5 posts categorized "Blogs"

10/25/2009 Blogging and Transparency

This originally broadcast on Vermont Public Radio, October 23, 2009.

The Federal Trade Commission recently created new rules about endorsing products and that got the blogosphere in a tizzy. Basically the FTC said that if bloggers receive free products from companies, and then blog about those products, they have to let people know about it. The FTC views this as a type of paid endorsement.

A lot of people reacted negatively. For the most part they didn't want any rules at all. And they certainly didn't want more rules than anybody else.

As a medium that prides itself on openness and transparency, though, it was a little odd to see these reactions about making people actually accountable for openness and transparency. That's one of the best things about the online space: sooner or later the truth surfaces. Even if it sometimes has to slog through a lot of noise to get there.

For example, a few years ago Walmart launched a blog "Wal-Marting Across America" featuring a married couple traveling across the U.S. writing about happy Walmarts and happy Walmart employees. Problem was, it turned out that it was all a public relations ploy. The tour came to a screeching halt and Walmart's PR firm turned from blogging to crisis management.

But the reality is that brands now recognize the power that word of mouth plays online. Most of us go online to research everything we buy. We look for personal opinions on things like baby strollers, travel destinations, and cars. So companies decided to see if they could influence the influencers. They sent them free products and asked them to write about them.

Trouble is, when we get something for free, we tend to look at it more favorably. The good bloggers fess up immediately but more than a few don't. Now, the FTC has made it a rule that you HAVE to tell when you get a product for free, or else.

You know, I like this FTC idea so much I'd like to see it in more places. Like when a politician in Washington debates health care or some other issue, I'd like to see them start their speeches with "I've received thousands of dollars from the insurance lobby, but I'd still like to say this about health care." Or how about some of the news "analysts" who show up on lots of talk shows but who actually work for the companies they're talking about.  The only thing we'd need to do is to think up some good punishments!

Or maybe this is just sour grape since I've yet to receive anything for free in return for blogging about something. Companies do ask me to write about them and when I do, I always tell people that they've asked me to do so. In fact sometimes I end up paying for what I write about!

But even then, I still have a line I just won't cross. Like the time I received a request to review  a an, ahem, Flatulence App for the iPhone. I couldn't figure out what would've been worse: paying three-ninety-nine for the app itself, or admitting that someone actually asked me to write about it.
10/22/2009 The FTC, the IAB, and Me

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently announced guidelines on blogging and testimonials. Basically, the FTC is trying to get ahead of the curve by setting guidelines on product endorsements and testimonials. They want bloggers to come clean if they've received free products in exchange for reviews. They believe, correctly for the most part, that the simple act of receiving something for free might influence what people write. The part that has everyone up in arms is that the FTC reserves the right to prosecute those who don't follow the rules.

Personally, I have no problem with honesty guidelines. They're very easy to follow. I believe that online should be BETTER than other media: more open, transparent and honest. The FTC guidelines are a challenge to us online marketers to walk the walk. I think we should take the challenge to do more than the FTC asks.

Of all the reactions online against the FTC guidelines (and there were a ton), the one that got the most play was from Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). What most irritated Mr. Rothenberg was that the FTC had put more stringent guidelines on bloggers than it has on most other media. "Unfair," cried Rothenberg! "Beware Big Brother," wailed the head of the IAB on a site with direct links to IAB guidelines!

Why, I thought, would an organization whose main output consists of online advertising guidelines be so opposed to blogger guidelines? Is it because IAB can't really prosecute anyone itself?

So I dug in a little and found:

The IAB's number one objective is to "fend off adverse legislation and regulation." That's right, it's not to make online advertising better, it's to keep the Feds out. It sounds like something straight from Wall Street. Just let the market take care of itself, and everything will be fine.

It's last objective is to create a force to "balance power of other media..." which is kind of funny, since the IAB's executive board consists of people from the NYT, CBS, NBC, and Conde Nast. Foxes in the hen house (where is FOX, by the way?).

My real bone with the IAB is that they seem to think that the real problem with online advertising is sizing standards. The real problem with online advertising is that it stinks, from a creative and interactive standpoint. It doesn't matter if it's 30K or 40K, if its 336x280 or 120x160. It's what's inside that counts.

That's why the FTC guidelines are a good thing. They may have got it wrong in Old Media, but they're trying to get it right in New Media. It's not the format of the blog; it's how we show up on them. The FTC says, "be honest, or else." I say "there's nothing easier." Too bad the IAB has a problem with that.

And it got me thinking: What if the IAB ran things instead of the Fed?

Stay Tuned.
02/05/2009 Blogoscope – You Are What You Blog

I stumbled across another semi-serious, fun, waste of time site the other day called Typealyzer. This one put your text through analysis and delivered a Meyers Briggs indicator. It’s a Swedish site, so I assume they know what they’re doing. I analyzed mine and I’m an ISTP. Hmmm. Actually I’m an INFP, according to all the “real” Meyers Briggs tests I’ve taken. Do I have a split personality? Or do I blog one way and "be" another? Does it matter?

I decided, then to map out the Bloggers I read on a daily basis to see who they “are.” And when I noticed some similar patterns about the blogs I read, I tested some that I never read from different categories.

Enjoy. Here are my favorite bloggers and their Meyers Briggs indicators from Typealyzer.com.

I call them Blogoscopes.

Chrisbroagan Sethgodinstainless_normal AllanWolk RichFLA1_normal
ISTP - The Mechanics
The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.
Seth's Blog Seth Godin
Chris Brogan
The Toad Stool Alan Wolk
Ad Contrarian Bob Hoffman
Marketing to Women Online Holly Buchanan
Digalicious Blog Me, Rich Nadworny

Armano Jake-avatar_normal LizstraussfromLK2_normal Doshdosh Dan-PulverTV1_normal
ISTJ - The Duty Fulfillers
The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever.

The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work in their own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it.
Logic+Emotion David Armano
Community Guy Jake McKee
Succesful Blog Liz Strauss
DoshDosh Maki
Disruptive Telephony Dan York

Jowyang_normal Conversationage Noah Iannew2_schafer
INTJ - The Scientists
The long-range thinking and individualistic type. They are especially good at looking at almost anything and figuring out a way of improving it - often with a highly creative and imaginative touch. They are intellectually curious and daring, but might be physically hesitant to try new things.

The Scientists enjoy theoretical work that allows them to use their strong minds and bold creativity. Since they tend to be so abstract and theoretical in their communication they often have a problem communicating their visions to other people and need to learn patience and use concrete examples. Since they are extremely good at concentrating they often have no trouble working alone
Web Strategy by Jeremiah Jeremiah Owyang
Conversation Agent Valeria Maltoni
Noah Brier
Ian Schafer

Just Added: Baskin Dim Bulb Marketing

Servantofchaos_normal Cartoonandrew_normal
INTP - The Thinkers
The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality.

Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.
Servant Of Chaos Gavin Heaton
The Daily Dish Andrew Sullivan

Guy2.0_normal Tmz Busymom
ESTP - The Doers
The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.
Guy Kawasaki
Busy Mom

ESFP - The Performers
The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

They enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.

ESTJ - The Guardians
The organizing and efficient type. They are especially attuned to setting goals and managing available resources to get the job done. Once they have made up their mind on something, it can be quite difficult to convince otherwise. They listen to hard facts and can have a hard time accepting new or innovative ways of doing things.

The Guardians are often happy working in highly structured work environments where everyone knows the rules of the job. They respect authority and are loyal team players.
Daily Candy

ISFP - The Artists
The gentle and compassionate type. They are especially attuned their inner values and what other people need. They are not friends of many words and tend to take the worries of the world on their shoulders.

They tend to follow the path of least resistance and have to look out not to be taken advantage of. They often prefer working quietly, behind the scene as a part of a team. They tend to value their friends and family above what they do for a living.
Style Out Stylist

12/18/2008 Marketers Should Write Better

Reading through proposals, RFPs and other documents got me thinking lately about writing. Why, I asked myself, do so many marketing people, professional communicators, write so poorly? You’d think that they would be good at articulating thoughts or ideas.

The gamut of poor prose runs from brand directors to account people to designers and on down the line. You see it inside companies and inside agencies. I’ve worked with brand stewards who could barely write a sentence and continually misspelled key brand words despite repeated reminders.

It made me think of a blog post by Steve Johnson. The post talked about writing stats. The stats gave each writer their own “fingerprint.” It brought back words from my old teachers, Mrs. C in high school, Jeff Hart in college and Gerry Powers in grad school. We had to count and calculate words from Huck Finn to show how simply Mark Twain wrote. We had to apply those lessons to our own essays. We had to avoid passive sentences like the plague.

They were good lessons. Lessons that I need to push myself with in my own writing. Luckily, people like Seth Godin and Steve Johnson are there to remind us. We also have tools in Word to help us. I use this all the time. It makes me go back to reread and hone my text.

Use the Spelling and Grammar tool next time you have to write something. It works.

Then we get some fun reminders, like Susan Gunelius post about ten words to avoid in 2009. Words like really, a lot and that. Yikes, I really use that a lot in most of my blogs. Whether you remove all of those words, or just use posts like this as a cue to make your text more interesting and varied is up to you.

There are some people who write very well. Who knows whether it’s through hard work or natural ability? For the rest of us, it is work. But since we make our living in communications, the least we can do is to try harder to write better. It will make you better at selling your ideas. And that, after all, is the name of the game

12/10/2008 Those Untrustworthy Blogs!

The blogosphere and marketing pubs are abuzz about a Forrester Research report this week, penned by Josh Bernoff and Co., showing that Company Blogs rank last on the ol’ consumer trust-o-meter.

It’s actually pretty funny to read the blog posts recommending killing off this untrustworthy fiend since just right above it, just saved from the bottom of the list, is the personal blog.

Whoa! And we all thought we were soooo much better than the corporate blogs. I mean we try to advise corporate bloggers. But it seems that no one, in general, trusts blogs. Except, of course, other bloggers. I’ll bet that will throw a monkey-wrench into the gears of some 2.0 PR firms.


Unfortunately, there’s not much buzz from this report about what people actually do trust. E-Mails from people you know, and reviews from people you don’t know top the trust list. That’s pretty interesting. I get the e-Mail piece but it’s pretty amazing that people trusts review from people they will never see, meet or hear from. But reviews are very personal and that is probably why they garner such trust.

Message board posts, on the other hand, rank way down the list. Too many rants, maybe? And e-Mail from companies slightly top direct mail. I’m surprised there isn’t a greater difference, since you’ve opted into one, but not the other. You’d think that the Direct Marketers would shift some of their emphasis to e-mail, based on this.

Looking at this list, its fun to realize just how little things have changed since Edward Bernays started this whole modern marketing business. Word-of-Mouth is still king, by a long shot.

Looking at this from a digital strategy perspective, the good news is that three of the top four items are online (I’m assuming most of the reviews are online). We should be doing everything we can to create great word of mouth promotion. Again, look at the post about Obama’s campaign. He created outreach and tools to do just that.

Bernoff and crew do give some good tips on how to improve company blogs. Personal bloggers should take note of them as well.

Trust me!

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