The borderless world according to bloggers: Prosumers tell their side of the communication story @ 1CathyJ. Catherine Archer. Bloggers – new influencers. The impact of blogging seen as a ‘revolution’ (Miller & Lammas 2010; Mangold & Faults 2009; Scott 2011).
The borderless world accordingto bloggers: Prosumerstell theirside of the communication story@1CathyJ
Bloggers – new influencers The impact of blogging seen as a ‘revolution’ (Miller & Lammas 2010; Mangold & Faults 2009; Scott 2011). Bloggers are increasingly important ‘new influencers’ (Gillin 2008; Trammell & Keshelashvili 2005; Woods 2005). By the end of 2011, NMIncite, a Nielsen/McKinsey company, tracked over 181 million blogs around the world, up from 36 million only five years earlier in 2006 (see nmincite.com).
Bloggers – new influencers Blogs - important for consumers as read for entertainment and information; perceived as trustworthy (Armstrong & McAdams 2009; Brown, Broderick and Lee 2007). For organisations? Blogs and bloggers important - can quickly spread information and opinion about companies and products (Jones, Temperley & Lima 2009). Bloggers have a substantial influence on their readers’ consumer behaviour (Sepp, Liljander & Gummerus 2011).
Stealth/covert marketing Stealth marketing can be defined as “the use of surreptitious marketing practices that fail to disclose or reveal the true relationship with the company that produces or sponsors the marketing message” (Martin & Smith2008, p. 45).
Cash for comment and ‘blogola’ In the US the term ‘blogola’ has been coined. (Jensen 2011). Australians favour the term ‘cash for comment’ (eg see Lee 2009) In the US – since 2009 - illegal not to disclose payment on blogs. BUT in Australia? Convergence Review Final Report (2012) said: social media including blogs should be free from any regulation.
Blogging mothers “Mommy bloggers have been officially outed as a prime commodity audience for advertisers. With the combination of thousands of eyeballs and an undeniable consumer market for all manners of baby products, it was only a matter of time before advertisers started snatching up real estate on all the best blogs.” (Lopez 2009)
Research aims This research seeks to discover just how “symmetrical” communication is between public relations practitioners/brand communicators and bloggers within Australia, using a descriptive approach. This study responds to Macnamara’s (2010) call for ethnographic methods and interviews to investigate, among other areas, the levels of interactivity, the issues of control and ethics in social media which are seen to be topical but far from resolved.
Research question What is the nature of blogging mothers’ interactions and exchanges with public relations practitioners and/or brand representatives?
Research methodology Macnamara (2010): called for ethnographic methods & interviews to investigate the levels of interactivity within social media and the issues of control and ethics within blogs.
Research methodology (cont’d) In-depth interviews were conducted with blogging mothers who are members of the digital parents’ community. 15 interviews with ‘mum’ bloggers Saturation of themes (Glaser and Strauss 1967).
Research methodology (cont’d) ‘Netnography’ (online ethnography) (Kozinets 2002; 2007) was used to analyse blogs by mothers for themes and evidence of paid/unpaid brand mentions (stealth marketing).
Major themes Patronise ‘mum’ bloggers at your peril So my tip to PR people is treat bloggers like they are keen media representatives then you’re not going to go too far wrong. But if you treat them like they just won a prize and that you’re giving them a gift then you are in for trouble because if you treat them like the receptionist then the receptionist can have a job over you pretty soon. So watch out.
Challenging Ms-conceptions about blogging mums They don’t only blog about their children They DO blog about everything under the sun including often “taboo” topics (at least for mainstream media) They often want to be paid if they are writing about a brand
Themes Many, but not all, of the women are wanting to make money but (some) are aware of issues this brings. So I’ve avoided it but when it comes down to it I need to put food on the table. An (academic) salary is just not going to do it for me so I’m starting to embrace the whole sell out thing. I’m thinking of doing a XXX buyers’ guide for Christmas.
Blogging with benefits Yes, and it’s too time consuming for it to be anything but a business related venture and I will say that a majority of the parenting blogs that I have followed over the past 12 months have really pitched towards an economic bent in that they did lots of reviews and they are partnering up with media companies, and that has really pulled out a lot of the, sort of the, personal stories, journaling aspect of it because it is being driven towards review. And I guess you just have to use your intelligence as you read through of whether or not you choose to read that.
Wising up to money I've started to respond to them (PR pitches) to just say if it's not a paid opportunity, then I'm not interested. And that seems to clear off the majority of people and otherwise I try and work. I guess for me, my blog is a way, to do things a bit different…
Wising up to money I used to go to everything, just a fun thing. Oh my god, I get invited to things and you get free stuff and it’s a huge - when you first realise it, it’s quite a boost to the ego and it feels good to be going places because of this blogging thing that you do. And it still is. It’s just a great social experience for me. But these days I just think, oh, no, it’s going to cost me money to get there, money to park.
PR approach not always welcome Yeah. One of them did email me and say that they appreciate bloggers, they respect bloggers and that they’d love to pay bloggers but they’re just starting out in the industry and so they don’t have much money. That was a very poor business because then I looked at their website and they’re selling products at $300 or $400. They’re a big sales company and I just thought, I’m not a charity, and you’re not a charity. So social good I’ll go for but companies, no.
It’s about relationships – who knew? Excerpt from a blog.. PRs. Please stop sending out pitches willy nilly. Blogs generally focus on a certain topic. Fashion. Beauty. Parenthood. Food. Lifestyle. Autism. Not all blogs are into PR. Before you pitch to someone, have a read of their blog, check to see if what they blog about is of interest to your client and their target market. Do they have a 'PR' tab? Read the 'About Me' section. Scroll through a couple of pages and check to see if they actually offer space for PR or have previously worked with brands. Make specific references to the content on the blog when pitching. Use their name. Building relationships with key Bloggers is important, not a last resort for coverage. Bloggers have a very specific and very loyal readership, it's important to know the value of this.
New bloggers think about money I probably wouldn’t turn it down because I’m a bit – unless it was a really ridiculous product because (a) I’d probably feel flattered and (b) I’m not very good at saying no to people to be honest…But I’d find it really challenging to write, unless I really loved the product.
Not all mum bloggers are created equal You know, that is her business but I find it really patronising, you know. I was just going to say with Nikki when they were giving her as an example of a mum blogger she is a commercial blogger. Just because she has three kids, don’t go calling her a mummy blogger, you know. Like she is driving an online fashion magazine, you know, she is the most commercial of all of those bloggers and I just think that to put her in that mummy blogger category is just not right, you know.
Bloggers aware they must do ‘their bit’ Yeah and it takes a long time to build it up, I feel a bit like you have to take the lousy stuff and build up a legitimate reputation before you get offered the good stuff. For example Disney, Disney's PR firm are brilliant, they're lovely, but they’ll give you one copy of a DVD to review and one to give away and build that up and write good reviews so they're a bit different because mine are obviously always about this DVD allowed me one flat white and I'm now on eBay as opposed to well it was about a princess. And I find that all the bloggers have to build up through the small give-aways and the small approaches before they get to the stage of we'll give you a whole party and a gift card and a digital camera just to review the same DVD that we would have been giving you a copy of before. Kellogg's flew XX and I to Adelaide, things like that; it gets bigger.
Some activists – some don’t want to offend And I often try and suggest someone else because I'm so terrified of losing my place in the pecking order that is there with PR firms, I'm certainly not on the top but I don't want to start back to the bottom. So they're fine I find as long as you're honest so I won't lie I just won't write a bad review, I won't review the item. If for example I went on this holiday and it was terrible I think I would have to basically arrange to pay them their standard rate and not write the review because it's only going to make me look bad.
PRs “EXPECT” ROI “Unwritten law” that if you go to an event you have to cover it – Tweet about it, write about it. “Control” still an issue. eg. Post writing/checking Two-way symmetrical?
Aware of the power of their blog Any social relationship, no matter its context, is altered when money becomes involved, especially when the attitude arises that there is only so much business – and therefore, only so much cash – to go around. Realistically, corporate interest in Australian bloggers has gone being from fairly minimal two years ago to the level it’s currently at with little fanfare and much stealth. You’d be forgiven for missing it altogether, until it gets to a point such as now, where it can no longer be ignored. (Dwyer 2012) http://mumbrella.com.au/is-commerce-killing-mummy-blogging-107204
And the question of ethics? Media kits – not what you think. The issue of disclosure.
CONCLUSIONS Not-for-profit, small businesses AND major MNCs are starting to recognise the power of bloggers and are attempting to influence them Press releases don’t cut it. They are a complete waste of time. The disconnect between many PR people in Australia and bloggers is big Most “mum” bloggers expect something for their efforts – free events OR product OR payment A brand relationship is the ultimate for many bloggers. BUT A proportion of bloggers don’t care about freebies, “brands” or PRs - they have their own very clear agenda, be it business related, community related or personal.
TAKE-OUT MESSAGES PRs often viewed by mum bloggers as “frenemies” It’s a borderless world as far as work is concerned… Many so-called mum bloggers are now creating their own (previously non-existing) jobs which are related to PR eg. Brand-blog liaison
Future research Part of a wider study – 50 interviews with bloggers, 20 interviews with brands/PRs who sponsor bloggers Quant/qual online survey Ethics; motivation. Consumers of blogs – study of mothers’ use of social media