Elle Darby: Bringing a Lamb to the Slaughter

As my regular readers probably noticed by now, Monday is the day I share my most intriguing social media finds of the week.

Last week, we laughed at #BlackHogwarts posts on Twitter, imagining what it would be like if Hogwarts was predominantly Black.

But this week, I’m going to cover a more serious topic that came to my attention when a friend of mine shared a link on Facebook to an article entitled, Dublin hotel owner bans all social media influencers after ‘exposing’ one for asking for free 5-night stay.

The Backstory

Elle was planning a trip to Ireland when she spotted what she described as — even in her teary-eyed video talking about the scandal — “a stunning hotel”. She decided to leverage her position as a highly successful social media influencer, and proposed a partnership to the business, requesting a 5-day complimentary stay in exchange for publicity.

The hotel owner’s response?

The White Moose Cafe Elle Darby.png

The White Moose Cafe Elle Darby 2.png

The Slaughterhouse

How did people react? I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know they took the lamb to the slaughter. Elle was trolled on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as an entitled freeloader. Some bloggers, however, came to her defence; and Elle finally found the nerve to post the video below.


When the business faced criticism for the way they handled Elle’s business proposal, they responded by banning all bloggers from their cafe and hotel.

White Moose Cafe Bloggers Banned.png

And if you think they stopped there, think again. The morning after I started working on this blog post, I woke up to find The White Moose Cafe was continuing the childish plea for publicity by sending Elle a fake invoice for the bad publicity they brought to her doorstep.

The irony in all this, is that the owner only obtained publicity from his trolling, because followers recognised that the email came from Elle.

Here are some of the lovely comments 22-year-old Elle received over the past few days.

The Blogging Industry

Many of you may disagree with the extent to which the lamb-slaughtering carried on, but may nonetheless consider Elle an entitled freeloader. Since most of my readers are fellow bloggers — from newbies to veterans — I would like to think most of you know better.

For those of you who don’t, let me explain a little about how social media, content marketing, and publicity works. Keep in mind that I own 4 blogs, and have had an active PR and content strategy practice since I was 16 years old. I am now 28.

That said, I get a lot of offers just like the one Elle sent, not just from bloggers, but from businesses just like that hotel. Most of them I delete without responding to. Others I politely decline.

A few are good enough for me to follow up on, like the amazing offer I received to stay at a Dive Club Resort in the Maldives, for 5 days. All expenses paid. All I need to do… is get there.

Partnerships like the one Elle proposed is how a lot of travel bloggers see the world, why a lot of reviewers never run out of books, how foodies get to eat at some of the best restaurants, how fashionistas get their expensive outfits — and it does wonders for those businesses.

The Value & The Work

What social media influencers offer to these companies is not freeloading. It’s called bartering. But apparently we live in an economy now driven purely by raw capital. Not only have we forgotten how to be polite to each other, we have also forgotten the value of partnership and working together.

The hotel owner should never have disclosed the email, or roasted her for asking. As a vlogger, it would not have been hard to find out who sent the email, if she had mentioned it on her social media — which she apparently had. 

Any objections he had, should have been sent directly to her. That she had to find out while she was out with friends, via social media bullies, is even worse.

And if he hadn’t the slightest idea followers would have been able to recognise her, he could just have easily have left the drama alone. Instead, he’s been riding the waves of bad publicity, taking strategic steps to prolong it.

What’s even more sickening is the overwhelming support the hotel received for doing so, and the people who flocked to join their social media following.

Have we so forgotten how to be decent human beings? If this is the kind of behaviour we reward, few of us should be surprised by the kind of leaders we have today.

The Support

Elle is right in her video, when she talks about creating content, and that doing all she offered to do for the company, is not easy.

Do you guys remember that trip I took to Florida almost a month ago? Do you notice I haven’t posted anything from Florida yet?

Do you know how much work it is to go through all the images and videos? Decide which of hundreds makes the cut? Edit the ones that do? Make a content plan for how you plan to split the trip and share it? Create that vlog or blog post? And edit it? And then share?

I do it for myself, because I am as passionate about writing as I am about travel. And because I love sharing my stories with my corner of the blogosphere. But I get paid to do this for clients, too. And she was doing it for “FREE” (bartering!)

For those of us who work in the industry, and know the ins-and-outs, especially from both sides of the fence as I do, the idiot isn’t Elle. The offer she extended is a common and recommended industry practice in PR and marketing, used by big brands like Subaru, Apple, and Samsung.

Just as she implied in the video, her bullies could benefit from a PR lesson, or a marketing class. As could the hotel. 

In the meantime, shutting up is an excellent alternative. 

AC Sign 2_0

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*Featured Image Photo Credit: Elle Darby’s Twitter


55 thoughts on “Elle Darby: Bringing a Lamb to the Slaughter

  1. What was wrong with her asking? Kids ask me for things that I won’t agree to, but I don’t go ballistic at them for it. A polite no would have been fine.

    1. I think she’s amazing. She didn’t even try to roast the guy or trash his business. Her focus was on how she was treated and trying to empower other bloggers not to be discouraged by her scandal. Amazing.

  2. I’m critical of all involved in this case.
    (1) A “negotiation” is a conversation between two parties, each of whom wants something. Until you have established a basis for negotiation, a blind offer is simply spam. There are those who would interpret a blind offer as an attempt to get something for nothing, and that reflects badly on the person making the offer. You start a dialog first, get to know the person, then see if there’s a basis for negotiation. (BTW, I get sales spam all the time. It goes to the “block sender” file.)
    (2) The hotel owner is rude and silly. You don’t air disputes in public. You never know “who knows whom” and stupid actions can become quite embarrassing. Nor can you ban bloggers. You can’t know the real identity of a blogger in most cases, so what are you banning? Discrimination in any form works against the interest of the business.
    (3) Trolls are trolls — usually ill-informed with nothing of value to say (but loving to see themselves saying it). I’ve stopped reading comments for the most part unless I recognize the writer.
    (4) Finally, social media marketing is a mixed bag. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Some business owners value it, some don’t. Some companies have established successful social media programs and done well while otehrs have had good programs and failed financially. Being a blogger doesn’t entitle one to perks.
    Bottom line: assumptions kill relationships.

    1. Thank you for sharing that Vic. I agree with all your points.

      In the case of social media marketing for this company though, whether or not it worked for them was not the issue. Social media and building a buzz online is clearly how the owner keeps his business in the media. This is one of several instances where he has trolled his way to the news. So that point, while it applies to many businesses, doesn’t even excuse him.

  3. Thank you so much for explaining how all this works. To my mind it should have been considered a legitimate negotiation. She was offering a service. Plenty of people write for a living, not just bloggers. I know I am biassed but I happen to consider writing for a living an honourable profession. People lose their lives every day worldwide because they have the courage to write.
    My daughter and I had an unfortunate experience a few weeks ago where we were bullied by a hotel employee. I resorted to looking for the hotel’s head office phone number online, while my daughter had handled things the twenty first century way. I had ended up speaking to a lovely lady, who as it turned out was in the United States(toll free fortunately who had immediately apologised, when I had asked for clarification about procedure. My daughter had patiently gone through and read the hotel’s reviews. This had validated my concerns. It had also shown me that the actual manager was a lovely guy who listened and responded to people’s issues. The following morning I was able to take the issue directly to the manager himself. He could not have been kinder and more helpful.
    That is generally the way I try to operate. In such instances writing is generally a last resort. My Grandmother used to say, “A kind word turneth away wroth.”
    In this instance all that was necessary would have been a few polite words about how unfortunately this was not an arrangement which the hotel could afford but perhaps they could negotiate on a free meal.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sorry you didn’t fully enjoy your stay there, but sounds like you managed to get it all sorted quickly.

      You are right. This is not just about blogging and social media. It’s about writers and other artists finding ways to leverage their craft to make a living and to live life. Maybe I’m biased too, since I’m a writer myself. That is and will always be my dream job.

      Hopefully other hotels don’t decide to follow in that guy’s footsteps, or the industry is about to be turned on its head. A lot of businesses rely on bloggers because we’re cheaper than a billboard sign, an expensive ad on cable, or on the radio. We’re also more effective. Who would you believe more? The company talking about itself, or someone else who’s used their services sharing the upside of it? That’s why businesses have been using spokespersons forever. The change is that it’s not just A-list celebrities anymore.

  4. I come from a backgroud about as far from social medial as you can get but a business communication that states this is who I am and what i think I can do for you – would you you consider having me do it for XYZ incentive is pretty standard any and every where. And I for one believe you never know until you ask so why not? Any response beyond a private and direct one, even if it’s “I’ve never heard of such an arrangement! No way are you crazy?” is not good manners or business. As to the sharks who responded when he chummed the water, the world is unfortunately full of small people. People you know would shove you over if they thought the could get a “freebie” for themselves. And it would be a freebie because they have no value to add to the proposition, IMHO.

    1. I’m glad that even from outside the industry, you can see the sense in what she did, and the nonsense in how she was treated.

      Both her and the hotel may be popular, but they are both still small businesses, and could have benefitted from the arrangement. As it so happens, they both still got publicity from it, but not all publicity is good publicity. Elle will continue to be trolled for some time to come, and I can’t imagine good, honest people feeling comfortable with staying at that hotel like that at risk of being trolled if something goes wrong and they disagree with the manager.

      Also, imagine all the execs who blog in Forbes and Fortune who can’t stay there now lol. I don’t think that business move on his part makes any sense.

      1. Well he he won’t get my business will he? I’m a blogger!! LOL I want to go to Glasgow this year anyway.

  5. Oooh my…
    I don’t know 🤷‍♀️ who is worse..
    this Paul character.. who is so rude and rash.. or

    This Elle girl who was trying to sell her business.. for free stay instead of monetary fees…

    This manager was way out of line.. and went off the deep end.. unnecessarily…

    At least she write and made a request…

    And I think he just put his hotel out there as being run by a nasty mean man…,
    It’s in the media now.., hmm 🤔….
    And Elle will still do her thing..

    1. I don’t believe Elle was wrong, or that she was trying to get anything for free. As I explained in the article, it’s a common industry practice and it’s actually bartering. Just as he wasn’t getting monetary value for the hotel stay, she wasn’t getting monetary value to advertise on his behalf.

      1. True…

        I love this explanation…

        You are right..
        this is how I see it too.. but

        You explain it way better than I could…

        Thank for putting it into words that make sense

  6. I cannot believe how rude people can be. Good god. Whether he likes it or not that is how a lot of people make their money, like you said. He doesn’t have to say yes butb he doesn’t have to be such an arrogant asshole. So angry ugh!

    1. It really irked me too when I saw it, even more so because there were people who were ignorant of how the industry works, trying to make her look as if she had done something wrong. I feel so bad for Elle. I hope it blows over soon.

  7. Well damn! The management at that hotel has a serious bug planted WAAAAYYYY up their behind! Everyone has the right to ask and everyone has the right to refuse but to make it a flogging in the public square is just petty and so unprofessional. I’ve asked and been turned down politely, totally ignored and had a few that worked with me. I can see both sides of this altercation but still it could’ve been handled much better…

    1. I agree with you completely. I’ve never asked in business for any bartering like that, at least not to my memory, but definitely had it proposed to me. And some of those offers were really amazing. Most were terrible, but I didn’t go airing that on the company page.

      Apparently the hotel does it all the time, too. Their public relations strategy is to troll others, and not like Wendy’s does it. They really push!

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