Blogger relations: a fishful update

by Susan Getgood on March 2, 2009 · 14 comments

in Blogger relations,Blogging

Earlier today, I spoke with Matt Britton the CEO of Fishful Thinking agency Mr. Youth about the #fishfulthinking commentary on the Internet. To his credit, he responded immediately to my outreach for more information.

He clearly stated, and I believe him, that the agency had no intent to misrepresent or deceive mom bloggers about the Fishful Thinking opportunity. He also admitted that the program could have been handled better.

We talked a bit about why.

Matt explained (as David Wescott hinted in his comment to my earlier post) that they felt they had to reach out to approximately 120 (not 200 but the number doesn’t really matter) bloggers to have a large enough pool to find 10 who met the criteria and could meet their requirements.

But what were the criteria? A clear statement about the filtering process would have made it much more clear that they were recruiting for general interest, not making a final selection. The email language was unclear if not misleading.

Matt said that the criteria for selection evolved as they interviewed candidates and submitted them for client approval. This, in my opinion, is a fatal design flaw in the program. When you do an influencer panel program like this, it is critical that the selection criteria be clear up front to everyone involved. In the outreach. For company, agency and potential participants. Floating selection criteria offer nothing but problems.

If you can’t take the time to delineate the criteria upfront? Don’t do the program. I don’t know what “it” is, but I’ll know “it” when I see “it” doesn’t cut it. Sorry.

As David pointed out in my comments to the earlier post, far better to get to know the bloggers first, and then issue well targeted invitations.This was not done (possible?) here. Perhaps because the team was trying to leverage the public symposium date and moved faster than true relationship development allows? I didn’t think to ask Matt that when we spoke.

This lack of clarity was compounded by not getting back to people in a reasonable timeframe. Matt said that things just took longer than they expected — to interview potential participants, to make the selection, to get client approval. Fair enough, but an email saying the process was taking longer than expected would have been a whole lot better than silence. And that doesn’t explain the scheduled calls that were flaked on more than one occasion by the PR team. Something broke internally at Mr. Youth and I really truly hope that it wasn’t because they didn’t value the mom blogger’s time.

Lastly, they finalized the 10 “faculty” members on Wednesday, but the announcement wasn’t to go out until today. I don’t even know if it actually did. The Twitstorm and ensuing blog posts sort of stole the thunder. BUT: if they had informed the moms better about the process, the Twitstorm probably wouldn’t have happened at all.

I understand that Mr. Youth is extending an invitation to some of the mom bloggers who blogged/tweeted about this to attend the symposium on Saturday, expenses paid. This is a nice gesture on their part. It makes me hopeful. I *like* Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. But I still think this campaign could have been designed and executed much better than it has been so far.

As always, I will be following up with the company and bloggers who attended the event. Stay tuned.

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Blogger Relations: Connect with passions & values, not products | Marketing Roadmaps
March 7, 2009 at 5:38 pm


1 Motherhood Uncensored March 2, 2009 at 11:11 pm

I can get the email mistakes. Whoops.

But to email people they hadn’t heard from and schedule calls with them and then NOT KEEP THE APPT?


It’s great that they are offering to send bloggers to the event now. But it still bugs me how they just didn’t care about peoples’ time. Do they do this to clients? Probably not. Why are these mom’s time expendable to them?

Motherhood Uncensored´s last blog post..I smell something fishy

2 kim/hormone-colored days March 2, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Another great post on the topic, and so quickly. Thanks, Susan.

I always appreciate your point of view, and if you don’t mind me plugging mine, I think Mr. Youth’s process is another example of one in which a “Social Media Mom” could have been a great help. Engaging an active and well-connected momblogger might have helped identify relevant bloggers and jump-start the relationship a bit.

I love this part: “If you can’t take the time to delineate the criteria upfront? Don’t do the program. I don’t know what “it” is, but I’ll know “it” when I see “it” doesn’t cut it. Sorry.” The whole back and forth between the PR company and their client leaves the blogger in an awkward and uncomfortable spot.

I didn’t comment on your earlier (also excellent) post, but I was shocked that someone as experienced as Stefania/City Mama was misled by this company. That alone speaks volumes about how misleading this company was in their approach.

Thanks again.

kim/hormone-colored days´s last blog post..Marketing to Mommybloggers: Avoiding Social Media Mistakes with Moms

3 PunditMom March 2, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Isn’t this just another illustration of the fact that so many in PR and marketing know they need to reach out but don’t REALLY value what bloggers do, who they are or the potential influence they have?

This example shows a clear lack of respect for writers, especially mothers, online. They think we’ll accept faux pas like this and be OK with it. They don’t view us as professionals in the way that they would with others.

Until they can get past that, there will be more “fishy” mistakes.

4 Susan Getgood March 2, 2009 at 11:23 pm

I agree. I think the intent was good, the agency people meant well, and the program seems good. That’s why people were interested in the first place.

But the execution was a mess.

And as Kristen pointed out, in this economy, to *not* understand how attractive $2,000 would be to a mom blogger? Means you don’t know the space.

5 mothergoosemouse March 2, 2009 at 11:36 pm

Such pre-defined criteria would be helpful not just for the agency, but for us as potential participants – to help us determine whether or not we wanted to be involved. Personally, while I was interested in the program (and certainly enticed by the compensation and travel), I was not prepared to commit to anything until I understood what was expected of me. It’s entirely possible that I would have self-eliminated – but I can’t say, since I still don’t know what role these “faculty moms” will play.

Furthermore, while I know from ten years of PM experience that projects often take longer than anticipated, there are some critical path tasks that it appears the agency overlooked. Announcing the bloggers who were to attend the training session a mere two days before they would depart – that’s spectacularly bad planning. Not only do those bloggers need to make personal logistical arrangements (e.g., child care, time off work), but consider those bloggers who were NOT selected and the arrangements they and their families might have been making in order to attend a session that they didn’t yet know they weren’t actually selected to attend.

@Motherhood Uncensored and @PunditMom have covered the other examples of a lack of consideration for the bloggers quite well. I echo their comments wholeheartedly.

mothergoosemouse´s last blog post..Something fishy this way comes

6 Busy Mom March 2, 2009 at 11:53 pm

I’m glad they responded, and it seems they mean well, but what’s the criteria for paying the expenses of some of the bloggers who Twittered? Isn’t that the problem in the first place?

7 Jenn March 3, 2009 at 12:15 am

First, I have to agree with Busy Mom and what she said. A never-ending circle?

I am a bit surprised that Mr. Youth was the one behind it seeing as when I worked beside them on the Generation Huggies campaign they *seemed* to get it and *seemed* to value the mom bloggers who were working with them and showed them respect.

It will be interesting to see where this goes and the fallout that may or may not follow. Thanks for the follow up, Susan.

Jenn´s last blog post..Decisions. Changes. Life without regrets.

8 Susan Getgood March 3, 2009 at 8:21 am

My overall impression is that intentions were good, if unclear, but they just didn’t have the time necessary to execute. I don’t know how many women were approached before Julie, but the email to her was dated February 17th for an early March event.

As for inviting some mom bloggers who spoke out about the problems to come this Saturday expenses paid, I don’t think we should make a big deal out of this. It’s not a spa weekend. It’s a quick turnaround to New York at short notice to attend a lecture.

The agency has burnt some bridges, albeit unintentionally, and they want to fix the damage. The best way to do this is to meet someone face to face if you can.

9 Candace March 3, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Along the lines of what Kim said…these are not bloggers lacking in media savvy. Many of them have been dealing with PR companies, and some of them even work for or have started PR companies, for many moons.

And when you make an appointment and don’t follow through? Especially if you are at an agency, with secretaries and support staff and co-workers who can cover for you, and this happened to multiple people…there’s only one way to read that.

Candace´s last blog post..Effortless, Elegant Maternity Clothing

10 Cheryl Phillips March 3, 2009 at 4:02 pm

I came across your site via Twitter. I think it’s important to show a positive side here and perhaps this is being really blown out of proportion. I was contacted via a personal email (not a form email) from Mr Youth on the 19th of Feb. It stated that a person who I know in the blogger community had recommended me and asked if I would be interested in an interview. The interview would result in 10 people being chosen for the faculty. I had my phone interview on the 21st and I was told that I would hear back if I was selected by the middle of the next week. I assumed that meant that I would not hear if I was not selected. I did hear the following Weds morning and all of my questions and emails were answered in a timely manner.

My experience has been great and I was not counting on getting selected. It was an opportunity and I was flattered to be considered. I didn’t schedule child care until I heard (it’s not easy to do this–I am a single Mom of 5) because I thought that the volume of people they were interviewing was so vast that it would be jumping the gun to prepare in advance.

I think that some people mis-read the letter and expected that everyone they wrote to would be chosen to participate. I never got that feeling. My take on all of this is that we should NEVER burn bridges and all that we post on Twitter, the internet, etc is a permanent thing…if, in the future, more opportunities open up, quality opportunities will not come to those who spread fire. I don’t think the results of every situation will please everyone every time. I’m a big fan of addressing issues that bother me, but there needs to be a reasonable amount of tact used. Spreading wildfires on places such as Twitter can cause a lot of unfounded rumors.

I appreciate your straightforward blog post. No, no one told me to write this. I just think that positive is GOOD in a negative world.

Cheryl Phillips´s last blog post..Tuesday’s Tribute: More Than A Woman

11 Susan Getgood March 3, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Cheryl, I think it is terrific that your experience has been great. The email you received doesn’t sound anything like the one Julie received. A screen shot of hers is linked in my first fishful post.

Other women had very different experiences. They had scheduled conference calls and the PR rep never showed. In some cases, they had paid for child care to have the call uninterrupted.

All of these data points and inconsistencies lead me to believe that while the intent was good, the program was executed too fast without enough quality control.

12 Cheryl Phillips March 3, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Thanks for the response, Susan. I’m sure it was a mass of confusion in some areas because perhaps they timed it just a bit too close. However, I’m a single mom with 5 kiddos ranging in age from 8 to 24 so I am used to last minute everything and the unexpected. I’m sorry others had a poor experience but there’s so much to be said for just staying positive and keeping doors open. Maybe it’s because I’m used to things not working perfectly
(including my knee! lol).
Thanks again!

Cheryl Phillips´s last blog post..Meet Author Janice Lundy: Your Truest Self

13 Her Bad Mother March 3, 2009 at 7:23 pm

Cheryl – as Susan said, it’s great that you had a good experience, but it’s not the same experience that others had. Those of us who were frustrated with the outreach are seasoned bloggers with lots of experience with PR firms – this wasn’t some error of understanding on our part. As someone said above, if social media consultants like Stefania and Julie and Kristen misunderstood, then some error was made.

Mr Youth acknowledges those errors, and has been reaching out to the frustrated bloggers, which is good. But at this point, the suggestion that maybe the bloggers were the problem, and that we shouldn’t discuss it critically, doesn’t serve anybody.

Her Bad Mother´s last blog post..What Does A Body Good

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