What happens in the world of influence marketing when the influencers are marketers?
THIS IS FICTION
This winter, I put together a program and invited a handful of bloggers to attend an international trade show for a client. We paid for the travel, loaned them gadgets to review and had a great time showing them everything our client offers.
Then today I opened a trade magazine and saw that one of the bloggers took more advantage of the trip than I realized at the time. It said that the blogger had met a competitor at the trade show and now counts my competitor as his client.
My inbox is filling angry emails from my client. She is calling my judgment into question for inviting this blogger and the client wonders if she should bother working with bloggers again, since it seems like they're all just marketing consultants looking for their next gig.
THIS IS NON-FICTION
In January, Panasonic and Crayon invited six bloggers to CES, paid their way and loaned them cameras to review. Chris Brogan, president of New Marketing Labs, was one of the six bloggers on the trip.
The package that Crayon put together for Panasonic included six really different bloggers with six different perspectives. It was a chance to play with Panasonic gear, to talk with Panasonic officials, and to spend time with the rest of the event as contrast. For instance, I went over to Sony to see what they were doing, to contrast it with what I learned at the Panasonic booth.
On Friday, AdAge reported that Sony is doing a program with dad bloggers and the lead consultant is Chris Brogan and the relationship began at CES.
Ms. Cohen tapped Mr. Brogan -- who is getting paid as a consultant on the project, not unlike a PR firm would on traditional outreach -- after meeting him at the Consumer Electronics Show where he interviewed her for his Power 150-ranked blog.
IS THIS TRUST?
If I was the PR rep that organized the Panasonic trip, I'd feel pretty burnt today. Yeah, CES was about 8 months ago and as I understand things the relationship ended after the bloggers gave the review cameras away. But still... I'd be very upset and I'd think long and hard before I worked with another group of bloggers.
In the world of blogger outreach and influence marketing, there is a continuum that includes:
For the first two - there can be no expectation of a good review or expectation of coverage. But as the person organizing, you hope that you are building a good relationship and hoping for great coverage. On the third - there may be a requirement to coverage, it depends on the arrangement. The fourth includes a formal contract and probably a limited non-compete clause. By the fifth, the contract is going the other way and the expectations have certainly changed.
I find myself unable to tie a bow on this one, so I’m putting it out there.
What are the lines? How long does loyalty last? Should marketing and social media consultants be included in influencer programs? What builds and breaks trust between bloggers and PR reps/brand managers? What about between a consultant and a client? Is there an expectation of loyalty after a big ticket sponsorship? Can someone that works as a marketing consultant ever offer objective reviews?
What happens in the world of influence marketing when the influencers are marketers? Are fellow marketing consultants really your target market?
UPDATE, 12:14 am, Monday, August 26
I thought I would add my comments to the post for two reasons. The first is I never noticed that my blog doesn't have an author line, so I wanted to make sure new readers know who wrote this. I'm Leah Jones, @leahjones on Twitter, and Natiiv Arts & Media is my company. I'm a social media coach primarily for writers, musicians and artists. The second is simply so they don't get lost in the discussion below.
My goal with this post was not to tar and feather Brogan, but to ask questions about our roles. Like Brogan, I'm a blogger (nearly 6 years under my belt), but I've become more known for being on Twitter. Like Brogan, I own my own company and am a social media consultant although I insist on saying coach, because I focus on training and not execution. Like Brogan, I get offers from brands - but not on a regular basis. Many people remember my road trip to Nashville in a Lincoln MKS and when I began drafting this post, I was being considered for a trip abroad.
Reading the line in AdAge about Brogan meeting Sony while he was at CES, threw me for a loop. I've sat on the agency side of the desk and felt "wronged" by a blogger. I've sat on the blogger side of the desk and hoped someone would finally pick me for a cool trip, gadget review or dinner. And now I sit on the consulting side of the desk and I wonder where the lines are.
At Edelman, where I worked for 3.5 years, the lines were very clear. I knew who our clients were and I knew that everyone was a potential client. I made my decisions accordingly. Now that I'm on my own, I don't have the clear guidance of a compliance officer, I only have my personal ethics.
I think it is important to raise these questions - which was why I said, "I find myself unable to tie a bow on this one, so I’m putting it out there." I think the debate below is one we must have - we owe it to ourselves, those who trust us, current and future clients.
I'll close by saying the top half really is fiction. In one of his comments, Brogan said that my fiction was very close to what has really happened. I wrote the fictional part, because it was more concise than the original post and an easier way to convey the message. I'm a writer and storyteller at heart. Feelings might not be a part of MBA programs, but feelings do have a place in our business.
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