Tag Archive for Business

A Possible Model for Blogging and PR Campaigns

Bloggers and PR people are caught between the proverbial financial rock and the ethical hard place.

Whether or not this is the case, paying and accepting money for reviews on a blog are seen as damagingly prejudicial or, worse yet, a potential legal liability.

And yet, many talented bloggers spend hours establishing, building, and maintaining their blogs. They have integrity and care about the blogging community and their focus topics–but they also aren’t just giving away their hard work for free.

We offer clearly marked, paid advertisements, but companies want the editorial reviews. And if they can get the editorial milk for free, why pay for the banner ad cow?

For many smaller companies, they are simply interested in sending a product for review and that is a completely acceptable deal. You pitch, the blogger accepts, and they either review or get back to you if there is a concern.

In this post, I’m talking primarily about larger corporations that are seeking a wider campaign.

First, let’s start by being honest. Some bloggers are just in it for a quick few bucks, some companies just want the in context links, and some PR people just want to be able to fill in that their campaign reached x number of glazed over eyeballs.

Fine.

If this is you, just skip the rest. Continue on as you were.

For those of us who care about genuine word of mouth campaigns, let’s consider how to move forward.

Instead of sending a press release to thousands of bloggers, regardless of their quality or relevance (I’ve received some, uh….ummm…”adult themed” press releases for my parenting product review blog), try something different.

  1. Research the right blogs that are a fit for your campaign.
  2. Invited a select number of quality, relevant blogs to join your campaign.
  3. Demonstrate your respect and appreciation for the expertise they bring to your campaign.
  4. Provide something of value to them and their readers.
  5. Ask them to share with their readers as appropriate.

Lee Fit Ambassadors is a great example of this type of campaign. Lee selected 25 Fit Ambassadors, including myself and my co-editor at Mamanista, who write about topics relevant to the type of affordable fashion Lee represents. The Fit Ambassadors will have the opportunity to test out various new Lee products throughout the year. In return, they request you share your thoughts on a couple of the products with your readers. They also offer you a number of giveaway pairs to distribute to the bloggers’ readers.

PR people can also use social bookmarking and corporate blogs to share posts, offer bloggers opportunities to guest post, hire bloggers as consultants, identify expertise and invite these expert bloggers to participate in your communities as such, and invest in the blogging community by sponsoring events.

How can you trust that these bloggers will take the time to give you valuable feedback and share with their readers as relevant? Well, you DID do your research right? You chose quality and consistency over page rank and numbers? You showed an interest in the bloggers’ work?

Choose the right bloggers for your campaign, recognize their expertise, value their time, and engage their audience and you will have a great return on investment in your word of mouth campaign.

And if you want a tightly controlled message delivered on your schedule…then buy an advertisement.

Are Parenting Bloggers Liable for Product Reviews? Are Bloggers Marketers or Journalists?

After reading that Parenting Blogs May Be Held Liable for Product Reviews, an article which quotes the always delightful Classy Mommy, Colleen, I have a few thoughts and suggestions to throw out there.

First, a fitting disclaimer: although I did discuss this with my husband, who is a lawyer, these are simply my own opinions and ideas and do not in any way constitute legal advice.

According to the article:

A regulatory review process is underway to determine whether reviews by bloggers like Padilla may be in violation of good business practices, said Richard Cleland, a spokesman for the Federal Trade Commission.

“The proposed revisions signal that the commission will apply existing principles of advertising law to new forms of media, like blogs,” Cleland said, adding that a decision on the proposal is expected sometime this summer.

I believe this comes down to whether we are journalists (and held to that standard of ethics) or marketers.

Are we receiving products as payment for our services or for editorial consideration?

If we are journalists merely reporting what our investigation has revealed, then I don’t see how our posts could be considered “false advertising.” We may have an obligation to perform some sort of due diligence, requesting independent documentation to support claims, but we ultimately are not responsible for those claims as long as we indicate they come from the manufacturer and not us.

While not everyone may enjoy product reviews, or find them to be hard-hitting reporting, I do believe they, for the most part, more closely resemble journalism than advertising. I still remember Christine’s video showing how to go shopping at Costco with six young children and leave with your shopping list, all your kids, and most of your sanity still intact.

The difficulty lies, yet again, in the fact that we are not only the journalists in our little business model, but also often the editors and the sales staff. We are responsible for everything from coding to circulation to selling ads in addition to planning and writing stories. Once upon a time newspapers worked that way, too.

This does not make this multi-role model unethical, just more complicated.

As more attention is directed towards blogs, we’ll have to ensure everything is even more clearly marked–what we have received and from whom. Here are a few possibilities to consider:

  • Add a disclaimer visible on all pages of your blog (in the footer or sidebar).
  • In every post, explain who sent you the item.
  • If you make a statement beyond your own experience of the product, you can make it a quote and/or add some sort of citation. This will look cumbersome, of course, but it is an option.
  • If you receive monetary compensation, clearly indicate that.
  • Be wary of agents that try to put words in your mouth. I’ve received pitches with suggested language–they want you to make their claims for them. Don’t. Write your own posts.
  • Related to the above, we could consider what, exactly, the company wants from us and why. We need to assess whether the company wants our opinion, our audience, our page rank, association with our brand, etc. And if you don’t feel comfortable with the project, don’t participate.

True, none of this guarantees protection. Anybody can sue anyone at any time for any reason…but the whole idea that the FTC is going to go after Mom and Pop bloggers for their honest opinions is absurd. How, exactly, will they determine which posts are advertising and which are editorial? What is the litmus test and how on earth will they gather information? What is a blog, an online magazine, a conversation, or a community? Not only is this unenforceable, it runs the risk of intruding into freedom of association and free speech.

The sad and telling thing is that, as with the CPSIA (and let’s hope indie artisans and small manufacturers come out in support of bloggers the way we came out in support of them), it has been the independents that have been keeping the mainstream honest.

At Mamanista, I’ve refused products even from trusted PR people when they could not produce proper documentation to back their claims about BPA-Free or other status. Along with Cool Mom Picks, we came out with a guide to choosing safer toys during the lead scare. I first found out about phthalates from Mom-101. When I want to find out how safe a children’s product is, I check the Zrecs Guide.

These are just a few examples of bloggers that have questioned claims, tracked down information, and even done their own investigation.

Yes, this is a business for us as well. But many of us are making far less blogging than our regular hourly wage. And many of the products we test are donated or given away to readers. It is fun and it is a labor of love and we approach it with a great respect for the manufacturers, retailers, and readers in our community.

Father’s Day Gift Guide, Contest, and Exclusive Coupons at Mamanista!

Hi, everyone…we interrupt your normal bi-polar mommy blogging for this commercial message:

I just published a Father’s Day Gift Guide on Mamanista! If you would like to link to it and/or leave a comment about products you like or products we should add, that would be awesome!

If you need more ideas, we are constantly adding links to our Affiliates’ Father’s Day Gift Guides, too!

Also this month we are having a contest for our newsletter subscribers–two subscribers will win a Miracle Blanket. More contests will be announced, soon!

We have three exclusive coupon codes (check our right sidebar) for:

Miracle Blanket – $5 off
Skimbaco, a Children’s Boutique – 15% off
Sittercity – 10% off

We also have a listing of tons of other coupons to check out.

Of course, I would also like if you visit our sponsors and our affiliates through our links…and if you enjoy Mamanista!, please send us some link love and let me know.