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More About the Tail and The Mangy Dog

Seth Godin has written about not letting the tail wag the dog. In lots and lots of words he says that all this social media is useless without a good product. Seth is absolutely correct.

On a social media level I think Zappos fails. I hate that they say their CEO reads everything, yet any idiot knows he’s not reading it all. Here’s how every email starts:

Hello, Thank you for emailing Tony. Although Tony receives over 2,000 emails a day and doesn’t have time to respond to all of them himself, rest assured that he reads EVERY email he receives. We are currently working on the implementation of a chip in Tony’s brain that automatically responds to emails with the response he would give but it’s going to take some time. But have no fear, Tony has developed a small team to address the issues for him.

I hate that they hired the meanest PR firm to ever invade the blogosphere. I hate that they try and sell Tony’s dumb book on every email they send you. Here’s how every email ends:

PS. In September of last year, Tony locked himself in a cabin at Lake Tahoe. He was working on a book titled “Delivering Happiness” that’s now due to be published on June 7! You can pre-order it on Amazon: a look inside Zappos!

Follow Tony on Twitter!

So yeah, their social media sucks, but they carry good shoes. I like that I can order Alexander four pair of shoes in three sizes each, and then return all but two pair with no shipping fees. I really do like that. I like that I can shop by size, by brand or by color and not leave my house. I like not being at the shoe store with an eight year old boy. Soon he will be nine, and in a blink he will be ten, and I’m pretty sure shopping will change.

I absolutely detest Zappos social media. I get really angry when I think that just a year ago they invited to me to follow Tony around Las Vegas HQ for a few days, and then they hired an angry woman that would use her entire PR Firm (do not underestimate the power of a PR firm) to bully a mom blogger while she asserts that, “PR agencies are hired by clients to do many things, but most importantly, they are hired to secure positive, free coverage across all media — TV, print, radio, internet, social and blogosphere.” Which (according to well respected PR pros) is not exactly accurate.

The bottom line? I love Zappos. I love them so much that when they launched their couture selection they would call me at home to make sure all my needs were met. I had direct lines for sales people there. I’m fairly certain that I’ve spent five figures with Zappos (shut UP and don’t tell Mr. G.).

I’ll keep spending money at Zappos, because they have have great products and great service. See, PR really doesn’t matter much, and apparently blogging matters even less.

22 thoughts on “More About the Tail and The Mangy Dog”

    1. Love them. Honest to goodness.

      They have a business model that works for me in a number of ways. I just think sometimes blogs and PR don't matter. Like now. I'll keep using them even though…

  1. AdventureInBabywearing

    Agreed. I like purchasing from Zappos for the same reason (only when I don't have success shopping locally) but I don't follow or benefit from any social media they've ever done.


  2. There are a lot of companies I adore that have terrible social media skills. Really, I cringe when I see it. You're right, though–quality is king. I also think content is king. I'm probably hopelessly old school, but I do read blogs and I do care about the quality of a blogger's writing.

  3. Maybe they should just let their service speak for itself…instead of that god awful PR firm doing it for them (and I am someone who was in PR). Also, their commercials half amuse me and half creep me out.

  4. Interesting points. I had a client who really wanted some social media zapped into his business, so I went to as a case study since everyone cites how great their social media is and I have to say looking at their site only, I didn’t see mch social media integration going on at all. What I did see was attention towards communicating to the customer what makes them so great (shipping, etc). I’m going to dig around some more (obviously) but maybe the PR is part of the game.

  5. Jessica,

    Why are you such a mean person? Your intention is to ruin the lives of some really great people based on you own misunderstanding of an exchange between another blogger and a PR firm? Well I think it is shameful and it really shocks me that your readers put up with it. I don't work in PR or blog but I think it is really sad to see you use social media to do nothing more than bully people like the kids we often read about in the news.

  6. Um, where's your character assasination of the Facebook CEO, or the CEO of BP, or Goldman Sachs? Where's your post about hating BP's management and loving their gasoline? Do youy think that a PR agency and an online shoe store deserve this sort of commenting when there actual 'bad things' happening right now??? I don't get the character assasination, or the (nasty) targeting of the PR company. I'm sorry, but when there as such important things going on in this world, this post comes off a little high school (maybe middle school). Too, I have to question the integrity of anyone who says they hate something but then says they'll continue to use it. It tells us all where you're really coming from, and what your true objective in this post was: tearing people down.

    I read the post that you're having such a difficult time with, and I've got to say that aside from some unconstructive criticism from the PR agency toward a blogger who was being a jerk (and who got the ball rolling on the whole fight, mind you), the constructive side of the arguement has A LOT of merit, and was obviously an attempt to take a step toward figuring out a way to solve a problem.

    Lastly, in light of your willingness to “to keep using them [blogs and PR] even though…” What is YOUR suggestion as to how a PR agency should pitch to bloggers when there are potential pay for play questions, so that the question can finally be resolved? If you have an idea, I'm sure a lot of people would love to hear it. Maybe try and be part of the solution rather than part of the problem???

      1. You might want to lead by example. Your recent posts are all about a PR company that you had nothing to do with. You, on your own, decided to champion a cause that had nothing to do with you. Diana and Kelly seem to be on pretty good terms from what I can gather and you are still grinding an axe for no reason. It seems you care more about boosting your “controversy” rating than your readers or the people you write about.

        1. Not grinding an axe. Having a discussion.

          I tired commenting at the kk blog but six comments were deleted in
          rapid sucession. The only alternative that leaves is for me be the
          hostess of my own discussion.

      2. Am I allowed to declare “shenanigans”? With all respect, why go to the trouble of griping about something if you won't even attempt, or don't care, to offer a solution? Seriously – it reinforces my impression that this post was nothing but smear…

        1. You make an assumption that a solution is needed. You assume that
          bloggers need PR.

          I’m very clear, PR can be nice. Most product reviews are absolute
          shit, because blogging has been invaded by PR and no one will tell the

          Now why would I want to work building a bridge to nowhere?

  7. Hey Jessica – Thanks for the post that highlights the question: What does it mean to be good at social media? This is something that we would never claim because I’m not sure it’s even possible. As a matter of fact, internally, we don’t even use the term “social media”. I think many brands tend to think of social media as “the cheapest way to market at the masses.” Now, there are many brands that get kudos for what they are in this world. We just try to communicate with our employees and customers by forming real, personal connections through things like , and . We know that these are just tools and not the end all to becoming experts.

    Our brand promise is driven by our internal culture. Without that, we wouldn’t have the customer service and ability to sell the products that we do. We list our 10 Core Values at and not one of them is about social media. So, you’re right, maybe we aren’t great at social media. It’s not our top priority or focus.


    Aaron Magness
    Director of Brand Marketing & Business Development
    Zappos Development, Inc.
    Twitter: @macknuttie

  8. I’m not a blog follower. I even have a hard time getting to my New York Times every morning. Because, guess what, I’m a very busy mom. I am a graduate student, I have two kids to feed and to drive around and bathe and read to and clean up after. I don’t have a nanny. And most days I got to bed with my head literally spinning.

    Full disclosure, I became aware of the Mommy Blog mess that’s ensued over the past few weeks because the person you refer to, as “a horrible woman” who heads the “worst PR firm” is a dear friend of mine. I met her years ago when I was a journalist and I wrote about her company. I knew her again when I was lucky to work for her. I, and my family, now just call her a friend . In the perhaps 15 years I’ve known her, I can honestly say she has more integrity, decency and respect for humankind in her small pinkie than most anyone I know.

    The blogosphere is the Wild West. What are the rules? Who makes the rules? Does anyone really need to abide by the rules, because really, you aren’t accountable to an organization or a boss who can withhold your paycheck or fire you? Right?

    Since time eternal, journalists – the good, objective ones – have never been paid for the coverage they provide. You would be fired if you did. You aren’t even supposed to let a source buy you lunch or a drink at a tradeshow in Vegas. (Well respected PR pros should know that what they are exactly doing is securing free press for their clients.)

    All of the bloggers out there who are outraged by the idea that someone would not pay you to review their product, that’s just not how it’s done. And quite frankly, I hope you are identifying yourself if you do so, because that’s not fair to anyone who thinks they’re reading an impartial review.

    To all the bloggers who are outraged by the idea that your inbox is full of PR pitches, I say, get a grip. You signed up for this. You asked to be followed and read. You want the notoriety. So deal with the consequences. And please do it nicely. There aren’t enough nice people in the world anymore. I know that because of the number of bullies I see in the schoolyard. And this controversy reminds me a little bit of that.

    When I was a journalist at a large city daily and then at a computer industry publication, I got hundreds of emails and press releases every day. I threw them out. I would have been fired had I shot off a feisty email to every crappy company that wanted me to write about them.

    I have thoughts about Mommy Bloggers (and these are truly my own thoughts, not discussed with anyone involved with this situation.). One is that there are some very good mommy blogs that help women dealing with serious issues such as postpartum depression, childhood illnesses, and marital pressures. There are some that are really light hearted and fun. And then there are some written by angry women, who probably have a little too much time on their hands because their nanny is very busy taking care of the kids. And maybe they’re angry at the world because they used to have a real life. All moms get angry. All moms get exhausted. But good moms also revel in the wonder of their children and want to make the world a happier, kinder place for their kids. Take your kids out for an ice cream and a laugh if you need to blow off a little steam. Or go for a run.

    Bloggers in general are not accountable to a boss. But Mommy Bloggers, you are accountable to someone higher – your children, the MOST important people on earth. You can only expect of a child the example you are setting for them. And quite frankly, I think you should all be a little embarrassed.

    That “horrible woman” who owns a PR firm has four of the most wonderfully kind, intelligent, sensitive, funny children I have ever met. And I happen to know, it is because of the example she has set for them. You should take a lesson.

  9. I agree with Dan, there is so much more going on in the world today to truly gripe about. I feel like your attack on the hard working folks at the PR agency is misplaced anger. I am a big fan of Zappo’s and will continue to be.

  10. Wow, who put what into your breakfast that morning, Jessica?

    So a PR person turns into momma bear for a minute after somebody lays out one of her employees…all in the middle of a very thoughtful discussion of the differences between PR and advertising and the whole idea of SAHMs wanting to be paid to blog about products. I suspect you might growl some if you felt your kids, or employees toward whom you felt protective, were being attacked. I know I would.

    So now you step into a situation that really has nothing to do with you and try to interfere with the business relationship between a PR firm (headed by a woman) and one of its clients. What’s up with that? What are you REALLY trying to accomplish? Do you simply enjoy ripping up a person’s client in some sort of misguided attempt to get back at another woman for acting like a mother?

    By the way, I am neither a PR person nor a blogger. I’m just amazed that people will do something like you’re doing here, Jessica. Perhaps I’m just naïve about human nature.

  11. Unlike some of the other commentors, I find it entertaining (and pretty cool actually) that you called out Kel Kelly for unnecessarily ripping apart a mommy blogger over what I thought was a pretty innocuous response to a PR pitch.

  12. I have been in PR for a dozen or so years at a midsize firm. I must say that everyone at my office agrees that her post would be a fireable offense.

    We get frustrated when Mommy Bloggers don’t seem to understand how many pitches we have to send out. We try our best, and sometimes we misfire. The bottom line is that we are PR pros, we are not bloggers and this is not our family.

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