A response to ‘A Very British Country House’ by Channel 4

I started this blog six years ago. At the time, it was a way to tell my family back home what I was up to and show them photos of my travels as I went from Thailand to Malaysia with some girlfriends. My blog has always been a space to share stories about gorgeous travel places, things to see in London, restaurants to try, outfits that I am in love with amongst many other topics.

I had started the blog after a recommendation from a work colleague. I was working in London for a PR Consultancy – My first ‘professional’ job. Back then, I didn’t really know what a blogger was. I soon learned very quickly, as we were already matching bloggers with huge travel and food companies for campaigns (this was SEVEN years ago).

Now, I am fully aware of the ins and outs that being a blogger entails. We don’t just write an article, stick our name on it and get our pay cheque. We read and write contracts, we employ people, we are photographers, we are commercial models (I say that with a pinch of salt, I don’t consider myself a model, but by definition, we pose for photos…), we edit videos, we handle accounts, we write articles (some of us even write books!), we negotiate deals, we are fashion designers, we are actors, we are content creators, we are brand consultants, we have columns in newspapers and magazines (!) we are public speakers and a lot of us do it as a one man (or woman) band. That list, by the way, is not exhaustive.

When I came back from travelling, I continued the blog. I met my now husband and we embarked on a typical life in London (shared house, struggling to pay rent and still have a social life. We love you anyway London!) I continued to write on this space and take photos because I LOVE IT. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to one day be invited to destinations I had dreamed of visiting my entire life. NEVER did I think I would be offered free stays at hotels and I certainly NEVER expected to get PAID for it. But, as (successful) advertising started to change quickly, brands realised they had to find ways to keep up. The clever brands realised they could employ bloggers (and more recently influencers too – note, a blogger and an influencer are two different professions) in order to promote their clothing, airline, hotel, car brand, toothpaste, nappies – because, you name it, a blogger has worked with it.

A few years of being an ‘Instagram Boyfriend’ and I convinced Ben to try standing in front of the camera for a change. We saw a gap in the market and took it. Within weeks he was being offered campaigns (where it took me years of building up my website), his Instagram was growing in followers, and views to his blog were flooding in. It just proved that we had been right about the gap and also proves that if you have an idea for something you think will succeed, you should run with it!

Soon, we started to be invited on press trips together. Hotels saw our niche – working as a couple but on two completely separate websites with different audiences, and it worked for them. We have been incredibly lucky to go on some incredible press trips in our time blogging, with other bloggers AND Journalists. I say ‘AND Journalists’ because out of the the recent negative publicity towards us that the programme ‘A Very British Country House’ has garnered, the majority of it has been from journalists.

Side note – Journalists whose colleagues go on exactly the same trips that we are invited on!

Sometimes, the articles that I see in papers/magazines after the trips, are a small paragraph write up with stock photos sent from the Hotel’s PR Team. This, OF COURSE, is not true for all the journalists I have been on trips with, and we usually have a mutual respect of the other’s profession.  However, I am mentioning this as an example to draw comparison between the work we do.

Whenever we (bloggers) are invited on a press trip, we spend our time taking photos of everything from the room, to the spa, to the food and the day trips we go on. Quite often we are posting an Instagram or two every day. Updating our audience with Instagram stories throughout the day, along with the rest of our social media platforms. Quite often, we are also filming for our YouTube channels. When the trip has concluded, we write up/edit a number of blog posts and videos about the hotel and trip. I completely appreciate that my views may not match the readership of a paper or magazine and that our audiences may also be completely different. What I am trying to say, is that this practice of ‘Press Trips’ and hosted stays for media is not a new concept. It has been around for decades. It just happens that bloggers are sometimes offering more media coverage (in terms of physical coverage) as a result of these trips.

Ben and I have had a great relationship with Cliveden for a number of years now. We absolutely love it and will continue to support it for many years to come. When they asked us to help film a project for Channel 4, we jumped at the opportunity to publicly support our favourite hotel in the world. Having seen (and loved) the previous programmes Channel 4 had filmed for other hotels, most notably the Mandarin Oriental in London, we were excited for Cliveden to be offered the same chance for publicity (not that it ever needed it anyway).

Ben and I excitedly anticipated the episode, after the Channel 4 team had told us we would be in the first programme. We had spent an hour in our room with the film crew, talking about the house, the Meghan Markle effect, the history, why we loved the house so much, what we thought of the staff (we love them all) and a little about blogging and what it meant to be a blogger in today’s world. I had mentally prepared answers to any blogging questions, as I had a feeling there would be some. These answers had been carefully thought out and I versed them in as eloquent a way that I could. We discussed lifestyle blogging and the question was asked ‘Why would someone follow a luxury lifestyle blogger’ which I thought I gave a very conclusive and thoughtful answer to.

Unfortunately, the answer was sandwiched between a few other answers that, stitched together, didn’t portray us in the most flattering light. To be completely honest, I had slightly suspected this could happen and I wasn’t shocked. It’s a television programme and a story. In every story, there’s a hero and a villain. They wanted to get people talking about it on social media and we just happened to be their chosen villains.

What I hadn’t prepared myself for, was the torrent of horrible messages on Twitter about us following the programme. I had avoided them. Annoyingly, I stumbled upon them on the Sunday night just before I closed my eyes to sleep. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry over the comments. Of course I bloody cried, I’m only human! But then, I realised that those people don’t know me, they don’t know my husband and they are not (and probably will never be) part of our lives.

What I also hadn’t prepared myself for, was a number of completely uneducated and poorly written articles about myself and my husband.

Blogging is a profession (YES A PROFESSIONAL JOB THAT WE GET PAID TO DO AND OFFERS ACTUAL RESULTS TO BUSINESSES WE WORK WITH.) Blogging has been around for over ten years. TEN YEARS. In my opinion it is completely unacceptable for educated people to still have the assumption that we are (to quote one award winning journalist) ‘detestable freeloaders’.

The same aforementioned journalist wrote an entire article littered with profanities about myself and my husband and our stay at Cliveden. I would have hoped that this might be a balanced article discussing the ins and outs of our industry. Instead, she chewed up her bullish words, spat them on a page, called it journalism and a paper decided to print it and pay her for the work. I’ve never met this woman and really don’t know why she’s decided to detest us so much. To say I have not done a thing to merit my lifestyle discredits the six-plus years of hard work on my blog (three of which were willingly unpaid), alongside a professional career. It also discredits the thousands of other bloggers and their MILLIONS of followers. I can only assume she’s upset that us bloggers are posing a threat to her career, by offering information to our followers FOR FREE. Rather than charging per subscription.

I was going to ignore the backlash, the hate and the comments, but I’m not prepared to stand aside and let a handful of people attempt to discredit the entire blogging industry. As I’ve mentioned already, blogging isn’t new. New jobs are being created EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Many of them, online or freelance roles. Personally, I think it’s incredible and long may it continue!

To my fellow bloggers, thank you for always supporting one another and for proving that one person CAN do it all. Who knows where blogging will be in another ten years or where technology will take us. All I know is that I’m looking forward to the journey!