Schwag-For-Post: An Integration of Traditional and Social Media Marketing Strategies

07/03/2007

Pink_boaToss of a pink boa to the bloggers and marketers who continue to explore how to use social media as a credible marketing strategy. Toss of a pink boa to the people who are not afraid to make mistakes, correct them and try again. Toss of a pink boa to the community of readers, who though you may not write a blog or even comment,  are why we fight so hard to make it right.

Sidebar: The opening to this post may seem disjointed. And it is. I wrote it after reading this post and want to start with a thank you. Now on to the post ..

Smile and say cheese and if you are an influencer in your corner of the blogosphere and you just might land a new model Nikon camera. Or perhaps cool expensive shwag like a laptop, a trip to Amsterdam or a visit to the shoot of your favorite Sci-Fi TV show. The Brands (and authors too) having been tapping into bloggers, as a promotion tactic, for quite some time. Without a doubt the benefits are significant ranging from extending reach and awareness, to increasing search engine lift to obtaining the brass ring .. highly sought after peer-to-peer influence.

In corners of the biz/marketing blog world there are heated conversations taking place. Many people believe bloggers should be transparent about receiving gifts. Others feel strongly that even with  prominent disclosure a blogger's integrity is compromised or there is little benefit to their community of readers. CK says nay. Joseph Jaffe says yea. This Friday they'll come together to talk about the issues on the podcast Across The Sound.

The lines are blurring between post-for-schwag and pay-for-post. Bloggers who would never take $$ for posts accept expensive products. Perhaps it goes back to the concept of gift cards ..  presents are okay but cold hard cash sometimes seems inappropriate as a gift. So we'll accept presents but not payment. 

Sci-Fi Channel and Nikon Blogger Relations Programs: Two Different Strategies

Blogger Relations Programs are growing more complex as marketers merge promotion with product feedback and sampling tactics. Quiet on the set. Bloggers Blogging! NBC Universal invited influential sci-fi bloggers to a "digital press tour." In Vancouver bloggers were treated to a behind the scenes visit to their favorite Sci-Fi Channel shows where they live blogged the experience.  

You expect to see cameras at these things, but to see all these people with their laptops open, blogging live from the events -- it was a completely different use of media than I've ever seen. Dave Howe, Sci-Fi Channel Ad Age Interview

The Sci-Fi went further than a promotional blogger relations program when they included a research initiative. When you talk to your alpha consumers, you can learn so much. Do they like the plot lines? Do they like the marketing of the shows? Is there a passion level for certain characters? Pete Snyder, New Media Strategies - Ad Age Interview

Nikon took a very different approach. In his blog post, Blogger Relations Program: My Point of View, Michael Kemper, MWWGroup made it clear that his company (that developed the strategy) considered the Nikon's initiative a sampling program. My comment on the post -

"However, it  sure does appear an expensive "sampling program" especially when you take into consideration that there does not appear to be a mechanism for feedback from the bloggers. You are not giving away tastes of King Pao chicken.  If it quacks like a duck, why not call it a duck? A  blogger relations program "... where the goals were to desire for coverage, discussion, testimonials and good word-of-mouth recommendations."  (Italics quote from post)

If there had been a formal feeback loop, Nikon could have added value to the entire blogging community's experience through those reviews and demonstrated how to build a BRP that embraced not only transparency but helped in the learning for all .. Nikon and perspective customers."  There's been quite a bit of controversy about the program. In my humble opinion, this may stem in part from MWWGoup's misunderstand of bloggers.

The structure of the program is almost identical to how new products are introduced to print and broadcast journalists at The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NBC, CNN and virtually every other reputable news outlet you can think of. Why? Because we firmly believe that bloggers are, in many ways, journalists. The same ethical considerations that shape a marketer's interactions with print and broadcast reporters should also be respected and adhered to when dealing with bloggers. And that objectivity, accountability and transparency are a must. (Bold is from Diva Marketing)

Bloggers are not journalists. While we do want to be respected and feel that we should be treated ethically and fairly by organizations that are courting our favor we owe no allegiance to an editor, a publication or an organization. For most bloggers, their underling mandate is to be true to themselves .. not to an outside source or publication.

Like it or not brand marketers realize that bloggers can bring reach and awareness to a campaign. Like it or not bloggers want cool content not to mention it's some what of an ego deal to be acknowledged by a major brand as an 'influencer.' That said, BR programs are not going away. That said let's help this new form of marketing evolve into a tactic that adds value to the blogger, to the community (for CK is right) and of course to the brand.

~Questions Your For Your Consideration~

What should industry standards/best practices be to ensure the integrity of conducting BR programs?

What would an excellent BRP look like?

Let's get into some granular backend stuff .. what defines and how do you identify the 'influencers' appropriate within a segment?

Sidebar: I don't have a particular concern about the concept of product placement as part of a blogger relations program (I would not have been the best participant for the Nikon project .. no sour grapes here.) as long as it is build on transparency and honesty. I have accepted free biz books and coffee. I would gladly accept a free cruise .. I so need a holiday! But I would def let you know (smile).

Read More From Diva Marketing
Agencies Miss The "Relations" In Blogger Relations Strategies
From Blogger Relations To Blogger Relations Programs

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Comments

OK, where to begin with this thinker of a post. Hmm...I shall start by thanking you for covering this.

Interesting how you have me looking at how the lines between pay-per-post and schwag are blurring (blurry?).

This line is just so true and perfect: "For most bloggers, their underlying mandate is to be true to themselves .. not to an outside source or publication." Bing-O Diva!

See, I really look at outreach programs through a three-point system (which I detail at the link below), and one that rests on 1) transparency...but does not stop there...and includes 2) authenticity and 3) value for the ENTIRE community--after all, the 'sphere is psychographically wired and is comprised of communities (individual influences don't make us strong, the community makes us strong and, ergo, influential). I think debates can be productive, it's how we arrive at many decisions. But this has been near polarizing and I'm not sure how any outreach program that makes so many question so much be a program that is advancing (remember, I come from the side of the community, not the company, as the community in this case is the customer).

Well, I could go on but I'll save it for the podcast--and I'm so pleased we're holding these discussions. 'Tis the age of rich convos after all.

(and here's that link)
http://www.ck-blog.com/cks_blog/2007/05/im_asking_open_.html

Posted by: CK on Jul 3, 2007 7:05:21 PM

Wow, this is a tricky one, Toby. I don't know if there can be standards for p.r. pitches and giving/loaning product samples. Even if there were "standards," I'm not sure you'd get every p.r. person to adhere to them. I'm a p.r. person, remember.

I don't have a problem with Nikon giving cameras for long-term loan. Automakers give new cars for a few weeks at a time to some journalists, as standard practice.

I also have no problem with bloggers accepting a long-term loan camera. But if they choose to write about it, I feel they should make it clear they've been loaned the camera. I also think a few of the bloggers I've seen, who I won't name here, have gone overboard in their gushing praise and obnoxious posts that struggle to bring the camera into what is supposedly a blog about marketing. Talk about the program -- fine. But a few posts I've seen were just pictures they took thanks to that wonderful camera. I am pretty sure my digital (a Canon G5) can take pictures of my kids just as well, but I'm not posting about it.

Of course, those are their blogs and they can write about whatever they choose. But I can then choose not to read them.

So, I think the problem lies more in bloggers' disclosure and also bloggers' integrity. A coiuple of prominent bloggers are no longer on my must-read list because, in my mind, they've blown their credibility and integrity.

Posted by: David Reich on Jul 4, 2007 10:47:01 AM

CK and David - thanks for your thoughtful, in-depth comments. How amazing that the structure of this new marketing strategy is being built within the very world of social media marketing.

David - Agree mandates are out of the question; however, most marketing 'practice areas' have, call them guidelines of practice. WOMMA has developed some for word of mouth that overlays on to social media. For a start why not begin with disclosure?

CK - thank you for carrying on this important conversation. I'd suggest adding to your rule of three .. is it good for the brand? (And for small business/consultants that 'brand is you.') For example, what impact does non disclosure have for your customers or other stakeholders? How is the brand then perceived? For David, it's a loss of credibility that results in one less reader which might result is less business opportunities. Or may even result in negative wom.

That said, especially for biz bloggers, disclosure = credibility = value = trust = readership = customer acquisition and retention.

Posted by: Toby on Jul 4, 2007 12:28:18 PM

I agree that disclosure is very important.

Posted by: David Reich on Jul 4, 2007 5:47:58 PM

"I'd suggest adding to your rule of three .. is it good for the brand? (And for small business/consultants that 'brand is you.') For example, what impact does non disclosure have for your customers or other stakeholders? How is the brand then perceived? For David, it's a loss of credibility that results in one less reader which might result is less business opportunities. Or may even result in negative wom."

Diva: I fully agree with that point (so now it's becoming a 4-point rule!)

Posted by: CK on Jul 5, 2007 8:15:34 PM

Its a tricky one isn't it? I am all in favor of marketers tapping the blogosphere in an intuitive and honest way. Personally Jaffe killed the Nikon D80 push for me. The guy's self-obsessed crowing about his new camera really put me off. Plus he isn't a photographer of any kind. MWW would do well to admit that this program had warts, rather than claiming "mission accomplished".

Posted by: Norbourne on Jul 7, 2007 9:24:46 PM

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