This week I’ve done my first ‘review’ on the blog, and, completely coincidentally, it has been a week of great blogger vs blagger debate. So I’m leaving the Cheetahs for a day (they’re bowling, again) and am going to dive, albeit slightly tentatively, and possibly into the shallow end, of this much discussed point.
Firstly – I’m still a newbie blogger – the Cheetahs life in the bloggersphere is less than 3 months old and I’m still getting to grips with how it all works. I didn’t set out to do anything but write about the Cheetahs and family life – mainly because it doesn’t all fit into a Facebook status update and people asked me to. I’ve watched Twitter tell me about what other people are reviewing and also about some of their deepest feelings, I’ve read blogs about moving abroad, battles with health and observations of the world around us. I’ve laughed at some and sat with tears dropping into my keyboard.
When I noticed the opportunity from @KateTakes5 on Twitter to review a match for the FA Family Football day I didn’t leap at the chance immediately. I thought about it, and then asked some questions – and then thought about it a bit more. I discussed it with DH – I looked at the other reviews that had been written and asked myself whether I could write something like that. I looked at what was on offer (for fear of taking the kids somewhere that they wouldn’t enjoy) and then said I’d give it a whirl. It was not something I’d actively pursued, neither was it something that I had even momentarily considered when I started blogging.
In my post-natal group (we’re talking a good 6 years ago) there were 2 mummies called Jenny. By the time our babies were 6 months old, I was more often known as ‘tried and tested’ rather than Jenny. Oh how I researched, read, considered, tried and then researched a bit more what products, illnesses and offers there were out there. I admit, most of this was driven by the constant need to watch our monthly spend, but also by my love of making an ‘informed decision’. Others may call it self doubt, but I do like to know ‘facts’ – which makes me kind of useful in the pub quiz.
Having been brought up as a PTA child (we went, and helped, at everything – it taught me well) and now having both children in full-time education, I can see the role of a ‘blagger’ in the mix that is the fund-raising committee – in whatever form it takes (be it PTA, sports club, church, Scouting, Guiding, whatever…). The ‘blagger’ is the one who has the skills (and possibly more importantly, the nerve) to go and ask people to donate their product, time or skills to help whatever cause they represent.
This is an alien concept to many – but how else do you get the amazing raffle prize, or free use of a venue for an event? You ask politely, you provide the facts and you let them know what’s in it for them. You’re up front and honest and you try and persuade them that helping you is ‘doing the right thing’ – and, you know what? Quite often it works. Even if it doesn’t, if you’re polite and open, the door isn’t often slammed in your face.
(maybe behind you with a roll of eyes and a sigh).
So when I agreed to attend the football match I took it as ‘work’ – not a “bit of a result”/”free day out”/”successful blag”. I was delighted it gave us the opportunity to spend some time together as a family but I was aware that I was reviewing in the name of NetMums – and that what I would write needed to be balanced, fair and something people who’d read it wouldn’t curse me for if they’d acted on something I’d included (or not).
It probably took me about 2 hours to sort the photos (note to self, need more practice at that one) and write the text. We spent 4 hours driving and 4 hours at the match. I didn’t want to miss anything out – it’s often the little details that are the most important in reality and I didn’t want to diminish anything by skipping over things to keep the word count down. I wrote over 2000 words. Jeez – the amount of hours I spent sweating over writing 1500 word essays at school! It came out of my head, into my fingers on the keyboard and appeared on the screen. My honest opinion – hopefully taking into consideration what the organisers would have had to consider and therefore offering all sides of the story – not just mine. If you’d like to read what I’ve written – click here – I’d love some feedback on whether you think I’ve been fair.
Am I a blagger? In some ways and in certain situations, yes! My kids school would not have the £5000 grant to refurbish their after school facilities for children from disadvantaged families if another parent and I hadn’t had the guts to go and ask for it. My old Brownie unit would be sitting on a cold Scout Hut floor if we hadn’t asked Carpet Right for their old sample squares for the girls to sit on and the good folk of St Albans wouldn’t be able to enjoy a Mandeville Monster Milkshake if we hadn’t been and asked the owner of our local milkshake bar to create it for us – and give a donation to school for each one sold!
But I am also a blogger – and that is separate. I am not adverse to doing another review here and there – especially if it’s one where I can review for families who may have children with additional needs. My view of a venue is taken from the eyes of a 4 year old who is, quite frankly, terrified of steps he hasn’t been on before. Equally, a craft kit aimed at 6 year olds can be really, really frustrating when your fine motor skills aren’t quite as good as those of ‘normal’ children – but having to drop down a level can be soul destroying.
I spend my working life trying to look at things from all angles (although mainly in a ‘what might go wrong’ sort of way) – and I believe that’s what reviewing on a blog should be about. Blogging with Integrity. BritMums – that is my favourite strapline – ever. If you write reviews for your blog – woohoo, good for you – and I’ll keep looking for things that I’m coveting – you know, just so I can make an informed decision.
Have a look at Susanna’s piece – Should we fear blogger blaggers – I’m with her, it’s not up to any of us to judge. In the meantime, does anyone know anywhere where I can get a orange and black spotted hat with 2 bobbles on to fit some very, very small Cheetahs?