Sunday, 4 May 2008

Microsoft’s PR team: little devil on the tech blogger’s shoulder

Every now and then I come across a blogger trying to give advice to PR experts on pitching and communicating with bloggers. Recently my colleague Hilary posted a video on her blog featuring one of those guys. What was interesting to me is that he advised PR people to give their products to bloggers for testing if they want their pitch to work.
Freebies are not uncommon when it comes to selling your story to the journalists, but there is always the question of where to draw the line in terms of the value of the gift.
Last year Microsoft gave Acer Ferarri laptops to 90 influential tech bloggers, which cost over $2000 at that time. The rationale behind this was to help the bloggers accelerate their evaluation of Windows Vista. While some bloggers were more then happy to believe that (it is worth 2000 bucks after all), others thought of it as a bribe and got extremely offended. David Pogue, The New York Times tech blogger was outraged, and said on his blog:

“You don’t keep $2,200 gifts from the subject of your review. You might think you can still write an impartial review, but it’s highly unlikely-and either way, nobody will believe it.”

Along with this comment, Pogue summarised Microsoft’s history of bribing journalists and even editing Wikipedia entries to their advantage. He ended his post by calling the Microsoft PR team Machiavellis.
Whereas he seems to think that journalism ethics should apply to bloggers too, others have a different take on this subject.
Those who are offended by this freebie started talking about the bribe instead of Microsoft’s new product, and the story reached conventional media. So, if you’re tempted to be the little devil on the blogger’s shoulder, think again.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Consumers are creators too

... this was one of the conclusions of the 2007 New Media Academic Summit hosted by Edelman and PRWeek. Much of the discussion revolved around engaging consumers through online communities, social networks, virtual worlds and co-creating content – shifting from intrusion model to an invitation model of marketing.
Here are the key recommendations of the summit for engaging consumers through social networks. I believe these can be applied to online environment in general:
1. “Let go” and invite users to help shape the brand
2. Grant consumers control over how and when the interact with the brand
3. Deliver content that is relevant, interesting and entertaining. Consumers do not
differentiate between marketing and entertainment
4. Do not interact only to push your product or build your brand
5. Avoid intrusion. Consumers must decide if they want to interact with the brand
6. Be transparent. Admit weakness. Be honest.
Consumers are creative individuals, they want to express themselves, and be engaged. As one of the participants of the summit noted - most successful campaigns in the recent years have included consumers. He pointed to Dove as an example of successful online marketing. So, I decided to take a look at what they’re doing..
Dove recently launched an online channel which is meant to create a unified worldwide experience for their customers, enable the building of an online community and provide a personalized experience for each individual visitor. Visitors are encouraged to participate in ongoing discussion on real beauty, which reinforces their general marketing efforts.
One of the most interesting features of the channel are the Reality Diaries – four blogs written by ordinary teenage girls, covering their everyday experiences which are meant to engage young audience.
Dove’s well known “Evolution” video is also used to encourage people to participate in the debate around the beauty stereotypes. This video was posted on YouTube by fans and viewed over 8 million times. It triggered both online and offline conversations. It also triggered response in shape of parody videos such as “Slob evolution” and “Bush evolution”, which could be considered a downside; however, it is a way in which consumers interact with the brand.

All those efforts serve as a way to build the brand’s relationship with the customers which entails letting go of control and allowing customers to be equal in that relationship. Sometimes the results are opposing views and negative comments, but this is a tool of improving the brand and making it a perfect match to customers’ needs.
Consumers are creators too...

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Calculating ROI of corporate blogging

One way of marketing a consultancy and attracting new clients is by developing new tools and services which help them develop utilize the new media to their advantage.
One example I find interesting is a framework for measuring Return of Investment of corporate blogging, developed by Forrester Research Inc., technology and marketing research company. This tool should allow their clients to measure four major benefits of corporate blogging which they have established through informal research. The entire report explaining the main principles and the research on which they base them is available only to their clients. However, this chart provides a rough summary:

There are a few questions which pop up after looking at this chart. Let’s take savings on customer insight, for example. Can blog comments be equated to focus group research? You cannot be sure that people behind the comments are representative of your target market. The ways of interacting are different. Instead of just guiding the discussion, the author of the blog usually participates. Not to mention that people who comment can have rather different views from those who just read the blog, or do not read it at all.
When it comes to increased sales efficiency, decrease in the cost of sale could be attributed to the corporate blog if a link is established between reading the blog and the decision to purchase. Otherwise, it could be a mere coincidence.
Looking at advertising value of blog traffic and blog-driven press coverage presents the same doubts as the Advertising Value Equivalent in general (it doesn’t tell us anything about changes in attitudes, knowledge or behaviour, for example)
As for the word of mouth benefit, the same value (cost of hiring a buzz agent) is used regardless of whether the number of people commenting on the blog is 4 or 5, or 200.
These are just a few doubts about this framework as an appropriate for measuring ROI. My guess is, most clients won’t be asking most of these questions, so it probably works quite well for Forrester in terms of getting new clients through the door.