I didn’t set out to be an influencer. I love traveling, and documenting our travels, and inspiring other people to take their kids to amazing places. As I built social media followings, however, I started getting partnership offers. I said no (and continue to say no) to most of them. We don’t drink soda or energy drinks, so I turn those down. I think Crypto is largely a pyramid scheme, and NFTs don’t make sense to me on any level, so I’d never tell my followers that I think they should invest in them. If it’s not a product that we love and that I feel really good promoting, I won’t do it.
In mid-March a PR / influencer marketing agency called Wolf 36 reached out to me with a potential partnership for Death on the Nile. I loved the idea. It was travel-focused, there could be a cooking element, it would be a much-needed date night for my wife and me, and we wanted to see the movie. I quoted it below my normal rates, and I believed that my partnership, rate and campaign ideas were approved. And then things went wrong.
I’ve literally never had a bad marketing partnership before this. Clients over and over again have told me that my content is excellent and that I’m professional and easy to work with. I’m posting the correspondence thread below for two reasons:
- I loved my content for this, and I won’t be posting it to Instagram. So I wanted to post it somewhere, with the background.
- I’m completely confused by this experience. Whether you’re a content creator, a PR professional, or a reader of my travel content, I’d love your opinion. Did I misunderstand anything? What am I missing?
And a note: just as every marketing campaign isn’t perfect for me, I’m not perfect for many campaigns. It’s completely feasible that I wasn’t right for this campaign. No hard feelings. But no one told me that until after I had completed the deliverables.
The Email Correspondence
We’re helping 20th Century Studios promote its latest film, Death on the Nile, and identified you as a possible influencer partner. We’re open to ideas for the concept.
We’d like to have all content created in the coming weeks.
What are the rates for:
- Dedicated YouTube video
- Instagram Carousel Post and Stories
Once we hear back from you, we’d love to get this moving ASAP.
Account Coordinator | Wolf 36
On Thu, Mar 17, 2022 at 7:07 AM Eric Stoen <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Thank you for the email. I’d love to work with you. I’ve never promoted a current theater release.
My wife grew up going to Agatha Christie movies with her dad and then dreaming about traveling to those places. Some of her favorite childhood memories. I’d be happy to go see the movie in the theater in the next couple days with my wife, photograph us there, and talk about how much we loved the movie and how Egypt has been on our travel wish list for years but now it’s at the top. In a carousel I could add official film graphics if you want, or I could ask friends for a few Egypt photos to include. I’m open to anything.
I don’t do much on YouTube. For Instagram I’d charge $3,500 for a carousel and several stories. That’s below my standard rate as this sounds like a fun partnership, and it really would be fun going to a theater for the first time in several years and having an actual date with my wife! Plus she broke her knee over Christmas and over the past two months has slowly regained her mobility. She’s now at the point where she could comfortably walk into the theater and sit for two hours, which wasn’t the case just a week ago. A movie date would celebrate that as well.
Travel Babbo | Take Your Kids Everywhere!®
great news – our client approved. We can brainstorm something for your movie night date – what if you don’t recreate the perfect movie night at home or in a backyard – maybe “Egypt theme” we will provide you a storyboard – but let me know if you had time to brainstorm anything else.
On Thu, Mar 17, 2022 at 1:07 PM Eric Stoen <email@example.com> wrote:
Fun! We were already thinking along a similar path and ordered an Egyptian cookbook. My wife is always cooking based on our travels, but also bringing in cuisines from places we haven’t been to yet. She frequently cooks Polish, Georgian and Afghani food, and now we’ll be able to add Egyptian to that as a lead-in to seeing the movie.
I assumed you would want this theater-based as the movie’s not yet streaming. Do you want us to watch (and document) it at home instead? Either is fine.
This partnership aims to encourage people to buy the film on Blu-ray. We will provide you with the link and codes to watch it and document it. I love the idea of ordering an Egyptian cookbook- it can be a fun movie night.
On Thu, Mar 17, 2022 at 1:33 PM Eric Stoen <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
We can watch on our tv inside, or I we can set up a movie night outside easily enough. However, our older projector only shows DVDs, and our newer one is blocked from streaming services. If you have a suggestion for an outdoor projector that works with the service that you’re providing us a code for, please let me know and I’ll order it.
this is amazing. Unfortunately, I don’t have one in the back of my mind – but I was doing some research, and I found some( Projectors ). Let me know if you see something. We will provide you with the code!
I ordered a projector off Amazon, along with a Fire stick, that should work. Everything will be here tomorrow.
Do you have any more content guidance, or should we just have a date night over the weekend, cook up an Egyptian meal, and then set up an outdoor screening of Death on the Nile and document everything? Will I send you draft posts before I go live? What day do you want me to post?
Good morning Donatella. I wanted to follow up on the Death On The Nile campaign. I now have the projector and it’s working perfectly. Can you please send me the streaming code for the movie and let me know when you want me to post? My wife just needs six hours of notice or so to prepare an Egyptian meal.
Is it possible to get the streaming code for Death on the Nile soon? We have the projector, Fire Stick, a screen, three Egyptian cookbooks and some Egyptian ingredients, so we’re ready. And we’re excited to watch the movie. We’d love to have our movie night tomorrow or over the weekend.
Now that Death on the Nile is streaming, we will plan our Egyptian date night for tonight or tomorrow and watch on HBO. I’ll document it and get you the content.
Please let me know what you want me to emphasize regarding Blu-ray. Do you want to send us a disc to include in the date night photos?
Thursday, March 31, via LinkedIn messaging to Ruben Ochoa, CEO of Wolf 36 PR:
Hi Ruben. I’ve been corresponding with Donatella on a movie campaign, but haven’t heard from her in the past 10 days. She approved my rate and content ideas. I’m going forward with content creation, but would love to talk to someone else there about specifics if she’s OOO. Thank you!
On Fri, Apr 1, 2022 at 9:12 AM Eric Stoen <email@example.com> wrote:
It worries me that I haven’t heard from you in two weeks. Is everything ok?
Attached are photos for a carousel for Death on the Nile. My proposed text:
A very fun date night!
As I’ve talked about before, we frequently incorporate meals and tastes from our travels into dinners at home, and we also seek out different cuisines to learn about cultures before we visit the countries. We still haven’t been to Egypt, but we created an Egyptian-themed date night dinner based around the release of Death on the Nile, and set up an outdoor projector and screen to watch the film right after dinner. It was perfect! And it was a fun return to childhood for my wife, who grew up renting Agatha Christie movies with her dad, and remembers the original Death on the Nile well.
FYI, we made cheese squares, spicy turkey feteer and koshary with red lentil ragu. If you have alternate suggestions for the next time we go Egyptian, let me know!
And plan a date night! We highly recommend watching Death on the Nile – out on Blu-ray April 5th.
#deathonthenile #sponsored #egypt #traveldeeper #agathachristie #bluray
I’ll do an official paid partnership tag with @20thcenturystudios.
I will do several Stories as well with a similar theme, or I can do a meal prep series ending with dinner and then the movie, but want to get your feedback first on the text and photos.
If I don’t hear from you today I’ll go ahead and post the above early next week, so that it’s live before April 5th.
Thank you for sharing the content – we never confirmed you for the partnership, but I will share some of your content with Disney and let you know what they think. Thank you so much for doing this – it is much appreciated! I love it.
On Fri, Apr 1, 2022 at 12:41 PM Eric Stoen <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Thank you Donatella. What do you mean that you never confirmed me for the partnership? You said that the client approved me and my rate. You then approved my storyline and told me to go ahead with purchasing a projector for the campaign. You said you would provide me with a streaming code and then you didn’t respond to any of my follow up emails.
Can you please elaborate? Re-reading all correspondence I don’t think that I mis-understood anything. You hired me for a campaign and I delivered the content you requested.
Yes, that is correct, but I have never sent you a storyboard and contract. I was waiting on our client to approve fully before moving on; I am sending your content to our client today, and I will let you know their feedback.
On Fri, Apr 1, 2022 at 1:25 PM Eric Stoen <email@example.com> wrote:
Thank you Donatella. You had not previously mentioned a contract. Only maybe 20% of my partnerships require a contract. Most are simply based on email correspondence. You said I was approved, and you had initially said that you wanted to get moving ASAP, so I moved ASAP.
I am happy to reshoot based on client feedback. Can you please send over your contract and I will get it right back to you?
we are pausing the partnership at the moment, but I will keep you posted as soon as I hear more about it.
On Sat, Apr 2, 2022 at 4:11 PM Eric Stoen <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Can you please tell me what’s going on? None of this makes sense. I’ve done well over 100 campaigns directly with brands and through PR/marketing agencies and I’ve never had a campaign paused after being approved, and after spending money on preparing for the campaign, and after providing the deliverables.
March 16: You write to me asking for ideas and saying that you need to move ASAP.
March 17: I give you ideas and a rate.
March 17: You write saying that the client approved me and we fine-tune a plan for campaign. We work out that a date night with an Egyptian meal is perfect for the campaign. I ask if you have a suggestion for a projector to purchase.
March 18: You send a suggestion for projectors to purchase and indicate that you’ll be sending us a streaming code. You didn’t say: “if the campaign is approved, I’ll send a code”. I purchase a projector, screen and FireStick. All correspondence indicated that I had been approved, and you approved my content ideas, that you were good with me making purchases, and you would be following up soon with the streaming code.
March 18-29: I write to you four times asking for guidance and saying that I am going ahead with content creation. You never told me to wait for a contract or storyboard. You never responded at all. At any point you could have told me that I hadn’t been approved, or that the campaign was paused, but you chose not to. I continued to make purchases. We didn’t love the first Egyptian cookbook so we bought two more, as well as ingredients, and finally black sheets to complete our screen setup. If you had told me on the 18th not to purchase things yet I wouldn’t have spent several hundred dollars on this campaign. But you didn’t say anything.
March 30-31: We cook the Egyptian dishes, set up an outdoor movie night and create the content.
April 1: I submit the deliverables and all of a sudden you inform me that I wasn’t confirmed. For the first time you mention a contract.
April 2: You state that you are pausing the partnership.
Given that the Blu-ray comes out April 5, there’s an immediate time frame for me to post. If you haven’t gotten my content approved by Tuesday morning, I’ll reach out to my contacts at Disney to seek direct approval and payment. I’ve worked with their PR people directly on promotions in the past.
Again, I’d love to know more about what happened with this. From my perspective it’s completely confusing. I can’t let this remain paused forever when we put a lot of work and expense into providing the deliverables that you wanted. If you want to reach out to me off the record, you’re welcome to call me.
I am so sorry if this caused you confusion – I guess we have a misunderstanding here. We have reached out to you for the campaign and shared it with our client; they liked the idea, but it wasn’t the right fit; I told you, BUT I have never sent you an approved storyboard. So this is how it works for us; I apologize if I wasn’t clear; again, I have shared your content, and it wasn’t the right fit for this specific project. I re-read our conversation, and there was no confirmation; I was just keeping you posted on what was happening. Let me talk to my team and I will get back to you on Monday.
On Sat, Apr 2, 2022, at 4:49 PM Eric Stoen <email@example.com> wrote:
You wrote: “great news – our client approved”. And then I wrote to you many times. You knew that I was moving forward with purchasing items and with content creation and you NEVER wrote back and told me to stop. On what day did they tell you that I wasn’t the right fit?
I said the client approved the idea; I am only here to deliver; if they change their mind, it is not my decision to move forward without their approval. As I said, I was keeping you posted – yesterday, I sent the content, which wasn’t what they Were looking for. I hope this clarifies your question.
I didn’t change anything in the above correspondence, other than removing my phone number. Anyone have guesses as to what happened here? Was I wrong to assume that I was approved for the campaign and that they okayed me to start purchasing things? If at any point Donatella had written to me and said, “wow, I’m so sorry, the campaign isn’t going forward after all” that would have been fine. It would have saved me money and a lot of time setting this up. But she didn’t. I’d love the perspective of other PR people on this.
Instagram Comments and Advice
Wow! I’ve never had a post go over 1,000 views so quickly. Thank you to everyone for reading and for the feedback, mostly though Instagram DMs. Some quotes from those comments:
- There was an offer and acceptance. That’s a contract.
- I think you are totally in the right here. I got a queazy feeling after the first non reply and also the initial email with ‘Hey There.’ Who reaching out to you wouldn’t know your name or take the time to put it in the greeting? I mean we get a ton of those general inquiries and I’m sure you get far more.
- Sorry this has happened and especially that you lost money in making purchases. I think you are in the right.
- I just read it, definitely a lapse from their communication team. Your correspondence was clear and on point. They had an internal issue somewhere. Could you ask for reimbursement for the things you purchased?
- 100% her failure. This is why I always have a contract.
- You for sure did the right thing- erring on the side of caution and keeping the client happy!! And she did not do a good job of following through with communication- one way or the other after “okaying” the project!
- As soon as I saw she wasn’t responding I knew she would have played the contract card. Apparently she wanted to see the content first, that’s why she said to go ahead with the projector. But this is not how it should work. I believe she’s a newbie or she messed up. I don’t even know if you can ask for a refund without a contract 🤔
- Holy crap. That was a painful read. She clearly said it was approved. I would have thought the same as you – and I have done MANY movie campaigns with multiple agencies. Sounds like someone dropped the ball at their PR firm or on the client’s end and instead of being honest, she just ghosted and gaslit you instead.
- Oh wow… I read your story and that’s crazy! My partner and I do quite a few social media campaigns and for us most of the paid ones are contracted. But based her emails I would have thought I was a go too.
- Wow. Yeah they definitely messed that up.
- All I can say is wow – this was handled HORRIBLY. I work in PR and I can’t believe you were treated like that. Not how a normal (and good) agency operates. You did all the right things – I can’t believe how much she gaslit you, given the literal correspondence approving you and your rate. Infuriating. I’m going to share your story with my team!
- Wow. What an interesting story. Your content is great. They definitely had a contract with you. I didn’t finish law school but I remember clearly that when terms are established and one or both parties begin to act on them then a contract is established. She never said wait when you began acting on the agreement. It’s called promissory estoppel. That’s my read. Hopefully they pay you.
- You’re in the right. This is crazy. They knew you were going ahead and gave your idea to them under the assumption you’re working together
- Wow!! It definitely seems like it said ‘client approved’. I’m not sure that I would have done anything differently.. i hope they at least compensate you for the money you spent and the time you put into this even if you never post the content. Super annoying!!
- That is so crazy that they would not at least reimburse for the expenses you were out! But maybe that’s how Hollywood rolls? It seemed clear that you were approved. So sorry they stiffed you.
- PR fail 😵💫😵💫😵💫
- I know almost nothing about how these things work… but you are not the one with the misunderstanding here. She is gaslighting you.
- I mean it literally says approved.
- I never start work until I have something in writing with signatures. There’s been so many of these “hot hot hot then silence” threads with marketing agencies that I’ve just stopped assuming anything is happening until it’s signed.
- Sounds like a scam 🙁 i hope not
- I always say get a contract but she specifically said approved. you were right and she was wrong.
- It’s awful what’s happening to so many of us nowadays. Thanks for sharing this – I know it’s frustrating but I just had a good laugh. Bottom line: wtf
- What an insane story. I am so sorry you went through that. And I believe there was a contract once she said approved and then continued the correspondence re storyline etc and that she would send you the code. She screwed up and then she ghosted you. You are not wrong.
- I can totally understand why you thought you were moving forward, especially because she said “approved”. However, I’m surprised you kept moving forward with it when she started ghosting you. The fact she never sent you the streaming code was the first red flag, followed up by no mention of a contact before proceeding. I don’t technically think either of you were “wrong” since no contract with specifics was in place. Obviously she could have handled this much better initially as well. Sorry this happened!
- It seems like you went too fast. They did mention they will provide with codes and storyboard. You should have waited for them go provide you with stuff and then moved forward. But I’m sorry for your experience with this campaign 😔
- I read your correspondence and am totally floored, I would have assumed the client approved based on her emails and how she even helped you find a projector. Very unprofessional on her end. Having been on both sides (I also worked in influencer marketing on the brand side) and she really did not communicate that the client was reviewing or rejected the pitch. I’m sorry you went through all that time and effort to create such nice content for the campaign only to have it turn out like this.
- 😮 Like my blood is boiling and heart rate is up! You deserve payment!
- That’s some bs. She totally approved. Send invoice.
- Oh! I read it all! I recently had one go bad but not for that much work. So sorry! You seem right for sure. Same here on all your info. I don’t do many contracts either!
- Sounds like a written contract to me. 4 year statute of limitations in CA for breach of written contract. If they have insurance, would be wise to just pay you $3,500. Even if they don’t pay you $3,500 it would be cheaper to pay you than hire an attorney. Also small claims is always an option. Hope you don’t get screwed over on again in the future. I like your content.
- My POV as someone who has run influenced campaigns as both a brand client and agency managing, you should definitely require a contract before you do anything. That’s to protect you and your time. I’ve had so many projects that just swirl, change direction, etc. Btw not justifying this agency, what they did was shady. Just recommending you protect yourself.
- Ohhhhhh no no no this lady is in the wrong! I just spent 10/15 minutes looking at everything you posted in the link!!!!! She tells you she didn’t have a projector in mind but never tells you once to hold on production or whatever. She basically set you up to do all this leg work so that she had something to present herself maybe! She literally said great news our client approved!!!’ And then continues to talk and says she loves your idea of the Egypt theme dinner night/etc. this lady is in the wrong and I don’t even understanding social media paid contracts or partnerships I just am basing my opinion on factual information I read I’m the emails back and forth to this lady.
- Maybe she needed something to present to whatever clients and didn’t want to do the work herself and used you? Sorry I don’t know how this all works but to the looks of it she is so in the wrong and you did not misinterpret anything. She even liked that your wife was getting a cookbook to prepare a meal for said events! You throughly explain everything and she doesn’t tell you once to hold off!
- I’m sorry this happened to you. I read through everything twice. I’m guessing you’ve had great experiences with everyone else you’ve worked with, which is great. At the same time that can sometimes mask when things aren’t going right. When I noticed that communication was one way from you and nothing coming back that was a red flag for me. Also, something about the word “possibly” in Donatella’s initial email jumped out at me on my first read and stood out more after reading everything. It sounds like there may have been multiple people submitting ideas. What is strange is she did say her client approved everything. If there were multiple creators submitting, she should have made this clear and should not have allowed you to spend money upfront. I hope they make it right by reimbursing you for your expenses. For protection it may help to implement contracts with no work done until signed. At a minimum, watch for change in communication and if there is ghosting, pause work.
- Horrible on their part because if nothing else was clear, it was clear that you were performing work and had spent money and time doing so.
- I just read the blog post and that’s absolutely ridiculous. I’m so sorry you went through that. We learned early on that we won’t do anything without a contract (we even had to sue a brand for using our content without our consent in a multi channel ad campaign). Even if the brand/agency doesn’t mention it, we will draw one up and make them sign it after having that bad experience. But from your email correspondence alone it’s clear they are in the wrong.
- Nope- she’s wrong, I work in advertising production and we take email sign off, also she had an opportunity to say “don’t buy the projector till it’s signed off” and she didn’t!
- I agree that you did not misinterpret. I’d even consider all her correspondences as a “verbal contract” of sorts. And those are also enforceable in a court.
- This is a big fail. Then putting the blame on you. That’s incredible!
- Oh man. This is crazy. I haven’t worked with a brand yet, but seems clear to me that you were given the green light. Her correspondence on April 2 was strange – besides the overuse (and annoying misuse of semicolons), it almost didn’t “sound” like her writing anymore. Sorry Eric- sounds like a total nightmare.
And those are only a few of the comments. I tried to represent them all. Most felt like I didn’t misinterpret anything. A few of the harshest critics – people telling me that it was dumb to proceed with Wolf 36 PR without a contract – are some of my closest friends. I don’t personally know most of the people who commented.
100% of the comments from PR professionals were positive. And I heard from a number of lawyers. Their primary recommendations: 1) send an invoice; 2) take them to small claims court. Would love for Wolf 36 to come to me, give me a contract, give me a storyboard and let me reshoot (if in fact the client didn’t like the content) before I resort to filing a suit though.