A story of grief by a man and a boy

advertising space

I’ve heard life called many things recently. Unfair, unpredictable, confusing, a bitch, a total utter bastard, you name it. But one thing life never seems to fail to be is interesting. In fact I’ll go so far as to say it’s fascinating. And perhaps only when you really stop planning it does it also become so incredibly surprising.

Although I get lots of feedback on the blog posts, deep down I don’t believe I’ll ever really know what people take from the words they read. I’ll never be able to get inside someone else’s head enough to understand. And fortunately for me that’s not what drives me either. As Queen Elizabeth I once put it, “I have no desire to make window’s into men’s souls”. Yet, the modern man of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign has a habit of giving you a pretty clear view into his. He erects colossal glass structures and leaves little of what’s on the inside to the imagination.

And it’s this kind of transparency that has made life quite astonishing for me over the last few days. My jaw has been on the floor more than once through insights into the unabashed shamefulness of sometimes not-so-kind mankind.

So it would appear that a few commercial organisations think my blog “is great” and apparently they want to be a part of it. Unlike many people who are moved or saddened by its content, they “really like” it. So much so, in fact, that they would like to reward me and cross my palm with silver.

Pure intrigue and fascination about the process of turning a blog about grief into a business venture led me to play along.

It turned out that one company “would love to work” with my site so much that they offered me a whole £100 to advertise on it for a year. Just imagine what a man raising a child alone in London could do with an extra 27 pence a day. As my good friend put it, “Amazing that they see so much value in something they are willing to pay so little for.”

Another company asked me if I would be interested in weaving keywords into my posts on behalf of its clients. I could either write new posts to a brief or insert additional paragraphs into existing copy that would help make the old entries newly relevant. And I imagine I could too if their clients were child bereavement charities or publishers that specialised in sympathetically worded literature designed to help guide people through loss. But it’s more difficult for me to imagine how I’d inject B&Bs in London, late night hot spots or personal storage solutions into my tales of widowhood and caring for a grieving toddler.

Never one to knock something until I’ve tried it though, I thought I’d give it a go.

This is an extract from a post I wrote call grieving nothing, amended to meet a potential client brief:

I’ve suddenly been hit by a kind of bereavement that I’ve never felt before. I’m sort of grieving nothing. I’m kind of grieving something that never existed. I’m feeling a great sense of loss for someone I never met. For someone who was never created. Out of nowhere I’ve started to think about the second child we never had. But I wonder if I can somehow put this painful feeling behind me. Perhaps I just need a night out around some BARS IN LONDON (keyword – tick!). That’s it, a night in Tiger Tiger is exactly what I need right now. God, I suddenly feel so much better.

Not working, is it? And now I feel like I’ve been forced into writing something facetious when all I really wanted to do was create a blog that helped others.

But I’m also trying to land a serious point.

These days I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt before writing them off. It’s a new trait that some old friends probably feel uncomfortable with. I’m sure they miss the old me. So when these agents contacted me over the last week or so I thought to myself, ‘Great! They have clients who see a potential to reach their target audiences through my blog. They must have something interesting to say.’

Now, I’ve got a commercial head on my shoulders so when I imagined that they might have something interesting to say I obviously meant sell. And there’s nothing wrong with that if they have something the blog’s readers want to buy. ‘Perhaps we can address the grief and the economy simultaneously’, I mused.

So if I were right to assume that the agents’ intentions were good and that their clients’ products or services were appropriate, then I’d still have to wonder why they would want to pay me.


Well firstly because if a brand has something to offer that can help bereaved people, then I will happily offer them the space to publish a guest post for free. If they felt it appropriate, they could leave comments on existing posts too. As I approve them all anyway no one really needs to worry about whether the words they write are suitable for the audience or not. If they aren’t they simply won’t make the cut.

And secondly because I’m a PR man by trade, so it baffles me why a brand would want to pay for a contrived keyword mention or an ill-fitting ad on a blog about grief when they are being offered the opportunity to build deeper and more relevant messaging within copy that I am happy for them to write (subject to my final approval). I’m especially stumped when the whole idea of running incongruous paid content puts both my credibility and theirs on the line.

Still, far from writing off any brands using my blog to reach potential customers, please treat this as an open invitation to do just that.

But here are some key words to bear in mind when dealing with a man who a) has just lost his wife and b) has been working in public relations his whole adult life.

Reputation management: It’s the basis of PR. I don’t intend to compromise my integrity by selling advertising space to a brand that is wholly mismatched to the subject matter of the editorial. Neither should a business that has no place on the blog attempt to buy it. That’s a perfect example of when media buying could benefit from a little PR insight.

Influence: I’m offering relevant brands the opportunity to reach target audiences in a meaningful way and potentially affect consumer behaviour. Hell, they might even build some personal relationships with the readers if they don’t simply try to buy them.

Mutual understanding: No brand nor individual will ever make it onto my blog without me doing my homework and finding out a little bit about them first. I don’t think it’s unfair to ask the same in return. “You are based in London that is why we think that your site might fit” doesn’t really ooze compassion or understanding to me.

Mutual benefit: It’s not complicated. If you have something that can actually help the kind of people who might read my blog, you’re half way there. If you’ve not, you’re not.

Class: Just try to have some. It makes all the difference in life. And I’ve just discovered a lack of it makes all the difference when dealing with death too.

N.B. No money exchanges hands for content on my blog. I don’t pay guest writers and they don’t pay me, so please don’t ask.

12 comments on “advertising space

  1. Siddiqa
    March 19, 2013

    well said

  2. Bill Wright
    March 20, 2013

    F______ hell, what utter parasites! I endorse every word you say.

  3. Angela Lynn
    March 20, 2013

    How insensitive can some people be!

  4. Niki Levy
    March 20, 2013

    Gobsmacked but glad you have put this into your blog as “They” will undoubtedly read this and hopefully feel very ashamed

  5. Catherine Lupton
    March 20, 2013

    I absolutely agree with you! How very insensitive and totally disrespectful can some people be!
    I read your blogs and they bring a tear to my eye more often than not. I have dealt with my own grief for the past 3 years after losing my baby son and have often stumbled upon the words I want to say. You voice every feeling you have in such a way that it has helped me at times be able to tackle the invisible force I call my ‘grief monster’.
    You’re doing such an amazing thing in writing these blogs and its saddening to see people trying to undermine that. I hope when said people read this blog that they do a spot of their own soul searching.

  6. Emma Sheppard
    March 20, 2013

    Shameless imbeciles. Well done for finding the strength to deal with them and pointing out their idiocy.

    Hope you and Jackson have happy times with each other today.

  7. Paul R
    March 20, 2013

    Two things:
    1) I read because I find that grief is so narcissistic and I need that reassurance that I’m not the only one.
    2) Most internet “agents” don’t care about content they are looking for site with high hit counts and then they can tell their clients that they are getting x number of impressions per day. They couldn’t care less if they are relevant. Your site was probably even selected by an automated search tool to identify trending sites.

      March 20, 2013

      Interesting point about narcissism. I know exactly what you mean but have never reached that word before.

  8. Cj Swaby
    March 20, 2013

    Is it wrong that I actually laughed out loud at reading your blog post? On point Ben. The audacity of some organisations is quite impressive.

      March 20, 2013

      Not at all. I went to bed laughing after writing it. That comes at a premium these days so I should be thanking them really.

  9. CeeCee
    March 24, 2013

    Your last comment has made this last post a lot less angry than it was going to be. I was going to blast these c-words for being so f-king inappropriate. Instead I’d like to thank these clowns (a nicer c-word than the one above) for making you laugh. And thank you, Ben, Jackson and your well-chosen guest posters – we all need, love and treasure the words you write and your honesty and optimism are just two of the many reasons thousands continue to discover and follow your blog.

  10. sarahhillwheeler
    May 3, 2013

    Well said, couldn’t agree more.

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