ConAgra Foods and their PR agency, Ketchum, recently found themselves with a bit of bad press after a blogger outreach strategy for Marie Callender’s, their line of frozen food, went wrong. Here’s what happened:
ConAgra invited food bloggers to an exclusive “four course meal” prepared by celebrity chef George Duran. The bloggers were told the event was intended to discuss trends in the food industry and sample fine wines over a dinner prepared by Duran. What really happened? The “four course dinner” (unbeknownst to the bloggers) was Marie Callender’s frozen lasagna. Despite the bloggers clearly positioning themselves against artificial ingredients and processed foods beforehand, they were still served exactly that. Not to mention ConAgra secretly taped the whole thing to capture their reactions. Bloggers were less than happy with the “bait-and-switch” event and returned to their blogs to let their readers know about it.
Where did ConAgra go wrong? Why didn’t their ruse go as planned like Pizza Hut’s “surprise reveal” commercial? Successful blogger outreach can have significant ROI if implemented strategically. However, there are two important components of working with bloggers that ConAgra failed to do; target the appropriate bloggers and build a relationship with them.
Before you start building relationships, you need to ensure you are building relationships with the right people. Research the niche you are targeting and find the industry leaders in that niche. Plug into their inner circle and identify who has the most influence. Each blogger has their own point-of-view on things, and you need to spend a little bit of time uncovering whether or not their personality and blog align with your efforts.
Using a tool such as Technorati is a good way to start your search of uncovering highly influential blogs in your niche. Technorati’s blog directory contains over 1,275,000 blogs all ranked with their authority and influence and are also grouped by industry. The authority of any given blog rises and falls as the bloggers’ following changes, allowing you to find current leaders in the blogosphere. You can also compare the bloggers’ authority by running their link profile through a tool URL such as Open Site Explorer.
After you tap into these bloggers, you can continue to identify more leaders by utilizing their blogrolls. A blogroll is a list of that blogger’s favorite blogs to read and follow. The list can be as short or long as the blogger chooses. While you are analyzing blogs, you will start to recognize which blogs you have seen repeatedly on blogrolls; helping guide your search. Track the blogs you want to pursue along with their metrics and a short description of the blog, which will help you compare your findings later.
How did ConAgra choose the bloggers they chose? While it may seem obvious to go after food bloggers for a food product, the company did not think about who actually purchases their product. They invited bloggers to the event who clearly (if they had done their research) were not their target consumer. Several of the food bloggers prided themselves on using fresh, organic food in dishes that they prepare on their own. Did ConAgra and Ketchum think that their “surprise reveal” would be so influential that the bloggers would convert their lifestyles and endorse Marie Callender’s to their readers?
One blogger made her stance clear after the event, “I’m NOT their target consumer and they were totally off by thinking I would buy or promote their highly processed frozen foods after tricking me to taste it.”
The other important key to a successful blogger outreach campaign is to be genuine and honest with the bloggers from the beginning and build a relationship with them. Read their blog. Uncover what it is that they are passionate about. Determine how and if you can leverage that with your marketing efforts. If it is a good match, there will be no need for deceit. Influential bloggers receive invitations to review products regularly. They know that marketers are looking to promote their products; if it is a good product that aligns with their interests and blog, they are generally excited to share it with their readers.
Be transparent and do your research. ConAgra and Ketchum did neither of these things when promoting Marie Callender’s. If you keep these components at the forefront of your blogger outreach strategy, you will be much more successful.
Have you seen the results of a successful blogger outreach campaign in the blogs you read? Were you more likely to try out the product or service because the blogger you follow and trust recommended it?