Extract from Tarek’s post
Ever since we started BlogBaladi, we’ve always had this golden rule that we don’t do adverts, sponsored posts or whatever you may call them. I honestly didn’t have much experience on how to deal with agencies but Mark would always advise me on what’s wrong or right for the blog and its credibility, given that he had experience with his original blog back in Kuwait. I had specific guidelines that I’ve been following since Day1, that consisted of never posting stuff in exchange for money or a freebie, avoid reviewing a restaurant or a venue following an invite, and always being honest with our readers and I’ve never faded from these 3 points. I don’t do sponsored stories and I NEVER GOT PAID to post anything whether some people wish to believe it or not.
In fact, I’ve had to turn down in the last couple of years a bunch of awesome freebies (which included a $1000 TV and half a dozen smart phones) because I wanted to keep the blog’s reputation intact, and what I would usually do is suggest that I give away the item or service (If I believe it’s worth blogging about) to the blog’s readers instead of giving it back, or just give it back. As far as giveaways are concerned, and I’ve been advised many times to stay away from them as they sound out the wrong message, I like doing them because it makes the blog more engaged with its readers and I get to know the readers better and meet them in real life. It gives me personal satisfaction to let them share the same experience I’ve had and have their feedback on the matter, plus it’s a fun and harmless activity for everyone.
Now you may wonder why I am writing all this. It’s because a fellow Lebanese Blogger, Tarek Chemali, found it necessary to write a whole post on the Valentine dinner I am giving away, to try and say that it can’t be just a give away and that I am getting something in return for it. Well I hate to break it to you Tarek but it is a simple giveaway and I was the one who approached Le Gray’s PR and asked them to organize this as I wanted to do something for Valentine and I’ve enjoyed in the past year my visits to Le Gray, which by the way were personal visits, as well as a book signing and Ivy’s big reveal event. Come to think of it, most if not all of the giveaways I’ve run on this blog were initiated by me and not the business in question, just because I thought the readers would be interested in such things and because I love doing them.
Having said that, and this is addressed to you Tarek: I’ve been a keen follower of your blog for years now and shared your posts on several occasions     because I liked what I saw not because you asked me to. I look for appealing and interesting material (For me at least) and I share it or write my comments on it. It’s as simple as that for me and it will never change.
I still need the TV that I could have gotten for free, I am NOT going to Le Gray on Valentine but ironically to another hotel which I fully paid for, I’ve paid for every smartphone I’ve ever had, I rarely make it to most of the events I get invited to, I avoid invites to newly open restaurants or pubs and usually go alone at least two or three times before reviewing it and most of the freebies bloggers get in Lebanon are crap.
Of course not everyone agrees with my approach, and obviously you are one of them, but I don’t find it justifiable that you bad-mouth and disrespect me and the blog without having any proof to back your theory. Of course you are free to do and post whatever you want, but please don’t speak to me about blog ethics when you’re labeling me as a #sharmoutAD. The same way you believe some of your ads, such as the Exotica Dubai one, is better than the original one, try to have some faith in Lebanese bloggers and believe that they are not for sale and have some dignity after all. Nothing is for free indeed but nothing is more important than being respected and respectful and that is earned with time and is priceless. Moreover, earning such a reputation changes the way agencies and businesses deal with you as you start building friendships and have the upper hand when it comes to posting about a certain brand or product or service.
If you believe you have some tips to offer on how to enhance my blogging skills, and I’ve already taken into consideration ur comments in previous posts, feel free to drop me an email (since we do exchange emails from time to time) and I will be glad to discuss this anywhere you want. We could even hold a tweetup (without freebies or sponsors) and discuss this live because I have nothing to hide or disclose from BlogBaladi’s readers.