Gini Dietrich

Blogger Relations: Know Your Audience

By: Gini Dietrich | September 12, 2011 | 
139

In the 1970s and 1980s, Folgers ran an advertising campaign that had hidden cameras showing diners enjoying coffee in high-end restaurants.

The catch? The coffee was actually Folgers and not some hoity toity brand you’d expect in a white tablecloth restaurant.

Many other companies have replicated the campaign, including Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Coke, Pepsi, and now Marie Callender’s.

Last month, ConAgra, the company that owns the brand, and Ketchum, their PR firm, invited food and mom bloggers to a night out with “Ultimate Cake Off” host George Duran and (my favorite) food analyst Phil Lempert. The invitation was to an underground NYC restaurant, Sotto Terra, where they were told they’d enjoy a “delicious four-course meal,” the celebrity chef’s “one-of-a-kind sangria,” and learn about food trends.

What they were never told is that the lasagna and dessert from dinner were both actually frozen meals from Marie Callender’s. And hidden cameras caught all the action.

“The twist at the end was not dissimilar with what brands like Pizza Hut and Domino’s have done in the recent past with success,” said Stephanie Moritz, senior director of public relations and social media at ConAgra, referring to hidden-camera advertising campaigns. ConAgra expected to use the footage for promotional videos on YouTube and its website, and for bloggers to generate buzz when they wrote about being pleasantly surprised.

Turns out, upon finding out, bloggers were not pleasantly surprised. Sure, 62.5 percent of them enjoyed the food when they thought it was something prepared by George Duran and his team. But when discovering the switch they were outraged.

Many of them blogged about the whole evening being a “sham,” but most were upset by the fact that they live and preach organic living, only to discover the food they were served was not only highly processed, but also included 36 percent of their daily sodium intake.

Clearly bloggers are not the right medium for this kind of event. Going to festivals and street fairs and outdoor events and doing side-by-side hidden comparisons with consumers is a better choice.

For all of us who counsel clients (either internally or externally) there is a very valuable lesson here…and one I talk about consistently when I speak. Bloggers are the fifth estate and should be treated just like media. Traditionally, you would never invite reporters to a night out like this and then expect them to write stories. It’s seen as dishonest and unethical when working with that audience.

So why are bloggers any different?

This is a simple case of knowing your target audience, which is something our industry always tries to shortcut. But the research to gain the intimate knowledge of what they write and their beliefs, cannot be discovered through a shortcut, an algorithm, or a media list.

If bloggers and media fit your target audience, then perhaps a special night out for them and two of their readers is a good idea. But inviting bloggers who wouldn’t buy your product or service? Bad idea.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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139 responses to “Blogger Relations: Know Your Audience”

  1. KenMueller says:

    Interesting story. Though I don’t think we should lump all bloggers together. I bet if they chose properly, they could have found bloggers who would have been pleased. I don’t know who was on the list, but if they targeted bloggers who blogged about healthy food, natural food, organic food, they were clearly stupid. If they had invited me, I might be a bit more forgiving. Heck, I’ll eat anything!

    It’s the same with reporters and food critics. Each of them has their own angle or “beat” and we need to remember that.

    Reminds me of Klout a bit, when I go there and am invited to take part in a Perk that has absolutely nothing to do with me. Which is the case most of the time. I was offered a wine perk. I don’t drink. At all. Clearly they didn’t know their audience in that case.

  2. ginidietrich says:

    @KenMueller I love to play the game of “who is the first commenter?” It’s 95 percent of the time always you.

    Yes, I agree with you, which is why I said that in my last paragraph. 🙂

  3. KenMueller says:

    @ginidietrich not 95%. I’ve slacked off. And yes, you said that, but in a different way. I was confirming your intelligence.

  4. ginidietrich says:

    @KenMueller So many reasons to love you.

  5. KenMueller says:

    @ginidietrich true, but i was only the first commenter today because my website is down and i can’t get anything done. so i had time to waste. it was either come here and read this, or clean up dog poop in the backyard. Jury is still out on whether I made the right decision or not…

  6. Erin F. says:

    I was following this story earlier this week and found myself unable to comprehend what people were thinking when they decided that this move would be a good one. Unlike @KenMueller , I probably would have been one of the bloggers who was upset. It wouldn’t have been the fact that the food wasn’t what it was purported to be; it’s the fact that I was used as some of sort of pawn. I guess that means I would not be a good candidate for Candid Camera. I like to know what I’m getting myself into. That being said, I do like it when friends surprise me. I think that statement hits upon the real issue for me, which is trust. Would I ever trust ConAgra again after such a stunt was pulled? Maybe, but it would take some time to rebuild that trust.

  7. Marijean says:

    I hate the switcheroo in advertising — aren’t we sick of that, in general? And why is it so hard for business to understand that transparency and authenticity aren’t just buzzwords. This kind of crap doesn’t win anybody over.

  8. Deep down, I think the blogosphere and social networking has created a whole new level of entitlement amongst consumers. I’ve seen it locally – some demand that *every* business have a presence in the social space and bandy about terms like transparency and authenticity without ever really spending the time to understand what they really mean. Authenticity is anathema – you might not like the authentic ‘me’. 😉

    In my mind, ConAgra and Ketchum simply didn’t research the psychographic breakdown of the bloggers they selected – but it’ll be largely forgetten with little to no impact to the Marie Callender brand as measured by sales. In two weeks, will we (or anyone) remember this kerfluffle? I think not.

  9. Deep down, I think the blogosphere and social networking has created a whole new level of entitlement amongst consumers. I’ve seen it locally – some demand that *every* business have a presence in the social space and bandy about terms like transparency and authenticity without ever really spending the time to understand what they really mean. Authenticity is anathema – you might not like the authentic ‘me’. 😉

    In my mind, ConAgra and Ketchum simply didn’t research the psychographic breakdown of the bloggers they selected – but it’ll be largely forgetten with little to no impact to the Marie Callender brand as measured by sales. In two weeks, will we (or anyone) remember this kerfluffle? I think not.

  10. pocojuan says:

    @ginidietrich when th hype doesn’t match th cust exp & it’s literally bait & switch & it’s unhealthy – bloggers or not #brand fail stupid

  11. ginidietrich says:

    @KarenARocks Thanks! And…da Bears!

  12. ginidietrich says:

    @pocojuan I agree.

  13. ginidietrich says:

    @BlogathonATX thanks!

  14. ginidietrich says:

    @kmjeffrice That was nice – thanks!

  15. ginidietrich says:

    @kmjeffrice LOL! It was still nice.

  16. ginidietrich says:

    @jasonkonopinski Oh I’ll remember! 🙂

  17. ginidietrich says:

    @Marijean I think it could work in some insances, if you do your homework and don’t just invite the bloggers who have high readership or a high Klout score. But those who will actually have an effect on your business.

  18. ginidietrich says:

    @Erin F. I hate surprises. And I’d be really mad at being served lasagna, period. I’m too conscious of the types of food I eat because of how they affect my cycling. But. If I were in a restaurant and I ordered lasagna, and the menu listing described what the switch was, I wouldn’t be mad if it were frozen instead of freshly made. I’d be pleasantly surprised…assuming it was good.

  19. ginidietrich says:

    @KenMueller You clearly made the wrong decision.

  20. KenMueller says:

    @ginidietrich nah. it’s just that i’ll still have to clean up the poop later anyway.

  21. jenzings says:

    I agree, and would go one step further on saying “know your audience.” I think that the very public way that food bloggers stake their claim/put forth their position on food issues is a factor. They have built personal reputations around healthy/non-processed/organic. This isn’t a “man on the street” switcharoo, it’s a very public humiliation. One other factor: the bloggers were encouraged to rope their audiences into this too. So the deception went one level deeper, and several bloggers were deeply embarrassed that they had included their readers in on this stunt. I think that added salt to the wound here, and was one of the reasons this backfired so spectacularly.

  22. KenMueller says:

    @ginidietrich@Erin I think you’re right here. It comes down to expectations. What are you expecting to get and with what are they replacing it? If there is a wide disparity between the two, it can get you in trouble. With Folgers, it was pretty simple. You need to make sure your “replacement” isn’t offensive in terms of expectations.

  23. KenMueller says:

    @ginidietrich@Erin I think you’re right here. It comes down to expectations. What are you expecting to get and with what are they replacing it? If there is a wide disparity between the two, it can get you in trouble. With Folgers, it was pretty simple. You need to make sure your “replacement” isn’t offensive in terms of expectations.

  24. @jenzings That’s an excellent point. 62% said they enjoyed the meal, but look how it flipped after the big reveal – perhaps the palates those bloggers think they have weren’t nearly as sophisticated as imagined. 😉 The food bloggers got duped and lashed out retaliatorily out of embarassment.

  25. @Marijean I’m in agreement with @ginidietrich on this. It can – and does – work but only if you’ve actually done your proverbial homework. ConAgra and Ketchum didn’t.

  26. @Marijean I’m in agreement with @ginidietrich on this. It can – and does – work but only if you’ve actually done your proverbial homework. ConAgra and Ketchum didn’t.

  27. @Marijean I’m in agreement with @ginidietrich on this. It can – and does – work but only if you’ve actually done your proverbial homework. ConAgra and Ketchum didn’t.

  28. HowieSPM says:

    I love this post because it proves something I have been crowing about when it comes to Viral Strategies or why there is no such thing. It is very very rare an individual piece of content gets push very far around the net. But Topics do. You don’t want to become a Topic in a bad way. If you look at Twitter’s Trending Topics it is never one tweet but thousands of individual tweets most being sent out independently. Most never retweeted. And often the topic comes from mainstream news and then people catch fire by wanting to give their input. Conagra became a Topic. And worse they did it to themselves.

    As anyone who knows me would say I often come down on marketers for not being the best and brightest. They get suckered more than anyone. Often by each other. The marketing world is littered with ‘Great Ideas’ that flop because they never ‘knew their audience or customer’. This is a great case of incompetence and I have zero empathy for the company. It also reinforces why CMO’s have the shortest tenure of any Fortune 500 C Suite position (last I saw it was between 8 and 9 months on average).

    Specifically the blogger failure is huge. I was thinking about my favorite Brand Chobani. They became the number 1 yogurt in 3 years without Twitter or Facebook. They did it via Bloggers and Word of Mouth. If they could get 100 people to convert 10 people. And they each converted 10 people….

    So Conagra did the right thing. They probably used Klout or equal to find the key influencers and invited them. So they each told 100 people and next thing everyone is talking about their misstep. And the healthy bloggers not only are blogging they are upset I bet they are exposing how unhealthy their food is. The fat content in Marie Calendar’s frozen entree’s is just as bad as the sodium.

  29. HowieSPM says:

    @jasonkonopinski I have blogged about this Jason. People in fact refuse to engage with Brands via Social the way Brands wish they would. The % of Fans on Facebook or Followers on Twitter who actively converse with brands rounded down is zero. People really don’t care about brands being on social media in terms of receiving their tweets and posts. We mostly shun them. Even if we follow and we Like.

    That said when we are pissed they had better have a Facebook page or Twitter account to vent!

  30. Erin F. says:

    @jasonkonopinski@jenzings I wish I could remember where I read the article, but it was talking about this aspect of the stunt. I suppose the problem is two-fold: the marketers who didn’t consider their audience and the bloggers/consumers who (sometimes) have a sense of entitlement – something to which you, @jasonkonopinski , refer in your other comment.

  31. svilardo2 says:

    This just goes to show that what works for one doesn’t work the same for all. Sure, there have been a ton of successes with this kind of campaign, but you take a HUGE chance on dissapointment when you invite a bunch of your biggest critics with the most social influence and try to pull the wool over their eyes. Especially as @jenzings mentioned, they built their reputation around their lifestyle and were completely thrown under the bus – hence the even greater need to retaliate.

  32. @HowieSPM Chobani Honey with some plain granola and local peaches? Best. Breakfast. Ever. Exactly what I had for breakfast, too. 😉

  33. @HowieSPM Chobani Honey with some plain granola and local peaches? Best. Breakfast. Ever. Exactly what I had for breakfast, too. 😉

  34. @HowieSPM Chobani Honey with some plain granola and local peaches? Best. Breakfast. Ever. Exactly what I had for breakfast, too. 😉

  35. @HowieSPM Indeed, good sir! As a participant in many online communities over the years, it has always struck me as incredibly odd (and blatantly self-serving) to head straight to the public stream to complain about this or that rather than communicate via phone or email with the offending company directly.

    Brian Solis was on to something with he spoke of the ‘Me’ in Social Media – but I don’t know that anyone could have anticipated just how self-important we consider ourselves to be in the digital wilds. I’ve blogged on the topic in the past myself. 🙂

  36. wabbitoid says:

    This is a fascinating story because it cuts many ways – and even if it had gone well I’m not sure that they could have ever gotten what they wanted from it. There is an assumption that potential Marie Callendar’s customers even read the particular bloggers, which I seriously doubt is true generally.

    What this hits hard is a fundamental class difference, something which defines the “blogger” world as an entity apart from everyone else. For example, if I had been invited to this event I’d have said, “Free food? I’m there!” And when they said it was Callendar’s I’d say “Cool!”. I’m not part of the class that was involved – and, BTW, if I wasn’t into cooking from scratch I’m probably much more likely their customer (food is not a passive event for me, something made by other people).

    So what on earth did they hope to get from this event? Buzz? What would that be good for, really? I doubt that this “buzz” would really filter down to the class of people that they want to reach anyway. Like many ad campaigns on teevee, this seems to me to be an attempt to pacify the client with phony “image” nonsense that doesn’t really sell the product.

    Now, if they had filmed the event – and the horrified reaction of the snooties – that might have made for an interesting commercial. But I’m not sure just how the class warfare is opening up yet. But believe me, bloggers do not have a great social standing in the general public no matter how much they are a legend in their own mind. A mass produced product like that has to reach a mass audience and making fun of the blog world is going to be a much quicker ticket to their audience than whatever they may have been looking for.

    In short, the old Folger’s ad featured very regular people, not an elite class. It was a stunt designed for mass media that targeted that class. The blogger world? Oh, I agree, you have to approach them very carefully – if you really think you need to approach them at all.

  37. GreyMatterChgo says:

    RT @ginidietrich My take on the ConAgra blogger relations ordeal http://t.co/ZLGd994

  38. faybiz says:

    there are so many levels of wrong in this story…

  39. cpawebster says:

    @kmueller62 @ginidietrich Loved the blogger relations post. It’s amazing how often we forget to ask “is this of value to my audience?”

  40. TheJackB says:

    @ginidietrich@KenMueller Not that it matters, but the time difference places a big hurdle on my ability to be first. I understand that there are no prizes but my competitive nature pushes me to hit the mark ahead of everyone else.

    And I probably would but I just can’t bring myself to wake up at 4 AM so that I can beat the rush.

  41. KenMueller says:

    @TheJackB@ginidietrich dude, do it. get up at 4am. I’ll get up at 3:55…

  42. TheJackB says:

    This just serves as another reminder for brands to pay close attention to the bloggers they wish to work with. I still get pitches that read “Dear Mommy Blogger” and then talk about diapers.

    I am obviously not female and thought diapers have been a part of my life my kids have long since outgrown them so it has been years since I really had to think about them.

  43. TheJackB says:

    @KenMueller@ginidietrich Better make it 2 AM E.S.T..

  44. Verilliance says:

    And you just know some poor schmuck got fired over this. I mean it’s easy for everyone here to say in retrospect, “tsk, tsk, shoulda better understood them bloggers”, but for all we know they really thought they did but missed one very important factor. It’s not so much “understanding bloggers” as it is needing to understand human behavior in different contexts and situations.

  45. Verilliance says:

    And you just know some poor schmuck got fired over this. I mean it’s easy for everyone here to say in retrospect, “tsk, tsk, shoulda better understood them bloggers”, but for all we know they really thought they did but missed one very important factor. It’s not so much “understanding bloggers” as it is needing to understand human behavior in different contexts and situations.

  46. Anthony_Rodriguez says:

    I would say bloggers can be more influential than journalists. Lately, every time I have heard about a poorly designed and executed marketing campaign it has come from bloggers. And they’re loyal followers can spread bad news faster than a desert brush fire. Because bloggers are perceived as ordinary you-s and me-s people listen to them. They’re deemed trustworthy and their opinions matter.

    Journalists, on the other hand, sometimes hear the ire of readers for not asking the right/important questions or rushing to be the first to break certain news.

    Bloggers deserve better than this from marketers. They deserve to be treated as professionals who can influence behavior. It’s clear that they can. I would rather be on the side of the blogger. Our social media world no longer relies solely on the news media to be informed. As for me, I’m treating a blogger just as if they were a professional journalist … maybe better.

  47. Anthony_Rodriguez says:

    I would say bloggers can be more influential than journalists. Lately, every time I have heard about a poorly designed and executed marketing campaign it has come from bloggers. And they’re loyal followers can spread bad news faster than a desert brush fire. Because bloggers are perceived as ordinary you-s and me-s people listen to them. They’re deemed trustworthy and their opinions matter.

    Journalists, on the other hand, sometimes hear the ire of readers for not asking the right/important questions or rushing to be the first to break certain news.

    Bloggers deserve better than this from marketers. They deserve to be treated as professionals who can influence behavior. It’s clear that they can. I would rather be on the side of the blogger. Our social media world no longer relies solely on the news media to be informed. As for me, I’m treating a blogger just as if they were a professional journalist … maybe better.

  48. ginidietrich says:

    @TheJackB@KenMueller Jack, if you’d like, I’ll send you a pre-copy so you can comment and be the very first.

  49. ginidietrich says:

    @jenzings Yeah…I would be LIVID if I gave away a prize to one of you guys only to find we’d all been duped.

  50. ginidietrich says:

    @jenzings P.S. Did you see they gave a formal response to PRWeek? Talk about the old school way of doing things.

  51. ginidietrich says:

    @svilardo2 Which can all be easily determined with some research and a really good understanding of bloggers. And, let’s be real, it’s really hard to understand the blogosphere if you don’t participate in it daily. Yourself.

  52. KenMueller says:

    @ginidietrich@TheJackB wait. you’d do that for him? what about me? do I then get a pre-pre copy?

  53. Leon says:

    G’Day Gini,

    Thanks for a most instructive story. Al Ries and Jack Trout have ben telling us for decades to have a crystal clear business focus and a narrow, specific target market. Clearly ConAgra doesn’t have the latter for Marie Callender frozen meals. Doesn’t say much for Ketchum eother.

    Clearly they don’t realize how precious so many bloggers are.

    When will they ever learn? I think I know the answer to that.

    Make sure you have fun

    Regards

    leon

  54. DannyBrown says:

    @jasonkonopinski@HowieSPM@ginidietrich BP still seem to be alive and kicking. Kenneth Cole continues to sell. Motrin didn’t go bankrupt. United Airlines are still breaking guitars (probably).

    Agree, completely, Jason – in the grand scheme of things, we actually don’t amount to much when it comes to having a say on a brand’s success or failure, because 95% of the world couldn’t care less about blogging.

    (Note: Not a scientific figure).

  55. svilardo2 says:

    @ginidietrich Very true. But you figure someone had to have stood up and said – “you know, I don’t think this is going to turn out well.” Man, to be the one to say “I told you so” when it was all said and done. I wonder if anyone got either a promotion or if nothing else, a bit more respect after they stood against the idea. That is, if someone had the gumption to do so.

    It is one thing to invite people off the street and ask nothing of them other than to try a new dish, but to invite actual critics and people with thousands of ears at their disposal…I guess they figured Murphy was on vacation or something.

  56. ginidietrich says:

    @HowieSPM I’m 99.9 percent sure that’s exactly what they did. Which is why these shortcuts are so bad. I mean, one of the bloggers is Chubby Chinese Girl, who blogs about losing weight, and keeping it off. And they’re feeding her calorie-laden lasagna? I’d be pissed.

    Disney also does it really well. They only do 25, though. Open the park to those 25 bloggers and their friends and family. It’s inexpensive and extremely effective.

  57. jeanniecw says:

    It’s like what I tell my kids: make sure the person you like scaring/tickling LIKES being scared/tickled. It’s a weird but true fact.

  58. ginidietrich says:

    @KenMueller@TheJackB No because you’re always here first.

  59. ginidietrich says:

    @DannyBrown LOL on the note!

  60. ginidietrich says:

    @HowieSPM P.S. I really want to like Chobani, but I HATE the texture of it.

  61. ginidietrich says:

    @svilardo2 Totally agree. The nice thing? We all get to learn from their mistake.

  62. KenMueller says:

    @ginidietrich@TheJackB oh, I see. Penalize me for being loyal. You are the anti-Klout, young lady! no sharpies for you!

  63. KenMueller says:

    @ginidietrich@TheJackB oh, I see. Penalize me for being loyal. You are the anti-Klout, young lady! no sharpies for you!

  64. ginidietrich says:

    @wabbitoid I don’t think you’re wrong at all. They were expecting bloggers to be pleasantly surprised and to catch their reactions on video. Which, then, would be turned into YouTube and website videos they could then use for their target audiences.

  65. ginidietrich says:

    @wabbitoid I don’t think you’re wrong at all. They were expecting bloggers to be pleasantly surprised and to catch their reactions on video. Which, then, would be turned into YouTube and website videos they could then use for their target audiences.

  66. ginidietrich says:

    @KenMueller And THAT is why I penalize you.

  67. ginidietrich says:

    @KenMueller And THAT is why I penalize you.

  68. ginidietrich says:

    @jeanniecw LMAO!! What a great analogy. HA!

  69. ginidietrich says:

    @jeanniecw LMAO!! What a great analogy. HA!

  70. ginidietrich says:

    @jeanniecw LMAO!! What a great analogy. HA!

  71. ginidietrich says:

    @Leon It does seem like we’re always saying the same thing, doesn’t it? If we made this mistake (and trust me, we make mistakes), I wouldn’t have turned to PRWeek to tell my story. I would have turned to the blogosphere. Another mistake on the part of Ketchum.

  72. KenMueller says:

    @ginidietrich once again you have hurt me deeply. I’ll be going now. If you need me, I’ll be the guy rocking bath and forth in the corner, curled up in the fetal position, and sucking my thumb.

  73. ginidietrich says:

    @Anthony_Rodriguez I agree with you that, in some cases, bloggers are more influential than journalists. We spend our time building community with readers. Most journalists don’t do that, to your point. When I speak to PR pros, your last line is EXACTLY what I say. Every time.

  74. ginidietrich says:

    @TheJackB Every time you tell that story, it makes me cringe. Every. Time.

  75. ginidietrich says:

    @Verilliance I hope no one got fired over it, but the client took it as a learning opportunity. I know I made a pretty big doozy of a mistake many, many years ago and wasn’t fired over it. But I’ll tell you what, I’ve never made that mistake again.

  76. angela_lowry says:

    Thanks for sharing this story…It’s so true how bloggers can spread the good and bad like wildfire. That’s what I love about this new media.

  77. jenzings says:

    I also hope no one got fired. The whole meme of firing someone because of a misstep in social media is pretty tired too. Learn, correct, adjust, move on. This was a misstep, but I truly don’t think anyone should be fired over it. That sends the wrong message too–companies will stop trying new things, or get scared of social, neither of which is a good outcome. @ginidietrich @Verilliance

  78. jenzings says:

    Yeah, saw the PRWeek item. Was as mushy as…frozen lasagna. 😉 @ginidietrich

  79. Verilliance says:

    @jenzings@ginidietrich Oh, I agree. I hate hearing how someone got fired over a major PR/SM misstep, but unfortunately it does happen. I’m certainly not wishing for it.

  80. TheJackB says:

    @ginidietrich You cringe? You know what a pair of stilettos do to my feet. Oy, the pain. 😉

  81. ScottHepburn says:

    Now there’s a visual!

  82. ScottHepburn says:

    Last week I wrote about the Marie Callender’s blogger outreach debacle, pointed out the mistakes, and offered lessons learned. But today I discovered another side to this story: There are HUNDREDS of bloggers who were invited to try the lasagna for free, and many of them wrote rave reviews. Some of them — perhaps all, I don’t know — received a stipend for their effort.

    There’s a healthy debate about if and when it’s appropriate for brands to compensate bloggers. I’d rather a brand approach a blogger honestly than play bait-and-switch like ConAgra and Ketchum did in New York. If honesty and transparency means you also have to offer a stipend, so be it — it’s an open marketplace. At least if there’s a stipend, a blogger can disclose it.

    What do you think? Better to pay bloggers for their time, but be transparent about it, or better to seek the “earned” publicity and play games? The full scope of Ketchum’s blogger outreach continues to unfold…and give us lots to talk about.

  83. jenzings says:

    “many of them wrote rave reviews.” So, it seems as though we are back to the old MSM trope, “if it bleeds, it leads,” huh?Very interesting. I must say I was wondering if there were any positive reviews, but had not looked for them.@ScottHepburn

  84. ScottHepburn says:

    @jenzings Yes, there were indeed positive reviews! I’m not surprised — after all, the product offers convenience many parents crave, and I’m sure plenty of folks think it’s a tasty dish.

    I would LOVE to see sentiment data from bloggers who received free product and a stipend compared to those who participated in the “Surprise!” stunt. Something tells me the combination of a stipend and a deception-gone-awry yielded a big disparity in product favorability.

  85. ginidietrich says:

    @ScottHepburn My thought on paying bloggers is this: Church and state. Just like PR pros don’t pay reporters, if bloggers want to be treated like journalists, the same consideration should be made. I understand the argument that journalists are paid by the medium they represent and not all bloggers make money from their blog. But my answer to that is figure out a different way to make money. Sure, you might get free products/services, which happens in the traditional media world, too. But that’s different than cold, hard cash.

  86. ginidietrich says:

    @angela_lowry I love it, too. It’s scary for most companies, and this is why. But it’s super effective, when done correctly.

  87. ginidietrich says:

    @jenzings LOL!

  88. manamica says:

    Yep, bad targeting. I like that you and others are writing about this more. I’m seeing a new trend out there — the chasing of the new “targeting” shiny object. Brands are ditching experience and common sense and chase the influence score instead. Take Klout Perks for example – many of the brands that jumped in didn’t use much targeting outside of the actually Klout score and some geography. In the past year I’ve been offered a man’s jacket, a psp (I only use macs), a children’s toy box (I have no kids), and I could go on. Targeting influencers is a good idea and it will work, but we need to find the right influencers who would actually want to try the product…

  89. Interesting story. I hadn’t heard about this. I’m with you in that this stunt is more for fairs and festivals.

    Using a real name, George Duran, really changes the dynamics of this promotion, too. Frankly, I’m shocked that the chef would even agree to it. But, heck, Timothy Hutton agreed to that terribly distasteful Groupon commercial for the Super Bowl. Perhaps celebrities are simply short sighted when then in comes to quick and easy cash?

  90. ginidietrich says:

    @WordsDoneWrite Oh I’m not shocked. Having done lots and lots and LOTS of work with celebrity chefs, I know they just sign the contracts and show up. There aren’t any tactical discussions with them at all.

  91. ginidietrich says:

    @manamica I thought your blog post was really well done, too. Don’t get me started on Klout! I got a Lebron James poster, but wasn’t eligible for the wine, something I tweet about ALL THE TIME. This stuff does not replace our relationships.

  92. ginidietrich says:

    @jeanniecw I take it you survived your weekend?

  93. susanoakes says:

    I think there are two elements to this. The first one which has been covered about knowing your target which is marketing 101 and this was doomed as nobody seemed to use common sense. The other element is perception. The bloggers probably had a perception that they would be able to notice the difference between this type of food and one made with the right ingredients by a chef. When faced with the reality especially for the 62.5% it probably felt like a slap in the face. Again common sense by the company should have seen this coming.

  94. ginidietrich says:

    @lonelygourmet I haven’t seen you in ages!

  95. wabbitoid says:

    @ginidietrich I think there may be a very simple explanation. The class separation that has come to define blogging, particularly the “influencer” model, is a real surprise to many people on the outside. I know that some of my clients have tried to reach out to “influencers” and been very upset when they were rebuffed. What follows between us is a very delicate conversation that I always hate having, but it’s often essential. I can see how this problem caught everyone by surprise.

  96. ginidietrich says:

    @susanoakes I agree…some of it is ego-driven, too. A few bloggers have said so much, rubbing it in the face of the food bloggers that their palates aren’t as sophisticated as they think. Humiliation provides a strong reaction.

  97. jeanniecw says:

    @ginidietrich survived being the optimal word!

  98. DannyBrown says:

    @ginidietrich@ScottHepburn How do you define “pay”, though? If you comp a blogger flights and accommodation to cover a big media launch, and give them swag for attending, that’s a pretty hefty investment – much more than a couple hundred bucks to write about something.

    I think it’s a fine line as to what constitutes pay and what constitutes earned media.

  99. lonelygourmet says:

    @ginidietrich I’ve been here!

  100. Somehow I just knew you’d hit on this today….

  101. Somehow I just knew you’d hit on this today….

  102. janwong says:

    I find this situation very much relevant to many businesses out there. They see and know the power of including bloggers as part of their marketing campaign but they forgo the basic preliminary research. The least they could do is to talk to some bloggers first to have an initial indication before actually executing it. On the other hand, some bloggers are just paid to write good reviews so that doesn’t really count.

  103. […] pleasantly surprised but they did spread buzz – the bad kind. Disregarding the fact that ConAgra may have used the wrong audience for this promotion, what shocked me the most was not the “trickery,” but rather that some of […]

  104. @ginidietrich Pity. I mean it’s only their name and reputation. Why have tactical discussions to determine if an association is in their best interest as long as the check clears, huh? Sheesh.

  105. lauraclick says:

    There’s definitely a right and a wrong way to reach out to bloggers. My friend, janpmorrison , did a great blogger outreach program at the Nashville Ballet. They invited influential “mommy bloggers” to a preview of a children’s ballet performance. The kids got to learn ballet moves and touch the costumes. They then gave the bloggers free tickets for the show and sent them a media packet for them to write about if they chose. It was a smashing success and the show sold out.

    The reason this worked is that the Ballet really understood their audience and they did a lot of research to target the right folks. It made all the difference.

    I did a video interview about this with my friend, Jan. You can check it out here: http://flybluekite.com/2011/02/03/how-the-nashville-ballet-increased-ticket-sales-using-social-media/

    Part of the reason the ConAgra campaign flopped is that no one likes to feel duped. Why would a blogger want to write about how they couldn’t tell the difference between gourmet and frozen food? Ouch! I know I wouldn’t.

  106. Leon says:

    @ginidietrich Gini, Please…….don’t threaten my curmudgeonly reputation by suggesting that I’m becoming agreeable. I only agree with you ‘coz you’re right. After all, the difference between HR and PR is only eight letters.

    Leon

  107. fitzternet says:

    Funny, if this stunt was pulled on established food critics, the same bloggers would have been delighted to write all about it.

    I have a hard time mustering up sympathy for anybody whining about a free meal, especially when its because their ego wasn’t stroked appropriately. Although I do understand how ridiculous the whole stunt was to begin with. But still… they agreed to a free meal, 62.5% enjoyed it and then complained when it wasn’t exactly what they thought it was.

  108. fitzternet says:

    @wabbitoid This. 1000%.

  109. fitzternet says:

    @ginidietrich@wabbitoid I can’t wait for these videos to leak out.

  110. Ummmm yes targeting, but if you target are you getting targeted answers to stuff you already know. Now if they mixed the room with targeted and non-targeted audience don’t you get results you can use? Couldn’t they then invite the “outraged” and “not satisfied” into a larger discussion in how to improve their product, maybe discover an additional audience that can be targeted? There still will be outrage but every product has that. They will have to put in more effort on the second path and sometimes I think big companies get lazy when it comes to this.

  111. fitzternet says:

    Been thinking about this some more… If was ConAgra, I’d double down on this. Use the videos to create a commercial. Show the bloggers enjoying the food and then show their disgust.

    Bloggers aren’t representative of anyone, anymore than print journalists are. People read them for the same reasons – for entertainment and information. Short of that, we have no connection to them. To watch ANYONE acting like this after enjoying a free meal is beyond interesting – it’s fascinating. And it gets two points across – the food is good and only a snob would complain about it.

    This will never happen, of course. But it would be nice if someone at ConAgra thought outside the box on it.

  112. fitzternet says:

    Been thinking about this some more… If was ConAgra, I’d double down on this. Use the videos to create a commercial. Show the bloggers enjoying the food and then show their disgust.

    Bloggers aren’t representative of anyone, anymore than print journalists are. People read them for the same reasons – for entertainment and information. Short of that, we have no connection to them. To watch ANYONE acting like this after enjoying a free meal is beyond interesting – it’s fascinating. And it gets two points across – the food is good and only a snob would complain about it.

    This will never happen, of course. But it would be nice if someone at ConAgra thought outside the box on it.

  113. fitzternet says:

    Been thinking about this some more… If was ConAgra, I’d double down on this. Use the videos to create a commercial. Show the bloggers enjoying the food and then show their disgust.

    Bloggers aren’t representative of anyone, anymore than print journalists are. People read them for the same reasons – for entertainment and information. Short of that, we have no connection to them. To watch ANYONE acting like this after enjoying a free meal is beyond interesting – it’s fascinating. And it gets two points across – the food is good and only a snob would complain about it.

    This will never happen, of course. But it would be nice if someone at ConAgra thought outside the box on it.

  114. ginidietrich says:

    @Sean McGinnis Oh you think you’re so smart. Enjoy your personal injury lawyers!

  115. ginidietrich says:

    @janwong But it’s too much work! I hear that all the time. It’s too much work. Well, then. Find a different job.

  116. ginidietrich says:

    @lauraclick I would be livid, if I were a food blogger. And my ego would be hurt. But mostly, like Chubby Chinese Girl, I’d be really mad that a) I was wasting my very precious calories on something that will hurt my rides for the next few days and b) has meat in it.

    That said, if I were in a restaurant, ordered lasagna, and they replaced it with their frozen dinner. Or told me they were doing a taste test, I wouldn’t feel duped.

    I think these programs can work IF the right research is done.

  117. ginidietrich says:

    @lauraclick I would be livid, if I were a food blogger. And my ego would be hurt. But mostly, like Chubby Chinese Girl, I’d be really mad that a) I was wasting my very precious calories on something that will hurt my rides for the next few days and b) has meat in it.

    That said, if I were in a restaurant, ordered lasagna, and they replaced it with their frozen dinner. Or told me they were doing a taste test, I wouldn’t feel duped.

    I think these programs can work IF the right research is done.

  118. ginidietrich says:

    @lauraclick I would be livid, if I were a food blogger. And my ego would be hurt. But mostly, like Chubby Chinese Girl, I’d be really mad that a) I was wasting my very precious calories on something that will hurt my rides for the next few days and b) has meat in it.

    That said, if I were in a restaurant, ordered lasagna, and they replaced it with their frozen dinner. Or told me they were doing a taste test, I wouldn’t feel duped.

    I think these programs can work IF the right research is done.

  119. ginidietrich says:

    @fitzternet They already said they’re not going to use the videos, but I like your thinking!

  120. ginidietrich says:

    @keithprivette I don’t necessarily think you’re getting targeted answers to stuff you already know. The issue, in my mind, is not that they wanted to show how good their lasagna is compared to a fine meal. The issue is that they invited bloggers who are crazy about their organic or healthy lifestyle eating and then they were given highly processed and high-sodium food. Add on top of that, they gave away seats to the dinner to their readers. So they were duped…and their readers were too. Doesn’t make for a good anything.

    That said, I love the different thinking around creating a brand ambassador program with people who love the food, but also the outraged.

  121. @DannyBrownginidietrichscotthepburn Definitely a topic you could write a whole separate post about. Have to say that I don’t see bloggers and journalists as the same. And that doesn’t mean I don’t think bloggers should be treated with the same respect.

    The way we like to consume media today has evolved a ton even in the last five years. Two years ago, I would have told you paying bloggers was absurd and unethical. But I have seen brands work with bloggers via paid spokesperson-like relationships and see MUCH more benefit than they ever do from traditional blogger outreach. They get better content, more of it, build a better relationship with the blogger. And I have heard straight from the bloggers’ mouth that they are looking for these types of long-term relationships.

    You’d think the trust factor would be an issue, But I don’t think it really is. You don’t see any of these bloggers’ readers openly calling them out or appearing to trust them any less because they fully disclosed that they were paid to write a post. The way we engage media is changing and I think we have to be open to these types of evolutions. All that said, respect is respect is respect. And that was obviously an issue in this story. Cheers!

  122. ginidietrich says:

    @WordsDoneWrite I have a really good story about a certain celebrity chef and clarified butter. Remind me to tell it to you sometime.

  123. ginidietrich says:

    @JGoldsborough@DannyBrownscotthepburn You know, JG, that’s a good point. I know Laughing Cow is doing that. They pay four bloggers (it’s nominal) to develop content for them. It’s under their names, but it goes on the corporate sites.

    I see that completely different than saying, “Here’s $250. Write us a review.”

  124. lauraclick says:

    @ginidietrich Totally. I think the problem was that these bloggers likely were incredibly excited to get to eat a meal from someone they admire. So, not only were they duped, they were sorely disappointed. They smashed their expectations with a total bait and switch. I’m guessing they used the celebrity chef and food analyst as a hook to get them there….only to then eat frozen lasagna. Ugh.

  125. Erin F. says:

    @lauraclick@ginidietrich I know that I would have been excited to receive the invitation and very disappointed when I learned that I had been duped. Even if I had enjoyed the food, it wouldn’t matter. I would be reeling from the fact that I had been lied to. If, say, the point had been to do some sort of comparison – such as the ones Coke or Pepsi sometimes does – I would have been fine with that. I would have had the right expectations.

  126. Erin F. says:

    @lauraclick@ginidietrich I know that I would have been excited to receive the invitation and very disappointed when I learned that I had been duped. Even if I had enjoyed the food, it wouldn’t matter. I would be reeling from the fact that I had been lied to. If, say, the point had been to do some sort of comparison – such as the ones Coke or Pepsi sometimes does – I would have been fine with that. I would have had the right expectations.

  127. […] pleasantly surprised but they did spread buzz – the bad kind. Disregarding the fact that ConAgra may have used the wrong audience for this promotion, what shocked me the most was not the “trickery,” but rather that some of […]

  128. wagnerwrites says:

    Gini, I pretty much ignored QR codes until yesterday. I had previously downloaded a reader app on my iPhone but had been frustrated in trying to use it. Then I was walking with a colleague at lunch time and we saw a beautiful home for sale. She was dying to know the price. Pulled out the iPhone, scanned the code, shazaam! (A cool million. No, this was not my neighborhood.) Tried it again last night at YogurtLand for their sweepstakes, though I hadn’t read the fine print about how that ended on 9/4.

  129. […] been to play cute with gimmicks, adopt conversations, while doing everything companies can to bring the old ways into new media. Social has not been about evolution. Instead adoption has been an awkward attempt to stay […]

  130. jgombita says:

    @SheSpeaksInc what does this have to do with brandchat?

  131. jgombita says:

    @SheSpeaksInc what does this have to do with brandchat?

  132. jgombita says:

    @SheSpeaksInc what does this have to do with brandchat?

  133. jgombita says:

    @SheSpeaksInc what does this have to do with brandchat?

  134. SheSpeaksInc says:

    @jgombita The article relates to bloggers personal brand

  135. jgombita says:

    @SheSpeaksInc personal branding was NOT the topic of discussion in yesterday’s #brandchat when you inserted that tweet; bad chat etiquette.

  136. SheSpeaksInc says:

    @jgombita I am sorry about that, it will not happen again. Have a wonderful day!

  137. […] Just one?! Ragu just had a big misstep using Twitter. Marie Callendar’s created its own crisis with bloggers. It’s great there are companies out there trying things, but the thing that bothers […]

  138. […] Blogger Relations: Know Your Audience (spinsucks.com) […]

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