Diversity on Blogger Trips

Today’s post was intended to be a straight forward fashion-led one, but I’m feeling niggled about something and wanted to vent while I’m at my most frustrated. Hopefully the ridiculousness and outdated nature of this issue will be delivered with some clarity and oomph as a result .

As bloggers it’s important we talk about things we are passionate/angry about, and if we have an audience that appear to take note of what we say (and even if we don’t), I personally feel it’s important to amplify the deeper, meatier and heartier issues, as well as talking about and offering content that offers much needed escapism regularly too.

While it’s great to boost and share as many important messages/causes as possible, there are some that are a better fit for us on a personal level, and sometimes I think it’s better to find a few of those to focus on. If you share every single cause there’s a danger that the positive act of sharing is then diluted, and important messages end up being lost in a feed jam-packed full of ‘worthy.’ I just feel it’s important to be authentic and truly care, rather just sharing because you want to come across as if you do. Things that we have personal experience of, movements which speak to us more profoundly, or that our voice or personal story may impact/enhance. I don’t like the pressure that everyone should talk about everything, because I know I feel there are some people more equipped to talk about certain matters, and sometimes just being another voice on the matter can seem a bit like jumping on the band wagon, or merely doing it to be part of the latest hot topic of conversation. But this isn’t always the case, sometimes we need to speak up for those that feel ignored, forgotten, cast aside. Those that are privileged enough to be heard need to vocalise the messages of the muted, or to provide evidence that their is a lot of support for whatever their issue is.

I’ve seen a few tweets lately calling out on the lack of diversity of press trips, specifically fashion/beauty brand trips, and I couldn’t ignore it. As a blonde, caucasian size 8 woman I’ve of course wondered whether I be someone to speak up about it. Many of you may feel this is a matter I should stay out of – that I don’t have a right to comment on it as it hasn’t adversely effected me as it has many others. But I think the blogging industry as a whole should unite on these particular matters, whether the issue effect us personally or not. This isn’t and should never be acceptable, and EVERYONE should want a fairer, interesting and inclusive industry. The blogging industry should include, support and celebrate people that represent every sort of life, situation, race, style, shape, gender, orientation etc…..

Of course I could very well be one of those identikit bloggers invited on one of the trips people have been referring to lately. In a lot of ways I fit in with the mould of trip invitees that have rather unfairly been labelled ‘safe and boring options’ (I don’t think anyone is actually angry at the bloggers who are lucky to be invited, just frustrated at the situation). But in my case, it might be my lack of Instagram followers or my slightly more senior age (in the blogger world at least) that might stop that from happening. But of course if I was invited I would jump at the chance, and I can’t imagine that I would have checked to see what other other bloggers/influencers had been invited to attend before rsvp-ing with an enthusiastic yes please. I could quite easily find myself being in one of those much retweeted pictures used to represent how a brand is sending very similar bloggers on trips, clearly lacking diversity.

I don’t buy into the assumption that me and 5 other size small blonde bloggers would be guaranteed clones of each-other. I know my hair colour and weight doesn’t capture who I am and what I have to offer in terms of the person I am, or the work I can deliver. We could be completely different in fact, despite the fact that on first inspection we appear boringly similar due to our superficial features.

However we have to think how a quick glance of a group like this on a press trip might be perceived during your Instagram scroll. What messages is this sending out to impressionable kids, and adults alike? Is this the only acceptable and celebrated type of beauty? Do you have to look like this to get great opportunities? Should you only be friends with people who are like you (in appearance)? Is this not a shop/product I should be buying, because I don’t look like them? Wouldn’t I be welcome at this store? Should I change myself to look like them to make myself cooler/accepted by these brands? And so on…..

You often hear stories about how kids felt sad that there weren’t dolls that looked like them when they were younger and how ecstatic they were when they discovered a toy/doll that had darker skin, frizzy or curly hair, freckles, glasses, a disability and so on. Think about those characters in cartoons and TV shows that helped you feel like you were ‘enough’ and even ‘special’ for not conforming to one type of beauty or type of ‘accepted’ human. We need these people in blogging too. Those people that have a presence in an industry that tells us we are ok just as we are, and that we can achieve what we want out of life.

Another problem is that as this issue gains momentum and becomes something that even the most tone deaf of brands become aware of, is the whole purposefully just ticking the diversity box thing. It’s highly probable that more and more brands are having meetings where they are actively discussing how they can avoid a social media backlash for a perceived lack of diversity. Not just that, many will be looking to come up with marketing campaigns that gain traction because they seem to be making diversity the standout thing feature of their promo. While it’s important we do applaud the brands that are clearly showcasing a range, in the hope it will encourage others to follow suit and eventually become normal to do so, it feels crazy that it should even be something we notice. Why is it special to see different colour skins in an advert together? Why is it inspiring to see a model without a limb or in a wheelchair? Why is it so refreshing to see scars and untouched skin? Why is it awesome to see a brand using models over the size of 8-10?

I don’t want brands to have to try. It’s really not hard, this shouldn’t be something they need to calculate, or graft to achieve. I know I can think of loads of wonderful Bloggers and Influencers of colour. I know I can also think of several bloggers who create great content who happen to have health issues or disabilities. I also know that even though I’m size 8, some of my favourite blogs to read are by people who are size 14 and above. Just because you don’t share the same dress size it doesn’t mean all the content they make, or the opinions they have, are suddenly irrelevant to you. That’s absurd. Sure because of the lack of sizing options in all of our go-to shops, they may occasionally be promoting shops that you won’t personally be shopping at, there’s still a hell of a lot of content that is relatable or applicable, and I wanna see them looking amazing in their outfit shots too, whether or not I can personally buy them at that store.

I have YouTuber friends who get invited to do interviews/blog work purely because they tick a certain box, and they’ve been fully aware of it too. The industry is saturated now, while there are more and more opportunities and more brand are allocating budgets to internet type people, it’s highly competitive and harder than ever to secure paid opportunities. It’s even harder when brands tend to use the same people again and again, rather that attempt to tap into new audiences. So of course if you’re chosen, you’re happy about it – we all have bills to pay and of course it’s always nice to feel wanted. But it’s definitely not a great feeling when you feel you’ve secured it for the wrong reason, Everyone has the right to feel like they’ve been chosen because they’re a good fit for the brand, but also because they are talented or skilled at what they do, because they’ve earned the opportunity, or can create the type of content they’re looking for to a high quality (or the quality they want). You don’t want to get it because you know the brand is trying to avoid the wrath of those highly alert to diversity issues.

Put everything else aside, surely it’s just bad business practice too. Why would any brand want to limit it’s appeal and reach like that? I know that sometimes it occurs that some bloggers with similar styles/looks/content end up becoming friends due to the events they repeatedly get invited to and then PR’s think it’s nice to invite them to events together so they can guarantee they’ll have a nice time. After-all happy bloggers = better, or more content. Also it means they can help each other get those boomerangs and solid main feed Instagram pictures because they don’t feel awkward to ask them to take 50 more shots till they’ve ‘nailed it’. But because these people often appeal to the same people, or now have increasingly shared audiences due to regular collabs, the brand has essentially wasted an opportunity by choosing their ‘invited ones ‘on this basis. If they’d instead opted for someone with a difference audience they could gain new customers/fans and perhaps appeal to people that may have previously not heard about the new product. They have have even converted someone who had pervasively believed that brand wasn’t for them.

PR’s should initially consider what content is useful to them. Do they want all platforms covered – perhaps find a mixture of influencers whose excel in different areas. The one that does fabulously beautiful or engaging instas-tories. The one that has a loyal audience on YouTube with good watch retention. The trusted blogger who is great with words. If they are looking for beautiful visual content to showcase their products/destination/clothing, look for the content creators who are known for beautiful photography (although if that’s the case you may need to consider inviting their official photographer too if they don’t actually take the pictures). If you’re looking to get a message out look for those that have a authentic passion for the issue/information you’re looking to get out there, the ones that often cover deeper issues or have an audience that clearly influences by what they say and not just what they wear. If you’re a clothing brand invite people that represent all of your current AND potential customers. Different sizes, different styles, different ages, people with invisible illness, people with visible disabilities. But what we do not need more of is inspiration porn, charity, patronising, condescension. We also don’t need temporary or half measures. We need consistency, not just one very transparent blow out campaign shouting about how much you embrace different types of beauty, for example.

When I think about my favourite big online store for instance. I’m for sure not going to stop shopping there throughout my thirties or forties, and whatever my health status I’m always going to be interested in fashion and the clothing featured on that site. Therefore I can say with confidence I’m always going to want to see people on my feeds that I relate to (for whatever reason), that can tell me what’s new-in for example. I’ll want to see people like me getting those opportunities, because in turn I will feel included.

I could go on about this for days but I know some more eloquent bloggers will continue this conversation until we are at a point where things feel a bit more balanced, which I truly hope will be sooner rather than later.

I so wish brands and their PR teams would regularly invite bloggers to chat only and honestly about how things could function better, and how the industry could be fairer in all areas, because it would become a much nicer environment for everyone to work within, and I know they’d get better results and far better value for money from their campaigns too. It really could be a win win situation for everyone in the long run.

But before I go, I do have to ask myself what I can do to be part of a change. Should I ask who else is coming before I say yes and challenge them about their guest-list if it appears to lack diversity? But if I do that, perhaps I should also consider challenging TV shows like Love Island too. Should I actively make a point of making it known I wish to see more females on festival line ups? Should I make a point of promoting bloggers I feel aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve because they’re being neglected by the brands? I’m not sure what the best way about it is from my side of things, but if you’re a PR reading this, there is a hell of a lot YOU can do immediately. It shouldn’t be something of stress, something that makes your job harder, it’s actually very easy and hopefully something some of you are already doing. There’s absolutely no excuses.

The outfit

Tee- from a flea market in LA (Fairfax)

Yellow denim skirt – Boohoo

Sandals from Shein

Straw bucket bag from Shein

This outfit may seem completely irrelevant to the article above, and largely it is. But look at the images. Is the way the photos are edited a bit familiar? Do you feel like you’ve seen this kinda imagery before? Well yes, your probably have. While I don’t want to do myself a disservice, I’m a hard worker and always try my best to create good content…but I have to admit there’s a lot of us creating similar visuals at the moment. Same tones, same poses, even the same outfits. Wouldn’t it be far more interesting if for every ad  you see pop up on your Instagram feed, you had an array of interpretations of it. Not a collection of bloggers just posting pictures that look pretty much the same. This is why brands should be working with different bloggers…you’ll get different results, and a product shown in many different and alternative lights. We don’t need repeats of the same things.

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