A funny thing happened while I was writing up the Constantia Wine Route post yesterday.
Firstly, I wanted to link back to the last Constantia Wine Route post I did. Standard practice there. I had a quick read through it as well.
And then, for some reason (alcohol + lack of an introduction + no name badge + my age (whatevs) + [one last excuse here]) I couldn’t recall the name of the guy who served us at Eagles’ Nest. UCT student, doing Business Science and Commerce, passion for wine, third season working there, favourite Eagles’ Nest wine: Viognier, top knot, possible beard. Nice chap. Nameless.
So I went to the Eagle’s Nest website, clicked on ABOUT and selected PEOPLE BEHIND OUR WINES. Maybe they had a ‘meet and greet our front room staff’ thing. They didn’t.
What they did have was the Executive Director, the Winemaker, the Farm Manger etc etc.
And they had this too:
That’s Kaylee Stewart. She’s the Brand Manager: Tasting Room, Sales & Marketing (Western Cape).
Says her blurb:
Kaylee joined the Eagles’ Nest team at the end of 2011 to build on her families involvement. Since, she has enthusiastically taken up the role of managing the tasting room, local Cape Town trade and fulfilling certain public relation and marketing roles.
(Families [sic] involvement being her Dad is the Executive Director)
But what would “fulfilling certain public relation and marketing roles” actually entail, though? And how would one prove oneself capable of handling such a taxing role?
Might it include putting promotional comments about Eagles’ Nest on blog posts about the Constantia Wine Route, even when the said blog posts don’t mention Eagles’ Nest?
What are the chances that someone called Kaylee Stewart thought that a wine farm run by Peter Stewart was the best of all the wine farms in the Constantia Valley? It’s almost too coincidental to not be the same Kaylee Stewart that now fulfils certain public relation and marketing roles.
And yet, it’s obviously not the same Kaylee Stewart because surely she would have mentioned that she took her family members down from England “because Dad is the Executive Director there”. And she would just have given her Pops a call and asked when the Shiraz was coming out, no? None of this “mid May if I am not mistaken” nonsense.
And yet, even if it were the same Kaylee Stewart (which it isn’t), then there’s nothing illegal about what she did. Rather disingenuous, ethically iffy, sure, but that’s about it.
If it had have been the same Kaylee Stewart (which it wasn’t) she would have known that if she had ‘come out’ as being connected to the Eagles’ Nest estate, readers would obviously have taken everything positive she said about the place with a pinch of salt. And so if it was her (and we’re all aware that it wasn’t) she would have simply omitted any reference to the fact that it was her family’s business anyway. Clever lady.
(It’s worth noting that according to the website, the real Kaylee Stewart wasn’t working for the vineyard when the comment was posted.)
For me, it raises an interesting point with regard to bloggers recommending products. We wouldn’t have believed what the real Kaylee Stewart had said if we’d known about her family’s business, and yet people still read blog posts for which the blogger has been paid or has received free accommodation/food/services or goods and they lap up the positive reviews. It works for the blogger, because they get money and/or free stuff, and it works for the company involved because they get the positive review and the increase in sales. We can all name several (or more) local blogs that do this.
People aren’t going to believe everything that they read, though, are they? Except obviously yes, enough of them do, because otherwise it would all stop. Personally, I can’t understand it. It’s actually fairly depressing that no-one seems to think any deeper than the actual words they are reading when there’s a paid-for review. Most of the time there’s absolutely no disclosure by the blogger anyway, so I guess you’d never know.
These days, when I get asked to do reviews on stuff, I make it clear from the outset that if it’s not very good, I will write that it’s not very good. And suddenly there are very few takers. Maybe because they don’t have the confidence in the product, but more likely that they know that they can get the next blogger they call to write something nice – however poor the actual experience – by just giving them some money or make up or a helicopter trip or a phone or whatever.
Whatever happened to integrity, hey?