Showing posts with label Nikon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nikon. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 5

Playing Catch Up: Olympus Cameras

Despite a steady decline in online conversations about cameras as most tech buzz is about testing for kinks in Apple's armor (yawn), the hierarchy of camera manufacturers remains unchanged. As conversations move, they all move together with no one really making gains or losing ground.

When you look at the landscape, Canon and Nikon lead the pack, with Sony in the ball park (mostly because the general brand name gives it a boost). Somewhere on a lower plane are the next three: Olympus, Samsung, and Panasonic. It has been this way for some time, with Canon and Nikon as camera market share leaders.

The reason is pretty obvious. Nikon and Canon made an early push into social media, seeing the significance in an online world that loves photos. Olympus missed the window, and has been playing catch up for a year. It might take ten.

To do it, Olympus tapped Mullen to develop a 10-step solution for social media. I've listed the steps, but you can read the rationale on Mullen's 10-Step Social Media Plan For Olympus.

Mullen's 10-Step Social Media Plan For Olympus.

1. Make A Commitment.
2. Define The Community.
3. Determine Objectives.
4. Engineer A Presence.
5. Build A Following.
6. Inspire Participation.
7. Get Attention.
8. Mobilize Community.
9. Measure Results.
10. Keep going.

Yep. There are some critical elements missing. There are some steps patently out of order. And with the exception of a stated commitment, I don't understand why they are still going through the motions. It's a scripted tried-and-tired social media plan.

Unfortunately for some, social media is adaptive. In fact, about the only thing that hasn't changed is that social media skews toward front runners. Nobody likes that fact, but it makes sense. It's news when you launch the first social media campaign in an industry. It's not news when you launch the first campaign for a company.

So, how does this plan execute? Here we go.

The Latest Pitch For Olympus.

The latest pitch for Olympus from Mullen is pretty standard fare. It consisted of a faux personalized hype e-mail about a "pretty awesome contest" that they call blogger outreach. Oh, golly gee. They told be about a contest and that it would be perfect for my creative-minded readers. Um, that would be you? And it might even be perfect for me. Ho hum. Not me. I get paid to do that stuff.

So here is the skinny minus the hype (and there is plenty of hype). You shoot a video (probably with a Flip or Sony or whatever) about what you would do if you had the new Olympus PEN E-PL1 and a $5,000 budget. Then upload it to YouTube. The pitch says that the Olympus community will pick the finalists. From those six, they receive an all-expense paid trip for two to New York, where whatever they shoot with the $5,000 budget will be displayed at the U.S. Open. Pretty simple.

A Few Areas Where Things Get Muddled.

Let's start with the contest voters. They say the community will judge it so it might make sense to know who this community might be.

Well, you won't find social media links on the Olympus Web site, but you can find a community of sorts. It would include 5,700 people on Facebook, 500 members on Flickr, 500 subscribers on YouTube, and 4,100 folks on Twitter. If we skew for multiple account holders, it might consist of 7,000 (some of whom know each other). Okay, it's small. If you're new, it's a disadvantage.

No worries. As it turns out, the Olympus community doesn't really pick the winners. Only the YouTube account holders vote. And those voters won't vote for 20 semi-finalists. They only influence who might make it the final six.

So how does it really work? The six finalists will be determined by judges based on creativity, quality, and contest theme. YouTube members will still get to vote, but their votes only count for 49 percent of the tally. The same goes for determining a finalist, except the finalist videos will be about what finalists did with the Olympus PEN E-PL1 and $5,000 budget. The finalists have about a month (maybe two or three weeks depending on how fast they get the camera) to complete for the prize.

If you poke around, you'll also discover that the community is young, with the number one question about the contest being tied to the age requirement. Most can't enter. What they don't ask about is the total prize, which includes two lenses, a stereo mic, extra battery, and camera bag for a estimated retail value of $6,200. That's not bad, along with $5,000 cash.

If you're wondering why there is an emphasis on the U.S. Open, a quick search reveals that Olympus is a sponsor. Otherwise, there is no connection to the contest.

Chances For A Social Media Win With This Contest.

While anything can happen online (sometimes marketers get lucky), the chances of Olympus gaining ground with this contest is marginal. Sure, Olympus cameras usually have an advantage for lightweight travel and stabilization built into the camera body, but Nikon and Canon dominate every other category, including the pro line, market share, ISO performance, and expandability.

But beyond that, the problems can be found in the approach. There are plenty, but we'll stick with the basics today.

1. Olympus started out of the social media gate slow because it entered the game so very, very late. But worse, it's relying on contests to introduce products to a community that just doesn't exist. Seriously, with the exception of huge brands, contests work better as an engagement tool than an introduction vehicle (unless the prize is HUGE or the community is established).

2. Olympus didn't compensate for the lack of community by leaning on the networks or communities where they participate. Specifically, this contest could receive a boost from three groups: YouTube members (assuming it's heavily promoted), amateur photographers (since pros have settled on Nikon or Canon or both), and tennis fans.

3. Coincidently, this also underpins one of several problems with the ten steps from Mullen. If they had laid out all of the assets and defined their objective first, these three audiences (maybe more) would have been obvious.

4. It seems pretty clear that the primary objective is pinned to generating "awareness." Almost every seasoned communicator ought to know by now that awareness is not objective. In one case, Mullen even counted a "See Also" link mention as an actual "awareness" result.

5. It seems likely Mullen adopted the very trendy "load and launch" approach to social media at the start. They call it engineering a presence. But basically, they chose a few popular platforms and launched accounts. This tactic also forces the social media team to build four communities at once with no central hub. Really, entering social media almost always works better one platform at a time because a percentage of your first platform will help populate the second, and so on.

6. There is also too much emphasis on influencers. While almost every program includes some influencer consideration, over emphasizing influencers inserts too much emphasis on building relations with "seemingly" popular people. If you're lucky, they write what you want them to write about. If you're not, they write about the campaign. Worse, it positions someone between the consumer and the product. Think about that.

Conclusions Before A Living Case Study.

Hey, I'm all for being wrong. And maybe I am. The only way to be sure is to track the results as part of a living case study, with this post serving as the backgrounder and indication of how far Olympus has to go to gain any ground. It looks uphill.

However, if you are interested in the contest, you can find the details on the GetOlympus YouTube Channel. Just make sure you watch both videos. The videos have a weird early 90s throwback vibe, which is probably the only time I owned an Olympus camera. More importantly, you'll discover another problem. I don't think they know who their audience really is.

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Friday, July 27

Ordering Up Ethics: Flogs, Blogs, And Posers

After reading that 279 U.S. chief marketing officers, directors of marketing and marketing managers polled in the PRWeek/Manning Selvage & Lee (MS&L) Marketing Management Survey revealed some confusion over ethics, I posted a poll to see if a self-selected group of participants could determine which of eight case scenarios might demonstrate the greatest ethical breach, noting that some were not ethical breaches (but have had some people attach ethical arguments to them).

While the poll was well read, only 22 people participated as of 9 a.m. this morning (before PollDaddy had some challenges). There are several other accounts for low participation, including: ethics cannot really be measured in terms of “greatest;” not everyone was familiar with the various cases; and people are generally confused and/or don’t care about ethics anyway. All valid points.

Fortunately for me, a few people opted in because I promised to make no claims that this is a scientific survey, but rather a discussion opener for today (and an opportunity to try PollDaddy). So here’s our take on eight...

(Poll 23%) John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, Inc., anonymously posted disparaging remarks about Wild Oats, a company that Whole Foods is now hoping to acquire. We considered placing this in a secondary position, until Vera Bass offered the following on BlogCatalog: “… I believe that breach of the more specifically defined duties (especially fiduciary duty) and obligations that are developed and maintained by those who carry more responsibility for others than most people do, is, by this definition, a greater breach.” Clearly, this is an ethical breach; and we’ll be adding something to our case study next week.

(Poll 18%) Julie Roehm accepting gifts from advertising agencies while they were seeking the coveted Wal-Mart account. While there are allegedly other ethical breaches related to this case study, we limited the poll to a single breach because it’s enough. While some argue wooing guests is an industry norm, the truth is Roehm knowingly violated her company’s policy and has been spinning ever since. While the initial action was bad enough, her defense of it continues to damage an increasing number of people.

(Poll 36%) Edelman Public Relations Worldwide published a fake blog (flog) last year for Wal-Mart (there were three actually). What makes this scenario stand out is that it was premeditated by people who knew better. The real irony is that Wal-Mart could have avoided the breach with disclosure. Perhaps more ironic, no matter how you feel about Wal-Mart, it has enough good news not to need fake news. We placed it third, but only because no one seems to have been hurt.

None of the other five are ethical breaches. At least, not to date.

(Poll 14%) While the Cartoon Network bomb scare illustrates a worst case scenario for a guerilla marketing campaign to go wrong and clearly impacted Boston (closing roads, tunnels, and bridges for hours), it is not an ethical breach. While ill-advised and perhaps not well thought out, it really wasn’t about ethics. In truth, Turner Broadcasting Systems acted very quickly and accepted all responsibility. The guerilla marketing firm that oversaw the campaign, on the other hand, was much slower to respond.

The (Poll 0%) Microsoft’s laptop giveaway, (Poll 5%) Nikon camera outreach program, and the (Poll 5%) McDonald’s mommy bloggers have all been questioned and talked about by bloggers. While all of them have the potential for an ethical breach, none of them did (that we are aware). As long as bloggers disclose the gift, loan, etc. and do not allow these items to bias their opinions and/or encourage/obligate them to make false claims, then no ethical breach can occur.

The last scenario, where Jobster sent Jason Davis a cease a desist letter, claiming Davis had violated a non-compete clause for launching a social network called, was not an ethical question. While the method was not prudent, there was no ethical breach. The two have since reached an amicable agreement.

So why do we care about ethics? To take from the preface of the International Association of Business Communicators’ code of ethics, because: “hundreds of thousands of business communicators worldwide engage in activities that affect the lives of millions of people, and because this power carries with it significant social responsibilities.”

However, as mentioned, this responsibility is two-fold. I believe that we must be cautious in applying ethics so broadly as it continuously raises doubt in or damages the reputation of people, regardless of rank or position, who have not breached ethics. As is often the case, asking the wrong questions — “Is it ethical to ask for comments on a client’s blog?” — can create more confusion than clarity.

As the best measure of our ethics, we must not only be honest with others but also, and most importantly, with ourselves. If you are ever in doubt, the simplest ethical self-test is to ask yourself one of two questions ...

“Would I be proud to tell my grandmother?” or (depending on who your grandmother was) “Would I be proud to see a story about what I am doing on the front page of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal?” If you can answer “yes” to either, you’re likely in good shape. Case in point, I think Mackey would have answered "no."


Friday, July 20

Revealing Ethical Realities: PRWeek/MS&L

Some public relations professionals and communicators scratched their heads because I didn't call for the resignation of John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, Inc. despite the obvious: what he did was wrong. Perhaps part of the answer can be found in the PRWeek/Manning Selvage & Lee (MS&L) Marketing Management Survey.

The survey polled 279 U.S. chief marketing officers, directors of marketing and marketing managers that are focused on consumer-generated media, integrated marketing, and industry ethics. Although some of the questions were somewhat phrased oddly (they are paraphrased here), some of the results might surprise you.

• Wal-Mart’s non-disclosure of its authorship of a blog was a breach in marketing ethics. 55 percent agreed.
• Julie Roehm’s acceptance of gifts and dinners from future advertising agencies was unethical. 46 percent agreed.
• Turner Broadcasting placing magnetic lights in Boston that resembled bombs was a breach. 41 percent agreed.
• Microsoft acted unethically in providing Windows Vista on laptops to technology bloggers. 32 percent agreed.

Clearly, there seems to be some confusion over ethics. Originally, I was going to write something about this, but then decided it might be fun to run a poll to see what some readers think first. Which of the following do you think constitutes the greatest breach of ethics? You can vote for only one (and some might not be ethical breaches); we'll share our take on it next week (after the poll closes).

Incidentally, the MS&L survey also revealed that 17 percent of senior marketers say their organizations have bought advertising in return for a news story; 7 percent said their organizations have an implicit/non-verbal agreement with a reporter or editor to see favorable coverage; and 5 percent of marketers said their companies had paid or provided a gift of value to an editor or producer in exchange for a news story about their company or its products.

So much for the notion that all journalists are somehow pre-equipped to make the right ethical decisions. As I have said before, ethics begins with the person and not the profession. Bloggers have an equal opportunity to be ethical and to suggest they cannot, as some people do, only indicates their own propensity to have an ethical lapse.


Monday, July 2

Supersizing Wingnuts: Ronald McDonald

By now, you might have heard that McDonald's hired six "quality correspondent" mommy bloggers to report on the "world at large" about various McDonald's facilities. And, no surprise, for every friendly blogger found, an equal number of contrary bloggers will magically appear. (Or maybe it's the other way around, I forget.)

It's nothing new. Ever since marketing genius Ray Kroc made a deal with the McDonald brothers in 1954, America has had an odd love-hate relationship with Ronald, or least the product he sells.

On one hand, McDonald's is a great American rag-to-riches story of a businessman who created an American icon and believed in hard work, wholesome idealism, and selfless philanthropy. On the other hand, critics say Kroc cut the McDonald brothers out, exploited teenagers, despoiled the environment, hardened our arteries, and made us fat.

Even Greenpeace showed its split decision back in 2003: "We don't like a lot of what it [McDonald's] does and what it stands for but we have to take a deep breath here, and give them some credit where it is due. They've done something [environmentally friendly refrigeration] to help the planet!"

So what's the truth?

Given the recent New York City quick service regulation story, it points to a cultural trend being blamed on social media even though it didn't originate with social media. The trend is the polarization of, well, everything.

Polarization is a tendency to promote every issue as black and white; for or against; right and wrong. It considers consensus waffling at best and knuckling under at worst. It originated with traditional media, often dominates politics, and has been slowly and steadily creeping its way into almost anything we do.

The irony is most polarized issues, whether it is a big issue like global warming or a little issue like McDonald's, are a battle of wills. Usually, it means wingnuts (people with extreme views) have hijacked an issue in the hope that they can appeal to your emotions while you surrender your ability to reason.

To briefly understand wingnut influences, imagine a bell curve. They are the 10 percent on either side, with the rest of us being in the middle. If the wingnuts succeed in moving the middle just a little bit, they can change the direction of Congress. Sometimes, however, the bell curve gets pressed down in the middle (making it look like an M) or, in extreme cases, the middle is almost obliterated (making it look like a U).

Thus, in the case of McDonald's, anti-McDonald's wingnuts have gained some ground using social media as a mechanism. To help offset this, McDonald's did what bloggers have been asking every company to do: pay more attention to bloggers. So they invited a few seemingly pro-McDonald's mommies to take a peek inside and blog about it.

Well, anti-McDonald's wingnuts can't have this, so they want to discredit the mommy bloggers before they write a single word. Really, it's not all that different from the Nikon blogger outreach program (except these mommy bloggers, I am told, are really on the payroll) and as long as they disclose, who really cares?

The simple truth about McDonald's is that like any indulgence, excess is bad (and we didn't need some fool who ate only McDonald's for a month to prove it); the existence of McDonald's does not make you fat (only eating excess quantities of, well, anything will make you fat); and mommy bloggers are not unethical if they disclose, even if they say something silly like it's part of a balanced meal (assuming they buy that). Of course, if they write that, all it means is that they will diminish their own credibility.

You know, I'm starting to believe that America's appetite for convenience is not fueling McDonald's as much as it fueling polarization in America. It's convenient to have only two choices. It's convenient to discredit bloggers as having no influence until they write something we don't like. And, it's very, very convenient to blame other people for our own inability to control what we say, do, or eat.


Sunday, July 1

Covering Hot Topics: Second Quarter 2007

Every quarter, we publish a recap of our five most popular communication-related posts, based on the frequency and the immediacy of hits after they were posted. While we base this on individual posts, some are related to larger case studies.

Jericho Fans Make Television History

When CBS executives cancelled Jericho over Nielsen ratings, fans of this post- nuclear terrorist attack/small town survival drama went nuts, literally. Using the Internet and social media as their point of organization, they launched the largest cancellation protest in history: sending 40,000 pounds of nuts (from just one store); rallied almost 120,000 petition signers; cancelled CBS related-cable subscriptions; boycotted network premieres; sold network stock; sent in countless letters, postcards, and e-mails; captured media attention in every major newspaper and tabloid; and flooded the network with phone calls. Within a few weeks, CBS reversed its decision in record time, heading off what was quickly becoming an exercise in crisis communication. Of all the posts, pointing out the error in CBS’ marketing of Jericho took top honors with over 10,000 hits.

Link: Jericho

Wal-Mart Strikes Back Against Julie Roehm

If networks are looking for a new made-for-television docudrama, the ongoing Julie Roehm story continues to turn heads (and maybe stomachs). Filled with twists, turns, sex, back room deals, character defamation, lawsuits, countersuits, media bias, allegories, and more spin than the planet Jupiter (which rotates once every 10 hours), this story demonstrates the pitfalls of second-tier executives becoming public figures and the companies that keep them. In the end, if she has any credibility left, Roehm’s personal brand will always be linked to the short-lived, um, alleged Wal-Mart funded affair with a subordinate, her master-class ability to spin herself into another lawsuit and, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, being more indestructible than a cockroach.

Links: Julie Roehm, Wal-Mart

Digital Media Will Change Everything

While some might say it was the very loose Jericho link, we like to think it is related to the increasing interest in the future of digital media, specifically how old media is becoming new media. When we gave some attention to how News Corporation and NBC Universal are speeding ahead with the addition of FUEL TV, Oxygen, SPEED, Sundance Channel, and TV Guide as content partners committed to bringing programming to Web video consumers, people wanted to know what it might mean. To us, it means that one day very soon, broadcast news and entertainment will be forever fused with the Internet, people will access it all via versatile technologies like the iPhone, independents will have the potential to break into the big leagues overnight, and businesses will fully develop what we sometimes call income marketing.

Links: Digital Media, NBC Universal, FOX

Paris Hilton Splits Public Interest

We don’t know about you, but Mika Brzezinski of MNSBC perfectly captured the public’s sentiment over Paris Hilton. In a YouTube clip, Brzezinski refuses to lead the news with Hilton, but then goes on and on about how she refuses to cover it, making her refusal to cover Hilton carry on probably three times longer than if she would have just read the script. Love her, hate her, love to hate her, or hate to love her, we’re not buying that you’re not interested because if we post about her, we always see spikes even though we generally only cover communication side items like blaming publicists, marketing humor, and overly long media statements from jail. Hmmm… maybe that’s why Hilton took second against Roehm in terms of most read public figure.

Link: Paris Hilton

The Office Parodies A Public Relations Nightmare

Although some follow-up stories to JetBlue and Jobster came close, NBC Universal's 2006 Emmy Award-winning show, The Office, proved fictional crisis communication is sometimes more fun than real life. For our part, we wrote up how The Office episode "Product Recall” mirrors how executives sometimes allow a crisis to run away from them by applying “tried and true” communication strategies. In the show, Michael Scott (Steve Carell), regional manager of Dunder-Mifflin, applies the practice of “always running to the crisis and never away from it” after a disgruntled employee at the paper mill put an obscene watermark on one of their most popular paper products. The operative word in this case is “always.” Crisis communication rules are only guidelines, silly.

Link: The Office

It’s very promising to see non-bad news posts starting to give bad news posts a run for their money. We're still hoping good news and educational posts might one day dominate the top five (admittedly doubtful). For example, when it comes to social media, we’d love to see more attention given to our underpinning concept that strategic communication is best suited to drive social media despite the fact that most companies seems to be trying to do it the other way around.

Anyway, while those were the top five posts (and related case studies) for the second quarter, several others came close (and almost all of them beat out last quarter). Runners up (no order): Fans of the The Black Donnellys lobby for HBO to save the canceled NBC show; PR bloggers made a non-issue into an issue over Nikon; JetBlue proved you really can overapologize in a crisis; Jason Goldberg of Jobster goes a whole week or so before behaving badly again; and our sum-up of Harris Interactive mobile advertising research despite my initial skepticism, mostly fueled by a not-so-great Webinar release.

So there you have it, except for one very, very important ingredient: thank you all for dropping by, adding comments, promoting several stories, and continuing to bring communication issues to our attention so we may offer up our sometimes serious, sometimes silly take on them. Whether you agree or disagree, all of it lends well to the discussion and I appreciate those who remember to target the topic and not each other in providing input.


Thursday, June 21

Seeing Green Over Nikon: Eric Eggertson

Eric Eggertson calls it envy. Mark Rose called it a big payoff. Jordan Behan, who pens Tell Ten Friends (a good blog too) agrees that it is polarizing bloggers, but opted to post his thoughts as a comment.

Never has a digital camera been blamed for so many things or been called so many names. So much so that one might think the "D" in the Nikon D80 stands for Darth Vader. Although the people of Picturetown USA only received free D40s, you would think neighboring towns would form a Rebel Alliance to strike down the Imperial Empire seeded by Nikon.

At least that is what you would think the way some bloggers talk about the 50 long-term loaners (with the option to buy at a discount after one year) that Nikon passed out as part of a blogger outreach campaign. Some think it is important enough of a discussion that CustomScoop's PR Blog Jots even noted Eggertson's and my brief discussion (though reading Eggertson's reply to my inquiry, one might think it was a debate). CustomScoop even asked who might be right, which is humorous to me because I hadn't taken a real position other than to point out there is no ethical breach in blogger outreach unless the loaner is conditional on positive reviews (it is not).

Really, for me, the whole discussion is much ado about nothing. Or, if it is something, then that something is the propensity for bloggers to sometimes make something out of nothing. Eggertson, whose blog I actually like, drives this point home by suggesting the Nikon campaign was designed to create envy in other people ...

"There are giveaways every day on radio stations, in newspapers and elsewhere. And the suppliers of the prizes get more than a product mention in return. Their product is positioned as something that, under other circumstances, you might have received. They are objects of envy."

No, the best blog posts don't always come from comments. Giveaways are not designed to make people envious and jealous (though that might be an unintended side effect). They are and always have been something much simpler: the human equivalent of a Skinner Box.

A Skinner Box, which is a laboratory apparatus used in the experimental analysis of studying behavior, is designed to reward the behavior of an animal (most likely a mouse or a rat) until instrumental conditioning occurs and the animal repeats the actions even without the reward. In humans, it works even better because we don't need to receive a reward; we can simply imagine one, which is why so many people play McDonald's Monopoly.

The Nikon blogger outreach program doesn't really make the cut in being a true giveaway because there is nothing you can do to get the reward. Well, maybe, as Eggerston went on to mention, "I’ve had my eye on the Nikon digital SLRs for years, since I have a few thousand dollars worth of Nikon lenses.'

Ho hum. Cameras don't create envy (or jealously for that matter), people do. Both are emotions: jealousy being the fear of losing something to another person (which clearly does not apply here) and envy is the pain or frustration caused by another person having something that one does not have oneself. Over a camera?

You know, having worked on a few campaigns that have put envy into play, the goal was never to create envy in other people as much as it was to make consumers who could afford the product think that their purchase would create envy in other people. That makes a lot more sense because there would be no point in Nikon trying to create "blogger envy" in an outreach campaign.

No Iago, envy only resides in people who succumb to it. But then again, I'm more inclined to celebrate other people's wins than fret over them or attempt to make them feel less credible just because they happened to have better Flickr photo files or whatever arbitrary measure was applied in deciding which blogger was invited to participate. That's right. Good for them.

As I said before, other than MWW CEO Michael Kempner saying that some bloggers were complaining about the campaign because they did not get a camera (a tactic that surely would produce the opposite of what a blogger outreach program is intended to do, er, I hope), the controversy over the Nikon camera campaign is much ado about nothing. Case closed.


Thursday, June 7

Splitting Frames: The Nikon Campaign

Reading Strumpette’s take on the Nikon Camera D80 campaign, you might think it’s the end of the profession as Amanda Chapel (a pseudonym?) purports to lesson Michael Kempner, MWWGroup, on the ethics of their blogger program.

Don’t get me wrong, Chapel has a fine blog that works real hard offering a smattering of "spicy" public relations observations to lure in the willing or wicked or whatever. There is no question that Strumpette is a popular blog that reads as the polar opposite of Steve Rubel’s Micro Persuasion, one of my favorites.

This time, I don’t really agree with Chapel’s twist on the Nikon story. She claims this is blatant bribery or “blogola.” All I see is that there seems to be some rumbling from public relations professionals that maybe, just maybe, they don’t know whether the campaign is ethical or not. Ho hum.

For the most past, the blogger campaign seems to be a natural extension of “Picturetown” where Nikon gave away 200 cameras to the residents of Georgetown, S.C. ADWEEK’s Barbara Lippert recently wrote that there is “something really satisfying about basing an ad campaign on the real stuff of user-generated content. It bulks up the experience and democratizes the process, not only for picture takers, but also for the viewers.”

So why not bloggers? Eric Eggertson, who pens Common Sense PR, seems to think that it is okay.

“Should bloggers feel guilty if they end up paying the discounted price and keeping a valuable camera? Not in my book. I don’t really expect them to write negative things about the camera. What’s not to like about a top digital SLR from a top brand? There are too many settings?”

Joseph Jaffe of Jaffe Juice says “I have to tell you that in my humble opinion, this has been the best example of blogger outreach I have either experienced (first hand) or read about.” But then again, he has a camera so perhaps that doesn’t count. Or maybe it does because it is blogger outreach.

If we go back to the original definition of a bribe (money or favor given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust), there still seems to be some holes in the ethical argument because MWWGroup never placed any conditions on the campaign like “you must write good things about it or send it back” or “you must use it every day.”

Nope. Other than asking the bloggers to include a campaign disclosure if they write a product review, which seems to be the opposite of a bribe, I don’t see any conditions that may influence these bloggers. In fact, it almost seems to me that the threat of making them appear influenced has a greater chance of skewing their objectivity. But that requires a different term all together.

Chapel says I underestimate the true dynamics of the issue. Not really. It seems to me the true dynamics of the issue is not being discussed enough. Public relations firms are being put in an unfair position: they are ridiculed for ignoring bloggers and chastised for inviting them to review products at the same time.

Fair reviews don’t just come from publications with product purchase budgets nor do they come from bloggers with deep purses. Fair reviews come from people who are true to themselves, whether or not they are invited to the opening, asked to take a test drive, or given a loaner.

Any other position is unfair to the reviewer as it attempts to guess their motivation at best and insults their ability to be objective at worst. Any other twisted facts on this issue would force us to conclude that we are all somehow unethical for sampling a cheese square at the local grocery store.

After 15 years of straddling the fence between public relations and journalism (five of those years editing a trade publication for concierges who ask similar questions), the best measure remains with the writer’s own sense of ethics. Better advice might be to resist the urge to name call, especially my readers, as it almost always erodes the name caller's credibility.

Ergo, MWWGroup has done a fine job wading into the waters of social media. While the Nikon campaign might be improved upon, there are virtually no details that deserve mention. They may even be given kudos for the experiment, especially because they tried so hard (maybe overly so) to remain above board.


Tuesday, June 5

Bribing Bloggers: Ragan's Grapevine

Michael Sebastian, writing for Ragan's Grapevine, resurrected Amanda Chapel's comments on camera-maker Nikon's "loaning" 50 bloggers a pricey new camera for 12 months. In Chapel's piece last week, she notes that that "most reporters, e.g. NYT, WSJ, BusinessWeek, Forbes, etc., can't even accept a free lunch anymore because of new ethics guidelines. The era of wining, dining and bribing reporters is long over."

Given this, the general theory is that companies are attempting to curry favor with "b" and "c" list bloggers, offering loans, gifts and payments for favorable reviews. The downside for a blogger is that when they accept a gift or loan, they take a departure from the world of journalism. Hmmm ... maybe.

Last December, I wrote a less than flattering piece on PayPerPost, just hours prior to a terms of service change that required bloggers to disclose that they were being paid for their reviews. Had the post been penned after the change, my take on it would have been different.

In such instances, disclosure can make all the difference (though I don't recommend turning every editorial post into an advertorial post or you'll likely lose your readers). The same can be said about the Nikon camera campaign. Any ethical breach is not in the loan of a camera, but rather in the blogger's willingness to be swayed by the loan or if the loan is conditional on a favorable review or frequency of a product mention.

It all comes down to the blogger (or reporter for that matter) asking themselves if they can remain objective despite whatever offer is on the table, Nikon camera "loan" or not. Only the blogger can answer that question. Because, in general, if we attempt to guess the ethics of others, we only demonstrate our own lapse in understanding ethics.

Journalists, reviewers and critics in particular, have always received new products and beta programs (or attended openings) so they could write editorial. The reward for remaining objective is simply a matter of preserving their own credibility as a reviewer. To do the same, bloggers only need to appreciate that credibility is their most valuable asset as well.

So while I agree with Sebastian and Chapel that skewing reviews for favors is unethical, bloggers without journalism or public relations backgrounds only need a reminder now and again that the best editorial is not for sale. Likewise, just because someone sends you something, it doesn't mean you are obligated to write about it.

In closing, I might also add that Ragan entered the social media scene in force. Ragan's Grapevine has been a great addition to communication blogging and its new social network is one of three social networks I think are worth checking out (I'm still wading the waters). The other two are and

I'm hoping to share why I think so sometime next week. And given the topic of this post, I might add that I wasn't paid to say that. Grin.


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