Jeremiah Owyang Gives Some Crummy Advice at Forbes

Let me start with this, Jeremiah Owyang consistently writes papers, posts, and articles that I read while nodding and murmuring Yep and Uh Huh. Until today.

Jeremiah wrote an article that I’d give a solid B- for Forbes. In How To Create A Customer Advocacy Program, and includes five easy steps for CMOs to follow. I read the article and went Uh huh, Yep, Yes, Are you CRAZY, and Sure. 80% for Jeremiah and that is a B- with some crummy advice built in.

He starts strong, explaining why a company would need an advocacy program and then he gets to the five phases:

1. Get ready internally: Smart, yes, go read the article, because this is advice y’all probably need. Us bloggers require massaging, have someone in place to handle us.

2. Find the right advocates: yes, of course. This just makes sense. He goes into detail, and I promise you the devil is in the details, and I also promise you that the wrong team will sink you.

3. Build a relationship for the long term: You cannot begin to predict the future. Toyota has taken a beating, I’m sure their press relationships are more critical now than ever before.

4. Give them a platform — but do not pay them: This is where my head about spun off my shoulders. If you don’t pay for your outreach you will get messes like this.

Or when a man is trampled to death while working at WalMart your free employees might not know what to say.

Of course, there’s always the Mc Donalds Moms (http://mcdonaldsmoms.com), whose website does not appear to be active, but they do have Quality Correspondents.

Is there any part of you that trusts these people with your brand? Mr. CMO, please go grab an intern, any intern and ask yourself, “Do I want to empower this unpaid person with my brand’s reputation?” The chances are your answer to this is, “No”. The chances are also very good that any random intern has more training than the current crop of Brand Ambassadors.

I’m begging you Ms. CMO don’t listen to people who are selling you a package that includes free labor. These Brand Ambassadors do more harm than good to the smart consumer. I’m hopeful that you want the smart consumer.

5. Integrate them into your business and recognize them: Well yeah, of course. It’s a business, not a nonprofit. See #4, and let’s see if we can get y’all an A+ this time.

Facebook Comments

Comments 39

  1. Are you kidding me? After I put my bloggers/ambassadors through high water and hellfire screening. If they pass, I write the biggest checks that the budget allows for the people we work with. Their work is valuable to the brand and they take it more seriously and treat it with the attention it needs if there is a decent amount of money. And also, I don’t try and give the crummy rules on what to say and not to say. You get what you pay for.

    1. I like the phrase you used. “You get what you pay for”. All companies who are thinking about adding a “brand advocacy progam” should read this.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Jeremiah Owyang Gives Some Crummy Advice at Forbes -- Topsy.com

  3. I think the problem is that there is a terrible misconception that if you pay someone for representation that they must be lying to the consumer.

    It’s not only insulting, its absolutely unfounded.

    My husband goes to work every day. He earns a paycheck. Are his earnings a detriment to his loyalty? Do they make him less trustworthy? Why doesn’t he go to work for free, for the good of the company, the good of the economy, the good of the brand?

    Cause coupons don’t pay hosting bills.

    You want my influence, audience, time and unbridled effort, then you have already proven to me that I am valuable. Now stop pretending I skipped college because I popped a kid out of my vagina.

    Fuckers.

    trisha

  4. Here Here! Trisha you are so right. Time+Work= Pay

    Pretty good equation in my mind. Thank you Jessica for saying what so many of us are thinking.

  5. What? You mean you women have deviated from the 1950’s handbook about how good women are supposed to do everything for free with a smile on their face? Perhaps you have not hear ladies, a woman will do anything for a free vacuum.

    It is insulting to every blogger out there to insinuate that they should spend countless hours a day slaving away for your brand with nothing in return. You would pay anyone else involved with your brand, so why not those who are representing you to consumers in the most intimate of ways? B- indeed.

  6. If Forbes decided that they would use this same formula with their journalists, I wonder how long it would be before Mr. Owyang stopped sending articles to his editor?

  7. Very good response Jessica – and awesome comment Trisha!

    When I look for companies to work with, I look for brands I like, use and trust. I don’t look at the size of the wallets attached to them, but I do expect to be compensated for working with them.

    That would be like someone saying “Hey Jeremiah, I like what you’re laying down, how about you write for me for free because if I paid you then it would look like you don’t believe in what you’re writing… and you are so lucky, here’s my banner to stick on your website. Isn’t it pretty?”

    Thanks for this post Jessica.

  8. I’m usually on the same page with Jeremiah – but anyone who has spent any time with me knows I’m 100% with you on this one.
    You will always be able to find people who will initially fall for “doing it for the exposure” (the left out part being that the exposure is for the brand, not the blogger – otherwise the brand wouldn’t be coming to them) or “we don’t want people to think we’re paying for your endorsement” (like those hollywood celebrities we pay in our commercials) or “this first time around we’re experimenting – down the road there will be other opportunities” (for other bloggers who are falling for that line – you’ll have moved on by then.)
    But eventually, the bloggers will wise up.
    They’re free-lance writers, indy-publishers, and community influencers — do you really want to have someone tied to your brand who isn’t smart enough to realize that this is *business* not just random brand-outreach?
    I wouldn’t.

  9. They’re free-lance writers, indy-publishers, and community influencers — do you really want to have someone tied to your brand who isn’t smart enough to realize that this is *business* not just random brand-outreach?
    I wouldn’t.

    You have more faith in bloggers than I do. Call me an arrogant snob but very few people spend any significant amount of time vetting the offers that they receive for anything and everything.

    Cash back and reward programs are great examples of this. How many people really understand the rules of the programs. How many take time to figure out whether they spend enough for their 3% cash back reward to cover the cost of the membership fee, let alone anything else.

    Critical reasoning and logical thought are non-existent for many people.

    And yes, most of the time it does make sense to ask to be paid for your time and effort. But sometimes cash is unavailable and an exchange of services makes sense. There are multiple models that can be used successfully.

    Frankly very few bloggers are as important as they think they are. Collectively they may wield a lot of influence, but individually there aren’t many that have the share-of-voice that they think they do.

  10. Yes yes yes, I agree with you wholeheartedly on this. I think there is a big problem out there though in that bloggers are confusing “ambassador programs” with “product reviews” and expecting to be paid for anything and everything right down to the time it takes them to read an email from a PR person.

  11. Surely Mr. Owyang couldn’t have possibly been paid for this sexist opinion and piece of propoganda – it must have been a guest post –

    Methinks we need to try to contact Betty Friedan for a rebuttal …..

      1. Of course I understand that some people still “dont get it”….

        See Trisha’s comment above:

        ….You want my influence, audience, time and unbridled effort, then you have already proven to me that I am valuable. Now stop pretending I skipped college because I popped a kid out of my vagina. …..

        {and I left the best part out}

        1. Oh I see, you think that only women are bloggers. That is clearly not the reality nor did he say that in the article. So I am still confused as to how this could be considered sexist.

          Let’s not take ourselves too seriously, it is good to be paid for our time and effort. Compensation is important, but your value is always going to be subjective. And far too many have illusions of grandeur about how valuable they really are.

          A lot of bloggers write about how they don’t work with brands/companies anymore because they feel like they were taken advantage of. The suggestion is that the companies were chasing them.

          Call me a cynic, but I don’t believe 2/3rds of those posts to be an accurate representation. Many of the bloggers engaged in outreach, they sent off letters of introduction asking for an opportunity to work with the company. In essence they acted as ad space salespeople for their blogs.

          Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t mean that you will get what you ask for.

  12. i read that article yesterday and went on a rampage. that pissed me off. don’t pay them? wtf?!
    i wrote a response yesterday on my own blog, maybe not as good as this one but still.
    i thought that article was a joke at first, so did a few of my friends that read it…
    what an idiot he is!

  13. You may not like it but it’s what’s being done. He just told others that it is possible to do this and create a hoard of ass-kissing neophytes that want a new fridge or a new whatever because they can’t afford one on their own. Depending on where you are on the socioeconomic scale getting a freakin’ toaster may make it work spending 8hours posting about a company.

    AND THAT’S THE PROBLEM

    Getting your loyal brand advocates to do this for free means you’re getting the POOR ones. There’s nothing wrong with being poor but when is the last time you met a poor person who had a bunch of friends who could afford $2000 refrigerators or washers and dryers with drawers underneath them in pretty colors?

    Like attracts like and to make a bunch of poor bloggers on bullshit blogspot free blogs with seventy-thousand-teen 125×125 graphics of their friends represent your brand team is like going out and putting a sandwich board on a homeless guy for advertising.

    Sure, your message is out there, but what is it making people think?

    Now, some of those moms doing it for free are willing to so they can make a resume or *cough* build a following and platform for their next venture *innocent whistle* but those women are few and far between. Most can’t afford to buy nice things for their families so they put up a beautiful facade of a pretty blog and let the “stuff” come rolling in. I mean, Merry Hanukkah (that doesn’t look right, but it’s all spell check would give me) for that mom’s kids who might have gotten jack for the holiday, because with the cost of day care she has to stay home because she’d make LESS working and paying for daycare at some 25k/yr job (I saw a study on this once) so she may as well stay at home, take care of her babies, and get free grip … It’s kind of a job if she would have used her income to buy that stuff anyway.

    It’s a good deal for the moms. Really.

    It’s a craptacular deal for the companies.

    So I disagree but agree but …. yeah … it’s complicated and too many companies have too many people and no one is able to actually say HEY, maybe we don’t WANT poor moms!

    But who would say that out loud? It might get *shudder* blogged about. LOL

    1. “for that mom’s kids who might have gotten jack for the holiday, because with the cost of day care she has to stay home because she’d make LESS working and paying for daycare at some 25k/yr job (I saw a study on this once) so she may as well stay at home, take care of her babies, and get free grip … It’s kind of a job if she would have used her income to buy that stuff anyway.”

      Hmm.. I would like to see some stats on this, because I think your perception is far from reality. Sure, there are probably bloggers out there like you described, but I think the fact that you continue to come back to this post and bash bloggers (especially under anonymous) shows some sort of underlying self-esteem problem.

      Many bloggers I know have college degrees, have jobs, and even have the choice to stay home.

      I would keep your comments to yourself if they continue to make no sense at all.

  14. Getting your loyal brand advocates to do this for free means you’re getting the POOR ones. There’s nothing wrong with being poor but when is the last time you met a poor person who had a bunch of friends who could afford $2000 refrigerators or washers and dryers with drawers underneath them in pretty colors?

    Your generalization here doesn’t always hold true and not just because poor is a relative term. There are lots of men and women who blog with the hope/dream to make their blog into a way to generate income.

    And FWIW, I know a lot of manufacturers who are only too happy to turn over their inventory on a regular basis- even if it is not the top of line stuff.

    If we did a study I’d lay odds that there are more middle and upper middle class bloggers than the “poor” you speak of.

  15. I’m sure you’re right when you say “there are more middle and upper middle class bloggers than the “poor” you speak of…”

    But not more Mommy Bloggers whoring themselves out for a fridge. That’s a whole different study. Yes, poor is subjective. But if the blogger you tap can’t afford to buy your product, neither will their friends.

    Generalizations NEVER hold true all the time. That’s why they aren’t called facts. I didn’t present my opinion as a fact. I presented it that some moms have goals and some just want free stuff.

    That’s a clear distinction.

    Your fantasy of mommy bloggers being thrilled to have a logo on their blog for a company and convincing other moms to buy the “hot new thing” for nothing more than being fawned over by the company and being the envy of all their friends is just that, a fantasy.

  16. i’m one of the middle to middle upper class bloggers.
    i grew up middle upper class.
    i live in a middle upper class subdivision in a middle upper class city.
    i need a new fridge. and right now, with budget cuts, our family budget has been cut. i can’t get my new fridge. the old one is working fine and matches my kitchen. but these companies can kiss my ass if they think that i’m going to sell my soul for a nice new appliance.
    maybe that’s why i don’t get approached by brands anymore.

    that article infuriates me. which is why i keep coming back here to read the comments.

  17. Anonymous,

    I have worked both sides of the fence. Not claiming to be an expert and I am certainly wrong on many things but there are too many holes here.

    But if the blogger you tap can’t afford to buy your product, neither will their friends.

    I don’t believe this to be true. Maybe my perspective is too insular, but friendships aren’t limited by class or income. You can’t say with certainty what friends can afford to purchase or not.

    But that is not really the point. Unless it is a private blog traffic can come from anywhere so you don’t know who you might be reaching and that is part of the problem with advertising on a blog.

    Demographic information is limited and often inaccurate. If I am an advertiser I want to know about the places my ad appears. I want to know who the readers are, what their purchasing power is, level of education and a host of other things.

    I want to advertise in a place where there is a community and discussion taking place. Blogs are dicey. I don’t have control of editorial content. I can’t guarantee that the owner or readers aren’t going to trash my company.

    If I am a large brand I have an agency working for me. Doesn’t matter whether it is internal or external, I have people reviewing the metrics of my campaign. I want to know what my cost per lead is. I want to measure it against other placements.

    And since most blogs have a small readership with questionable demographics I don’t want to invest much money until they prove themselves. Bear in mind that even if it is free, I still have someone following the results from those placements. And it chances are that the person reviewing those placements is being paid to do so.

    So when you say free I still see an investment in time and money. And that is why some brands won’t run free ads even if you offer to.

  18. Melissa, you’re saying it so much better than I could! You know you’re worth more than that, budget cuts or not.

    Not only do they not pay, they ask far too much in time and energy of anyone who has any kind of perception of self-worth or value.

    A $1000 fridge (and let’s keep in mind they expect almost as much excitement over a $10 Elmo DVD if you’re lucky enough to get one) will have you blogging and twittering and posting for the duration of a campaign. You may have to travel or go to conferences or do other things. You’re looking at minimum 30 hours of promotion. Sure that looks great at $34/hr. Not too shabby for a fridge, right? But that’s retail, people, take away at LEAST half of that $1000 to determine how much it actually cost to build and you’re at $17/hr. Still not horrible. Then realize you have to claim that on your taxes – you’ll get a 1099 in most cases because it’s over $600. You’ll get taxed on the retail value of the fridge. So that cuts into how much you made and you will end up paying for your fridge in cash and time.

    It’s not a free fridge at all.

    You could probably outline a media kit (including payment) and email it to marketing companies (or the marketing department of the company that makes the appliance) and see if you get a response. Better to spend an hour and send it out to 30 companies knowing if you get a bite you get paid.

  19. Pingback: Respecting Everyone’s Time

  20. Jack – I totally see your point. I also think if we were sitting across a table from each other we’d be high-fiving over our understanding of the fact that we’re just looking at the same thing from different angles within ten minutes, max. I think. You’re talking about the time and monetary investment of the company and I’m focused on the time and monetary investment of the bloggers.

    The problem is most of those inaccurate metrics companies want to know may be inaccurate, but they always have been. Until 1984 happens and we’re all being watched we’ll never know how many people REALLY read the ad in the newspaper they have delivered, but the newspaper company still charges prices based on sections that are “most read” and size, believing a larger ad will be more likely to be read. No one can prove any of that. They make assumptions based on test groups and available data. Same with bloggers. You can only estimate a cost per lead. To expect to come up with harder data because it’s on the Internet simply not logical, because that technology does not exist yet.

    The dog and pony show is the same as it’s always been in media.

    Plus, I’m fine with you not agreeing with me that someone who can’t afford something may have friends who can afford it. I’m just saying that using statistical outliers to make a point is just that – making a point there are statistical outliers. It doesn’t make it true. Most people hang out with people that are like them both financially and socially.

    If the statistical outliers WERE in fact the way most friendship and social circles operated we’d find a review on poorashellblogger.com of the dodge viper they got to review with free gas for six months. Because, you know, they might have a friend who can afford it. (Yep, that’s me being a smartass. It doesn’t really prove my point but it was a fun thought I had so figured I’d toss it in.)

    Basically I’m just saying you can’t tell me that poor people don’t have poor friends and then tell me that companies want data to prove the readership. Middle class people don’t read blogs where the writer can’t pay her car note. Other bloggers that can’t pay their car notes do – because most people read blogs to find like-minded people and read about how people deal with similar situations. If you like to go outside your comfort zone, congratulations, join the “we’re statistical outliers” club. Most people are. not. like. that.

  21. Anonymous,

    I appreciate your time and expect that we would agree on many things. I think that we agree about the general concept and there are some particulars that we don’t quite see eye to eye on.

    To expect to come up with harder data because it’s on the Internet simply not logical, because that technology does not exist yet.

    Actually it does and it is used on a regular basis. There are multiple ways to check these things with far more accuracy than you might imagine. The reality is that you can track things more closely and with more accuracy than you can in print or broadcast. Terms like post click conversion exist because there are ways to track what happens.

    Software exists that tracks your movement on websites. They can tell entry/exit pages, how much time you spent on the page, what links you clicked on, what keywords were used to drive traffic and much more.

    Here is a rough mock up of how you track things and figure out cost-per-lead for a campaign to sell refrigerators. A banner is placed on a blog. User clicks on banner. The click takes them to a page that gathers relevant information for prospective buyers of said appliance.

    100 names are gathered through this method and given to the company salesperson to follow up on. If you spent $10k for the ad buy you end up with a $100 cost-per-lead.

    Simple and easy to do. It is not foolproof. Some prospects might learn about the unit from the blog but choose not to submit registration information. You can’t measure branding very well from this either.

    But at the end of the day you still have hard metrics you can use. Using our example you can still determine the cost-per-lead and make a decision as to whether a site performs for you.

    Middle class people don’t read blogs where the writer can’t pay her car note.

    See this is where we disagree again. Middle class people are being hammered now. They are struggling to pay their mortgage and for the car. Middle class people in this economy are the perfect example. They are educated and have made enough to purchase a few big ticket items. And many of them have been laid off or taken severe pay cuts.

    Or there are the people that make a decent living and have over extended themselves. There are a ton of examples.

    But let’s step back for a moment and talk about bloggers for a moment. We are all adults who are asked to make adult decisions on a daily basis. If you think you are being taken advantage you have the option to decline. You don’t have to accept the offer. No one is forcing you to.

    The reality is that there are a lot of bloggers who are bad business people. They make silly decisions and have helped to create an environment where brands have at times taken advantage of them. But the brand is not solely responsible for this.

    And again, many bloggers have an inflated sense of their worth and influence. There is a low barrier to entry. A pretty website, 11 months of fancy prose and comments from your sister, best friend and husband don’t make you valuable or special to the brand.

    I get it.I am a blogger. Six years, ten thousand posts. I could do this for a living. It would be fun, I’d love it. But I am realistic about my place in the blogosphere. Not saying that I am any better or any more special than anyone else, just cognizant of how things work.

    At the end of the day if someone wants to make a go at making a living at this I wish them well. It is not impossible to do, it just takes hard work and it doesn’t happen over night. Too many people ignore that.

  22. I have no problem providing a single review of a product or brand without being compensated. I’d only do it if I had complete freedom to say whatever I want to, good, bad, or brutal. If any company wanted me to participate long term, there’d be two rules.

    1. Adequate Compensation
    2. Continued Freedom To Speak My Mind based on my unique voice, my integrity to truth, and ethics

    Any company thinking it’s acceptable to advocate unpaid advocacy deserves to be publicly humiliated. Any business consultant or adviser providing advice to companies where that advice includes such utter hack nonsense should be booted from their consultant relationship and any writer listing that in their own article should be kicked off the blog / site they write for.

  23. I am constantly surprised how people are more than willing to give their words and loyalty for free. I went to school for journalism, this is my job and I don’t give it away (except it seems on blog commenting which could be a full-time job!). That said, I am a paid blogger which means that I am paid to write with the luxury of writing about whatever I want. I happen to think I have the best job in the universe, but it seems that some people don’t respect me because I am paid. HUH? I was paid when I wrote for magazines, and newspapers and I expect to be paid now. Because I have an income stream I do not do product reviews, take junkets or become beholden to any company. It’s not perfect but it’s pretty good!

  24. There are more women graduating college and holding corporate positions than ever before – last time I checked they do not work for free?

    Why should there be any difference because I choose to work from home and write about things I feel strongly about, which happens to include the products, services, and what not I bring into my home. I mean my student loans aren’t going to just disappear?

    Absolutely ridiculous!

  25. What I find fascinating about the comments thread here is the majority of commenters jumped to two conclusions from Owyangs article:

    1) he was talking specifically about women, and
    2) he was suggesting companies should go out and recruit a lot of free unpaid bloggers

    The actual article suggests a range of possible activities & platforms, including but not limited to blogging. And he cites the Microsoft MVP program as an example — those members do a lot of different things, including but not limited to blogging, and they do it because it benefits their own businesses / careers in many ways. The MVP program, by the way, is mostly men.

    I understand that there’s a lot of angst in some blogger circles about the issue of being asked to blog for no $ but people might want to take a deep breath and think about whether they’re being fair to Owyang’s piece. That’s not what he’s saying.

    1. Post
      Author
  26. Pingback: Why You Shouldn’t Write For Free

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *