I'm Dave Jones and you're reading my personal blog.  I started as a PR guy in 1991 and have been involved with social media's intersection with Marketing & PR since 2005. 

 

 

Currently, I'm VP, Social Media at Critical Mass.  I'm based in Toronto.

Disclaimer:

While I'll get in to professional topics here, it's worth remembering everything posted is my personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of my employer or its clients.

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Wednesday
Dec172008

Conversations aren't Markets

The whole controversy around sponsored blog posts that's been circling around the blogosphere and forcing people to pick sides like some kind of geek-fueled Sopranos episode has been lacking a reasoned, thoughtful discussion by people who have some measure of experience in the image and reputation business.

Too bad, because that's where the real meat is in this controversy.  I don't care that Chris Brogan and Joe Jaffe disclosed that they were paid to post on behalf of Kmart and Sears.  They're big boys. They can do what they want.

The issue that's sorely lacking is an objective look at the impact of an episode like this on credibility and trust.

Mitch Joel gave it a good crack with his blog post and we've had several discussions offline about what the downsides are to paying bloggers to post about products.

Bottom line for me is I don't trust bloggers who do sponsored posts as much as those that don't.  I'd never suggest to a client that they get into a pay-per-post deal with a blogger because I just don't think they have an impact.

You may beg to differ, but you won't change my mind on this. I don't believe that bloggers shouldn't do pay-per-post. That's their choice to "rent their audience" if they so choose. But I do believe that brands shouldn't get involved with pay-per-post because it's a cheap and obvious shortcut.

I read somewhere that Markets are Conservations. I don't think the inverse is true.

And the authors of the Trust Economy e-book got it right too:
Understand that the digital natives know who’s there to market and sell, and who’s there to build relationships. We (the digital natives) know you’re new. We often can tell really quickly that you’re hoping to introduce your product or service to the conversation. Some of us will even be more responsive to this than others. But, then there will be many who will cry foul the moment you cross the line into pure sales or marketing. Remember, the Trust Economy is a conversation/relationship environment. We know you’ve got a job to do, but there are lots of people who prefer you do it elsewhere if you’re going to use traditional “bomb” marketing and sales efforts, versus “hand to hand” relationship building.

Reader Comments (8)

The reason a sponsored post lacks credibility - and therefore damages the trust one's built up - is precisely because it's sponsored.

To do this as a real, earned media story (whether traditional or new media), no actual money had to be spent - and that's the key fact most of those defending the concept of the sponsored post seem not to get. You ARE still allowed to go to a store, see what's on offer, and not buy anything.

Does anyone actually believe that Jennifer Love Hewitt, Alyssa Milano, Vanessa OR Serena Williams use Proactiv Solution? Or that Andie MacDowell's stylist is using L'Oreal to cover her gray? Or that Sarah Jessica Parker uses Garnier Nutrisse products from head to toe?

Yes book reviewers get to keep the books they're sent to review and yes movie reviewers don't have to pay the price of admission to the films they watch. But neither they nor their media outlets get taken off the invite/review list if they don't happen to like a particular book or film, nor do publishing companies and movie studies get to shop around and dictate that they'll stop sending books/movie passes unless someone likely to give a positive review is given the assignment.

It is funny though that Liz Strauss did a sponsored blog post just a few days later (for Sears, I believe), and no one even really seemed to notice.

December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRuth Seeley

Thanks, Ruth. The whole episode has been disected six ways to Sunday, but you do a great job of capturing the essence of whether it's effective or not.

December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDavid jones

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December 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commentertrlbjb

Interestingly, I did a follow-up post called, Transparency Is The Starting Point - Credibility Is The Finish Line (http://www.twistimage.com/blog/archives/transparency-is-the-starting-point-credibility-is-the-finish-line/) where one of the comments reflected something that I had not thought of: with the current increase in paid posts (advertorials) and disclosure that people are being paid by companies to do stuff (much like paid junkets) this commenter was beginning to loose credibility in all Blogs and new media channels.

I 100% agree that people can do whatever they like to "monetize" their spaces, but there is a larger issue at stake here, where all of us start to loose credibility if the space is seen as a place that can be bought and sold for a couple of hundred bucks.

I've had people use the words "icky" and "spammy" when discussing these topics and I'd caution everyone to think long and hard about what we are all doing - collectively - in this space. Because I'd hate to see this move from an amazing place to communicate and share to one where all we're doing is trying to sell one another on whatever brand is willing to pay us.

December 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMitch Joel - Twist Image

Doctor Jones,

Great post and I do respect you and your opinion. You've helped me be a better man and always challenge me. Always (you're like a Wal-mart commercial)

I don't disagree with the perspective re: trust --> relationship building vs pure marketing and sales, but somewhere....somewhere along the line has got to come that other icky word, "monetization".

My differentiating perspective is that I compare this particular brand of "influencer outreach" to advertising and perhaps the bar is lower...but it's still head and shoulders of an improvement. That said, I think it's also naive to put PR at the other end of the spectrum i.e. righteous and pure.

The only point of difference I have with you on this one is that I do think this form of influencer outreach is VERY different to Pay Per Post. I really do. I participated in this program...not to get a free Nikon D80 camera for example, but to understand it from the inside-out, as well as the charity angle and I can tell you...again...it's very different and almost without exception, very well executed.

Perhaps it's Ted's legacy from PPP that's causing the kerfuffle. And perhaps it's Chris Brogan's stature within the community. This time (with the exception of yourself), no one cares that I'm a part of this....like Liz Strauss etc i.e. it's less about me and more about the idea and the brand (as it should be)

A couple of additional points on the execution:
1) The charity angle makes a huge difference. My question to you is if - and if so, why - you feel the same way when the "money" goes to a good cause?
2) I personally did not refer to my post as a sponsored post i.e. I did not reprint the recommended verbatim re disclosure. I didn't feel it was. I gave the full disclosure upfront about participating (voluntarily) in the program but never felt like I was being bought per se.

I hope that gives you some additional perspective from my end. Again, not taking you up on anything you said, just giving you some context from my corner.

Happy Holidays mate...

December 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Jaffe

There are differing perspectives on these sorts of things. There always will be. Individual bloggers wishing to monetize is an entirely different issue as far as I'm concerned vs the notion of "renting the audience."

It's worth experimenting with, and I don't begrudge anyone from poking around with different methods of getting corporations involved in the social media space. However, my fundamental disagreement with getting directly compensated for writing something on your blog is a very old-school way to "join the conversation." Investing that money and time to build relationships with bloggers, which in some cases could be even more expensive than $500 per head, is a strategy that will pay off in the long run.

A one-time awareness blip on an A-lister's blog is very similar to a 30-second spot. Here and gone. Having a blogger who wants to write about your company multiple times because they believe in what you do and wants to share that with their audience is where the real value is. Exchanging dollars for space or influence is advertising/advertorial in my books. Nothing wrong with it at face value, but not something that builds any value in the long term.

December 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Jones

Perhaps in the New Year on Jaffe Juice we can discuss the solution i.e. what would we recommend (jointly) as the optimal solution - assuming either of our individual positions are considered to be sub optimal.

could be fun...

December 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Jaffe

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January 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDrugs Online Pharmacy

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