Last time I took a look at the role of client companies that are looking to have products or services reviewed and the marketing companies that arrange blogger outreach programs. Those are two of the four stakeholder groups. The other two are the bloggers who will be receiving the products and the bloggers’ audience/readers/community.
What I like about this marketing tactic is that it has the creator of a product relying on others to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down. What I don’t like about it is the way it’s being carried out. It’s not structured a way in which the supposed beneficiaries (the audience) can really benefit. That goes right to the third of CK’s thoughts that the program must provide value. And I find myself feeling that those that are in the industry and blog about it are missing key points. Or they’re saying stuff that I think is, well, wrong…and is contributing to what could make this tactic not work out.
I’ll go along with the idea that, to an extent, certain key bloggers are guardians of what’s cool. They aren’t the only ones but they’re playing a significant role.
When a blogger writes, “Folks, SuperCorp has asked me to review their new [product name]. I said yes. So they’ll be sending it to me on loan and I’ll have it for (certain time period). I’ll use it and keep you informed about my experiences with it.”
They really could be saying…”Folks, SuperCorp (a major internationally known corporation you have all have heard of whose CEO was on the cover of Business Week last week and whose CMO keynoted that conference you went to three months ago) has asked me (selected me amongst many potential bloggers because they see me a kickass blogger, a key “influential” who is well known in my niche – unlike many of you, my readers) to review their new [product ane] (a way cool and new technology gadget that a lot of people will end up talking about). I said (shit yeah! Booyah!!) yes. So they’ll be sending it to me on loan and I’ll have it for X months. I’ll use it and blog about my experiences with it.”
OK, not everyone is going to react that way, but face it. It’s pretty cool to get a pitch from a major company. And if you’ve received one, you’ve probably earned it thought effective and though provoking and thought leading blogging. As David Armano wrote as to whether or not he would feel ‘important’ about being selected,
“I’m going to be very honest here. Yes, absolutely it would make me feel important. I am after all only human and sometimes having a blog with steady readership goes straight to my big head. The good news is that it doesn’t stay there too long because I’ve lived long enough to know that although I enjoy this—there are much more precious and important things in life. But yes, I think receiving something of value would make me feel special.”
I bet that’s how most of us would react. Special. Especially if the product is from a big company or it’s a big PR firm that’s selected us. That’s because bloggers, by announcing that they’ve been contacted and that theyve accepted, are saying essentially a major international corporation wants me to conduct a review of their latest cool product. They’ve selected me because I’m prominent and appear to be cool. That’s not bragging, they could say that humbly, but it’s the truth.
There’s a certain panache to being selected in a case such as this. It mean’s “you’ve made it”. You’re an influential. You’ve created an online presence of yourself and through hard work and great insight have cut through the clutter to become an arbiter of what’s cool. It’s cool being cool. And the other thing thats cool is you get to try out this new thing that may end up being all the rage. You don’t have to pay for it. You just get to use it and benefit. And (hopefully, if you wouldn’t mind) blog about it.
I then read this comment by Mack Collier to a post written Nikon D80 Blogger Outreach Rocks by Joseph Jaffe.
“What I love about the program is that we are under zero obligation to blog about the camera or the pictures we take with it whatsoever. That alone was what clinched my involvement, and I’d bet this was a point that MWW fought for. This is another reason why it pays to have smart bloggers involved in crafting a blogger-outreach program such as this.”
Mack, Mack, Mack. I couldn’t disagree more. Not ‘obligate’ bloggers? Of course they should. (OK, obligate is too strong of a word, but bear with me here) Or at least the blogger should feel obligated. The blogger is benefiting by getting use of a cool product at no cost and by appearing to be both prominent and cool. And they’ve told us that they’re going to talk about it.
In other words, if a blogger accepts a free product for a trial period to observe it and then informs his or her readers of this, the blogger should then subsequently blog about his or her experiences with the product. Period.
The reason? It’s because this program is not about the blogger. It’s about the audience – your audience – and their potential interest in and potential need for the product. And by not ‘obligating’ the blogger to SAY SOMETHING about the product – a free cool thing that they’ve already announced to the world that they’ll be receiving – we’re falsely putting bloggers on some sort of pedestal in trying to portray that we understand the ‘blogger culture.
We can’t mistake the need for authenticity and transparency with what could be looked at as a subtle arrogant indifference or the feeling that one is ‘above it all. (And I’m not suggesting Mack is either). But, as a blogger, you’ve accepted the offer, you’ve received the product, you’ve told us about it. Now, dammit, tell us what ya think.
If you have agreed to use and blog about a certain product – and you’ve told your readers, then you owe it to your readers to give them your insight. After all, they’re turning to you for that very insight. And you’ve told them that you were going to blog about it.
If you have agreed to take this neat, new ‘cool’’ product for free – with the hope that youll love it and blog about it– but regardless of your opinion on it – you choose not to write about it – then give it back. You’re not so, well, cool to just keep it for a while. You owe the company that.
If you have agreed to be a part of this program that the marketing company created, then you owe it to them to give it your best effort. This doesn’t mean that you have to blog extensively. If, after receiving it, you realized that you’re not really qualified to blog about it, then write that…”Folks, this product seems fine enough, but I don’t know enough about xxxx to give it an overall effective review. So, in fairness, I’ll be returning it to Company X.” And that’s that.
I guess behind all of what I’m saying is that while the most powerful stakeholder group here are the bloggers, the most important one is the audience.
Next I’ll blog about the dynamics between the marketing company and the bloggers and how that can best help the audience.