Bloggers & Business:Caution Amateurs At Work

Bloggers & Business:Caution Amateurs At Work

Bloggers & Business

Bloggers & Business

This past week I’ve been watching people in the PR/Social Media business take Ketchum the agency of record for Con-Agra and Con-Agra themselves to task over their treatment of some bloggers, the whole event should be a lesson in caution for both Bloggers & Business. For those of you not familiar with the story, here is a rough outline. Ketchum, on behalf of their client, reached out to a group of bloggers and invited them to a dinner in New York at a restaurant run by a celebrity chef. They were promised they would enjoy a “delicious four-course meal,” the opportunity to learn about food trends from a food industry analyst, Phil Lempert. The were also told that they would receive an extra pair of tickets as a prize for readers and that the dinner would include “an unexpected surprise”.

Bloggers & Business:Not All As It Seems

Believe it or not this sounds like fairly standard fare (pun intended) for PR outreach to Bloggers. The hint of celebrity, the ability to increase reader engagement with a giveaway and a general air of “you are special”. Bloggers are increasingly being courted by brands and PR/Social Media companies are offering this as a service to their clients (FULL DISCLOSURE: my own agency does this for our clients). Where the issue started was that in fact the meal that was given to the bloggers was in fact not prepared by a celebrity chef but was from the Marie Callendar line of foods which is a Con-Agra brand.

The bloggers were “outraged” that they had been “duped” in this fashion. Many of course took recourse in the only way they know – they wrote about their poor experience on their blogs. This forced both Ketchum and Con-Agra to issue apologies. On top of that, other PR/Social Media companies jumped in to point out how they would have handled the whole situation differently. The one thing that no one has pointed out here is that the bloggers were willing participants in this and this is where the problem lies.

I have worked with numerous brands as an advocate, both online and offline. I also run a business and one of the first things you do when setting up any type of partnership in business is to do your due diligence. Anything that sounds too good to be true probably is, so check it out. I have not seen a single post from these bloggers that states they asked who the company was that Ketchum was representing. Having been told it was Con-Agra they should have been no surprises that all was not as it would appear. I have a list of companies that I will not work with at any price – either as an agency or as an advocate – Con-Agra is at the top of the list – I won’t go into the reasons here.

Bloggers & Business: A Cautionary Tale

The lesson here for businesses is that they need to remember that most bloggers are amateurs, what I mean by that is, they lack the business skills that other business partners have. Of course this is not true of all bloggers, some have very successful businesses behind them and have built enterprises around their blogs, but they are in the minority. Of course for the less scrupulous in the world of PR/Social Media this makes some of these bloggers ideal targets.

The cautionary tale for bloggers here is don’t get too excited when a brand approaches you, either directly or through an agency. Do your due diligence, find out who you are getting into bed with and find out exactly what is expected of you. Brands want something out of the exchange, find out what that is before you sign up.

What is your advice for bloggers working with brands?

About Simon Salt

Simon Salt has been creating online content since 1993 and blogging since 2000. He is an author, speaker and digital strategist. He can be found on most social networks as "incslinger". When he isn't working he is either taking photographs or riding his motorcycle - sometimes at the same time.

  • Q_Turner

    Drawing a line in the sand and saying that there are companies with which you will in no way do business is a refreshing view in a world that too often seems driven by profit at any cost. There are some companies that do not lend themselves to honesty and transparency, and we all need to be better about investigating the people with whom we choose to ally ourselves. Bravo!

    • Simon Salt

      Thanks. I believe its important to draw that line. I have several reasons for not doing business with the companies on my list and decided a long time ago that was where the line was for me.

  • Kirsten Wright

    I definitely agree that this was a fault for both the bloggers and the brand. I am not a fan of the “bait & switch” tactic they used (even if it goes well!) as it just screams shady. However, the bloggers were also way out of line. They were invited to the event and should have researched ahead of time (they probably wouldn’t have been as surprised by the trick then either).

    • Simon Salt

      Kirsten, yes absolutely, bait and switch is never good but while everyone is busy pointing fingers at the brand no one was talking about the responsibility we have as bloggers to look after our own reputation.

  • Mary Jo Manzanares

    Do we know that the bloggers didn’t make inquiry?  I’m a travel blogger rather than a food blogger, and most invitations I receive have either a client indicated or that it is simply a thank you event for the years of doing business together.  I’m curious what this particular invitation looked like. . . .

    • Simon Salt

      Mary Jo – it is my understanding that the Ketchum invite did not include the final client name – e.g. Con Agra. It simply invited them to a conversation and a meal. I’d be very surprised if these food bloggers would have accepted an invite from Con Agra directly – if they did then even more fool them.

  • Mia

    It would be helpful to know the “black list” of companies. Of course, you can´t publish this, but still.