Posts Tagged ‘Blogging’

FTC Crashes Ann Taylor’s Party

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Clothing retailer LOFT – an Ann Taylor brand – has come under fire by the FTC for offering gift cards as an incentive for bloggers to post about a January 2010 preview event. Bloggers who posted within 24 hours of the event were eligible to win as gift cards valued between $10 and $500.

The press surrounding the FTC action, which has consisted of mostly blog coverage, has seen mixed reactions from those familiar with the fashion industry. FTC guidelines demand that bloggers make clear to readers when they receive complimentary services or products – a guideline that does not officially exist for the magazine industry, although it is understood that journalists should not accept gifts for coverage. Although this is understood by the industry, “fashion payola” happens on a regular basis with brands offering clothing, product or services to be used in magazine spreads and often purchasing advertising space adjacent to the spread featuring their product.

Similarly, the Ann Taylor event offered a preview of their upcoming Spring 2010 line and the chance to win gift cards valued up to $500. This in itself would comply by the FTC rules however the brand proceeded to add the stipulation that bloggers must post within 24 hours to be eligible for the chance to win:

“Please note all bloggers must post coverage from our event to their blog within 24 hours in order to be eligible. Links to post must be sent to [address], along with the code on the back of your gift card distributed to you at the event. You will be notified of your gift card amount by February 2. Gift card amounts will vary from $10 to $500.”

While traditional media holds its fair share of back-scratching, this notice is not one that would be issued to print media journalists. The LA Times states: “…there’s a tacit understanding between clothing brands and fashion journalists that editorial coverage isn’t something you can buy or barter for.”

However, bloggers are a whole new ball game when it comes to brand coverage. From a PR perspective, putting on “preview” parties and other such events are a gamble. Sometimes they receive a flurry of attention and other times they’re a waste of time and resources. Ironically enough, the lack of coverage is what will save Ann Taylor from receiving a hefty fine from the FTC. In a statement released April 20th, the FTC decided to not pursue “enforcement action” against the brand due to the fact that this was the first event of its kind, the lack of actual blogger coverage and a company-wide rule that was enacted in early February forbidding any other contests of this kind.

This is certainly an interesting case study for retailers. Apparently, the FTC was not joking when they created these guidelines and brands who are attempting to gain blogger coverage, such as Ann Taylor, need to carefully consider the potential legal entanglement that may come from offering complimentary products and services with a posting requirement.

Research Report: The Participatory News Consumer

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Pew Internet and American Life Project and the Project for Excellence in Journalism released “Understanding the Participatory News Consumer,” on Monday and it has received a ton of attention around the key findings.  Notably, the majority of Americans (92%) use multiple platforms to get their daily news, and more than half (59%) are getting news from both online and offline sources on a typical day.

The degree to which Americans are personalizing and filtering this content is especially noteworthy, with highlights collected by MediaBistro including:

  • 33% of cell phone owners now access news on their cell phones.
  • 28% of internet users have customized their home page to include news from sources and on topics that particularly interest them.
  • 37% of internet users have contributed to the creation of news, commented about it, or disseminated it via postings on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.
  • 51% of social networking site users who are also online news consumers say that on a typical day they get news items from people they follow.
  • 23% of this cohort follow news organizations or individual journalists on social networking sites.

This fits with the recent Cision report (pdf), which showed how media are using social platforms to publish, promote and distribute what they write (64% use blogs, 60% social networks, and 57% Twitter).  Additionally, a full 89% of media are turning to blogs for their online research, making this process truly cyclical.

With 70% of Americans noting that the amount of news and information available from different sources is overwhelming, I think we will see more and more trends pointing to users testing multiple news sources and filtering for perceived noise.  From a PR perspective, this points to the importance of brands telling a cohesive story over multiple platforms, providing a range of consumer touch points, and as always, creating content that is truly valuable for media and consumers.

Once A Day: Going Offline to Stay Sharp

Thursday, October 1st, 2009


Above is the original notepad that inspired IBM’s storied ThinkPad laptop computer line (via Merlin Mann).  Being digital professionals and our worlds moving a mile a minute online – what are some things, as PR professionals and trusted communication counselors, that we can do to help focus ourselves?

Switching from e-mail and phone call and conference room to really helping keep the big picture in mind not just for your team but your clients as well can be helped by simple, daily exercises that will take less time than you think and – hopefully – reward you down the line.

  • Talk to every person on your team – what is everyone working on?  Maybe it impacts some of your projects?  Or sharing what you’re doing can help someone think about their work differently or offer different perspective on your own.  This isn’t a formal meeting, this doesn’t have to be face-to-face but it’s important to look up from the grindstone and check-in with your team.
  • Double-check a budget or goals/objectives for a program, campaign, etc. – what comes next?  Is what you’re working on the right thing that needs to be done?  Often, when projects are launched into, everyone focuses on the immediate next steps without managing the finish line – doing this will not just help deliver a great product to your client but help you think strategically about the program, campaign or project you’re working on.
  • Take 5 minutes to think – as easy as this sounds, you’d be surprised about how few of us do it during the course of a day.  Focus on a new skill or a topic you want to know about, or try to connect ideas between clients and trends.  The small savoring of mental focus might just give you your next big idea!

Want more?  Check out The 99 Percent.  A think tank from the awesome folks at Behance (which inspired this post), it’s a great site that focuses on what happens after your team walks out of that brainstorm – when it’s time to put ideas into action and all the things to take you from point A to B.

Friendly Weekend Reminder: Upgrade WordPress!

Friday, August 14th, 2009


As much as constant software updates are a pain, they’re essential in today’s digital world.  If you have a blog on the web and unless you use, TypePad, Tumblr, Posterous or the like – odds are you might have the nagging “update me!” notice hanging around every couple of weeks or months.

Earlier this week, WordPress announced a new security release of their popular publishing software that plugged a pretty serious hole:  one that would’ve allowed someone to gain administrator access pretty easily.  While minor software updates usually sit on the bottom of to-do lists around the web, a few of the more prominent voices were targets of attacks trying to gain access before they upgraded their blogs.

Paul Stamatiou was saved by some extra security plug-ins he has in place (ed note:  What were they?) while Robert Scoble’s blog was actually comprimised.  Robert’s logic for not updating right away is fair but “1/8th” is a risk I’ll take to make sure all of my public publishing systems are secure.

So, if you have some downtime this weekend, take a look around your web and make sure everything is up-to-date.  WordPress has automatic updating features and even if your server isn’t configured to handle that, the regular update process is easy as well.  If you’re in the agency world, the same goes for any client projects you work on as well.

Photo credit: CarbonNYC

An Open Dialogue with Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder of BlogHer

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009


Elisa Camahort Page is one of the co-founders of the women blogging organization, BlogHer, along with Lisa Stone and Jory Des Jardins. Elisa has been a marketing executive for 18 years in Silicon Valley, and currently leads all events, marketing and public relations for BlogHer.

Prior to BlogHer, Elisa ran Worker Bees, a marketing consultancy company. Elisa can be found on several blog, including: Worker Bees Blog, where she writes about marketing, social media, customer service and web 2.0 initiatives; Healthy Concerns, where she writes about health 2.0 and healthcare from the patient’s point of view; and Elisa’s Green Scene, a collection of green news in areas from design to cooking to politics.

In addition to the BlogHer events, Elisa is also a frequent speaker, having made recent appearances at SXSW and Fem2.0.


DM: BlogHer’s fourth annual conference is coming up in less than two months. What’s new on the agenda that attendees can look forward to?

ECP: Every year we try to mix it up, so there are indeed new topics on the agenda, such as:
• A travelblogging session
• Sessions around healthcare and medblogging
• A mini-writing workshop from Katie Orenstein of the Op-Ed Project
• An ongoing Geek Lab with presentations, tutorials and the opportunity to just informally connect and hack solutions all day long

When creating the schedule for the conference, what are your goals? What do you hope bloggers get out of the conference?

Our goal is truly to have something for everyone, to feature new, fresh, diverse voices, and to highlight the true diversity and quality to be found at every corner of the blogosphere. We hope bloggers walk away from every session with something they want to do, to try, to talk about, to tell someone about or to share.

Last year, the New York Times story became a bit of a scandal, but I was intrigued by the title of the piece, “Blogging’s Glass Ceiling.” Do you think BlogHer and women have broken a ceiling by blogging? If so, how?

Blogging provides the opportunity for every person to have their own personal platform to use as they wish. Some people use it purely for personal expression and connecting with friends and family. Others use it to promote their ideas and their work. Still others want to parlay their blogs into businesses. Blogging is just the tool. A very accessible and powerful tool. It’s your intent that defines what you can do with it. So yes, many women have had breakthrough facilitated, even precipitated by their blogs! Still others have simply discovered they are not alone with whatever issues they’re dealing with. It’s all good.

What do you think is the biggest barrier for women bloggers or for women who want to become bloggers?

Well, again, it entirely depends on what they want to achieve. There is certainly no barrier to get started. Many tools are even free, so you could start a blog on the computers at your local library. From there, this question could be answered many different ways. Certainly there are more blogs than ever, so finding a way to stand out is a challenge for us all. Often the best blogs reflect a lot of work on the part of the blogger, so our time-impoverished lives are another challenge. The biggest barrier is probably misconceptions about how much it costs, or how hard it is, or how scary the Internet is. To which I always just say: Start a blog and give it a shot. You’ve got to do it to get it sometimes! Certainly true with Twitter ;)

Why do you think it’s important for the companies to get involved with BlogHer?

Because BlogHer is the leading participatory news, entertainment and information network for women online today. The women in our network are hard to find via other channels, and yet they are your customers…and influencing your customers. We now reach over 14MM unique visitors per month…most of whom report being influenced by blogs to make purchases. As a commercial power, women bloggers are hard to beat! BlogHer is deeply invested and engaged in this community. We are part of this community. We know what makes this community tick. That being said, we also have business and professional journalism in our backgrounds, so we are out there figuring out the best practices for this blogger outreach. It’s a great combination of broad reach, deep engagement and best practices!

Women bloggers are mostly known for mommybloggers, because of their influence in the family and buying power. Do you see any other up-and-coming niches of women?

I don’t know if I agree that women bloggers are mostly known for mommybloggers. I would agree that consumer companies certainly recognize that buying power. But the media and political infrastructure pays a lot more attention to other segments of the blogosphere. What I see is that many women hate to be nichified at all. At BlogHer we don’t silo a woman’s interest. Our conference and our web community cover every topic under the sun…and women can hop from commenting about politics to commenting about parenting. We encourage companies to see that women who blog are influential and powerful consumers, whether they’re mom, aunts, grandmothers, sisters, daughters…

Graduation day is right around the corner for many public relations students. If you were professors at the University of BlogHer, what would be your closing remarks to your students?

It’s our mantra regarding best practices:

• Ask, don’t tell
• Listen before speaking
• Be transparent and fully disclose
• Forget about “the A-List”, find YOUR A-List, the bloggers out there who already care about the same values you care about and products or services you represent
Remember, we’re doing fine out here in the blogosphere without you. We’re building trusted community and finding empowerment. What are you doing to be trustworthy? How can you empower us?

Everyone talks about the A-list mommybloggers, like Heather Armstrong at Dooce, but who are three up-and-coming women bloggers that you think we should keep on our RSS feed so we can say “we knew them when…”?

There isn’t one blogosphere, there are many. There are three, four, ten up-and-coming women who blog in every blogging topic there is. I couldn’t possibly choose just three :)