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Sep. 03.

Waffle Wednesday: Managing the Blogger-Brand Relationship

ww-wafflethEarlier this week, an incident occurred where an unnamed brand sent an email to an unnamed blogger saying to take a review down or face legal action. It later transpired that it was all a big misunderstanding, but it did lead to a discussion as to how far a brand can go to deal with potentially unflattering reviews, how bloggers would respond, and just how quickly a relationship between a brand and bloggers can go sour.

While everything was unfolding on facebook and twitter, a number of bloggers stated that they would be reluctant, or just plain unwilling to post reviews of that brand that they were working on, out of fear that they would be turned on too, and that is completely understandable. After all, the majority of bloggers write their blogs for the fun and enjoyment they get out of it, and don’t expect to be put on the spot that way. It does though, make me wonder about how to manage the relationship between blogger and brand.

Firstly, one main thing is important. Both sides have rights and responsibilities. The blogger has the right to write and share their opinions of a product, free from pressures from the brand to say things a particular way. The blogger though, has the responsibility to be fair, honest and truthful in their review. They can’t go and say that something is the best thing ever, when it really isn’t, just because they have been given free products to try out, as then nobody will trust what the blogger has to say. But likewise, they can’t go and present something that isn’t true, just out of spite. They can’t say that a brand, for example, tests products on puppies and fluffy bunnies when it just isn’t true.

The brand though, has the right to feedback, good or bad, on products that are sent for review. Even if the review never makes it up onto a blog, it can be helpful and polite to give some opinion on the product and that it is not going onto the blog as the product didn’t agree with you and you stopped using it/have too many reviews of similar products clumped together/insert your own reason here. It shows that the blogger and brand appreciate working together. At the same time the brand has the responsibility to accept what the blogger has to say about the product in question, provided it is truthful. After all, the brand is looking for opinions of normal people, written for normal people. It has a marketing department (usually) to come up with the shiny emotive wording for advertising, while a blogger gives the view of the everyday person using it. Both sides have their uses, but you don’t want everyone to be sprouting the same marketing lines about products.

When something does go amiss though, the way it is handled is unbelievably important. It can be so easy to send a snarky email to say take your review down NOW or else! But that is not the best way of doing things. Addressing concerns, where valid in a polite way, is more likely to get the intended result. Sending an email to say” Thank you for your review. We appreciate you taking the time to write about X. We would like to address a couple of things in your review, namely…” will almost always get a polite response, and the issue cleared up. In the vast majority of cases there is no malice intended by the blogger, and minor issues can be cleaned up, leaving everybody happy. Of course, you can’t tell someone to change their opinion, and you can’t guarantee that everyone’s opinion will be positive, but these things happen.

The knee-jerk reaction though, can backfire spectacularly though. As alluded to earlier in the post, once the original email was sent, the bigger blogging community found out about it, and opinion towards the brand turned really icy, really quickly. Blogging is a social activity, and bloggers are great about sharing information with other bloggers. A brand can suddenly see an entire community turning on them, just from one little faux-pas. That can lead to the opinions of those you want to hear, and that readers want to see, being distinctly unflattering, if they are voiced at all.

Both sides deserve the right to be respected. There are no winners from making threats against people for voicing their honest opinion, or making a small factual error. In the end, both brands and bloggers need to work together for the system to work, and in realising that, we are almost guaranteed an outcome that is acceptable to everyone.

Robyn

By Robyn | Posted in Random Waffle, Thoughts, Waffle Wednesday | Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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  • Good post, Robyn.

    I found that whole thing during the week rather unsettling, but I also thought the brand in question saying it was a misunderstanding left more questions than answers. How is a misunderstanding of that scale possible? Especially when it looked like neither the brand owner nor whoever runs their social media accounts were aware of the situation until other bloggers drew their attention to it. I asked them about it on Twitter, but they were vague on details other than social media works quickly and the issue was now sorted. I am happy for the blogger in question that the issue was resolved in a manner they were happy with, though.

    • I’m sure there is a lot we haven’t and will not hear about that incident. The thing is though, there are ways of working with brands and bloggers to get the best for both, and ways for handling it when things go wrong, and neither happened in that case, at first anyway. Hopefully the whole thing will lead to a greater understanding of having to work together.

  • Good post Robyn, that situation was so badly handled. As a brand you do take a risk when you ask for reviews, a blogger doesn’t have any obligation to praise unless its under a paying contract. Scarlett for them!

    • Exactly. When you ask for opinions, you have to accept that you will get both good and bad. It’s how you handle it when it all goes wrong, which was so badly done in that situation, that can have lasting damage for the brand.

  • Great post Robyn. It’s a tricky one, the relationship between brand and blogger needs to be handled carefully. The situation the other day was woefully mishandled & the fact that the blogger in q was still only in school added fuel to the fire, bullying such a young, yet accomplished girl. Whoever sent her that email is in serious poop at work this week I’d say.

    • I’ll be honest in saying that I am kind of curious as to what happened after it was all smoothed out. And yes, in that situation the way it was handled (or not) was woeful. There are ways and means of arriving at a suitable outcome for all, and that was not it.

  • I seen it all some of it play out on twitter and it could’ve been handled a heck of a lot better. Companies know that, as bloggers , we are going to give our honest opinion whether it be good or bad. It’s a risk they have to take and then deal with appropriately. I hope they have learned a lesson from this for the future. The blogging community stick together and only for them sorting it out quite quickly I think they may have lost a lot of business, myself included. Wonderful post by the way, I think you hit the nail on the head.

    • That’s exactly it. Bloggers share so much information, so one bad interaction can spread so quickly. Handling it without being so forceful would have seen a very different result.

  • Great post. I’m not a fan of that brand at all, because I don’t think something should be marketed as Irish when it’s not. Anyway – that’s more to do with selling regulations I suppose. The situation with that blogger was awful, I think that it showed a complete lack of communication between whoever is running the e-mail and the owner. I actually didn’t buy the whole “oh we never knew” thing – it’s your job to know what communications are being sent if its representing you. They had tweeted her thanking her for her honest review (which wasn’t even particularly negative). It didn’t change the way I think of the brand because I didn’t have a particularly high opinion of them to begin with, nor would I purchase from them. If they had an issue, they should have e-mailed that girl straight away before tweeting their thanks. A 16 year old gave her honest opinion in the nicest way possible, even saying she’d be back to the store, and was left wondering if she was going to receive a Solicitor’s letter. Awful.

    • There is a lot we haven’t been told about that, but I am happy that a solution was reached that was suitable. It should never have gotten that far though, and I can only wonder how peoples attitude towards that brand have been affected.

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