addressed Melissa’s claims about the bride-to-be’s mother having cancer. The author of the response offered what appeared to be genuine sympathy, pointing out that their own mother passed away from cancer. They then added, “it’s slightly strange that you use that as a tool to guilt-trip us when absolutely zero mention of this was offered in the original email. Speaking personally, it would have been the first thing I would have mentioned if I was seeking a freebie from anyone, as there are countless stories of wedding photographers offering their skills completely gratis to the families of people suffering a terminal illness. In fact, these are just about the only circumstances where I know wedding suppliers being happy to give up their time for nothing. I’m possibly being a bit of a sentimental so-and-so, but maybe this might have been a better angle for you than just offering a few Instagram posts in exchange for several days of skilled work.”
They concluded the message by making it clear they weren’t worried about any “naming and shaming,” and then finally by asking who this mysterious influencer actually was (whose identity has still not been revealed).
While it’s unclear how the influencer will handle this turn of events, it seems that Betrothed & Co is doing OK. According to a post on their Facebook page, after the story went viral, they began receiving offers from people looking to collaborate with them.