Blogger Relations Series:The "Brands" Talk To Bloggers

08/22/2008

Pulse of the Industry: Blogger Relations Part IV

Socialmedia_sudoko Social media is growing up .. as an industry and as a marketing strategy. From blogs to widgets to social networks and micro blogging marketers are exploring how to tap into the communication tools that were not developed for business tactics. But were created for communication between and among people. Just people.

Along the way, we (I'm in this deal with you!) marketers realized that the people who were using these, let's call them "tools" - you know what they are .. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, and the zillions of other social networks that are launching daily .. might be an interesting way to reach people who might care about our brands. So we began to read, build relationships and reach out to bloggers who were interested in the topics that we and our clients were .. like cars, parenting, photography, etc. What happened was a new marketing tactic emerged: Blogger Relations.

I was curious to know:

    * Who was doing it right and who was doing it wrong

    * What did agencies want from bloggers and what did bloggers want from agencies

    * and most of all how could we work together for the benefit of the communities

I conducted an online survey among bloggers, agency and brand people. 99 people participated. Since the research is not statistically valid let's call it an industry pulse check from the people who are involved in the space. Their insights are thoughtful and the learnings they shared significant.

To thank those who kindly gave their time and to help our community understand this evolving industry I'll be posting the findings over the next few weeks. This is part IV in the series Part I: Blogger or Journalist Part II: Successful Blogger Relations Strategy Part III: Agencies Talk To Bloggers.

Brandalphabet Question: If you are working with an agency/social media company ... what do you want to tell Bloggers when it comes to blogger relations? 29 responses.

Important to people who worked on the client-side were building relationships, values, respect and a willingness to learn what bloggers wanted. We are no longer in the wild wild west of social media and "etiquette" and we should be playing nicely together. One respondent even took bloggers to task for what she considered inappropriate behavior.

The big take-aways for me were:

Relationships are based on communication. Educate us about what you want and need.

Have patience.

Respect

Values are important

Etiquette Is Important - Please Play Nicely

For C.B. Whittemore if you are a consistent participant in the conversation blogger relations happens naturally. "I''m connecting as a blogger. Plus, not that many in the space so formal blogger relations haven't been necessary."

Relationships are based on communication. Tell us what you want and need. More than a ‘campaign.’ Educate. Patience

Tim Jackson feels that the phrase developing a relationship is over used but it "really applies." People like to do business with people they like and trust. As Tim says, "I get many bloggers spreading my message FOR me because they "like me" and don't see me as cramming things into their faces. It's built on sharing and conversation for me."

Blogger relations is not a campaign in of itself. It's a process, and needs to be thought of in broad strokes and in the long term. - Michael E. Rubin

Just like with any relationship, tell those trying to engage you what you want -- what you want to know about and what you don't, how you want to be approached and what annoys you, what you consider valuable to your work, etc. It'll help lower the number of totally off-base pitches and help everyone get what they want. - Anonymous

From the client side, I think we mean well. Sometimes the company is "green" and needs to be educated. Sometimes the company won't learn. The question is how do you differentiate the two? – Anonymous

There needs to be two way education -- and we need to learn to speak each others' language. – Anonymous

Be patient, companies are only now understanding how to handle bloggers. - Cece Salomon-Lee

I want them to know that we respect them, we read them and we want to be a part of the conversation around our Brand. The good and the bad. If we do something bad, tell us. If you do something bad, trust me I will let you know! - David J. Neff

Start a conversation and begin a relationship before trying to sell me. Just like you (hopefully) would in person. – Anonymous

We're listening, and want to talk with them to improve what we offer. – Anonymous
Simply, I believe what I am working is of value to your (the blogger's) audience which is why I'm contacting you. If you agree that it is cool, please spread the gospel. I will reach out to you only if I feel what I want to communicate adds value to your audience. We believe in a mutual exchange/benefit! Prashant Kew

I want to tell them about my company, and myself as its founder. For me, they are one and the same. – Anonymous

Willing to work with bloggers to provide their side of a story.

Respect

Neville Hobson's simple promise should underscore any out reach, "I promise not to spam you and will treat you with respect." Yvonne DiVita reminds us that respect is what opens doors to communication. "That they will always be respected, that their open, honest comments are very valuable, and that there is an open door to communication for and with them."

Another respondent felt strongly that respect is a critical factor to building a relationship and insults do not foster friendships.

Relationships are built on mutual respect. As a representative of my company, I'm committed to showing respect to any blogger with whom I wish to communicate. The reverse is true, too -- for a blogger to insult (not merely criticize) my company and then expect for my company to engage in a dialog with him or her is unreasonable. - Anonymous

Following up on the noise of SEO releases (just for the sake of search engine placement), follow the rules. Don't be stupid! Respect others as you would like to be respected. Scattershot releases and contacts are causing more harm than good. – Robert French

Values

As with agencies values such as honesty and transparency were important to several "brand" respondents. Also appreciated was an effort to represent companies/brands fairly.

Be honest. - Kate Spencer

Please don't masquerade as someone other than who you really are. – Anonymous

If you consider yourselves journalists, strive for accuracy and perspective. We're anxious to work with you. If you have a question, please come directly to us. We're more than happy to give you accurate information. – Anonymous

Just tell the truth, spark controversy, add value to the conversation, avoid trolls and spammers, and be fair to all. Before complaining about a product or company, do all you can to resolve an issue directly with the company. If the company ignores you, or is obviously unethical or uncooperative, then you can rant against them if you feel others need to be warned. - Steven E. Streight

Etiquette Etiquette - Play Nicely Please

Susan Cartier Liebel reminded us that we are no longer in the wild wild west of social media. "There is an etiquette. Failure to follow the etiquette can quickly tarnish your name and your ability to effectively use blogging as a way to promote yourself, your services, your brand."   

Even though blogging is much more casual than writing for more mainstream forms of media, they should act professionally. – Carolyn Wilman

Get both sides of the story - be objective. Tell the story and stop trying to be a tabloid. – Anonymous

Next up last of the series and the bloggers will have the last word.

Thanks to the 99 people who kindly responded. The following agreed to be quoted and publicly acknowledged.

Michele Miller WonderBranding
Mei-Li Thomas, No Fear, Just DIVA
Paul Chaney, Conversational Media Marketing
Kim Haynes, Texas Gal Ramblings
Des Walsh Des Walsh dot com
Alan Wolk The Toad Stool
Elaine Fogel, Solutions Marketing and Consulting
David J. Neff, American Cancer Society; Sharing Hope TV
Steven E. Streight aka Pluperfecter (formerly known as Vaspers the Grate)
Nicole Simons, Cruel To Be Kind
Sherry Heyl, Concept Hub, Inc
Ike Pigott, Occam's RaaR
Mary Hunt, In Women We Trust

Yigal Cohen, Linx Analyst and Blogger Relations
Susan Cartier Liebel, Building Solo Practice University
Liz Strauss, Successful and Outstanding Blog(gers)
Robert French, infOpinions?
Cynthia Holladay, UpRight Marketing
Alanna Kellogg, Veggie Eventure; Kitchen Parade
Yvonne Divita, Lip-sticking
Jay Berkowitz, Ten Golden Rules
Heidi Richards Mooney, WE Magazine for Women
Tim Jackson, Masi Bicycles  Masiguy Podcast
Marc Meyer, Direct Response Marketing Observations
Mark Goren, Transmission Content + Creative
Sally Falkow, PRoactive  Leading Edge on the Daily Dog
John Cass Author of Strategies & Tools for Corporate Blogging Blogger at PR Communications

Shel Israel, Global Neighbourhoods
Ann Handley, Annarchy; Marketing Profs Daily Fix Blog
Francois Gossieaux, Emergence Marketing
Erin K Vest, Queen of Spain
David Berkowitz, Inside the Marketers Studio,

Kate Spencer, Fordham University
Ed Gaston, Chrysler
Michael Rubin, Blog Council
Cyndee Haydon, Clearwater Real Estate Tampa Homes
Katie Paine, KDPaine's PR MeasurementBlog
Drew McLellan, Drew's Marketing Minute
Anita Campbell Small Business Trends
Rich Brooks, Flyte
Jane Genova, JaneGenova.com Law and More
Marianne Richmond, Resonance Partnership
Becky Carroll, Customers Rock
CB Whittemore, Flooring The Consumer  The Carpetology Blog
Roxanne Darling Partner, Bare Feet Studios Bare Feet Blog
Dave Williams, Co-Founder, 360i

Tris Hussey, A View From The Isle
Kami Huyse, Communication Overtones
B.L. Ochman What's Next Blog
Carolyn Wilman Contest Queen

Rajesh Lalwani, Blog Works

Dave Taylor, Ask Dave Taylor
Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing
Nancy White, Full Circle
Neville Hobson, NevilleHobson.com
Nedra Weinreich, Spare  Change blog
Dina Mehta, Conversations with Dina
Rohit, Influential Marketing Blog

Prashant, Markitechture
Katherine Malone, Fleishman-Hillard
Randal Moss, American Cancer Society; Community Mobilization
Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing
Merrill Dubrow, M/A/R/C The Merrill Dubrow Blog

Part I: Blogger or Journalist Part II: Successful Blogger Relations Strategy Part III: Agencies Talk To Bloggers Part IV: Brands Talk To Bloggers Part V: Bloggers Talk To Agencies

Thanks to Grafiko for the alphabet graphic and to Toroller for the sudoku social media graphic.

Blogger Relations Series: Agencies Talk To Bloggers

08/15/2008

Pulse of the Industry: Blogger Relations Part III

In the spring of 2004, when Diva Marketing launched, social media marketing was not even a buzz word. In the business world of new media blogs were the big deal along with a vague notion of RSS. Podcasts and videos were beginning to find their place as more than just a cool new toy. Flash four years into the Future Is Now and writing a few blogs posts, recording a podcast, taping a video or joining a social network are only a few of the tactics that marketers have to choose from in their social media marketing tool box.

A few surprisDo_not_close_minds_signes have come along with the growth of social media. One big surprise is the extent of influence that people providing the content for blogs, podcasts, vlogs and social networking communities enjoy within their communities. Influenced was/is based on relationships.

Marketers are tapping into that concept and what is emerging is a new strategy that we are calling - Blogger Relations or BR. The halo effect from a post or a video about a brand may be more beneficial to changing perception and encouraging purchasing than a traditional ad or PR campaign.

I was curious to know:

  • Who was doing it right and who was doing it wrong
  • What did agencies want from bloggers and what did bloggers want from agencies
  • and most of all how could we work together for the benefit of the communities

99 people participated in an online survey. Since the research is not statistically valid let's call it an industry pulse check from the people who are involved in the space. Their insights are thoughtful and the learnings they shared significant.

To thank those who kindly gave their time and to help our community understand this evolving industry I'll be posting the findings over the next few weeks. This is part III in the series Part I: Blogger or Journalist Part II: Successful Blogger Relations Strategy.

Blogger Relations On Its Way To Main Stream Marketing

With almost all, 90%, respondents anticipating that they will be involved in a blogger relations strategy within the next 12-months, it seems as though BR is positioned to become an accepted marketing tactic.

Total response: 100% - 99 out of 99
Yes - 90%
No - 10%

Madison_ave Question: If you are working with an agency/social media company ... what do you want to tell Bloggers when it comes to blogger relations?

There has been much written from the view point of bloggers about how they would like to be treated. However, I wondered what would agencies and consultants say to bloggers about their side of blogger relations.  

37 responded
43 self selected they worked for an agency/social media consultant and were bloggers. I don't know the total non bloggers who worked for an agency/social media consultancy.

Responses ranged from talk about values to reminders that we are still early in the game and to be patient to ideas how to work together. According to Drew McLellan, " I think everyone has to find a way to the middle. I don't think posting black lists is right. Nor do I think badgering bloggers is right."

The big take-aways for me were:

  • Concern about values
  • Post blogger relations policies
  • Give feedback
  • Reminder that we are early in the game and are learning together
  • Agencies should be part of the conversation
  • Respect

Values

It was important for that bloggers are real, transparent and authentic. Marc Meyer put it this way, "Be genuine. Think openly. write down any and all ideas. Keep an open mind and be respectful of other people's thoughts, ideas and opinions."

Be real! Even if you aren't (a real person). Genuine emotion and a willingness to share and address all sides of issues will win you acceptance. Also, don't use SEO releases. It just adds noise and devalues the worth of 'real' releases. -  Robert French

Listen first, build on what's there. Do not try to reinvent the wheel. - Katie Paine

Never become self-absorbed. It shows and your page views will immediately plummet. - Jane Genova

Be frequent. Be relative. Be real. - Kim Haynes

What goes around comes around. But always be authentic or you will lose your audience. - Alan Wolk

Be transparent. – Kate Spencer

Be transparent. A good company does not want fake hype as it will be exposed in time and will not have lasting value to either party. * Be fair. It's less important what your opinion is, more important that you evaluate things from your perspective, documented when possible, and handled maturely. * Ask yourself frequently - what's your point? Know that, communicate that, adhere to that. Consistency gives cred; the details are secondary. - Roxanne Darling

Feedback

Most agree that this is a path we are forging .. together. The rules are being defined with each new out reach and what worked today for one blogger may not work tomorrow for another. But what happens when someone makes a mistake or doesn't know the rules?

Respondents asked for feedback and help understanding what individual bloggers want. Dave Taylor put it, " Cut the "new pr people some slack for mistakes, but flakes flacks need to pay attention and respect bloggers too, not just do the same "paid by the # of releases sent out" goofiness."

Be patient - this is an emerging area and we're all trying to figure it out. Don't be so quick to criticize; offer suggestions rather than excoriating us. Anonymous

I have worked with an agency before as the emerging media guy who connects with bloggers. I would want to tell them to give PR people a break and realize that they are NOT EVIL. Instead of reacting like a pissy little child, how about reacting like an adult and helping to educate him/her about how they can do their job better? - Michael E. Rubin

To provide constructive criticism - those of us who are "doing it right" so to speak are always looking to do better, and present opportunities that are beneficial to both the client we represent as well as the blogger - often we are willing to be flexible to work with the blogger to make that happen.
I would love to hear more candid feedback from the bloggers I work with regarding how they'd like to be pitched, the kinds of opportunities they'd like, and what works for them - I'd love to accommodate as best I can, and offer opportunities that are relevant to them. – Anonymous

We want your insights - not coverage on your blog. Give us your feedback. We don't want to influence your feedback - be true to yourself. We don't want to lure you with gifts - try the product, and return if you think of it as a bribe. - Rajesh

Work with us - if we approach you in an offensive/unnecessary way please tell us. it's a new media and the rules haven't been set (yet) – Anonymous

What Do Bloggers Want?

Kami Huyse suggested that, "Bloggers need to be clear about their preferences for companies that want to share information." A solution would be to pick up on Roxane Darling suggestion of posting a Blogger Relations Policy page or as Rohit called it a pitch page.

The more info you can provide upfront somewhere on your blog about how you prefer to be contacted and what topics you are interested in hearing about, the more likely you will get relevant pitches. - Nedra Weinreich

Make it easy for us to learn about you and your likes and dislikes and we can tailor our "relations" to you much better.
Often the information that could give us these clues is hidden and we have to struggle to find it.
If your pet peeve is getting press releases about product launches, let us know in a prominent way linked from your homepage (such as a "how to pitch me" page off your about page) and the good agencies will respect that. When that fact is hidden in a blog post you made 3 years ago, it's almost impossible for your regular readers to find it, much less any agency person just getting familiar with your blog. – Rohit

I want them to tell me what is ok and what is cheap promotion. I want them, since it is their media outlet, to share with me what is appropriate and what is cheapening their space. What incentives are good and what constitutes selling out. – Anonymous

Hugh_gaping_void__blog_consultant Interacting With Agencies

Neville Hobson's response hit's the high notes - "I promise not to spam you and will treat you with respect."

I know who you are because I read you. I know what you are looking for because I understand. Sometimes, I think my agency has some content you might like to see. – Shel Israel

Work with us - if we approach you in an offensive/unnecessary way please tell us. it's a new media and the rules haven't been set (yet) – Anonymous

I think the bloggers need to be easy to access like "standard" media. I wish there was a way to send out a media release enmasse to bloggers. – Carolyn Wilman

Much as a good relationship between a reporter and PR can benefit both parties, so can a good relationship with a blogger. A relationship with us could get you great content. Example, we recently got an interview with someone a blogger was over the moon to speak to, and she would not have gotten that interview without us. - Sally Falkow

It's all about making sure the message or the connection adds value for all parties. - Sherry Heyl

There is a fine line when it comes to pitching a product versus engaging a blogger to discuss the product/service/client with you and their audience. Realizing that there are agencies out there that read your blog for more than just the opportunity to have you highlight a product, that is where the mutual respect comes in. We regularly read your blog because your industry is our client's industry.

Your interests and passions are our client's interests and passions (and sometimes our own, too!). We look for client opportunities, sure. That is our job. But ultimately, we are mostly there to further the conversation amongst you, our client, and all the other interested parties out there. Sharing information and sharing that passion - that is where blogger relations turn into an actual relationship between a blogger, an agency and their client. - Anonymous

It is important to develop highly customized and personalized programs for bloggers and not just a cut and paste program being executed by interns. This could be your most important PR strategy. - Dave Williams

A few comments reinforced that blogger relations is a different game .. one where more than your client's reputation can be involved. The agency has skin in the game too.

We know that our reputation is always on the line, and that keeps us especially rigorous in customized outreach, relationship-building, and being 100% transparent. It's a tremendous amount of risk we take in engaging with bloggers. If a PR person writes a bad pitch to the journalist, the worst that'll happen is the journalist ignores it. With bloggers, the upside's great but the risk is much higher. David Berkowitz

We understand that your blog is your territory and we very much appreciate it when you're willing to talk about our clients there. – Anonymous

Be Part of The Conversation

A few people felt that actively participating in the conversation was important too.

Join the conversation first. - Jay Berkowitz

As an agency it is critical that I blog too - so I have my own credibility and my own space to share "me" and not just my product/brand or service, rather than pushing out tactical messages in-the-cold. This way, when I do have messages to send out, they follow a more natural flow that bloggers are comfortable with. – Dina Mehta

Rich Brook's comment appropriately concludes Phase III of the Blogger Relations Series

You must give before you can expect to receive.

Next up - Phase IV Blogger Relations Series: Bloggers Talk To Agencies

Thanks to the 99 people who kindly responded. The following agreed to be quoted and publicly acknowledged.

Michele Miller WonderBranding
Mei-Li Thomas, No Fear, Just DIVA
Paul Chaney, Conversational Media Marketing
Kim Haynes, Texas Gal Ramblings
Des Walsh Des Walsh dot com
Alan Wolk The Toad Stool
Elaine Fogel, Solutions Marketing and Consulting
David J. Neff, American Cancer Society; Sharing Hope TV
Steven E. Streight aka Pluperfecter (formerly known as Vaspers the Grate)
Nicole Simons, Cruel To Be Kind
Sherry Heyl, Concept Hub, Inc
Ike Pigott, Occam's RaaR
Mary Hunt, In Women We Trust

Yigal Cohen, Linx Analyst and Blogger Relations
Susan Cartier Liebel, Building Solo Practice University
Liz Strauss, Successful and Outstanding Blog(gers)
Robert French, infOpinions?
Cynthia Holladay, UpRight Marketing
Alanna Kellogg, Veggie Eventure; Kitchen Parade
Yvonne Divita, Lip-sticking
Jay Berkowitz, Ten Golden Rules
Heidi Richards Mooney, WE Magazine for Women
Tim Jackson, Masi Bicycles  Masiguy Podcast
Marc Meyer, Direct Response Marketing Observations
Mark Goren, Transmission Content + Creative
Sally Falkow, PRoactive  Leading Edge on the Daily Dog
John Cass Author of Strategies & Tools for Corporate Blogging Blogger at PR Communications

Shel Israel, Global Neighbourhoods
Ann Handley, Annarchy; Marketing Profs Daily Fix Blog
Francois Gossieaux, Emergence Marketing
Erin K Vest, Queen of Spain
David Berkowitz, Inside the Marketers Studio,

Kate Spencer, Fordham University
Ed Gaston, Chrysler
Michael Rubin, Blog Council
Cyndee Haydon, Clearwater Real Estate Tampa Homes
Katie Paine, KDPaine's PR MeasurementBlog
Drew McLellan, Drew's Marketing Minute
Anita Campbell Small Business Trends
Rich Brooks, Flyte
Jane Genova, JaneGenova.com Law and More
Marianne Richmond, Resonance Partnership
Becky Carroll, Customers Rock
CB Whittemore, Flooring The Consumer  The Carpetology Blog
Roxanne Darling Partner, Bare Feet Studios Bare Feet Blog
Dave Williams, Co-Founder, 360i

Tris Hussey, A View From The Isle
Kami Huyse, Communication Overtones
B.L. Ochman What's Next Blog
Carolyn Wilman Contest Queen

Rajesh Lalwani, Blog Works

Dave Taylor, Ask Dave Taylor
Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing
Nancy White, Full Circle
Neville Hobson, NevilleHobson.com
Nedra Weinreich, Spare  Change blog
Dina Mehta, Conversations with Dina
Rohit, Influential Marketing Blog

Prashant, Markitechture
Katherine Malone, Fleishman-Hillard
Randal Moss, American Cancer Society; Community Mobilization
Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing
Merrill Dubrow, M/A/R/C The Merrill Dubrow Blog

Part I: Blogger or Journalist Part II: Successful Blogger Relations Strategy Part III: Agencies Talk To Bloggers Part IV: Brands Talk To Bloggers Part V: Bloggers Talk To Agencies

Blogger Relations Series: A Successful Blogger Relations Strategy

08/06/2008

Pulse of the Industry: Blogger Relations Part II

Social media a credible industry? Yes? No? I vote yes and not just because I've had a sip or two of the koolaid. Recently it was (re) validated with the launch of IBNMA - International Bloggers and New Media Association (disclosure: I am a board member) and consolidation of Social Media Group purchasing Livingston Communications.

However, with growth comes challenges and questions. A few of mine were to learn more about how bloggers, agencies and brands perceived a new strategy we are calling - Blogger Relations. I wanted to know:

  • Who was doing it right and who was doing it wrong
  • What did agencies want from bloggers and what did bloggers want from agencies
  • and most of all how could we work together for the benefit of the communities

Your_opinion_counts So I asked a few folks for their views. 99 people participated in an online survey. This is an industry .. let's call it .. pulse check .. NOT a statistically valid survey. However, the insights are note worthy and valuable. For the backstory see Part I Blogger or Journalist. My thank you and to the people who participated, and our community, is to post the findings. Since the posts tend to run long I'll be posting the analysis over the next couple of weeks. Today we'll dive into what makes a successful blogger relations strategy.

I was also curious to know, generally, if people were involved with blogger relations.  Question: Have you conducted/been ask to participate in a blogger relations strategy?

It seems that marketers, on the consulting and brand side have been busy out reaching to bloggers. 

Total response: 99 out of 99 - 100% response rate

Yes: 63%
No: 37%

My off the record thoughts are this will continue to escalate as marketers understand that bloggers bring not only reach into a niche community but a halo influence of credibility.   

From John Cass a comment which helps to clarify what is meant by Blogger Relations.  "However, we have to define blogger relations. To me it has two meanings 1) the pitching part in media relations, but to bloggers, 2) having a dialogue with a blogger, without the intent of pitching something, but to share ideas, and discussion." Read more from Jon.

Question: Other than meeting goals and objectives .. how do you define a successful blogger relations strategy? Who is doing it right? Who is doing it wrong?

Total responses: 87 out of 99 responses - 88% response rate

 

There were three big take aways for me from the responses to this question:

  • It's Not About You

  • Relationships Matter

  • Honesty Is Critical

However, Francois Gossieaux reminds us that blogger relations is a component of a what should be a larger strategy of the benefits derived from social media marketing. "Blogger relations sounds so PR-ish...I think that if companies are considering just blogger relations that they will get short changed on what the social media-induced changes can deliver to their overall business and marketing."

In addition, for one respondent participating in a blogger relations program where the blogger perceives that is is all about helping "someone else make money" will never fly.

  • I don't understand why anyone thinks I would use my valuable real estate for free advertising someone else makes money on. I get two or three dozen contacts a week of this sort (including once - honest - adult bibs) and they all waste my time. Until there got to be so many, I answered politely explaining my position. Now I just delete them. Let them buy ads as in any other kind of publication. - Anonymous

It's Not About You

Rohit's simple but elegant statement, "One where everyone benefits" indicates the sentiment of many respondents. A successful blogger relations strategy is a win for the blogger, the brand and the community. Rajesh Lalwani reminds us that it is also an opportunity to co-create. Developing the conversation was important to others.

  • Positive reaction from bloggers, providing something of value to THEM, not just yourself, communicating as a human, not just like a company, understanding both the blogger and his/her/their audience. – Anonymous
  • Did you strike a 'relationship'? Did you gain insights from the blogger and her community? Did you co-create? If you did, or will, to me is a successful blogger relations strategy. – Rajesh Lawlani
  • A great blogger relations strategy is about connecting entities together -- people, companies, and organizations. It's about starting conversations and dialogue in a very real sense. - Michael Rubin
  • There is a genuine mutual interest created between blogger and subject trying to maintain blogger relations. - Prashant Kew
  • I'd say that success is collaborating for the greater good and ultimately to help get the truth out to the end consumer. - CB Whittemore
  • I have been approached by a few companies in the not for profit field to write about their programs. The content fits well into the scope of my blog. When they provide me with an outline of their service it and how it fits well into my blog I like it even more. - Randal Moss
  • For a corporation or business, effective blogger relations strategy involved educating a reader, NOT promoting products or brands.- Michelle Miller
  • Blogger relations strategy is a success when bloggers are talking about a company without necessarily realizing that there IS a strategy. Precious few companies are doing it right as of yet, in my opinion. - Dave Taylor
  • A successful strategy is one isn't a "strategy," but a way of being and respectfully interacting with others. Would you pass the small town test? Are you contributing to the town structure or using the town structure for your own gain and not giving back your fair share? Are you putting as much energy into the blogging relationship as you are expecting them to put into you? - Mary Hunt
  • Blogger relations to me encompasses good dealings with other bloggers, the client you are serving as consultant or official blogger, and with readers who interact with your blog via comments, links, quotes, email, and real life meeetings. - Stephen Straight

Relationships Matter

From the comments it was evident that building relations was considered the cornerstone of this type of communication out reach. How do you create a relationship? For Dina Mehta "Doing it right is engaging in meaningful conversations in a transparent fashion with an involved target audience."

  • Building relationships and really telling you what consumers are thinking/doing. It's viral and the absolute best WOM marketing out there. - Kate Spencer
  • A successful blogger relations strategy does just that - builds relationships. It reaches out over time and adds value to the blogs that it seeks to partner with, in addition to understanding their readers. It gets the conversation going around the product or service in question, and success occurs when the discussion builds beyond what was expected. - Becky Carroll
  • The relationship comes first. As Jason Falls says, "you have to live it." The folks who are doing it right are almost invisible as blogger relations. They talk about the same things and show concern for the same things we do. - Liz Strauss
  • The idea of a blogger relations strategy begins with the words relations - it is all about building a mutually rewarding and inspirational relationship between the blogger and the agency/client, and sharing that passion and insight with the readers. Those who attempt to skip this step, or pretend to be involved when they are really not, are doing it all wrong. - Anonymous
  • Developing a relationship with blogger over time & participating in comments/discussions to the point where blogger would consider me/client a go-to source on my topic of expertise. - Anonymous
  • Those who do it right realize they are engaging in relationship management, those that do it wrong are just looking for the mention/hit - Kami Huyse

Trust Honesty & Trust Are Critical

Is it really a surprise that in the social media world where virtual relationships are formed without the benefit of a physical handshake or eye contact that honest, trust and let's add in authenticity would be a given in working with bloggers?

  • Communication and honesty is key. Providing and receiving honest feedback regarding what works and what doesn't helps. I think like any other relationship, opportunities need to be mutually beneficial to both parties. - Anonymous
  • Full disclosure of the relationships – Marianne Richmond
  • Trust (that) is real, authenticity (that) can be counted. - Beth Kephart

What Constitutes A Successful Blogger Relations Campaign?

Respondents offered several different ideas of what "success" meant to them. A few people indicated success was a change in perception while others felt it was the extent of that bloggers engaged with your product/service/brand to several it came back to establishing trust on both sides of the equation.

  • As far as defining a successful blogger relations strategy, it depends on the scope of the program. The best strategy is a long-term plan for building relationships with key bloggers, but it is possible to start small and identify the right bloggers to connect with for a certain campaign. - David Berkowitz
  • How your (agency, marketer, consultant) reputation emerges at the conclusion of the process. - Anonymous
  • Changing perceptions of the public. - Anonymous
  • A successful strategy is when a) the bloggers you want to help move your story know you and trust you as a reliable source of trustworthy and interesting information and b) the bloggers know you will give them the information in easily bloggable form (elements at least of the Social Media Release) - Des Walsh
  • Creating buzz for a project/product and changing consumer perception, which is hard to measure - so many things are at play, including the product or service itself- is it buzzworthy? - Alan Wolk

Measuring Success

For most of the respondents a successful blogger relations strategy has many moving parts that support success. A few people commented on how to measure success.

  • Success is measured in many different ways depending on the campaign. Is it a product launch? You probably want as many review posts as you can get, and secondly, comments/trackbacks on those posts. Depending on the item and the collateral you make available, this might also include UGC videos with your products, that are then distributed and shared. Is it an ongoing branding campaign? Then this is harder to measure, as in traditional campaigns. Is it part of an overall marketing strategy? Then posts, views, comments, and trackbacks become relevant metrics. – Roxanne Dahling
  • The success isn't necessarily numbers, or big numbers. If you're key influencers are 5 people ... and you reach them, well - "Victory is mine!" Look at the small nonprofits that are engaging just their key/core stakeholders. Many are doing it. They just don't get the big time buzz from the high profile bloggers. Why? Because they are not corporate and don't present potential clients (or huge linkbacks) for the bloggers. Crass, you say? No. Reality. - Robert French
  • 2x the 'blog mentions' than blogs pitched
  • A good blogger relations strategy can be wrapped around a few benchmarks that can define success. one being branding, 2 being exposure, 3-product release, 4-customer relations 5-corporate communications. Rather than give you specific examples I would implore people to read Naked Conversations by Scoble and Israel - Marc Meyer.

Doing It Right

The following is a list of companies and consultants that some respondents felt were doing it right. The numbers represent the times mentioned by different people.

Ford
SAP -2
Pentagon
ComcastCares
Cisco
Dell -6
Graco
Southwest Airlines
Lands End
Playnormous
IBM
Intuit
Microsoft
SUN
Stonyfield Farms
Carter Lusher
Toby Bloomberg -3
Ann Handley
Seth Godin
Guy Kawasaki
Darran Rouse
Yvonne DiVita
Liz Strauss
Chris Brogan
Brian Clark
Nokia
Smaller, nimbler companies
Larger companies with dedicated resources
Social marketers whose everyday revolves around blogging

Cyndee Haydon felt blogger relations involved continuous active participation in social media conversations and offered an example.

  • "I think @ComcastCares is doing it right on Twitter - By participating in the conversation and being responsive. I know of 3 people who have had Comcast problems - went the traditional route to get help and were completely frustrated and writing about that then they used twitter to get to ComcastCares and the problems were solved - and they told everyone about the great service on large blog networks (one with 95000 members) - the viral marketing and PR was "priceless".

Doing It Wrong

  • Walmart - 2
  • Most PR agencies

Anita Campbell brings another perspective that reinforces social media marketing is a young industry and we have much to learn from each other.

  • "As for anyone doing it "wrong," I simply prefer to think of it as them not quite being where they need to be yet -- not that they are wrong. All this openness makes us pass judgment too harshly and too quickly I think. Let's give companies and people time to learn and grow in their blogging.

Other respondents provided specifics of how people were off track.

  • Doing it wrong: 1. mass mailings of generic promotions and press releases 2. false statements such as "I've been reading your blog and - followed by boilerplate 3. promoting products and services clearly unrelated to the blog's topic, intent or audience 4. continuing to email after having been told the blogger is not interested. - Anonymous
  • Doing it wrong? Most companies who look at social media as another channel. - Anonymous
  • "Unsuccessful blogger relations all have one thing in common, which is that they are one sided and offer little value to the bloggers and therefore come off as nothing more than spam. - Anonymous

Success How To Do It Right

Several people included specific ideas on what it takes to implement a successful blogger relations out reach.

  • Successful blogger relations campaign is only going to bloggers who might actually have a reason to be interested in what you're selling, approaching them as if they were human beings, knowing what they write about, and giving them the story before you give it to everyone and her dog. - B.L. Ochman
  • The ones who do it right don't blanket e-mail, do know their audience in advance. They create relationships and value before they ask for value. (Sounds like social media mores, eh?) – Drew McLellan
  • One in which there is a product/service related rationale for soliciting the bloggers opinion (i.e. the product is for babies and mothers are askd to try the product) and the value of the product is not perceived to be "payment" for a blog post/recommendation (e.g. Nikon, Microsoft Vista)....and there is full disclosure of the relationonship. Another "right" would be if I have written something negative about a product or service, an acknowledgment of some sort from the company that addresses the issue should also be part of a "successful blogger relations strategy"; similarly a successful blogger relations strategy should include contacting bloggers writing negative or positive posts about competitive products or services ... a reach out to "try ours". – Marianne Richmond
  • Develop highly customized and personalized programs for the client to reach out to the bloggers. These programs should add value for the blogger. - Dave Williams, Co-Founder, 360i
  • (With caveats of my answer to #2 above) 1) has the person/org looked at the diverse strategic application of blogs as a communication medium. Have they then been strategic about their selection/use? 2) are they ready to use this particular medium, understanding it is not simply a "broadcast as usual" medium? 3) are they getting and productively using the feedback and connections made through blogging? 4) Is blogging done by more than one person (i.e. moved beyond centralized, controlled information dissemination)? - Nancy White
  • Successful strategy includes finding the bloggers that reach the audience you want, making sure that your product/service is something that fits within what the bloggers write about, reaching out in a respectful and compelling way to offer something of value (info/news/an experience), and being available for follow-up dialogue with the bloggers. - Nedra Weinreich
  • Success means being accepted by bloggers (i.e., conversing and interacting), without you sticking out like a sore thumb or it seeming forced. - Anita Campbell
  • It's also to help create a community that feels comfortable having useful discussions about a product or service. - Yvonne DiVita
  • A successful strategy is similar to any journalist outreach, read our stuff first, don't spam us with the same bcc email you send to 50 people. Be a part of my small online community first, then craft a custom message. - Jay Berkowitz
  • Folks who do it right don't try to control the outcome of what bloggers cover, but do offer them full and equal access to their business/event/whatever. - Ann Handley
  • Personal mailings indicating the topic and reach of the blog are understood and suggesting there might be a fit, with appropriate facts - Anonymous
  • B/c of the topics in my blog, I'm in the pool of bloggers that the Pentagon invites onto conference calls with various military experts; they are doing a good job of connecting bloggers with experts or actors who have specific knowledge of topical newsworthy issues. - Winds of Change
  • A successful blogger relations strategy discusses thought provoking issues which leads to meaningful comments and gets readers to become and stay engaged in the blog. - Merrill Dubrow

Next Up: Part III Agencies tell bloggers their side and what they want in the relationship.

Thanks to the 99 people who kindly responded. The following agreed to be quoted and publicly acknowledged.

Michele Miller WonderBranding
Mei-Li Thomas, No Fear, Just DIVA
Paul Chaney, Conversational Media Marketing
Kim Haynes, Texas Gal Ramblings
Des Walsh Des Walsh dot com
Alan Wolk The Toad Stool
Elaine Fogel, Solutions Marketing and Consulting
David J. Neff, American Cancer Society; Sharing Hope TV
Steven E. Streight aka Pluperfecter (formerly known as Vaspers the Grate)
Nicole Simons, Cruel To Be Kind
Sherry Heyl, Concept Hub, Inc
Ike Pigott, Occam's RaaR
Mary Hunt, In Women We Trust

Yigal Cohen, Linx Analyst and Blogger Relations
Susan Cartier Liebel, Building Solo Practice University
Liz Strauss, Successful and Outstanding Blog(gers)
Robert French, infOpinions?
Cynthia Holladay, UpRight Marketing
Alanna Kellogg, Veggie Eventure; Kitchen Parade
Yvonne Divita, Lip-sticking
Jay Berkowitz, Ten Golden Rules
Heidi Richards Mooney, WE Magazine for Women
Tim Jackson, Masi Bicycles  Masiguy Podcast
Marc Meyer, Direct Response Marketing Observations
Mark Goren, Transmission Content + Creative
Sally Falkow, PRoactive  Leading Edge on the Daily Dog
John Cass Author of Strategies & Tools for Corporate Blogging Blogger at PR Communications

Shel Israel, Global Neighbourhoods
Ann Handley, Annarchy; Marketing Profs Daily Fix Blog
Francois Gossieaux, Emergence Marketing
Erin K Vest, Queen of Spain
David Berkowitz, Inside the Marketers Studio,

Kate Spencer, Fordham University
Ed Gaston, Chrysler
Michael Rubin, Blog Council
Cyndee Haydon, Clearwater Real Estate Tampa Homes
Katie Paine, KDPaine's PR MeasurementBlog
Drew McLellan, Drew's Marketing Minute
Anita Campbell Small Business Trends
Rich Brooks, Flyte
Jane Genova, JaneGenova.com Law and More
Marianne Richmond, Resonance Partnership
Becky Carroll, Customers Rock
CB Whittemore, Flooring The Consumer  The Carpetology Blog
Roxanne Darling Partner, Bare Feet Studios Bare Feet Blog
Dave Williams, Co-Founder, 360i

Tris Hussey, A View From The Isle
Kami Huyse, Communication Overtones
B.L. Ochman What's Next Blog
Carolyn Wilman Contest Queen

Rajesh Lalwani, Blog Works

Dave Taylor, Ask Dave Taylor
Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing
Nancy White, Full Circle
Neville Hobson, NevilleHobson.com
Nedra Weinreich, Spare  Change blog
Dina Mehta, Conversations with Dina
Rohit, Influential Marketing Blog

Prashant, Markitechture
Katherine Malone, Fleishman-Hillard
Randal Moss, American Cancer Society; Community Mobilization
Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing
Merrill Dubrow, M/A/R/C The Merrill Dubrow Blog

Part I: Blogger or Journalist Part II: Successful Blogger Relations Strategy Part III: Agencies Talk To Bloggers Part IV: Brands Talk To Bloggers Part V: Bloggers Talk To Agencies

Blogger Relations Series: Blogger or Journalist?

07/24/2008

Pulse of the Industry: Blogger Relations

Every new industry has growing pains and social media is no different. As C.B. Whittemore said to me "The challenge is figuring out how all these things can be practical."

Blogging, in particular, has become an important resource not only for people who read blogs but for brand managers/agencies who perceive the blog/blogger is a source of influence and channel for message/idea distribution. A new strategy has emerged that we've termed "Blogger Relations." How to do it 'right' is a hot topic in many of our digital and non digital discussions.

With so mAnns_girls__1any opinions swirling around I was curious to know what people thought. I also wondered if agencies and brand managers could talk to bloggers what would they say. On the flip side what would bloggers tell agencies and brands about what they did and how they wanted to be contacted. So I did what any good marketer would do .. I asked.

I sent out about 100 emails and I'm not sure how many direct message tweets. Can't tell you the response rate but I can tell that 99 people answered the questionnaire. My promise to the people who kindly answered my questions was that I would share the responses with our community. Over the next few weeks I'll be posting an analysis of the open ended questions.

This is an industry ..let's call it .. pulse check .. NOT a statistically valid survey. However, the insights are note worthy and valuable. My hopes are we can move the conversation a step or two further along. To set the stage .. something about the respondents.

Respondent Profile: Blogger Or Not

Bloggers associated with an agency or social media consultancy 47%

Bloggers associated on the client-side/company affiliation 13% 

Blogger not affiliated with an agency, social media consultancy or a company 29% 

Not a blogger 11%

Let's start with the question: Do you consider bloggers the "new journalists?"

Total responses: 87

55% - Yes

45% - No

I found it interesting that the spread between the percentage of people who thought bloggers were the “new journalists” and those who did not was only 10 points. However, 35 respondents provided additional information.

Several people indicated the answer was not black or white/yes or no but rather there were  many shades of gray.

  • Yes and no. Some bloggers are practicing a new form of journalism. Others are practicing a new form of passing notes in class. Not all bloggers are journalists of any kind. - Shel Israel

  • The answer's very much 'it depends.' For instance, I'd need to know things like who an individual blogger is, what he/she writes about, if the blogger is a full-time blogger or writes as an extension of his/her work before applying such a label. Broadly, though, the label is an invalid one: bloggers are not journalists, new or old - unless the blogger actually *is* a journalist. - Neville Hobson
  • I think this question is too generic. Some are the "new journalists" and some aren't. It is a tool and it is used in many ways. So yes/no answers don't fit. :-) Blogging is diverse. - Nancy White
  • I think they add to the information stream, but don't "replace" it. I tend to shy away from saying one is better than the other- I much prefer the idea of cooperation or information sharing. - Tim Jackson

The definition of what is a journalist seems to be changing to encompass social media and blogging in particular.

  • I would also say that journalists are "new journalists" too, as they have to change to in corporate new media and new ways that "citizen media" influence mainstream work. - Anonymous 
  • News has always changed with times - print, radio, TV and now internet. Journalists are always adapting so bloggers just allows more of us to "report" our thoughts. - Anonymous
  • Particularly in traditional and low tech industries, bloggers are able to more nimbly react to happenings in the marketplace.  - Anonymous
  • I think we'd have to agree what a journalist is and look at every professional blogger to determine whether they are a journalist. Look to the codes of ethics for journalists. One big issue in defining a journalist is if they check sources and facts, see this article.
  • So to me if a blogger acts like a journalist, then they are, and if a journalist acts like a blogger, then they may not be a journalist but a blogger. - John Cass

Rather than being perceived as the new journalists some people felt bloggers were the new public relations pros.

  • Perhaps they are the new PR professionals, as they often blog to promote something, whether that is a product, service, company or brand. - Elaine Fogel. 

Some participants felt that money (getting paid), passion and peer-to-peer communication were where paths crossed between being a journalist and a blogger.

  • Jourrnalists are paid to do their job, bloggers write about things because it is their passion. - Anonymous
  • Blogging is a part of the larger P2P peer to peer network of people advising people about news, products, companies, etc. - Steven E. Streight
  • They are our peers or the people as defined in the Tipping Point, Mavens, Connectors or Salespeople. - Sherry Heyl,

For others the difference between a journalist and a blogger came down to training while for others it was the point of view.

  • Bloggers and journalists have different experience, different networks, different standards, different goals, and different networks. - Roxanne Darling
  • I think that bloggers create them for so many different reasons that it would be inaccurate to call them the "new Journalists." Journalists focus on bringing news or information to the masses, where as some bloggers really just have created an online journal. - Mei Li Thomas
  • Some are breaking news (which is what journalists do) Some are merely interpreting it (which is what columnists do) Others are just providing an echo chamber. - Alan Wolk
  • Not all bloggers; it depends on the blogger's intentions and skill. - Anonymous
  • I think journalists still have a role to play, but bloggers can expand the discussion into new areas where traditional journalists may not have all the insight (or all the contacts!). - Becky Carroll
  • The  term journalism suggests a 'profession'. - Alanna Kellogg
  • It's not just subjectivity/objectivity -- it's the purpose for writing. A minority of bloggers actually write to communicate facts, context, or understanding. - Ike Pigott

Several people viewed bloggers as the new influencers with as much reach, or sometimes more, than traditional journalists.

  • I consider us the new media influentials. Journalism was a very constrained medium. - Jane Genova
  • Many are the new journalists, but others are the "new pundits," the "new experts," the "new entertainers," the "new authors," etc. - Nedra Weinreich
  • But rogue journalists at best. We are not bound by the same rules, don't have the same code of ethics or training. And yet, we are influencers. - Drew McLellan
  • They certainly have as much if not more reach than a typical regional journalist, so reaching out to them can be more beneficial than sending another press release to a local paper. - Anonymous
  • Sometimes they get the events sooner because of their connections on various vehicles like Twitter, so opinions are formed much sooner before it hits the main stream media and possibly influences main stream media's own take and presentation on events if they are trying to undo a pervasive opinion. - Susan Cartier Liebel
  • In some cases that is true. But there are some bloggers who are not influential and are not at all like journalists. - Mark Goren

Ethics and credibility influenced the opinion of other people. In fact, some felt that bloggers self imposed a higher level to ensure credibility.

  • My credibility as a blogger comes from keeping to the higher ground and focusing on what is best for the end consumer. - Anonymous
  • There are some bloggers out there w/journalist like ethics, but most haven't been trained that way, so no. Anonymous

Next Up: How Do You Define A Successful Blogger Relations Strategy? Who is doing it right? Who is doing it wrong?

Thanks to the 99 people who kindly responded. The following agreed to be quoted and publicly acknowledged.

Michele Miller WonderBranding
Mei-Li Thomas, No Fear, Just DIVA
Paul Chaney, Conversational Media Marketing
Kim Haynes, Texas Gal Ramblings
Des Walsh Des Walsh dot com
Alan Wolk The Toad Stool
Elaine Fogel, Solutions Marketing and Consulting
David J. Neff, American Cancer Society; Sharing Hope TV
Steven E. Streight aka Pluperfecter (formerly known as Vaspers the Grate)
Nicole Simons, Cruel To Be Kind
Sherry Heyl, Concept Hub, Inc
Ike Pigott, Occam's RaaR
Mary Hunt, In Women We Trust

Yigal Cohen, Linx Analyst and Blogger Relations
Susan Cartier Liebel, Building Solo Practice University
Liz Strauss, Successful and Outstanding Blog(gers)
Robert French, infOpinions?
Cynthia Holladay, UpRight Marketing
Alanna Kellogg, Veggie Eventure; Kitchen Parade
Yvonne Divita, Lip-sticking
Jay Berkowitz, Ten Golden Rules
Heidi Richards Mooney, WE Magazine for Women
Tim Jackson, Masi Bicycles  Masiguy Podcast
Marc Meyer, Direct Response Marketing Observations
Mark Goren, Transmission Content + Creative
Sally Falkow, PRoactive  Leading Edge on the Daily Dog
John Cass Author of Strategies & Tools for Corporate Blogging Blogger at PR Communications

Shel Israel, Global Neighbourhoods
Ann Handley, Annarchy; Marketing Profs Daily Fix Blog
Francois Gossieaux, Emergence Marketing
Erin K Vest, Queen of Spain
David Berkowitz, Inside the Marketers Studio,

Kate Spencer, Fordham University
Ed Gaston, Chrysler
Michael Rubin, Blog Council
Cyndee Haydon, Clearwater Real Estate Tampa Homes
Katie Paine, KDPaine's PR MeasurementBlog
Drew McLellan, Drew's Marketing Minute
Anita Campbell Small Business Trends
Rich Brooks, Flyte
Jane Genova, JaneGenova.com Law and More
Marianne Richmond, Resonance Partnership
Becky Carroll, Customers Rock
CB Whittemore, Flooring The Consumer  The Carpetology Blog
Roxanne Darling Partner, Bare Feet Studios Bare Feet Blog
Dave Williams, Co-Founder, 360i

Tris Hussey, A View From The Isle
Kami Huyse, Communication Overtones
B.L. Ochman What's Next Blog
Carolyn Wilman Contest Queen

Rajesh Lalwani, Blog Works

Dave Taylor, Ask Dave Taylor
Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing
Nancy White, Full Circle
Neville Hobson, NevilleHobson.com
Nedra Weinreich, Spare  Change blog
Dina Mehta, Conversations with Dina
Rohit, Influential Marketing Blog

Prashant, Markitechture
Katherine Malone, Fleishman-Hillard
Randal Moss, American Cancer Society; Community Mobilization
Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing
Merrill Dubrow, M/A/R/C The Merrill Dubrow Blog

Part I: Blogger or Journalist Part II: Successful Blogger Relations Strategy Part III: Agencies Talk To Bloggers Part IV: Brands Talk To Bloggers Part V: Bloggers Talk To Agencies

Social Media: The Virtual Backyard Fence Chat

03/17/2008

Home_improvement When was the last time you hung out with your customers or clients? I'm not talking about the last time you watched behind the two way mirror: 8 to 10 women, 18-34 years of age, who lived in a metro area and skate boarded to work wearing their Jimmie Choos. Nor am I talking about reading the customer sat report that your research department sent over .. which by the way you really should take out of your "To Read" pile and read.

It's not comfortable to be a brand manager sitting behind the two-way mirror munching on M&Ms and suddenly hear customers bash your latest brain child. It's devastating to read a research report that coldly informs you that 91.27% of your customers believe your service stinks. Don't you sometimes wish that you could drop the formal research strategy and meet Becky or Brian or Betty or Brandon at your neighborhood Starbucks and just dish? (Note: I am not saying disregard traditional marketing research.)

When was the last time you talked, listened, laughed and learned with .. not From .. but With your customers or clients? Divas and divos I'll bet you a chocolate martini that for a few savvy marketers it was your last trade show but for most the answer is - Never.

The concept of conducting business is an odd duck to me.  Marketing teaches us the more we know about our target audience the better we can service them. The big however is .. how do you to get to know the millions of individuals that make up the customer base of global brands? I don't know about you but it's damn difficult for me to create new products, marketing programs or service a demographic group that seems more like wisps of vapor than people with hearts.  Enter stage left research-based personas that begin to provide some texture and depth. While there is value in these composite profiles, and great fun to build, they've always seemed rather like playing with paper dolls.

The son of the Godfather was wrong .. dead wrong. Business IS personal. However, creating corner grocery store relationships can be as challenging with customers in Madrid as with clients on Main Street. We compete every day for precious moments of time with our customers. There are so many priorities in our lives from family to work to friends to self. Yes Girlfriend self (but that's another post!).

It sure is hard to fit a relationship with your favorite brand into the mix. I'm not sure if I want to anyway. Time spent with my shampoo brand .. time spent with Max_dec_07_3 Max. No need to flip a coin on that one.

But time to drop a comment on the blog or social network site of the shampoo's marketing manager that I've come to know and like and respect .. that's a different story. Time to even chat with a friend I met online line about how I perceive her newest product. Sure. Of course, I'll help out a friend.

Marketing research pros might argue .. but you are biased because you have a relationship with your-friend-the-brand-manager-of-your-shampoo. Perhaps. Perhaps my feedback will be colored but then again, because I want to help her succeed perhaps my feedback will be even more honest.

Business friendships built online in social media venues?  May sound strange to you but trust me on this one Girlfriend, it is not strange for Kinsey and Caroline who are redefining "What Is A Friend." Building those relationships that do morph into friendships over a virtual backyard fence will become are becoming more common and accepted with each click.

Thanks to BBF Ann Handley for the inspiration for this post.

Diva Marketing Talks About Sponsored Niche Communities (a la Sermo) with Dr. Daniel Palestrant & Dr. Richard Thrasher

02/26/2008

Diva Marketing Talks is a live, internet radio show.  30-minutes. 2-guests. 1-topic about social media marketing. Why? To help you understand how to participate in the "new" conversation without getting blown-up. Miss today's show? You can pick it up as a podcast.

Today's Diva Marketing Talks explores an innovative, new model for a social media community. Dr. Daniel Palestrant, Founder CEO of Sermo, and Dr. Richard Thrasher, community member, join me to talk about Sermo, an online community open only to doctors (a niche) where for a fee sponsors can listen in, ask questions but not fully participate.

Big question: Would this model work for other verticals/market segments like moms or golfers or accountants or patients?

Topic for February 26, 2008: Where the Docs Are .. Someone Waits For Them. Paid Sponsors in a Social Networking Community.

Time: 6:30p - 7p Eastern/ 5:30p - 6p Central/ 4:30p -5p Mountain/ 3:30p - 4p Pacific
Call-in Guest Number: 718.508.9924

Guests:

Drr_daniel_palestrant_2 Daniel Palestrant

Daniel Palestrant is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cambridge-based Sermo, Inc. As CEO, Daniel is responsible for the overall vision of the Sermo community and business. His main tasks focus on ensuring that Sermo is a valuable resource to physicians while building a profitable and socially responsible enterprise.

Daniel's first experiences with Healthcare Informatics came when he conceived, designed, proposed and managed deployment of CIBUR (CIGNA Internet Based Universal Resource), one of the first commercial Web-based healthcare resources for physicians and allied health professionals. No stranger to the entrepreneurial side of medicine, Daniel founded his first company, Azygos, Inc., in 1998. During that time, he successfully raised $2.2MM in funding and deployed the company's first clinical application on schedule and on budget, before selling the company to BioNetrix in May of 2001.

After selling Azygos, Daniel joined BioNetrix (Now BNX Systems) as Director of Health Care. During his time at BNX Systems, Daniel helped numerous healthcare-focused businesses increase network security, improve patient privacy safeguards and comply with HIPAA. Daniel has done clinical and laboratory research in transplant immunology. He has a B.S. in biology from Johns Hopkins University, completed medical school at Duke University, and trained in General Surgery at Beth Israel-Deaconess Hospital, in Boston before leaving to launch Sermo.

Dr_thrasher Dr. Richard Thrasher

Dr. Richard Thrasher is board certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology. He established ENT practice - The Ear, Nose, & Throat Center at McKinney. He is also an active member of the Sermo community.

Dr. Thrasher received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah and his medical degree from the University of Connecticut. He completed a general surgery internship in Denver before going on to an Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery residency at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. While in residency, Dr. Thrasher spent significant time at Denver Children’s hospital (routinely rated in the top 10 children’s hospitals in the country) and has a particular interest in pediatric ENT.

Upon completing residency, Dr. Thrasher served on clinical faculty with the University of Nebraska Department of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery while he served as a Major in the USAF for 3 years at Offutt AFB in Nebraska. During this time he won three awards for best instructor as a clinical preceptor for family medicine residents and physician assistant students. He also served as medical director of the surgical service and chief of otolaryngology at his base hospital.

Dr. Thrasher was the first otolaryngologist in Nebraska, and first in the Air Force, to perform the new Balloon Sinuplasty® surgery. He was also the first otolaryngologist in Nebraska to perform an innovative base of tongue procedure for sleep apnea and is one of only 6-7 surgeons in the country currently doing this procedure. He has extensive experience performing the Pillar Palatal Implant® procedure for snoring. He has authored several publications and remains active in pursuing clinical research in sinusitis and sleep apnea.

Dr. Thrasher’s special interests include pediatric ENT, snoring/ obstructive sleep apnea, thyroid surgery, and sinus surgery. He is an active golfer and self-proclaimed technology geek. He lives in Plano with his wife and 2 children but hopes to move to McKinney in the next several months.

Tips From The Diva Bag

Complements of Dr. Richard Thrasher

  • Log on frequently and just observe how things work for a little while. Some may feel comfortable seeing the personality of the site within a couple of days, some may need some more time. But I would observe how the interaction works first before just jumping in with a post. There is an etiquette on-line that is not always readily apparent to novices.
  • When you do begin to interact, do so frequently. If you make a comment or post a topic, follow up on it frequently to see if there is any feedback regarding your input. This will definitely bring you into the community. Those who post and run will not feel like they develop a relationship with other users as well.
  • Avoid trying to make overt discriminatory comments—this is the surest way to be ostracized. Whether you have a bias toward something whether it’s race, gender, educational background, etc, if you make those types of comments known, you will be quickly attacked. I have seen this on many on-line communities. Most importantly be open-minded of the opinions of others and at least respectful even if they’re factually wrong. There are definitely better ways to handle differences of opinion than through attacks.
  • Disclose, disclose, disclose. If you market yourself or a product on Sermo and do not disclose a financial interest, but one is discovered, you will immediately be ostracized by the community at large. If you fully disclose your interest in the marketing, you stand a fighting chance of having a constructive discussion of your particular topic.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions about patients who have a diagnosis that you can’t figure out or who has an adverse event that you want to discuss. Often these are the best discussions on Sermo.

Can't call in but have a question? Drop a comment and I'll ask it for you. Let me know what you'd like Diva Talks to chat about. Don't forget Diva Marketing Talks morphs into a podcast.

Update: Enoch Choi, MedHelp of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation joined the conversation. If you have any interest in healthcare in the U.S. or where physicians' interest are in changing the healthcare system do not miss the After Show. In Ophra style, the After Show continues on a free for all flow for as long as the conversation goes on.

Take The Wrap Off Social Media Marketing Numbers

01/28/2008

Shhh ... don't tell any of the social media Intelligentsia. Numbers It Is about the numbers. Don't let anyone kid you. We talk about dropping a pebble in a pond and the swirling levels of influence. But bottom-line looking deep into the waters  .. we search for numbers. We worship numbers. We want more and more and more. We're only takin' care of business

Oh sure, they have to be the "right" numbers er .. people. Right people. People are not numbers. But here's the secret it was always about finding the "right people." But we could never be sure if the right people were watching or reading or listening so we dived into the ocean of numbers. Network television. Newspapers. Oh okay .. radio was more niched. Oh okay .. cable was more niched. Oh okay .. magazines were more niched. We're only takin' care of business.

Alas but for the demographics we never really knew much about the numbers er .. people. Right people. Hello 18-34 year old women who live in the inner city and don't own cars. Hi there 35-54 year old men with beyond a college degree who reside in the suburbs. Hey sorry over 64 year olds we're not really sure what to do with you so we'll just mush you all together. We're only takin' care of business.

Then Pop! Zap! Bam! the world changed. Blogs. Videos. Podcasts. Photos Online. Technology presented easy, cool ways to communicate for the demos er numbers er people. Right people. Some of chat was about brands.  People were talking to their friends and making new friends. Opinions were being influenced and maybe just perhaps purchase behaviors were changing through social media networking. The window and doors to those conversations were wide open and a few savvy marketers began listening in. They heard - Friends talking to friends. Talking to friends of friends. Here come the those numbers. We're only takin' care of business.

The social media Intelligentsia begin to ponder and some even to drool. Maybe just maybe if we listen we can hear and learn. We can create better products and services because we'll understand more than just demographics. We'll understand customers' dreams. Here come the those numbers. One person won't do. Hmmm .. maybe just maybe we can tap into - The Friend - The Top Dog - The Kingpin -The Influencer - who can lead us to the friends of friends and the friends of friends of friends. It's still a numbers game. We're only takin' care of business.

It is still a numbers game. But is that really so bad? When you have limited resources shouldn't you get the most bang for your buck .. so to speak?

If technology can help us turn a demographic snap shot or a one time view behind a two-way mirror into a multi media scrape book of our customers, that continues to evolve over time, shouldn't we maximize those opportunities?

Let's not pretend that social media marketing is not about qualifying the numbers. Marketers will always want more and more and more information to help make informed business decisions. Let's take the wrap off of the numbers game.  We're only takin' care of business.

Thanks to Cardboard, Castles and Other Amenities for the use of the graphic.

Ford Creates Fake Marketing Research Co. For Marketing Campaign

10/05/2007

What is wrong with marketers and advertisers?

Ford's campaign, Swap Your Ride, includes a TV commercial with this voice over:  

"We didn't tell them we were from Ford; we told them it was ... market research." 

According to a Media Post article  - "As part of the effort, Team Detroit created a faux market-research company, "In Home Test Drive Experience, LLC" to distance Ford from the research subjects."

The tag line on Ford's website supporting the campaign reads - No Scripts Or Prompts. Just Real People. Telling Real Stories.  Right. To a Fake Marketing Research Company.

Is this stealth marketing? Is it astrotrufing? Sounds like gray marketing at the very least to me. Not to mention that I feel it discredits the marketing research industry.  What do you think? 

Wonder what happens the next time Ford conducts "real research." Will respondents, who saw the commercial, assume that they're talking to a Fake Marketing Research Company? Will the screener include a qualifying question? Did you see the Swap The Ride Commercial? If yes discontinue. If no ask question number two.

What is wrong with marketers and advertisers? Where were the real market researchers?

Read More About Ford's Swap Your Ride
Professor Walter Carl, North Eastern University

Updated: Want to hear what the marketing research community thinks about the ad? There is a lively discussion on Merrill Dubrow's blog. Merrill is the president of M/A/R/C Research. 

The car maven, Jody DeVere. joins this conversation on Ask Patty and cross posts on BlogHer.

Sidebar: Tuesday 10/9 Shel Israel and Geoff Livingston join me on the internet radio show Diva Marketing Talk to explore Astroturfing and social media.

Diva Marketing Talks with Peter Kim and Marianne Richmond

07/31/2007

Diva Marketing Talks: Analytics tonight. Diva Marketing Talks - a live, internet radio show. 30-minutes. 2-guests. 1-topic related to social media marketing. Why? To help organizations understand social media marketing and how to join the conversation without getting blown-up. Can't join us live? The show morphs into a podcast!

Topic for July 31, 2007:
Time: 6:30p - 7P Eastern 
Call-in Guest Number: 718.508.9924
Guests: Peter Kim, Forrester Research and Marianne Richmond, Resonance Partnership

Tonight Diva Marketing Talks focuses on social space analytics. We're calling this one Blog Analytics A Step Towards Credibility??  Social media is fast taking its place at the grown-up marketing strategy table. With the respect, as a credible strategy, comes things like keeping elbows off the table and Accountability and the "M Word" - Measurement. Before you can measure "it" you have to define what "it" is. Our 2 guests are not only highly respected in the social media marketing world but bring the perspectives of agency and client side to the conversation.

Peter_kim_1_2 Peter Kim is an analyst at Forrester Research in Boston. His coverage area focuses on marketing strategy and organization, including advertising and accountability. Prior to joining Forrester, Peter was international marketing manager at PUMA AG; part of the strategy network at Razorfish; and a research analyst at Coopers & Lybrand focusing on the energy industry.

Marianne_2 Marianne Richmond has held senior level marketing positions with some of the largest consumer brands like Nabisco and Purina. From the agency side she's worked with Ally-Gargano/Marketing Corporation of America and DIMAC Direct. Her career direction has led to opening the doors of her own shop Resonance Partnership based in St. Louis.

Tips From The Diva Bag: Blog Analytics A Step Towards Credibility?? 

Complements of Marianne Richmond

  • Forget trying to find the Holy Grail definition or measurement and focus on what you want the end result to be...what you want your customer to do, believe, experience or think OR what role you want a specific media channel to play to achieve the end result.  Once you know the desired outcome, then what it takes to get there... the metrics should fall out from there.
  • Accurate targeting is critical success factor. Bad targeting=false metrics.
  • All or nothing statements like "the page view is dead" will kill you....there never was and never will be one single one size fits all measurement except for sales and profits.

Complements of  Peter Kim

  • Be free.  There are many good packages available for no cost that provide excellent metrics.
  • Think simple.  Social media analytics work differently - focus on a few key indicators to start.
  • Don't obsess.  Metrics should help fine tune your communication strategy, not drive it.

Can't call in but have a question for Marianne and Peter? Drop a comment and I'll ask it for you. What would you like Diva Talks to chat about?

The show is available for download as podcast to your favorite MP3 player. Or play it right on your computer!

Friday Fun: Are You A Bag Lady?

07/20/2007

Friday Fun is Diva Marketing's virtual happy hour from cosmos to Jack to lemonade. A waiting for the weekend 'playground' time to be sophisticated-silly. Or sometimes just plain silly.

I've a riddle for you. No cheating don't scroll down! What is filled with danger and intrigue?  Is something common but personal and very intimate. It holds emotion, pleasure, beauty, finance, disgust and sometimes despair.

No, it's not the new Harry Potter book. No, it's not the next James Bond film. No, it's not the next Lindsey Lohan or Paris Hilton media blitz. Give up? Diva_purse_2It's a woman's purse sometimes called a handbag or pocketbook or clutch.

Kelley Styring, InsightFarm, found that the mysterious world of a woman's purse is even more than that. It might just be a clue to unlocking billions of dollars in new product opportunities for marketers. Kelly spent over 100 hours interviewing 100 woman and exploring the contents of their pocketbook. She found remarkable insights into their lives and a surprise .. potential unmet needs. 

“I found that the purse - the nerve center of a woman’s life, bearer of her most important things – is also a disorganized bag full of junk. But that’s where the opportunity exists for marketers to fulfill unmet needs.”

Did you know that 95% of U.S. women aged 18-64 take a purse with them Every Day? I bet the divas of marketing to women, Yvonne, Mary and Michele, could tell you that women make about 70% of all retail buys. Think of if this way .. that seeming innocent Coach bag or Target special is the only physical link between home - where needs are created and the store - where those needs can be fulfilled. (K. Styring). What is in that  pocketbook and how it is found may be the catalyst for the next iPhone. I'm thinking a lipstick and mirror holder, as part of an iPhone, would be ultra cool.

Kelley Styring boasts that “In Your Purse: Archaeology of the American Handbag” is the first  quantitative and qualitative study to delve into the contents and context of a woman’s purse. Kelly has even turned her findings into a clever YouTube video. Well worth a watch.

Divas what is in your purse? I'll start - In my pink purse I found: a wallet, cell phone, blue tooth thingy, lip gloss, gourmet tea bags (for when I travel and don't want to drink the boring stuff or horrid coffee), note book, pens, biz card holder and a piece of chocolate.

Heard it from: The Merrill  Dubrow Blog

Sidebar Update: Lip-Sticking - Handbags Post

Sidebar Update: Sorry, didn't mean to leave out the divos. For divos, like BBF Lewis Green .. what's in your man purse? I'm thinking a man purse research project is something I could get into (smile).