At some moment in their career, all bloggers and whisky writers will have to make up their minds how they want to position themselves in regard to their readers, other writers and the whisky industry. For me, this moment has come now.
Dramming.com has seen a constantly growing interest in the past months since the redesign. The Facebook page has gained a lot of fans, single articles or the entire blog have been plugged by influential people. Then came the news of Dramming being featured in the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2011 which will certainly have an effect not purely on the visitor numbers but also on how the site is perceived by others.
Being On The Radar
Final proof for Dramming.com “being on the radar” is that the first freebies from various sources are looming at the horizon. It is quite obvious that people are not giving away things for free just by pure altruism. Bloggers and traditional whisky writers alike are seen as multiplicators and become part of the marketing strategy of industry members. And for this it does not matter at all if they are professional writers or just amateurs who make their living with an unrelated daytime job.
But it’s not only about how you will react to individual freebies. Will you still speak up against something you don’t like in a specific company who have provided you with freebies? Will you still attack alarming trends in the industry or parts of it by risking the flow of freebies to stop?
It’s a Symbiosis
The whisky industry and whisky journalists – and in the eyes of the industry, bloggers are regarded as journalists – are living in a symbiosis. The industry needs us to make their products known to the buyers. If you have reached a certain level of influence, this is done by handing out freebies. Whisky writers need the products of the industry to have anything to write about. They can choose to buy them themselves or they can accept free offers.
Recent developments have shown that there is a growing tendency towards speaking up loudly, even if it is unpopular with at least part of the industry, be it against chill-filtration and caramel colouring or against marketing shenaningans. Let me me just pick John Hansell from the professional camp and Ralfy Mitchell from the amateur side as two prominent examples among many others heading this trend.
And it shows that speaking up loudly can have its effects! Chieftain’s recently announced to raise their bottling strength to 46%, specifically stating John Hansell’s influence on this decision. And the recent rebranding of the Burn Stuart range much points to the same direction.
What About Self Marketing?
As a blogger you have to have a certain amount of exhibitionism. A blog whithout readers is pointless. But how to make your blog popular? You can place links to your blog in forum postings or in coments on other blogs, you can open Facebook pages or twitter accounts and you can try to get listed in web directories. And these are only a fraction of the possibilities you have.
But be aware that if you reach a certain level, your moves are monitored by your readers. And the line between creating good publicity and spamming is easily crossed.
I have been thinking a lot about these things recently, and I have distilled this in
My Personal Code of Conduct For Whisky Blogging
I will adhere to these points, and you can pin me down on them. I don’t expect anyone to follow me as most of it is not controllable anyway. This is just my personal view of things as they are. Everbody has to make up their own minds.
1. I will not accept free offers that require or expect me to bend my opinion.
It is understandable that the whisky industry likes to be presented in a positive light. Handing out freebies is not an inherently bad thing, but writers should take care not to let this affect their integrity. Produce good whisky, and you will get good reviews. Produce bad whisky, and you will get bad reviews. It’s as simple as that.
2. My future writing will not be influenced by free offers of the past or advertising money
There is always a psychological component if you have criticism about someone who gave you something in the past. Related to this is the fear that your writing may have influence on your future relationship. For me, honesty and integrity are the highest goods we whisky writers have. And we should defend these assets against influences of the industry and also against our own weak moments we might have.
3. I will not ask for free offers
Yes, there are writers who do that. And there are even some who ask for freebies in return of favourable writing. You don’t believe that? Mark Connelly, the organizer of Glasgow’s Whisky Festival, told about a request for free press passes in return for a positive review on his blog. Not with me! This is corruption.
4. I will tell you when I write about something I received for free
Even though I don’t want my writing to be influenced by free offers, I think you should know about it anyway. I think this is only fair.
5. I will plug my own blog only if I have something worthwhile to contribute
I don’t have a problem when bloggers leave links to their postings in forums or blog comments, but I think this should not be done just for the link’s sake. If you can contribute to the topic or can offer a different angle on it, that’s just fine. The usefulness for the readers should always be more important than generating traffic to your blog.
6. I will not ask for links to my blog
Aksing for links is an outdated Blogging 1.0 phenomoneon, in my opinon. I won’t do it and I won’t answer requests to do it. Write good content, and the links will come automatically.