How NOT to Handle a Collaboration Request When it Comes to Influencer Marketing

In the world of PR and social media, pitching is a common tactic that is used across the board. If you’re not familiar with the term, pitching is essentially the action of offering your idea to someone else in the hopes that they’ll be on board with what you want to do. Some methods of pitching include:

  • A PR agency pitching a client that they represent to a magazine editor so that their client is included in next month’s issue
  • A consulting agency pitching their expertise to a brand to showcase why their skill set is valuable and should be hired
  • A content creator pitching an upcoming trip to a hotel for free accommodations in exchange for content

Pitching started long before the dawn of social media and is now considered a standard practice across the marketing industry.

Also Read: The Influencer Crowd

Often times pitching and the negotiation that comes out of it occurs behind closed doors, and consumers only see the outcome—a beautiful magazine spread, a successful marketing strategy, stunning visual content on a blogger’s Instagram or a YouTuber’s travel vlog. What consumers don’t see is the back and forth negotiation between the pitcher and the receiver.

YouTuber Elle Darby recently came under fire when The White Moose Cafe in Dublin posted her email pitch on their public Facebook Page.

A snippet of her original email to the hotel pulled from the Independent:

“I work as a social media influencer, mainly lifestyle, beauty & travel based.

“My partner and I are planning to come to Dublin for an early Valentine’s Day weekend from Feb 8th to 12th to explore the area.

“As I was searching for places to stay, I came across your stunning hotel and would love to feature you in my YouTube videos/dedicated Instagram stories/posts to bring traffic to your hotel and recommend others to book up in return for free accommodation.”

Also Read: The Influencer Economy is Booming

A typical and professional response might include a simple “no, sorry” or even radio silence. Paul Stenson, The White Moose Café owner, instead chose to post the email that he received onto his Hotel’s Facebook page with his response:

“Dear Social Influencer (I know your name but apparently it’s not important to use names),

“Thank you for your email looking for free accommodation in return for exposure. It takes a lot of balls to send an email like that if not much self-respect and dignity.

“If I let you stay here in return for a feature in a video, who is going to pay the staff who look after you? Who is going to pay the housekeepers who clean your room?

“The waiters who serve you breakfast? The receptionist who checks you in? Who is going to pay for the light and heat you use during your stay?

“Maybe I should tell my staff they will be featured in your video in lieu of receiving payment for work carried out while you’re in residence?”

“P.S. The answer is no.”

Visitors to his page were quick to identify the sender, as the censoring was apparently done with a roughly ~80% opacity. Users noted that if you squinted or even simply turned up the brightness, you could still make out the name.

The post has since been removed, but comments calling her “entitled” and “a freeloader” still resonate, which prompted Elle to film and post this video onto her YouTube channel in defense of her actions:

As you may expect, supporters of Elle reigned down their own backlash onto the Dublin hotel across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

“Following the backlash received after asking an unidentified blogger to pay for a hotel room, I have taken the decision to ban all bloggers from our hotel and café. The sense of entitlement is just too strong in the blogging community” Stenson writes.

Turning to our industry-leading influencers for their opinions, we received the below thoughts:

“When traveling, I frequently pitch accommodation collaborations. I always do my research first to make sure that the place that I’m pitching is actually in line with the content that I would regularly post— proving that I would like the place regardless. There have been many times where I’ve been in the opposite situation and hotels/resorts pitch me a collaboration. This is standard practice. If at any time either parties aren’t interested, it’s as easy as saying no or even simply ignoring the email. I’ve never felt the need or malicious intent to expose anyone or write a publicly scathing letter in response. Nor have I received that either. Why? Because we are all mature professionals. There’s no point in burning ourselves down in the process of not agreeing with someone’s pitch.” Victoria Hui (@thelustlistt)

“I’ve participated in numerous staycation campaigns that have been pitched to me directly from a hotel—-more so than I’ve ever pitched back to them. While I understand that there is a cost involved to cover the salary of employees who work at the establishment, this would be coming from a PR/marketing budget, which is a lot less than their typical campaigns. My rates are a fraction of what it would cost for a magazine or billboard spread. And I pride myself on spending the time to curate content that resonates well with my followers. I wouldn’t necessarily reach out to a brand if I didn’t think that my audience or personal aesthetic would be a fit.” Sylvia Jade (YouTube Channel: @beautycakez)

Also Read: Digital Influencers Preferred Over Celebrities for Brand Endorsements in 2017

It’s worth noting that while many brands/business owners may not be fans of influencer marketing, and may often be approached in a manner that appears entitled, platforms such as Buzz & Go exist to mitigate such relationships – ultimately proving that the tourism industry relies just as heavily on influencers, as influencers do on the tourism industry.


The lesson here? If working with an influencer isn’t right for you – just say so. It is important to understand that influencers are creative professionals and treat their content creation/storytelling like a business. Not everyone sees the value in influencer marketing yet (and that’s ok) but public humiliation is definitely not the answer.

Recommended Read: Influencers Who Work Harder Deserve Deeper Rewards

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