Tag Archives: blogposts

Franschhoek Literary Festival 2019 brings writers to book!

I have spent the last three days in Franschhoek, attending its very successful Literary Festival, for the first time as a book writer myself. I found it insightful, and loved meeting some authors in person, their personalities shaping what they write, and the characters in their books. Continue reading →

Should restaurants prohibit food photography?

Heston BlumenthalThe topic of whether restaurants should prevent their diners from photographing food arises regularly.  Now Michelin star restaurant chef Heston Blumenthal has attracted attention with the new photograph policy in his restaurants.

While most diners would think that any and all photographs taken of a restaurant’s dishes would be to the benefit of the establishment, a wonderful form of free marketing, it appears that restaurant chefs are nervous about the photographs, and whether they present their dishes in the correct light!  Other diners are irritated when a flash is used for the photographs.

The downside of course is the dreadful quality of photographs one sees on Social Media platforms, in a yukky Continue reading →

WhaleTales Blog: a whale of an apology!

Host Gator logoDear Blog reader

This has been a very bad tech week for our website and Whale Tales Blog.  Following the crash of the website earlier this week, we were able to recover the data with the assistance of our webmaster Jan Laubscher at 406Media, and our American server Host Gator.

Just after I had reposted the 10 days worth of blogposts, which I had received via RSS feed emails, and luckily not deleted (fearing such a day to come, even though it has not previously happened in our 6 years of blogging!), all this work disappeared late yesterday afternoon.  I have not been able to receive feedback from 406Media as to how to secure our blogposts going forward, to prevent this from happening again.  Frustrating is that Host Gator does back ups automatically, but with a 48 hour lag, which means that all the reposting I did on Thursday and yesterday has been lost.

I will slowly repost again, and have added ‘reposted’ in the headlines of the blogposts I am posting again.   I apologise to our RSS Feed subscribers especially for seeing some of these posts for the third time, and beg your indulgence and understanding.

We sincerely hope that this will be the end of our technical hiccups.  Thank you for your loyal support of our Blog.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Tel (021) 433-2100, Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook:  click here

2014: the Top 10 Blog highlights, Banting beats them all! (reposted)

Woolworths-CarbClever-better-pic-via-email-207x300Our WhaleTales Blog and Whale Cottage Portfolio website received a make-over this year (i.e. 2014) by 406Media, and despite an error severely hampering Google’s ability to find our blogposts (since repaired), we achieved more than 300000 unique pageviews in the past twelve months, or around 30000 unique pageviews per month.  We are grateful to our loyal readers for visiting our Blog so regularly.

Our Top 10 Blogpost list, based on Google Analytic numbers of unique pageviews in the past 12 months, is as follows: Continue reading →

Travel reviews under review: Majority of travellers and hoteliers say they contain fake reviews!

Travel reviews love-hate-review TnoozA study conducted amongst just more than 1000 German travellers in December 2013 and January 2014, and with input from 1500 hotels in European countries, has found that travel review sites are believed to contain fake reviews of tourist attractions, restaurants, and accommodation!

The Worms University of Applied Sciences in Germany evaluated the reliance of travel review sites, their credibility, and consumer requirements.  The findings of the study were the following:

*   Reviews are consulted by one in two travellers, half of these recognising that they should handle them with ‘care‘.

*   Half of travellers say reviews are an important input to making accommodation decisions, but friends’ recommendations and the establishments’ website influence their decision too.

*   Twitter followers, Facebook friends, customer reviews on review sites, YouTube views, and blogposts on blogs can be bought.

*   The majority of travellers read up to 20 reviews

*    The majority of review readers consider reviews to be credible, but content must be credible

*   Reviews are not credible if they are unlike all others, and if their wording is not believable. Videos and photographs add to Continue reading →

Food Blogger ‘bun fight’ discredits MasterChef SA sponsor Woolworths!

It was via Twitter yesterday that I picked up a link to a blogpost “Not so good today…”, written by respected food and cookbook writer and TV producer Anne Myers on her blog ‘I love Cooking’. In her story, she identified two instances of food bloggers writing irresponsibly in their recipes, not on their own blogs, but on the newly created website for MasterChef SA sponsor Woolworths, leaving the retailer with egg on its face, with two of its four guest MasterChef SA food bloggers being accused of unprofessional blogging.

To tie in with its MasterChef SA sponsorship, Woolworths created a Woolworths Pantry page on its website, and invited four food bloggers they felt to be at the top of their field to blog for them in return for payment: Alida Ryder writes the blog ‘Simply Delicious‘, and was named the top food blogger at the SA Blog Awards in 2010; Ishay Govender followed in her footsteps in winning the SA Blog Awards 2011 Food Blogger of the Year for her ‘Food and the Fabulous’ blog; Jane-Anne Hobbs is described on the Woolworths website as having ‘pioneered recipe blogging in South Africa’, now blogging on her ‘Scrumptious’ blog, and soon to have a cookbook published, she announced today; and Fritz Brand, who blogs on ‘Real Men can Cook’, is a more recent blogger with no known accolades (interesting is that Woolworths accepts his writing with grammatical errors, and he even misspells the Woolworths brand name on his own blog!).  Once a week the bloggers contribute their recipes according to a set theme, and receive credit for the recipes that are featured.

Strangely, no MasterChef SA branding appears on the Woolworths Pantry pages, only the ‘Cook like a Chef’ box appearing on the recipe pages, an adaptation of the in-store banners ‘Cook like a MasterChef’. The bloggers do not comment on the MasterChef SA programme at all, even though the initial Tweets of some of these bloggers led one to believe that they would be commentators for Woolworths about the reality TV cooking programme.

Ms Myers was very kind to the two Woolworths Pantry bloggers, in not mentioning their names in her blogpost, perhaps a weakness, as their names were revealed later in the day anyway. The bloggers concerned commendably showed integrity by declaring their discredited recipes in the Comments section of Ms Myers’ blogpost, and their responses are interesting.

Fritz Brand claimed ownership of the criticised Nutella Crêpes recipe, which called for five teaspoons of salt, four of which were to be coarse salt, according to the Woolworths Pantry recipe, which Ms Myers wrote was difficult to rub through the sieve, as required in the recipe.  Brand defends his recipe in the Comment on Ms Myers’ blog, stating that his recipe only called for one teaspoon of salt, and that Woolworths must have got it wrong in posting the recipe on its site! He also writes that he posted the same recipe on his own blog, without the four extra spoonfuls of salt.  The four mystery spoonfuls of salt were removed from the recipe on the Woolworths Pantry website after Ms Myers’ blogpost appeared!

Interestingly, a second Tweet about food blogger ethics circulated later in the day, with a link to Ms Govender’s blog, and her blogpost ‘Food Bloggers – The Cauldrons are boiling’.  Not knowing that she was under attack in Ms Myers’ blogpost, it sounded as if Ms Govender was having a general go at ‘bully’ food bloggers who do not have a ‘spirit of community’, who discredit others, who wave ‘their blog stats and self-importance around’, one not realising that she was in fact reacting to Ms Myers’ blogpost.  She called for an (undefined) ‘formal qualification system’ in the ‘food blogging business’ that builds ‘sensibility and comaraderie’ (sic), implying that only qualified persons may comment about other bloggers, one suspects she was trying to say.  Only on re-reading Ms Myers’ blogpost last night was it clear that Ms Govender’s blogpost was a response to Ms Myers’ very serious allegation that Ms Govender’s recipe for ‘Dark Chocolate Souffles’ had been plagiarised (an ‘almost word-for-word replica of the recipe’) from the website www.bonappetit.com. Ms Govender writes in her blogpost about ‘bully’ bloggers’ ‘crucifixion mentality’, without ‘calmly gathering facts and asking the involved people for their opinions’, clearly (but unfairly, in our opinion) accusing Ms Myers of this behaviour. On Ms Myers’ blogpost Ms Govender defends herself in writing that some standard recipes would appear very similar to others, that she has a background in intellectual property law and could never consider taking ideas from others, that she gets involved in community projects benefiting others, and is an example of the ‘spirit of community’. Ms Myers was harsh in her reply to Ms Govender, clearly not moved by it at all: ‘Ishay, defending yourself and pointing out your qualities and good deeds for the lesser priviledged (sic) will not change the way I feel about responsible blogging. I made it clear that I used the post in which the chocolate souffle recipe featured as an example of what I believe to be some of the causes of foodblogging’s detoriating (sic) credibility and vanishing visitors’.

As this blogpost is about food blogger ethics, it is interesting to observe how opinionated and previously fiercely independent Woolworths Pantry blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs, who describes her ‘Scrumptious‘ blog as ‘Recipes and inspiration from an independent African food blog’, has shifted in her definition of ‘independence’!  In her ‘About me and Contact’ page, she writes: By ‘independent’ I mean that my blog is not sponsored by anyone, and that I don’t endorse products or services in exchange for freebies, money or publicity. Because this blog is a freebie- and ad-free site, you can be assured that any branded product I recommend to you has been selected and paid for by me, because I think it’s interesting, tasty or exciting. Disclaimer: I earn my living by working as an independent food writer, recipe developer and social media consultant for a variety of clients.  Their products and services are never mentioned on this blog. Post Script; 20 March 2012: I’ve recently been appointed one of Woolworths offical (sic) bloggers for their sponsorship of the new TV series MasterChef South Africa.  I’m am (sic) paid to write blogposts and recipes for Woolworths, and will be reproducing that content on this site. You’re welcome to send me press releases, or invite me to launches, but please note that I don’t accept samples, ‘gifts’, ‘freebies’, or any similar inducements! We must commend Ms Hobbs for being the only one of the four Woolworths Pantry bloggers honest enough to declare her blogging for payment. Each of the four bloggers’ blogs carry the same Woolworths’ banner.

We predicted that MasterChef SA would be controversial, but did not expect a food blogger ‘bun fight’ to be the cause of such controversy, in addition to the MasterChef SA sponsor Robertson’s controversy, about which we reported last week.  It will be interesting to see which further controversies will develop in the remaining sixteen weeks of MasterChef SA!  The incident also questions the SA Blog Awards’ evaluation of top food bloggers!

POSTSCRIPT 3/4: In looking at the line ‘Cook like a Chef’ in the Woolworths ads linked to their food bloggers’ recipes one must ask again what the definition of a ‘chef’ is.  All four food bloggers are recipe writers but clearly not chefs.  One wonders why Woolworths would be dishonest in its advertising in projecting the bloggers to a more glorified status and so mislead their customers.

POSTSCRIPT 3/4: Woolworths Pantry has credited Bon Appetit magazine with the ‘inspiration’ for Ms Govender’s dark chocolate soufflé recipe subsequent to the publishing of Ms Myers’ blogpost, confirming that Ms Myers was correct in what she wrote!

POSTSCRIPT 4/4: For Week 3 on the Woolworths Pantry website, only recipes by food bloggers Alida Ryder and Jane-Anne Hobbs are featured, with none by Ishay Govender and Fritz Brand. The photograph of the four food bloggers is also no longer featured!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Restaurant trends: role of Social Media biggest change!

Eric Asimov is the New York Times wine writer, and wrote an interesting article on restaurant trends.  His observations about the New York restaurant scene could almost equally have been written to describe that of our country, in describing popular menu ingredients, the role of the critic, and the impact of Social Media.

Asimov wrote after having taken on the role of ‘analytical eating’ as restaurant critic for his newspaper over a three month period late last year.  Writing for the paper for more than seven years already, he observed that while many things have changed and restaurants have come and gone in New York, what they have in common is that they are ‘fragile businesses staffed by dedicated, incredibly hard-working people. Most are passionate enough to accept living on the nightly adrenaline rush that supplements their marginal paydays, except for the few visionary chefs and executives who manage to get very rich’, words that could equally describe our local restaurant scene.  He writes that almost all restaurants serve food with a ‘same handful of ingredients’, being pork belly, bacon, ‘eggs on top of everything’, ‘cuts of beef for two… and alleges to have been dry-aged for 28 days, which is meant to rationalize the exorbitant price they fetch’, a change from the salmon and lentils, and seared foie gras of a number of years ago.  The quality of ingredients has improved, he observed, and he wrote that it is rare to not see the origin of the produce on the menu, usually coming with a ‘surcharge’ , which he believes restaurant patrons are not always willing to pay.  Wine lists have improved, no longer featuring large distributors’ wines, beers and spirits only. Craft beers have been a welcome addition in restaurants, as are creative cocktails.

But it is technology, and Social Media specifically, that has changed.  “Social media and smartphones allow the real-time chronicling of any restaurant meal, by anybody, always”.  Here restaurant critics face a new dilemma, in that they are expected to review restaurants faster, in competition with ‘instant opinion-givers’ ! He believes that the restaurant critic has a role, given that the social media reviewers and commentators “are not bound by the same standards and ethical obligations that, theoretically at least, give greater weight and credibility to the professionals“!  It is clear that Asimov has a dim view of the ethics of bloggers, perhaps feeling threatened by the plethora of blogposts written about restaurants, on blogs which have a strong following given their less technical and often more honest writing.

Staying anonymous as a restaurant critic is far harder, he says, with the greater presence of photographs of critics on the internet, in contrast to the ‘creased copies of ancient photos’ which appear to be common in top restaurant kitchens!  Asimov prefers to be treated anonymously, even if recognised by a restaurant, and to not be sent extra dishes to be impressed, even though intended as ‘deeply generous impulses but nonetheless make the task of the analysis more difficult’.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Blogging Burn-Out? Where have all the bloggers gone?

Has blogging lost its charm and appeal, three years after taking off in a big way?  It would appear so, if the blogging habits of some of the longer-standing food and wine bloggers are analysed.  I have observed, for example:

*   Dax Villanueva, of Relax-with-Dax Blog, recently Tweeted about taking a blogging break.  Some food bloggers identified with the sentiment of the ‘blogging holiday’, but Dax does not appear to have reduced his frequency of blogging.

*   Spill Blog has reduced from one blogpost a day at its start last year, to infrequent blogging on weekdays, and does not blog on weekends.  Their infrequent Tweeting (@MackSpill) has rendered them almost invisible.  One wonders how advertisers view the reduced Blogging activity.

*   David Cope’s The Foodie Blog now sees one blogpost a month, compared to many more when he first started blogging.  He almost exclusively Tweets.

*   The Jamie Who? Blog is interesting, as blogger Andy Fenner closed down his blog by this name last year, and incorporated it into a joint lifestyle blog called Aficionado, with two other bloggers.  Its clean and neat design, and top level brand endorsements, did not attract enough advertising revenue for the three partners to live from, Fenner blogged honestly, and therefore it was closed down last week.  Now Fenner will have to start from scratch in building readership, an expensive price to pay.  Even Fenner’s blogging frequency on Aficionado dropped significantly, only blogging once in the past month.  Fenner may have lost interest in blogging generally, announcing that he is opening Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants in the next month.

*   Matt Allison of I’m No Jamie Oliver Blog has not Blogged since the beginning of this month, and will be moving to a new blog he will call ‘Planting Thoughts’, reflecting his new passion for urban farming.

It would appear that Blogging Burn-out may be occurring amongst more established bloggers.  Either they are making good money out of their blogs (or not), or they are making money from other sources.  Those bloggers who do not accept advertising on their blogs, blogging for the love of it, appear to be more frequent bloggers.  Serious bloggers spend a good two hours in writing a post, and it is the posting of the photographs that is time-consuming, especially those taken with a better quality camera.  Attending the function that one blogs about, driving there, and then writing about it, can take almost a full day, a luxury for bloggers who have a ‘day job’.

Recently a ranked list of lifestyle blogs and websites, some incorporating food and/or wine, and almost all accepting advertising, was published by Wyncc (linked to Spit or Swallow and Winetimes), based on daily page views (on 17/10):

  1. food24.com126 592
  2. 2oceansvibe.com104 158
  3. winetimes.co.za47 539
  4. watkykjy.co.za – 25 105
  5. capetownmagazine.com19 763
  6. imod.co.za16 558
  7. wine.co.za14 956
  8. bangersandnash.com14 422
  9. lifeissavage.com8 546
  10. jhblive.com6 944
  11. missmoss.co.za – 6410
  12. cooksister.com5 341
  13. capetowngirl.co.za4 807
  14. winemag.co.za – 3 739
  15. aficionado.co.za3 205
  16. relax-with-dax.co.za – 2 671
  17. whalecottage.com2 671
  18. kimgray.co.za2 671
  19. whatsforsupper-juno.blogspot.com 1 068
  20. spill.co.za1 068

Using The South African Food & Wine Blogger Directory as a guideline, I checked the Blogging frequency of a number of blogs.  Pendock Uncorked and Sommelier Miguel Chan Wine Journal Blogs post daily or even more frequent blogposts in general, while Cook Sister, Just Food Now, Food & the Fabulous, Hein on Wine, Batonage, Cape Town by Mouth, Betty Bake, and Scrumptious South Africa blogposts appear more than once a week, on average. It is a shame that Sardines on Toast blogger Kobus van der Merwe last blogged in August, and that Pete Goffe-Wood, with a sharp wit, only blogs once in six months on the Kitchen Cowboys Blog.

The annual S A Blog Awards entries closed at midnight, and appears to be a non-event this year, if the low-key Tweeting about it, and the large number of Bloggers who could not be bothered to enter, is an indicator.  Every year the SA Blog Awards attracts criticism, and this year is no exception.  The biggest surprise is that only ten Blog categories will be contested, compared to 24 categories last year, benefiting more focused Bloggers, and not those writing more generally about a diversity of topics:

  • Best Business / Political Blog
  • Best Entertainment / Lifetstyle (sic) Blog
  • Best Environmental Blog
  • Best Fashion Blog
  • Best Food & Wine Blog
  • Best Music Blog
  • Best Photographic Blog
  • Best Science and Technology Blog
  • Best Sport Blog
  • Best Travel Blog

There is very little consistency and comparability with the SA Blog Awards of 2010. Noticeable by their absence this year are the Most Controversial Blog, Best New Blog, and Micro-Blogging (Tweet) categories. The rules have changed too, and for the first time the Blog entries are limited to Bloggers residing in South Africa, automatically excluding regular past-winner in the Food & Wine category, London-based Cook Sister Blog, and the Indieberries Blog winner of last year. Only two categories may be entered per Blogger.  Voting will be limited to one vote per Blog, and closes on 9 November.  Judges will only evaluate the top three publicly-voted Blogs per category.  Judges will choose the Blog ranking in each category.  The judges vote will decide the overall winner of the SA Blog Awards.  Radio sport presenter JP Naude will be running the organisation, not being a blogger himself, with support of last year’s Award’s organiser Chris Rawlinson.

It will be interesting to see how Blogging evolves over time, and whether the rate of new Blog start-ups will reach saturation.   Loyal Blog readership remains at a high level, readers being more active supporters of Blogs than their writers, it would appear.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Cape Town Tourism: Saving you time, saving you money, putting you first!

Thinking about the cyber-buzz about the non-renewal of our 20-year membership of Cape Town Tourism, which expired at the end of August 2011, we have come to an important decision for our Blog, and give credit to Nashua’s famous advertising payoff line from many years ago for its inspiration: “Saving you time, saving you money, putting you first”!

Given that Cape Town Tourism’s lawyers Webber Wentzel will have already run up a hefty bill in trying to silence us on our Blog, in writing two lawyer’s letters directed at ourselves, the letter written by the Chairman Ian Bartes, as well as a short reaction to it on the Cape Town Tourism website, easily already in the region of the cost of sponsoring an event like ‘100 Women 100 Wine’, we want to save Cape Town Tourism money.

We are seeing  a very nasty collection of Cape Town Tourism commenters slash, trash and bash either Cape Town Tourism and its staff, but more importantly, myself and my company too, without concern for laws of defamation, as well as disparagement and the truth, whenever we post a story about Cape Town Tourism. This collection of vitriolic commenters includes Mike, Jeremy Claasen, Jeremy du Plessis, Marco, Kurt, Rashiq, and Paul.

Cape Town tourism’s industry is in a crisis, and the R40 million annual allocation from the City of Cape Town does not go far when at least 50 % is estimated to go to salaries and other running costs, Australian Strategetic consultants, and the sponsorship of ‘frivolous’ events such as the 100 Wine ‘competition’.  This leaves less than R20 million, we estimate, for the marketing of Cape Town.

To remove the censorship role that Cape Town Tourism has taken upon itself on behalf of the tourism industry, to not influence my writing in having ‘Big Sista’ looking over my blogging shoulder, to not waste my time to reply to aggressive and abusive comments from the tiny collection of Cape Town Tourism supporters, and to protect commenters who want to make a genuine contribution from not being sued by Cape Town Tourism (and ourselves too!), we have reached the important decision to impose a ban on all comments for any blogpost we write about Cape Town Tourism from today onwards, and we will close the comment facility on past Cape Town Tourism blogposts too.  Genuine commenters are welcome to send an e-mail with their point of view, which we will feature as a Postscript to the relevant Blogpost, if it does not contain any defamatory or disparaging remarks, to whalecot@iafrica.com.

This means that Cape Town Tourism can save money on legal fees, and its staff can spend its valuable time on Tweeting more, organising lunches with fellow Tweeters, and perhaps throw some marketing into the day as well.  It means that I can get on with what I love most, which is writing blogposts.  Cape Town Tourism’s supporter band will now have to find their ‘Inspiration’ elsewhere in Cape Town, and will not be able to express it on our Blog any more!

We apologise to our regular readers for this self-imposed censorship of comments, but this ‘cyber-attack’ on Freedom of Speech by Cape Town Tourism, reflecting a paranoia that is most surprising for an organisation that has set itself up as being tech-savvy, and which has a Communications Manager who dishes out insults on Social Media platforms against Cape Town Tourism members, and even the funders of her employer (the City of Cape Town), is unprecedented in Social Media terms, to our knowledge. One is surprised that the Communications Manager still holds her position, for the damage she has already caused Cape Town Tourism through her unprofessional behaviour.

However, Cape Town Tourism will never stop us from Blogging, and writing on Facebook, Twitter, and in our WhaleTales newsletter what needs to be said about tourism, the marketing of Cape Town and the Western Cape, and about Cape Town Tourism.  Makes you think, doesn’t it!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Public Relations consultants: feedback from a blogger!

Having blogged for almost three years now, we receive an increasing number of media releases from PR agencies.  Having run a food PR consultancy before starting our Whale Cottage Portfolio, I have long wanted to write a blogpost about how we view PR consultancies, and the recent Mail & Guardian article, pitting food journalists against bloggers, and detailing how PR consultancies have to deal with the blogging politics, has been a further inspiration to do so.

Our observations are as follows:

1.  As the representative of the client, we are surprised about the spelling and grammatical errors that we see in media releases sent by PR consultancies.  One would expect clients to sign off media releases, and they too do not seem to pick up the errors.

2.  In the era of social media, everyone knows where bloggers are, as they like to Tweet about it.  One of the biggest problems this causes is that bloggers know when they have been left off the invitation list for a lunch or launch, without explanation or warning.  While one understands that not everyone can be invited to all functions, there is an automatic affront if one is left off such a list, and one picks up from Twitter who is present.  This is a minefield for PR consultants.  One would think that they would rather host a small number of events with bloggers and journalists who tolerate the presence of others than invite all of them to one function. To be sent the media release about the restaurant/product after the lunch that one has not been invited to is adding insult to injury!  No PR consultancy should pander to blogger or journalist egos in dictating who they want/don’t want to be in a room with at a function! 

3.  My biggest issue with PR agencies is their inability to say ‘thank you’ when one has written about their clients’ brand, whether it results from an invitation to attend a function, or is a spontaneous visit to a restaurant and it receives a good review.  Not saying thank you for coverage received is as rude as a blogger/journalist not thanking the host and PR agency for the invitation!  As a blogger we are spending our own money and time to evaluate a restaurant or product, and are not remunerated for this by an employer.  In the pre-Social Media days, our PR company subscribed to an agency that tracked all coverage we achieved for our clients, especially in print.  It was difficult in those days to track TV and radio mentions.  To pick up Social Media mentions, one can subscribe to Blogs that one expects coverage from and to whom one sends releases, check Hootsuite for mentions on Twitter (via keywords reflecting the clients’ names/brands), and via Google Alerts for the client name/brand.  One should not have to write the PR agency’s Twitter handle into the Tweet linked to the blogpost about a restaurant/product, for the agency and/or its client to pick up the coverage.  Blogging has an important role in gaining awareness for a new brand/restaurant, and bloggers with high readership can get the product/restaurant onto the first page of Google, the ultimate goal for any brand, with resultant financial benefit if it leads to bookings.  We rarely receive feedback about the business that is created for the restaurants we write about.  An exception has been De Huguenot, which is tracking via Google Analytics where its website traffic is coming from, and could tell us how many hits it had received from our write-up about their launch lunch.  An absolute no-no is a PR consultancy requesting that one informs them when the blogpost about their client’s brand has been published!

4.  What is surprising is how few PR consultancy staff appear to read the Blogs they send media releases to, firstly in not picking up the coverage their clients’ brands achieve, but also in asking for coverage in our ‘events diary’, something we don’t have.  This means that everyone on the media list receives the same release and request for coverage, making the PR consultancy look unprofessional in not understanding the bloggers’ writing interests (we are all diferent), and the media release will be deleted as a result.  One cannot help but think that media consultants are still old-school, valuing print coverage more than coverage in blogs.  Part of the problem is the valuation of the coverage, the measure PR consultancies use to prove to their clients how good they are, and what the coverage achieved would have translated into in advertising Rands.  There is no official public information about the readership of an individual blogpost, or even of a Blog, or a means of placing a value on this readership, making it appear that blog exposure is a secondary achievement for PR consultants compared to print coverage, even if the blogpost achieves an excellent Google ranking, and therefore could be far more beneficial to the client’s brand and its sales.  There is also no quantification of the value of the immediacy of coverage in a Blog compared to that in a magazine three to four months later. 

5.  While we appreciate receiving information that can help us write an interesting story on our Blog, we don’t want to receive information that has been sent to every other journalist and blogger.  Only one PR agency, representing the Stellenbosch Wine Festival, took time to request which angle I wanted to write about.  In the end I chose my own perspective on it.  However, background information on a brand launched at a function to which one is invited helps in writing the blogpost, as one can add the personal individual touch from one what one has learnt at the function itself.  An exclusive angle is great, but these are seldom seen.  Reuben Riffel’s visit to America  earlier this year, and his appearances on TV there, was an exclusive story we were given by Manley Communications. 

6.  Another sign of the lack of understanding by PR consultancies is being sent high resolution photographs, which slow down the download, and are unusable on a Blog.  Bloggers prefer using their own photographs, and would not want to use those that every other blogger and journalist have been sent.

7.  While we sometimes fear that we will run out of things to write about, there is not such a dearth of material that we have to be flooded with media releases. One wine client PR agency sends a media release almost daily, and they look boring, and have minimal news in them, and are without attractive ‘packaging’ of the release, to entice one to read it.  I am unable to write about a wine or a food product if I have not tasted it, and the fewest PR agencies send one a product to evaluate.  I would never write about a product that I have not experienced, events being an exception.  This does not mean that I feel I have to write something positive because I received the product for free – I may choose to not write about it if it is not exceptional, or if the story does not have an interesting angle.  The worst thing that the staff of a PR consultancy can do is to chase coverage.  There are no coverage guarantees in journalism and blogging.

8.  While branded CD’s look attractive and professional, I far prefer a printed media release, to write from.  An attractive interesting media release is preferable to a bland and boring one, for obvious reasons.  But the release should be printable, and one should be able to read communication between the two parties, if it is against a dark background.

9.  Bloggers do not know all other bloggers or journalists, and it would be really nice to have name tags at events hosted by PR consultancies, with an introduction to those we may not know.  I rarely see this at functions.  PR consultancies may not realise that the acceptance of an invitation to an event may be more about meeting other bloggers (an ever-growing band), and less about the meal!  

10.  We would like to be updated on changes happening at restaurants, such as changed names, changed opening hours, winter specials offered, changes in chefs and restaurant management, etc.  This may not justify a media release, but an e-mail would be appreciated, so that one can update one’s blogpost.

11.   Last, but not least, a free lunch cannot ‘buy’ most bloggers!   I have been questioned about the degree of feedback one can give about an event if one has been invited to it, some feeling it rude to provide criticism of an invited event.  This is a difficult question, but if the blogger is known to be honest in writing, then one would expect that person to write about the event with warts and all. There is no greater compliment when one’s feedback has led to a positive change.  Many critical commenters on blogs question the credibility of write-ups based on lunch/dinner invitations.  Any blogger with ethics will declare that a complimentary product/meal was received .

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage