All Four Seasons without an Olive

My wife Megha, attended an event at Olive organized by Four Seasons Wines from United Breweries thanks to her new found friend Rushina (food blogger). While I usually write the reviews on Megha’s blog “Live to Eat!!!” now known as “I2Cook”, this was an all cooking blogger event with single representation and hence I gladly sat this one out. The event was a good one as brought out in the words of Vinda Dravid (food blogger): –

“Being an eager amateur at wine tasting and pairing, a recent Food Bloggers’ Dinner at Olive, Mahalaxmi Race Course, Mumbai, hosted by the acclaimed Four Seasons Wines of the UB group in India was an enlightening experience for me and most certainly a doorway into the mystifying yet alluring realm of wines.  It also gave me the opportunity to socialize with my fellow food bloggers.”

So what prompts me to write about an event that I never attended?

I am a digital marketing specialist and run campaigns for corporates through the digital medium. I have been a part of this trade for the past 6 years. So what happens when a corporate like UB is prompted to setup a PR event at an upmarket ‘Olive’ for bloggers. What do the stakeholders expect and are they getting it?

Why should we bother?

A blogger organised it and is a friend? Such events take a lot of work and co-ordination to setup as pointed out in the words of Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal (Blogger and organiser): –

“And what a crazy dew days it was getting it all together, with mails going back and forth between me and Melissa Serao of Grey, planning the where, when and how, planning menus and sending invitations. But it all came together in the end, thanks to Melissa who did all the groundwork and on the 19th about 18 bloggers (the most ever) settled down to a degustation dinner.”

It is human nature to look at the economic gain and react accordingly and bloggers are no different as pointed out in the words of Vishwas Kasat(Food blogger):-

“We were told to reach at 8 pm but I reached around 8:30 PM and as previous blogger meet at Indian Harvest I was almost the last one to reach. Settled down with fellow bloggers and then we were first given a menu which had a four course Salad, Starters, Main Course and Dessert (tea and coffee at the end but who is interested in that when one has wine)”

Kasat is really fond of food as his blog suggests and influenced by fellow writers but may be more interested in the wine than the olive.

It intrigued me to write when Megha explained the aftermath of the event and informed me that most bloggers felt that it may not be ethically right to write for free wine and is purely PR driven. This is not just her expression but is brought out in the words of Pranav Kacholia(food blogger) as well. The interesting part is the Disclaimer.

“What happens when you take a bunch of food bloggers and throw in a wine expert? You get the first Bombay Food Bloggers dinner of 2011. It was an event courtesy of the UB Group who wanted to introduce us to various wines, from their Four Seasons brand, that can be paired with the different parts of a full four course meal.

Disclaimer:
I have not reviewed any of the food or wines on this post. As this was a PR event it would not be ethical of me to do so.”

The disclaimer brings out the fact that the olive comes free with the wine. While I believe that the photos Pranav has put up are sweet wine which can be valued as payment for a good olive. I believe the PR guys would agree with me here.

Just to bring some perspective, the organising of olives costs wine that more than all the 18 bloggers present might sweeten or brew through their blogs to UB or Olive. It is a combination of several such olives that makes the wine worth the Olive for a corporate to brew bloggers.

So has the corporate or Olive made a mistake? I am sure that the PR agency would differ and call this more than an experiment. Digital media gives us the power to talk to specific people and bring affinities together. So who do you call for such an event? Was it incorrect to call Kalyan Karmakar for such an event?

“I was seated at a little table beside the main table. Caught up with a couple of old friends, Rushina and Jyotika. Wouldn’t have made it but for the earnest urgings from both of them.  Met some new folks – couple of charming ladies from the agency that organized the evening and a Chino German animator who was marooned in India after the film she came to make got delayed. I missed out on the wine lecture though. Well, as they say bad boys have all the fun.

Hopefully, looked enough of a ‘connoisseur’ to not make the sponsors question the organizers for inviting me.”

Kalyan like all the other bloggers present is a lover and promoter of good food as is brought out in his blog but could not bother differentiating between the non-existent olive and the wine on a no cash event.

The corporate invests in these olives to have influential bloggers taste their produce of wine and differentiate it from the olive for their readers who are waiting to choose. Has the wine turned sour? Not really. There are great bloggers out here in Mumbai and can write brilliant reviews on subjects that they know; like I believe Nikhil Merchant (food blogger) did who also attended.

As the 3 lakh odd bloggers in India evolve into a unified influential strength the corporates are bound to approach more bloggers to test, taste and affirm belief into their wine and olives. While these tests may seem free they should be obligatory to a blogger in the interest of the blogging community. PR is always going to be around to motivate you but should not influence your direction. That is what marks bloggers apart from the population. But you guys already know that because you have followers created out of sour grapes.

The bitter taste of not writing might be greater as the corporates will have less belief in the bloggers and may feel that they received less than their worth of olive. On the other hand the bloggers who did write will lose future wine.

While it is difficult for a PR agency or corporate to choose the right bloggers, we as bloggers must say NO when the subject does not auscultate a reaction to an olive. Will all the next four seasons remain without an olive is for bloggers to choose? Every olive counts and marks the growing strength of a blogger. I write reviews based on the feelings that the offering creates and will not be afraid to differentiate an olive from a wine or to call an olive the bitter taste of nature based on the nature of the barrel.

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10 Comments on “All Four Seasons without an Olive”

  1. Kalyan says:

    Actually I couldn’t make out the part which went “Kalyan like all the other bloggers present is a lover and promoter of good food as is brought out in his blog but could not bother differentiating between the non-existent olive and the wine… on a no cash event.”

    The obtuse language apart I didn’t know we had gone there to review the food. But I did have a point on the food which I had shared. And I had a point of view on the wine which I shared.

    I was again lost in the paragraph which went … “The bitter taste of not writing might be greater as the corporates will have less belief in the bloggers and may feel that they received less than their worth of olive. On the other hand the bloggers who did write will lose future wine.” but I would like to believe that most of us there hadn’t gone for a bottle of free wine.

    And can afford it too

    And it wasn’t a ‘cooking blogger event’ …assuming you mean ‘an event where bloggers are cooked

    • deokule says:

      @Kalyan: There are several questions here so I am breaking each into a para of answer.

      The endeavour here is that once you attend such an event nobody can force you to write anything. Having said that the opposite works true as well, just because you do not pay for it..does not mean that you need to write good so just write what you think…the way it marks you apart as a blogger.

      If you are not expressly told to write a review then why write anything about UB or Olive or the food. If you did, then why debate about about whether you paid or it came free?

      I have not brought up the subject of affordability anywhere, but was pointing out the future ramifications of not writing for such events. The corporate expects you to write a few words not because they cannot afford free hosting of dinners but because they do it for that very reason…can you think of any other where they would spend on us?

      Thank you for pointing out that it was not a “cooking blogger” event cause all the blogs I have pointed out to called it wine, four seasons, Olive but not one blog that headed the writeup as a food bloggers meet alone.

  2. Shanky says:

    I found the excessive play on “olive” and “four seasons” made the text very hard to comprehend. 21 olives were on offer, and I gave up after trying to keep track of the first few.

    I think the point is that Olive and Four Seasons may have wasted its money if bloggers choose not to write about the food or the wine, but PR excercises are all about soft influence, rarely as direct as a “Yes” certificate from a collection of amateurs. See how much was been written about the dinner itself, and about the wine brand. Corporates aim these events at awareness without stressing over the occassional upside of an endorsement. Even in a press conference, the first aim of a corporate is to get written about – hopefuly there will be ringing of praise, but the main aim is the number of column inches while avoiding anything outrightly negative (though even bad reviews are better than none).

    • deokule says:

      @Shanky I appreciate the insight, I will try and improve the use of the metaphors (olive and wine), in future to make it more simple to comprehend. “Olive” was used to refer to the event mostly. 🙂

      The corporate may not have wasted money here as they run several experiments to understand their consumers and this olive can be treated as another attempt to listen to their influencers/customers. However, the bloggers as a community needs to stand by what they say and say something as rightly pointed out in your comment.

  3. Jyotika Purwar says:

    I think this article is very badly written. I was one of the organizers of the event. You have not even got your facts right. Misconstruing what the bloggers have written and taking taking their blog posts out of context is very wrong. You did not even attend the event. Of course this is your space and you are welcome to write whatever you want. This is not even well researched. Badly written, badly researched, out of context, all I can say politely to you is- go suck an egg or wait – go suck an olive.

    • deokule says:

      Jyotika, the organiser who never got mentioned as an organiser in any of the blogs I went through before 28th jan 2011. Please do point out the blog which gives me the information. By the way would you care to explain what your role was and how many organisers there were. It seems you are unhappy that I did not mention your name. Perhaps you should take this up with the people you invited for mentioning the organisers but not you!

      I have made a mention of six different bloggers who wrote about the event which is a good sample size for an event that had 18 (33%). Its been two days since and not one of them have come back to say that their content was picked out of context. Let me close this here by saying that the stats show that all of them have visited the blog post.

      The grammer used in the last sentence of your post is poor and out of context. “politely” does not go with “go suck an egg or wait – go suck an olive.” unless you love olives or eggs and intend me to copy what you do out of your love for them.

      Context: The context is not the event you helped organise (if u did) but the debate about bloggers refusing to write on a sponsored event where they accept an invitation but feel uncomfortable to write about the event. The point here is that corporates will have to offer free products to facilitate reviews and then the blogger has a choice to place their positive and/or negative views on it, rather than condemn writing based on its free nature. Further, if you do not have any view then that is fine as well. Since you have made no mention of the event on your own blog after supposedly helping to organise social give aways!

      P.S. If you think my blog post is badly written you are free not to visit again.

  4. Vishwas says:

    Your post is somewhat interesting and actually i did not get the part on what exactly Kasat said. Yes i am influenced by fellow writer and i think you might have just seen my only blogpost because the menu was so expansive and remembering the names of the wine was difficult for me.

    If you had read more post on my blog i guess you would not be tempted to write it.

    All i can say it was your point of view……but it was kinda a personal attack on everyone without knowing everyone.

    You are, I think Judging the book by its cover.

    • deokule says:

      @Vishwas I have gone through the rest of your blogs and I think they suggest that you really love food which I did mention. The influence from other bloggers comes out after reading several blog posts on your blog, and yes it is my perception after reading through your blog. Having said that, I believe this is how bloggers evolve and we all are influenced to various degrees; and I think that this does NOT make your blog less of a read as I intend to keep visiting it, as it gives me a perspective of good taste and its availability.

      However, I have only taken this particular blog excerpt of yours in order to maintain pertinence. My mention of your blog excerpt was only to point out human nature in bloggers to look at economic gain which goes for all of us.

      I am not judging anyone here and if anyone feels that this was an attempt at a personal attack, my apologies for not being able to correct the misinterpretation.

      As my earlier answer to Jyotika’s comment points out, the idea is to bring forth the debate on why bloggers whould shy away from raising a view on a sponsored event/product/etc. Based on the fact that you have accepted the sponsorship, it is an obligation to raise a view, positive/negative or no comment.

      However, it would be incorrect for a blogger to accept sponsorship and refuse to take any action or take an action with conditions. If there was no condition placed while the sponsorship was offered then there should not be counter conditions either. The puspose of the post is to bring this debate up now as the topic will dog several bloggers in the days to come and it needs to be addressed before the bloggers lose out in any way.

  5. Kuru says:

    Hmm … to start of with too many olives.

    No offence folks but ….
    What I cant get a handle on is what the whole ‘ethical’ issue is all about.
    U go somewhere bcoz u r invited, why ever not?
    U sample something and comment about it … freedom of expression
    the sponsor is plugging his/her/their product … only an idiot wouldn’t know that.
    if those who are considered influential are invited to exercise their discerning palates i for one see no problem
    if you do a goody report of a lousy product u might get invited but u’ll lose credibility and that’ll be the end of your influentiality and the reason to be invited
    methinks we sometimes take ourselves too seriously
    but then i’m a newbie at this and blog bcoz i like it …….


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