George Smith Jr. took to his blog to offer up a cautionary tale for both marketers and bloggers. He was recently at BlogHer representing Crocs (a footwear company), when one of the conference attendees walked up to him and struck up some small talk. Then she made clear she wanted some free shoes. When she didn't get any, she threatened to take to her blog and trash the company.
While many are praising Smith for the way he responded, it might not be one you want to replicate.
Smith responded to the woman with his own form of blackmail. He threatened to use his connections to essentially shut down her blog. While the bloggers actions were appalling, I find it hard to empathize with Smith when he retaliated with the same type of threat.
Smith didn't publish the name of the blogger. He said he couldn't remember it. He called her a nobody (in his blog, not to her face) because he claims to be so connected that he knows who the big bloggers in his space are. (He later "clarified" that she was only a nobody as a blogger, but that's not much better in my mind.)
I see this kind of defense all the time. I understand it and used to do it all the time, but I've come to despise it. We try to make ourselves feel better by talking about how awesome we are - a hollow lie that can eventually make us stop trying. But the truth is that no one is so comprehensive in their job that they might not have missed something. Plus, Smith couldn't remember her name, so no one can dispute him.
Search Engine Watch is a well known blog in the search industry, but no one really knows who the heck I am (I prefer it that way). I never imagined I would write about Crocs, but here I am. Marketers can't discount people just because they've never heard of them.
I'm not saying Smith shouldn't have blogged about this. This situation needed a response because she could concoct some lie about Crocs being sleezy at the BlogHer conference and really do some damage to the brand.
But marketers aren't in the clear. In fact, Crocs did give away shoes at BlogHer. They had a limited number of shoes and ran out of swag, leaving the blogger Croc-less.
If Crocs goal was to improve their brand image in the minds of women bloggers, essentially the opposite of blackmail, isn't that bribing? Will the blog posts about Crocs be fair in their opinion or enhanced due to free product?
Would Smith have arranged for a free pair of Crocs for the blogger if she had been "somebody" in the blogosphere?
At the end of the day, both marketers and bloggers have frustrations about the nuances of their jobs. But we need to find ways to work together instead of blackmailing and bribing.
How would you have handled the blackmail blogger? Share your thoughts on the matter by leaving a comment below.