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. 

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*Featured Image Photo Credit: Elle Darby’s Twitter

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

  1. While I do agree with you on some things you mentioned in this blog post I believe there is one thing that Elle did wrong: she did not do her homework. From the way the e-mail is worded it is obvious she sent the same e-mail to several hotels. If she had taken the time to google Paul Stenson she would have known better to adress him that way.
    Also, Bartering, i think you called it, might be a normal practise, but most of the time bloggers seem to be approached by companies rather than the other way around. Elle could have played her cards better, in my opinion.
    Still, the amount of hate and insults she had to face is horrible and there is nothing she did that would justify some people’s behaviour

    1. To be fair, it’s hard to research every single hotel owner before you send an email. People usually look at the brand itself, and go from there. Besides, those emails usually get answered by a secretary or some other admin, not by the owner.

      As far as bartering and waiting for brands to come to her, she already did that, but cold selling is an age old practice. It’s why we have telemarketers, sales reps in stores, and marketing people who put ads on TV. At some point, you can’t just wait for opportunity to come knocking. When you’ve built the reputation she has, I think it’s perfectly fine to go knocking at someone else’s door.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  2. My first reaction was that she was being cheap; I had no idea this was a thing. Now I understand how it works, she was perfectly entitled to ask within the context of what she does and explain the potential benefits.

    Either way, the owner overreacted and acted unprofessionally. They need to understand that how they act and react can now be seen by virtually everyone. I now would not want to stay there on general principle now.

    As a content writer, I get asked for discount and free stuff “just because” all the time; it’s annoying and tiresome. I sympathise because small businesses like mine are promised the earth through “exposure” as though it is a route to guaranteed riches.

    But you can say “no” without being a pig about it. All we should do is say “thanks but no thanks”. There are ways of dealing with these things. Public abuse is not it.

    1. And would you believe, one of my clients just asked me to write an article about… Influencer Marketing 🙂 Going away to educate myself on the subject now…

    2. Thank you, Mason. You’ve echoed my thoughts on this one. I don’t believe there is ever an excuse to treat someone that way, especially when she was so polite. If she had been haughty and demanded a stay, I could understand, but this was really unnecessary.

  3. I haven’t watched videos yet as would use a lot of my mobile data allowance, but will do so when connected to wifi. In the meantime, I will say that perhaps Elle should have researched Irish humour before she even considered visiting Ireland, never mind asking for a free stay in return for publicity. This is perhaps another case of ‘lost in translation’ between cultures and how things are done differently in different parts of the world. I don’t believe in trolling, bullying or humiliating people in any shape or form, Social Media or otherwise, but a part of me thinks that this could also be a storm in a teacup, as so much other SM stuff.

    1. Elle is British, so I would be really surprised if she was unfamiliar with Irish humour. They’re right next door. Hell, a part of their island is a part of the UK!

      But I don’t believe Irish humour has any place in international business. There’s a time for “shits and giggles” and a time to be serious and respectful. The hotel was focused on the former, and is still at it.

      As for the storm in a teacup, I’m not sure about that. The hotel is very good at prolonging this sort of thing. They do this all the time. I guess what she should have researched was their reputation for trolling, but who really thinks of that when connecting with what you think is a reputable business?

      1. Fair comment. She should have researched that aspect of their business for sure. It is all very sad, really, and it pains me to know that SM is used to vilify people for whatever reason and I would never condone it; it is not what I use it for.
        I suppose the only good thing that will come out of this will be more sympathy and traffic for Else’s website business. I hope so, anyway.
        The hardest thing I had to get used to when I came to live in England as a young girl was not the language (although that was hard enough), not even the weather (it truly sucks), but the Culture (which takes years and no easy shortcut) and the ‘Micky taking’ custom (very healthy). I used to get offended when people took the Mick out of me until I realised I had to play the game and throw the ball back; then I learned to have fun. Another thing I learnt was to develop a thick skin, very useful in real life, but a must in SM. I do hope Elle will strike it lucky somewhere else and with better hearted hotel management.

      2. This is true that the British tend to take the micky out of people. I find the Spanish do this too, so I’m a little surprised it threw you off! My Spanish friends are all like that, and were pleasantly surprised to find Jamaicans were worse 😂 I love the witty banter.

        I think Elle has definitely benefitted from increased exposure. Unfortunately, it’s not the kind of exposure that paints her brand in a good light.

      3. I think with time people will realise that her biggest crime was her youth and naivety, she’s only 22 after all. Had she been older and wiser, she might have spent a couple of days at hotel first, paying full price, then praise all staff profusely and perhaps arrange a meeting with manager to discuss a future deal beneficial to both parties. But heck, I’d you can’t dream when you are young, when can you?

      4. I don’t believe it was naivety or stupidity. Like I said, it’s a common industry practice. It may seem foreign to other people, but that’s how business works. Big companies like Suburu do these things all the time. She has a large enough following and influence to do the same.

      5. Oh! And another thing: please do not mistake the Irish for the British; they are very different cultures. Southern Ireland is not British and they don’t want to be.

      6. Haha, I didn’t mistake the Irish for the British. My understanding is that none of Ireland wants to be a part of the UK, but the Northerners still got sucked into it. I’ve had a lot of English and Irish friends and know they hate each other. The two rival phone companies in Jamaica also hate each other. One is Irish and one is English. We know the sibling rivalry firsthand. 😂

      7. Haha, why not join forces to argue with the enemy? Either way, it’s pretty hilarious. My friend John is British, and his brother is married to an Irish woman. I’ve heard some pretty hilarious stories.

  4. What a jerk! I hope that his TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews bite him in the karma. Why do some people go out of their way to be mean instead of gracious?

    1. Tricia, I wish I knew. I can’t imagine why it’s necessary or how these people manage to feel good about themselves. I knew someone like that when I just moved to the US, and I got rid of them ASAP. He would trash talk everyone from his best friend to his mother to the relative paying for his college education. I knew my time would come, too.

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