Category Archives: Blogger Relations

Five Must Consider Marketing Strategies for 2011

Whether your organization is “flying high” or “getting by,” it is unquestionably in your best interest to always evaluate minimum-investment, maximum-return marketing strategies as key components of your marketing plan. Following are Sweeney’s Top 5 “Must Consider” strategies for 2011 – strategies we believe cannot be overlooked and whose value should not be underestimated:

Publicity & Media Relations. Though a standard in the world of public relations, publicity and media relations have never held more potential for organizations seeking to increase awareness through traditional and online media outlets. Publicity and media relations 2.0 allow you to secure print, broadcast and online media coverage to reach target audiences with both company and product information in a cost-efficient manner. In the process you are also creating valuable content that can be used to enhance your web site and enhance your search ranking.

Online Advertising. As an addition or alternative to traditional print and broadcast advertising, online advertising (both display and PPC) can help you will build awareness while also driving traffic to your web site – traffic that you can monitor and evaluate. You can control costs, messaging and placement in both a test and campaign environment.

E-mail Marketing. The regular distribution of email to existing or rented databases is an effective, fast and efficient strategy for staying in front of and engaging target audiences (customers, prospects, distributors, retailers, etc.). E-mail marketing allows you to monitor, measure, evaluate and respond to recipient actions almost immediately.

Social Media Marketing. The use of social networks, online communities, blogs, wikis or any other online collaborative media – allows you to produce and share content, generate and participate in conversations and establish a trusted presence among target audiences. As with the other strategies, you can manage your involvement and costs while achieving desired results.

Creative. The difference between a good and great campaign is often determined by the creative. The ad that gets responses, the brochure that gets read, the business card that elicits calls, the e-mail that gets opened and clicked… they all have one thing in common – an impactful creative design and compelling creative message. This is one corner you don’t want to cut.

Need help implementing these marketing and public relations strategies or others?  Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.

What to Send Bloggers

I have coordinated with a blogger who would like to test and review my product. What should I include in the package when I ship a sample?

By Kayleigh Fitch

Before committing to sending a free sample to a blogger, ensure the blogger reaches a target audience that will be beneficial to promoting your product. Check out our blog post Bloggers Going Bonkers for Product Samples to help you determine if the blog is a good fit.

Once you decide to move forward with the product review, following are the items you should include in the package along with your product sample.

1. Personal Letter – Address the blogger by name and thank them for his/her interest in your product. Restate your agreement, including the agreed upon deadline for posting the review, and provide contact information where the blogger can reach you with questions. Most importantly, include a friendly reminder that the blogger is required to disclose your product was provided for free in their review.  This is mandated by the new FTC guidelines. Ultimately, you are legally responsible for ensuring the blogger makes a disclosure. Read our post on The Impact of FTC Guidelines Have on Blogger Relations for more details.

2. Instructions – Regardless of how simple it may seem to use your product, do not leave anything open for interpretation. Include a separate document that details how to use your product along with extra tips and hints for achieving the best results.

3. Product Information – Provide a list of features and benefits your product provides that will alert the blogger on what results to look for during the testing process and will help communicate key messages to readers.

4. Testing Tools – Your product may require additional equipment in order for the blogger to properly test it and achieve maximum results. Make the testing process easy by including everything he/she will need within reason. For example, include a high quality cloth or sponge to test cleaning products or a paintbrush to test varnish.

5. Photos/Video – Be sure to provide or guide the blogger to a place on your website where he/she can download photos and videos. Bloggers love including product photos and/or videos. Encourage them to shoot their own video or take their own photos. Before and after shots/video can be very powerful.

6. Bubble Wrap – Okay this one may seem silly, but it would provide a poor impression if a blogger were to open your package only to find a damaged product inside. Don’t sabotage the review before the blogger even gets the product; take the time to pack your product carefully.

Need help implementing a blogger campaign? Contact me at kayleigh at sweeneypr dot com or 440.333.0001 ext. 105.

Announcing Product Improvements

I recently made some enhancements to an existing product.  Is this something the media would be interested in?

___________________________________________________________________

By Kayleigh Fitch, guest blogger

The media will be interested in updated products if the enhancements benefit the end user or the environment.  For example, if your paper towels can now clean up even more dirt and liquid than before, it is certainly worthwhile to let the media know and even offer a sample for testing purposes.  Or if your new chip bag is now 100% biodegradable the media will take note.

However, if you simply updated a manufacturing process or material that does not affect the product’s performance, benefit the end user or benefit the environment, the media will not be interested.  As always, use your best judgment when sending “news” to media.  If you send too many news release or pitches that the media does not consider “newsworthy”, you risk losing credibility with the media and your email being marked as spam.

If you do decide to move forward with announcing the product enhancement to media, here are a few tips to help increase media and blog coverage.

1.  Consider how your improved product may be applicable to new markets and consequently new categories of media. For example, creating a child-sized version of your product creates an opportunity to target parenting magazines.

2.  Take advantage of seasonal or timely events coinciding with your re-launch that can enhance the relevance of the product. Introducing a stickier double sided tape, for example, will likely be more interesting to media planning their holiday issues because of the direct tie-in to gift-wrapping and decorations.

3.  Reconnect with reporters and media outlets that have previously written about your product. Particularly if they have written positively about your product in the past, these media will likely have an interest in reporting on its improvements.

Has a journalist or blogger written a poor review of your old product?  Now is the perfect opportunity to show firsthand how you have addressed their concerns by offering the opportunity to test the improved version.  This strategy can be very effective with bloggers who appreciate the give and take of a two-way conversation and genuinely appreciate when a company actively addresses their opinions.

4.  Don’t settle for missed opportunity. If you didn’t promote the old product to media, that doesn’t mean you cannot promote the enhanced product to media.  Rather than focus on only new enhancements, you can promote all the features and benefits of your product to generate media and blog awareness and interest. There is ample opportunity to secure media coverage for an existing quality product.

5. Do your research beforehand. Find out what media’s needs are first, and then find a way to tailor your message to their interests. For example, some monthly magazines run a section each month on their favorite products for a certain room or category.  So a tile cleaner with new green benefits can be applicable for a green cleaning, kitchen cleaning or even a bathroom cleaning feature.

Need help re-launching a product?  Contact me at kayleigh@sweeneypr.com or 440.333.0001 ext. 105.

What to Expect When Launching an Online Product Sampling Campaign

We are launching an online product sampling campaign and are wondering how many product requests we should expect?

___________________________________________________________________

By Jennifer Manocchio

Online product sampling campaigns can be very successful in building company and product awareness, increasing product trial and driving sales. However, the success of the campaign and what to anticipate as far as product distribution really depends on a number of factors.

First, what type of product are you offering?  Does it have a broad reach?

Second, how do you intend to launch the online product sampling campaign?  Online advertising, email, blogs, Facebook, Twitter or a combination?

Third, what is the duration of the campaign?  Weeks, months, etc.?

Finally, are there any geographic boundaries on the shipment of the free product samples?

Since consumers tend to respond well to free product samples, see recent blog post “Product Sampling Proven to Drive Sales”, the campaign can easily go viral and word can quickly spread like wildfire online.

For example, we recently launched a blogger review and product sampling campaign for a leather and carpet cleaner. Twenty-seven leading bloggers, including mommy bloggers, pet and equine bloggers tested the products, wrote positive reviews on their blogs and encouraged readers to sign-up for a free product sample.  The offer for free product samples spread rapidly online.  We achieved more than 300 blog, Twitter and Facebook posts about the sampling campaign that drove tens of thousands of consumers rushing to the web site.

If you are concerned about receiving too many product requests, simply put a cap on how many full and/or trial size products you are willing to distribute.   For example, “the first 500 consumers to sign-up will receive a full-size sample, and the next 1,000 will receive a sample size product.”  This will also help ensure a quick response to your offer.

Launching a product sampling campaign and need help developing the strategy, implementing and measuring the campaign?  Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.

Bloggers Going Bonkers for Product Samples

Our company is getting 4-5 requests a week from bloggers for product samples to test and a second product for a giveaway.  Should I be sending all these bloggers my product?  We are a small business and have to be selective who we send product samples to.

__________________________________________________

By Jennifer Manocchio

The good news is that if you have bloggers coming to you requesting product samples, you have already generated some awareness in the marketplace.  We have typically seen an increase in blogger product requests after media exposure or a targeted blogger campaign.

You should definitely be selective with blogger samples.  According to a Technorati study, the average blog has only 6 readers!  Yes… 6 readers!  Therefore, it is important that you research each blog prior to sending product samples.  You certainly want to be sending product to a blog that reaches your target audience, is credible and has a significant number of readers to make the largest impact possible.

Following is how we evaluate blogs to determine the credibility, reach and impact.

1.  Review the blog: Ensure the content is relevant and tasteful.  Take a look at how the blogger conducts product reviews.  This will help you determine what to expect and to ask for any alterations you see necessary (including a link to your web site, retail locations, etc.).  Also, some blogs list the number of views or followers.  This will give you a good indication of reach.

2.  Technorati: Visit Technorati and conduct a search on the blog to determine the blog’s authority.  The authority is simply the number of other web sites linking to that blog.  The more web sites linking to the blog, the more credible you can consider the blog.

3.  Track Unique Monthly Visitors:  Free tools like Compete and Quantcast can provide estimates for the number of unique visitors a blog receives each month.  The only caveat to sites like these is the free versions do not provide estimates for blogs hosted by WordPress or Blogspot.

4.  Other Social Media Sites: Conduct a general Google search on the blog or blogger to determine what other social media sites he or she is involved in.  If he or she uses Twitter, Facebook, etc. and has a good amount of followers, that can certainly help increase the reach of your product/brand.

You can usually see immediately if the blogger posts reviews on other social media sites.  If not, simply ask if that is possible as part of the product review.

5.  Google Page Rank: Determine the page rank using the Google Page Ranking tool.  A higher page rank will help influence organic search engine optimization.

Also, if you are short on product samples, consider declining the product for the contest or providing a discount or coupon for the blog readers instead.  While the product giveaway will likely increase exposure, bloggers will still consider covering a product without a giveaway.

Need help sorting through all the blogger requests or want to launch a strategic blogger relations campaign to increase brand awareness, increase relationships and increase sales, contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.

Did Ann Taylor Follow New FTC Guidelines?

Ann Taylor Loft recently issued an invitation to bloggers to preview the retailer’s summer collection, rewarding bloggers who posted about the new line by including them in a gift card drawing.  Was Ann Taylor Loft in compliance with the new FTC blogger regulations?


Kayleigh Fitch, blogger relations expert

The short answer is “no”, and there are several reasons why.

First, according to Jezebel, a blog that was invited to participate in the campaign but declined, almost none of the bloggers participating in the campaign disclosed to readers that they would receive the chance to win a high value gift card after submitting their review to Ann Taylor’s publicist.

Whether or not a blogger discloses a material relationship with a company when posting a review, it is ultimately the company’s responsibility to ensure that proper disclosure takes place under new FTC regulations. Ann Taylor should have included a reminder in their invitation to disclose to readers they had received a gift card after submitting their review.  Furthermore, it was Ann Taylor’s responsibility to continue to follow up with bloggers until all disclosures had been made.

Additionally, the fact that blogger reviews were submitted to a publicist before gift card values were revealed to participating bloggers could indicate that Ann Taylor rewarded bloggers according to how positive individual reviews were.

When a company commits to a campaign that invites bloggers to review its products, it automatically surrenders any right to control messaging about its product.  Marketers should not attempt to stifle or hide negative blogger feedback.  Instead, they should welcome such feedback as an opportunity to make product improvements.  If a blogger points out an issue with a product, it is likely other consumers will face the same issue.   If handled properly, a negative review can become an opportunity for a marketer to continue a public conversation with consumers, showcasing a commitment to customer satisfaction.

Ultimately, it is not illegal to provide payment or some other form of compensation to bloggers who review your products.  However, the new FTC guidelines emphasize the importance of transparency in blogger relations and particularly during product review campaigns.  And while the responsibility to disclose rests on the blogger, it is the marketer’s responsibility to ensure bloggers are doing so, regardless of how much nudging that takes.

To ensure your blogger relations efforts are in compliance with he new FTC guidelines, check out our recent post, The Impact FTC Guidelines Have on Blogger Relations, to get caught up on the changes.

Want to implement a blogger relations campaign or have questions about the FTC guidelines as they relate to social media marketing, contact me at kalyeigh@sweeneypr.com or 440.333.0001 ext. 105.

The Impact FTC Guidelines Have on Blogger Relations

How can I ensure that my blogger relations efforts are in compliance with the new FTC guidelines? _______________________________________________________________ Kayleigh Fitch, blogger relations expert

While the FTC’s updated Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising can be complex and difficult to understand in entirety, there are specific and clear guidelines a marketer should be aware of when promoting products and services through blogger relations.

The complete text of the Revised Endorsement and Testimonials Guides can be found at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm. In the meantime, below is a list of the basic guidelines to help ensure you are in compliance with the new regulations when it comes to blogger relations.

1. Understand that not all blogger reviews are considered endorsements. A blog review written by a consumer who regularly uses your product or brand, who decides to purchase the product of their own accord, or purchases the product through a special promotion or discount available to most consumers or received through a rewards program is not considered an endorsement under the FTC’s new guidelines.

2. If a blogger reviews your company’s product or service and writes about the experience in a blog post as if he or she has in fact used the product personally, ensure that the blogger has actually tested your product before writing about it or clearly discloses that is not the case. It is not acceptable for a blogger to portray that he or she has used a product personally when that is not the case. “When the advertisement represents that the endorser uses the endorsed product, the endorser must have been a bona fide user of it at the time the endorsement was given.” (Section 255.1)

3. Monitor blog reviews for unsubstantiated claims. For example, if a blogger claims in a post that the skin lotion you asked the blogger to review has the ability to cure eczema and there is no substantiated evidence of this claim, then both you and the blogger are liable under the new guidelines.

“The advertiser is subject to liability for misleading or unsubstantiated representations made through the blogger’s endorsement. The blogger also is subject to liability for misleading or unsubstantiated representations made in the course of her endorsement.” (Section 255.1)

4. It is not illegal to pay a blogger to write a positive review of your products, although Sweeney strongly discourages against pay-for-placement blogger relations. However, if you decide to go that route, you are responsible for ensuring that the blogger clearly discloses that he or she has been paid for their review.

“The blogger [and the marketer] is also liable if she fails to disclose clearly and conspicuously that she is being paid for her services.” (Section 255.1)

5. Ensure that the blogger fully discloses any and all material connections to you, your company, product or service “that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement.” (Section 255.4) The FTC does acknowledge that connections that are reasonably expected by the audience need not be disclosed. But if you are unsure what is considered “reasonably expected”, err on the side of caution and disclose the connection.

6. Specifically, you should ensure that a blogger clearly discloses when a product or service being reviewed has been provided for free, regardless of the value of the product. The FTC considers both bloggers and marketers responsible for ensuring this guideline is met and specifically states, “The manufacturer should advise him [the blogger] at the time it provides the gaming system [product for review] that this connection should be disclosed, and it should have procedures in place to try to monitor his postings for compliance.”

7. When communicating an endorsement message obtained through blogger relations (e.g. on sales literature or on a company web site) it is not necessary to use the exact words of the endorser. But, endorsements reworded or supplied out of context can come under scrutiny if they falsely represent an opinion or experience.

“The endorsement message need not be phrased in the exact words of the endorser, unless the advertisement affirmatively so represents. However, the endorsement may not be presented out of context or reworded so as to distort in any way the endorser’s opinion or experience with the product.” (Section 255.1 of Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising)

Want to implement a blogger relations campaign or have questions about the FTC guidelines as they relate to social media marketing, contact me at kalyeigh at sweeneypr.com or 440.333.0001 ext. 105.