If you haven’t heard about #Bloggergate, (btw, can we all agree to stop putting ‘gate’ at the end of every dramatic event?) you probably don’t spend a lot of time on the Internet. To summarize: Elle Darby, a semi-influential social media persona, contacted the White Moose Café hotel in Dublin, Ireland requesting a discounted or complimentary stay in exchange for social media posts on her Instagram and a property review on her YouTube channel.
If this type of request seems all too familiar, then you probably work in public relations and can empathize with the owner of the property, Paul Stenson. In response to Darby’s request, Stenson took to Facebook (either out of complete and utter frustration or pure purposeful genius) and posted Darby’s email with his response. The ensuing firestorm of support and backlash made international headlines, with winners and losers all over the place.
This entire ordeal exposes the tightrope that brands and bloggers walk in the world of influencer marketing and provides a guide to the complicated structure in which these bloggers and businesses work. At the brunt of it, bloggers and influencers leverage the trust of their audiences for personal gain as well (INSERT $XXX hotel stay for free), not just solely because they’re doing their audience or the brand a service.
The word “Collaborate”
The term collaboration has oft been a favorite of the modern corporate culture quo, included in bios and company visions from Silicon Valley to Timbuktu but now, much like influencers are doing to social media platforms, the word has been diluted in its effect (include how many times she says collaborate). Let us take a look at the dictionary definition of collaborate:
col-lab-o-rate (v.) – work jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something
The traditional interpretation means that two parties come together to contribute ideas and work towards a goal or product together, equally, and typically results in tangible ROI. The watered down version used by influencers and bloggers reads more like this:
col-lab-o-rate (v.) – give me something free and I’ll say something nice about you to my loyal following
One of these things is not like the other…
No matter what side you take in this battle of brawn, the people who decided to attack both Elle and the property/management so personally and vindictively looked like total a**holes.
The Phrase “No Press is Bad Press”
Ever heard of the White Moose Café hotel before? Did you know who Elle Darby was? No? Now you do.
In the last 30 days, Elle has seen an increase of 20,129 followers on Instagram 18,098 new subscribers to her YouTube channel and 4.1 million views. Those numbers alone make her a winner in this debacle, but her transparency regarding the email and how she makes an income most likely gained more trust from her viewers.
Paul Stenson and the White Moose Café
Paul Stenson is an Internet troll who takes his trolling very seriously. He continued to post responses to the various backlash from bloggers and influencers on Facebook, eventually banning the groups from his property entirely. He then held a press conference and designed shirts to sell as hotel merchandise. Finally, he sent billing to Darby for the amount of press garnered in her name. According to ClearStory, a data measuring service, the incident spread across 20 countries with a potential reach of 450 million people, the equivalent of $4.3 million in advertising.
In the end, #Bloggergate won’t upend the blogging industry or band brands together to fight the freebies. What it does show is the value of earned media, and how to take advantage of an opportunity. Stenson was able to drive engagement for his property and subsequently Darby’s channels, and put them both front of mind for a massive audience…for free.
We call that a win-win in PR Land.
Here Are My Top 3 Tips to Get Good Media Coverage
(Click here for the full BuzzFeed article featuring our CEO & Founder, Megan!)
- Do your research on journalists you’re pitching and personalize the pitch. PR pros should take the time to get to know the journalist they’re contacting and what matters to them. Reference their beats or past articles you find interesting, and make it a point to demonstrate, in some way, that you’ve your research on them if you expect them to further research the topic you’re pitching.
- Be objective. More than ever, self-serving or over-promotional pitches aren’t what media are looking for. As hard as it is, being as un-biased and neutral as possible is what news media connects with most (do you like being around your friend that brags about themselves to no end? … didn’t think so.) and most often results in feature stories.
- Culminate relationships with your clients and media outside of the office and email. You’ll find the real stories aren’t lying around in what comes out of stiff conference room meetings, and ideas flourish more naturally when you develop a more meaningful relationship with clients – go grab cocktails or go on a local adventure involving fresh air. The benefit is 2-fold: it shows you care to know more, and you’ll have more interesting content to pitch. Same goes for media – maybe you’ll find what strikes a chord with key media players for your clients when meeting for coffee and talking about their personal likes and dislikes.
How complex variables equaled trouble for a really expensive brush kit
Beauty influencers across YouTube recently tore Kylie Jenner’s make-up brush kit to literal Dollar Store powdered filth. If you have no idea what I am referring to, give THIS Perez Hilton post a good once-over. The $360, 16-piece set dubbed “limited edition, luxury and perfect” did not “set” (going for the pun here) well with bloggers nor their audiences. What could have simply boiled down to a product quality issue quickly turned into a noticeable marketing strategy gone awry. But why though?
The issue lies with flawed influencer relations… and, thus, this equation:
> Influence = Audience Reach (# of followers) x Brand Affinity (expertise and credibility) x Strength of Relationship with Followers
… so to say that a person’s overall influence, or what makes a person particularly influential, is dependent upon the number of social media followers, that person’s expertise/credibility with a brand, and their relationship with their followers (Sorry, Cover Girl, but, in this instance, it’s not ‘easy, breezy or beautiful’).
The above equation, widely used and supported by PR practitioners and platforms, was recently a subject point of a piece by Cision on succeeding with influencer relations. Theoretical at best, the equation has a few gaping variables.
The equation does not consider the scrutiny needed when determining reach. Audience reach is a deceptive vanity metric*, usually based on follower counts and video views. Some influencers buy or even cushion their numbers with fake accounts to establish and maintain their own personal brand. It is a vain measurement that has become less and less empirical as social media has evolved. Thus, it is difficult to deduce whether or not Kylie Cosmetics based their influencer selections solely on this metric.
*A vanity metric is any numerical statistic such as social media follower counts, video views, and page visits not backed by raw, contextual or demographical support.
One could argue, however, that the Kylie Cosmetics brand did not know which influencers they needed exactly target. Establishing the difference between brand versus category affinity needs to be emphasized; this variable can be easily confusing. Kylie Cosmetics seemed to have specifically targeted beauty bloggers (i.e. Laura Lee, Manny Gutierrez, Jeffree Star) whom they thought would only speak to the good of its product; however, the beauty brand actually targeted versatile influencers who understood and regularly discuss the make-up category as a whole. They basically targeted makeup critics who know their stuff. This would be like inviting acclaimed movie critics to see the movie Gigli. Maybe just invite consumers who start at a 100% rating than critics who start at 0%. The movie wasn’t actually so bad, but we aren’t movie critics. See the difference?
Finally, gauging the strength of relationship with followers variable boils down to a vague and problematic process of analyzing even more vanity metrics such as likes, shares and comments. The dilemma is that the first measurement can be purchased; the second can circle back to reach; and, the third can be falsified. Unless Kylie Cosmetics applied a team to sift through their potential list of viable influencers, this variable becomes too laborious to calculate correctly.
Influencer relations, and the equation derived from the concept, explains Kylie Cosmetics’ faux pas. Plain and simple, if they were looking for influential beauty bloggers to essentially preach about the $360 make-up brush set, they should have double-checked their math.
Consumers are scrunching their brows more than ever over corporate brand messaging. Instead of listening to the Coca-Colas and MAC Cosmetics of the world, masses, especially younger demographics, are tuning into the Jeffree Stars and Laura Lees of YouTube and Instagram for the honest truth on products and experiences being advertised by the corporations they are expected to love and trust.
Our message: even though Kylie is an “influencer,” she is biased to her own brand. Her followers would have gladly and blindly bought her product as her fans. BUT, where they thought they could target more of an audience through extended influencer reach, they thought wrong. Her brush set was sent to makeup critics as part of their launch strategy, who quickly deemed the set as overpriced for the quality, among other issues.
This dependence on friendly recommendations is where their faith lies; and this shift is wherein the necessity and complexity of influencer relations flourishes. As PR professionals, especially for brands like Kylie Cosmetics, we need to recognize this.
The solution? Send products that are already tried, tested and true to the brand influencers who fit neatly into the “equation” to review. Send new launches to trusted test groups and ask them to provide feedback before the product launch to appropriately make tweaks!
- We know they’re easily accessible, that’s why they hired us. Their workload became so grandiose, that they need someone to manage/liaise journalists’ queries and manage marketing campaigns. If we send out a press release, please mind the section that says “Media Contact”, even if you have the client’s direct info…Unless you attend their Thanksgiving dinner every year, we can assure you, we work more closely with the client than you. Read more
…is the theme of the week! This week I got the opportunity to visit one of our clients, Sky Combat Ace, and fly one of its high performance aerobatic aircrafts myself (talk about having your head in the clouds!). I personally believe the quote “the sky is the limit” is essential to live by as its a constant reminder to push yourself and ideas outside boundaries of the “norm”.
Neon Public Relations was recently searching for an aspiring young professional who is passionate about the public relations industry and equally motivated to enhance their skills to break into the fast-paced and demanding professions of PR and marketing, and, it is with (extreme) excitement that I announce that position has been filled! My name is Allyson Wadman, and I have been hired for the summer as Neon PR’s intern and social media and communications (semi J ) professional.
Neon Public Relations is currently looking for spring and summer interns. We’re looking for aspiring PR pros who want to learn the ins and outs of public relations (yes that includes going to all the fancy-shmancy events) and contribute to this growing company!
As an intern with Neon PR, you will be the right hand guy or gal to Megan Fazio, owner of Neon PR, for a fully-immersive and hands-on experience with some of Las Vegas’ most exciting clients in the hospitality and adventure industry.
When something doesn’t smell or taste right to you, what do you do? You tell your friends around you to smell or taste it to see if they agree. They hesitantly comply and either confirm or deny your position. A similar scenario unfolds with social media all the time, but with an adverse effect. Peer reviews are being posted and instead of readers jumping on board to share the displeasure, they’re simply accepting their peers’ opinions as their own.
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