lundi 11 août 2008

Pitching the Quebec market : blogger relations

Names have been withheld, because .. well .. I'm making a point, not looking to single anyone out.

Yesterday, I was on the receiving end of a WOM agency's pitch. Last week, one of their reps contacted me by email on behalf of their client to see if I would be interested in .. and would qualify for .. the opportunity to review a beauty/personal care product:
Hi Michelle,
I just surfed past your blog today and thought you might be interested in taking part in a campaign for a beauty product for XYZ, a word of mouth marketing agency. Basically, we would be asking for you to try out the product and maybe make a blog post about it if it so persuades you. Working in the communications industry yourself, you may have heard our name before.
Let me know if this is something that interests you,
Cheers

After smiling at the use of the word 'surfed' and sensing it may indeed have reflected a kind of skimming over the surface, I replied:

Hi, Mine is a PR blog

Do you see a fit for your client's product?

I'd be happy to consider anything that would be appropriate for my audience. Generally, I'm read by marketing and PR professionals in Canada, the US and the French-speaking world. Not sure a review of a beauty product would necessarily be of interest to them, but am certainly open to hearing your thoughts on the subject.

Cheers


And so we went, back and forth:

Hi Michelle,
I (sic) you are interested in taking part, then that is all that matters really. Let me know if you haev (sic) some time today for a quick qualifying survey.
Cheers


As curious a creature as I am, I was certainly interested in investing a few minutes of my time to find out how mere interest could be the defining criteria for blogger relations.

A phone conversation ensued.

After a few preliminary statements, the rep explained that he was calling on behalf of his client, who was looking for bloggers willing to do a product review. He asked me a few questions, ranging from my age, to the number of hits my blog receives weekly, to my presence and friends stats on Facebook and MySpace, to my monthly budget for beauty products. I may have exaggerated on that last answer. I was afraid he'd hang up if he found out that I go 'au naturel' and that a mascara brush comes within two feet of my eyelashes about once a year, at Hallowe'en. After all, presumably he was calling me because he'd identified me as a supposed influencer in matters health and beauty. And don't we all exaggerate just a little during telephone surveys?

I found the concept of asking someone to 'qualify' to do you a favour by offering you visibility in their blog an interesting one, but let it slide.

That said, I was glad to hear the rep mention that should I accept to do the product review, I should be transparent, and feel free to explicitly mention in my blog post that I'd been contacted by his agency on behalf of the client to test a product.

Apparently working for the packaging industry would have disqualified me from the campaign. I'm thinking that perhaps having a blog that is very niche and doesn't ever ... ever ... do product reviews should also have been up there in disqualification criteria.

Regardless, it was announced that I certainly qualified, and when could I start? I politely declined.

During the course a frank conversation that ensued about blogger relations, the rep explained that the agency had had to widen its net, as they'd had a hard time finding blogs which focus on product reviews in the Quebec market. He also mentioned that a lack of French-language material was causing friction with at least one blogger. I don't doubt it.


I've had the pleasure of working with a few consultants and agencies in the ROC who have come to the realization that Quebec is, indeed, a different beast and appreciate the advantages of working with someone who has a firm understanding of the market. They need insight in order to manage client expectations and tailor campaigns to this very (dare I say it?) distinct society.

The rep was very sympathetic throughout. He and I left on cordial ... even friendly ... terms after I'd imparted a bit of insight which, I sensed, was accepted in the collegial spirit with which it was intended.

Now, I just hope for his sake that he doesn't fall on Michelle Blanc. It'll be Dyson, revisited.

While this line is starting to feel a little tired, we're all still relatively new to the social media space and my impression of my conversation with this agency rep was that while they preferred finding bloggers that fit the ideal profile, in Quebec they are forced to look elsewhere to bolster numbers.

I'm left thinking that, like many social media types I hear at conferences and events, they may be missing the point.

In a market like Quebec ... or in any small market ... do the laws of Technorati and numbers really apply? Should they rule over all common sense?

Or, in the end, does quality win out over quantity?

That, my friends, was my Carrie Bradshaw moment of the day.

______

(suite)

This blog post sat unpublished for 24 hours, while I decided what to do with it. A followup email from the rep convinced me to just go ahead and put this out there:

Thanks for the informative chat the other day.
I don't want you to think that the request for your participation was a complete misfire as we are actually targeting young, hip female professionals, ( eg. new media executives, make-up artists, personal trainers) that would have a genuine interest in XYZ. However, product blogs are adequate as well. From what i remember, you said that you maybe be able to refer some. If you could that would be great.

I don't think the request for participation was a complete misfire ... only a slight misfire. Personally, I wouldn't have included 'new media executives' in my campaign for a beauty product. I can't imagine a single serious PR or marketing blogger who would have set their editorial line aside to do a product review like this one, out of the blue. And as a reader, I wouldn't respect them if they did.

I'll spare you the details of my response to the request that I surrender my hard-won social media contacts to a competitor without compensation or apparent consideration for the investment in relationship building those contacts represent.

I hope this agency considers taking the plane in September to hook up with some Montreal bloggers and social media types at PodCamp Montreal or at the next YULBlog. Great opportunities to meet up with .. and develop authentic relationships with .. Montreal's blogging community.












5 commentaires:

nicolask7 a dit...

thanks for sharing all of this with us. i wonder if the agency will find bloggers to do the product review...

Deborah Zanke a dit...

Interesting interaction Michelle. I think it was good of you to take the time to try to educate the rep.

I had a recent experience that had some of the same features. A fellow from Florida (I'm in Winnipeg, Manitoba) called wanting to engage my PR services for a philanthropical initiative he was trying to launch. He said he had found my blog and thought I'd be a great fit. When I dug a little deeper, he revealed that he had done a Google search for "PR + pro bono" and my blog came up (I wrote a post on the subject).

From our conversation, it was clear that not only had he not really read my blog, he didn't even read the post. He just thought he could get some pro bono work out of me.

There will always be people trying to take a shortcut around building a genuine relationship.

Thanks for your post.

Michelle Sullivan a dit...

@nicolask7 For Quebec? They just need to find the right fit and they'll be fine. There might not be a ton of appropriate blogs for their campaign, but there are some (the product is pretty mainstream) and, as some of my clients have discovered, sometimes finding one ... the right one ... is all it takes to get things going.

@Deborah - ouch - makes me glad I do most of my pro bono with French non profits ... should stay under his radar :)

Thanks to you both for taking the time to comment.

Anonyme a dit...

Someone's just fishing for a job. Why all this rhetoric about Quebec when really you just want to work in Ontario. Maybe because you're sick of your own market?

Michelle Sullivan a dit...

@anonyme This blog is not the place for anti-Quebec rhetoric. Any further comments along those lines will be deleted. Please feel free to join a constructive discussion.

For the record : this is a PR blog by a Quebec-based PR practitioner, more than happy to be living and working in Montreal.

Cheers.