Blogger Etiquette at Trade/Sportmans Shows

Chris Hunt, the Director of Communications for Trout Unlimited and the owner of, brought up a very interesting question recently on a Google+ fly fishing group. And having thought about it for a little while I think it is something that ALL bloggers need to think about when attending a Trade/Sportsman’s Show.

Here is what Chris had to say verbatim:

“I had a few conversations with some industry folks recently about the blogosphere, and I am hearing a lot of the same concerns, and I think rightly so. At shows and expos, it seems that a few bloggers are becoming nuisances, particularly when vendors are trying to line up purchases, book clients and otherwise conduct business.

The biggest irritation? “I’m trying to work and make a living, and here comes a blogger asking for free gear.”

Many of us, myself included; review gear and many of us (myself included) have accepted freebies to review. The question: Do we ask for free stuff or do we wait until we’re approached by those in the industry? Or is there a hybrid answer? Thoughts?”

This question spawned a number of very interesting responses from a number of people within the fly fishing blogosphere. One theme that seems to be a common thread is the fact that there are a number of bloggers who attend Trade/Sportman’s shows and do constantly ask for free stuff just because they are bloggers. There is a common agreement that the individuals who do this end up giving the outdoor industries involved, not just fly fishing, but backpacking, water sports, and hunting a way of painting all bloggers into a common category of individuals that they want to avoid like the plague.

One of the biggest complaints that I heard from a number of the companies was the fact that bloggers are coming to the booths and monopolizing the vendors time. Vendors are at the shows to make sales and get bookings to pay their bills. It appears to some vendors that "some" bloggers try and continue talking to the vendor for a long period of time in hopes that if they keep them away from their other clients long enough that the vendor will give them a free item or discount just to get rid of the blogger.

One vendor I spoke to stated that they do not give or send out free gear unless they have a past relationship  with the individual blogger. And even then the vendor makes a decision on whether to send items to bloggers dependent on how that blogger has helped or not helped the sales of the vendor. Another vendor stated that if someone wants to do a review, the vendor would prefer that the reviewer purchase the item and use the item as their own. The vendor might offer a discount on the item but it is not necessary that they do.(Note A)

Because many vendors do not typically give free gear to bloggers, you might ask in as diplomatic a manner whether they might have a loaner model that you could review and return to them. Some vendors I spoke with stated that they have done that in the past and it has worked for them.

Another comment that I heard from a few people was the fact that when brand new bloggers contact a vendor and request free stuff it is extremely irritating. You need to prove yourself to the industry first, not have the vendor prove themselves to you!

If you do receive free gear or a discount on an item, please make sure that you state in your review of that item that you have received one or the other. I say this because there are legal ramifications to this statement and it will also allow your readers to read and respect your writing. Honesty is key when it comes to reviews, both after you have written a post and when you are speaking with a vendor.

This is not say that you cannot approach a gear manufacturer and request freebies. But if you do, most, if not all manufacturers appreciate a sense of decorum and humility from those requesting free or even loaner items.

That being said there are some standards that need to be followed by bloggers.

1. Vendors are at the shows to make sales and get bookings to pay their bills. Do not monopolize a vendors time. All it does is make them lose potential business and the vendor will do their best to stay far away from you and other bloggers.

2. Purchase the item and review the item as a consumer not as a blogger. The vendor might offer a discount but do not force the issue if they do not.

3. If you are a brand new blogger do not start requesting free stuff right away! Prove yourself first!

4. If free items or discounts received let your readers know this.

5. Honesty is #1!!!!!

6. Be smart if requesting freebies and be humble. It is all about the vendor not you!!!!!!

I hope that this post will help those who are new to blogging or those with some time and experience blogging. The biggest thing I think that we all, as bloggers, need to remember is that requesting freebies can be OK if the situation warrants it. But if you do request freebies and get a negative response from a vendor you also need to remember that "One bad egg ruins the whole basket!" Don't be that "bad egg" by following these simple guidelines and you will succeed as a blogger and won't paint the "good" bloggers into a corner that they cannot get out of because of your poor behavior at sportsmans shows and expos.

(A) This vendor does offer a full money back guarantee. But do not abuse a full money back guarantee either.

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