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 Comments on "Blogger Relations: Know Your Audience"

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KenMueller
5 years 12 days ago
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… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 12 days ago

@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. 🙂

KenMueller
5 years 12 days ago

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

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 12 days ago

@KenMueller So many reasons to love you.

KenMueller
5 years 12 days ago

@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…

Erin F.
5 years 12 days ago
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… Read more »
Marijean
5 years 12 days ago

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.

jasonkonopinski
5 years 12 days ago
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… Read more »
jasonkonopinski
5 years 12 days ago
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… Read more »
pocojuan
pocojuan
5 years 12 days ago

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

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 12 days ago

@KarenARocks Thanks! And…da Bears!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 12 days ago

@pocojuan I agree.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 12 days ago

@BlogathonATX thanks!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 12 days ago

@kmjeffrice That was nice – thanks!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 12 days ago

@kmjeffrice LOL! It was still nice.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 12 days ago

@jasonkonopinski Oh I’ll remember! 🙂

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 12 days ago

@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.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 12 days ago

@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.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 12 days ago

@KenMueller You clearly made the wrong decision.

KenMueller
5 years 12 days ago

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

jenzings
jenzings
5 years 12 days ago
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… Read more »
KenMueller
5 years 12 days ago

@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.

KenMueller
5 years 12 days ago

@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.

jasonkonopinski
5 years 12 days ago

@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.

jasonkonopinski
5 years 12 days ago

@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.

jasonkonopinski
5 years 12 days ago

@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.

jasonkonopinski
5 years 12 days ago

@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.

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 12 days ago
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… Read more »
HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 12 days ago

@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!

Erin F.
5 years 12 days ago

@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.

svilardo2
svilardo2
5 years 12 days ago

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.

jasonkonopinski
5 years 12 days ago

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

jasonkonopinski
5 years 12 days ago

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

jasonkonopinski
5 years 12 days ago

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

jasonkonopinski
5 years 12 days ago

@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. 🙂

wabbitoid
5 years 12 days ago
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… Read more »
GreyMatterChgo
GreyMatterChgo
5 years 12 days ago

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

faybiz
5 years 12 days ago

there are so many levels of wrong in this story…

cpawebster
cpawebster
5 years 12 days ago

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

TheJackB
5 years 12 days ago

@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.

KenMueller
5 years 12 days ago

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

TheJackB
5 years 12 days ago

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.

TheJackB
5 years 12 days ago

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

Verilliance
Verilliance
5 years 12 days ago

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.

Verilliance
Verilliance
5 years 12 days ago

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.

Anthony_Rodriguez
Anthony_Rodriguez
5 years 12 days ago
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… Read more »
Anthony_Rodriguez
Anthony_Rodriguez
5 years 12 days ago
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… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 12 days ago

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

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 12 days ago

@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.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 12 days ago

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

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