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General Mills and I had a meeting of the Minds

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meetingoftheminds_236x236I am not sure if you have ever said something mean about someone and then had to face it, but I am pretty good at doing that. TO be honest, I was shocked that General Mills, or rather David Witt, emailed me just a mere 6 hours after my rant about the article that was posted on BrandWeek. Somewhere between “Oh crap” and “am I gonna get sued” and “omg, I called him DimWitt” I burst out laughing and wondered if a conversation with them would be beneficial.

David was nothing but professional and polite in our email exchanges…here is how that happened:

1st email from GM:

Trisha:

I read your blog post from today and would really like to get on the phone with you along with some team members from MyBlogSpark to talk more. Could I please give you a call if you have a free moment?

David Witt

My response:

Dear Mr. Witt,

I apologize if I offended you personally, but that article came off quite condescending and turned into a 4 page forum post on the MomDot forum by quite a few angry bloggers before we took it to our pages in defense. General Mills was definitely the punch line but my sentiments were meant to instruct and inform bloggers that this superior attitude of corporations is truly offensive on its own. Our community is influential largely because it holds an influential blogging voice, and not just our own, and we want the bloggers to recognize it.

If you are interested in speaking to gain a better understanding how we feel bloggers can be a more valuable and respected member of your corporation, I am interested in speaking. However if the conversation is mainly for a defense of General Mills and My Blog Spark, it may be better served in a response directly in the comments of the original post where visitors of MomDot may also view your position, rather than relying from my perspective.

My phone is xxx-xxx-xxxx. I am on central time zone and can be caught 8-12 M-F, between 2:15-4 M-F and most evenings after 830pm.

Sincerely,

Trisha

His response:

Trisha:

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I would like to call you tomorrow morning if that works for you. And, it isn’t a defense of General Mills. We really want to learn and you bring up some great points.

Copying Stacy Becker on this message. She works closely with MyBlogSpark and if you don’t mind, I would like to have her join the call.

Thanks.

David Witt

This morning David called. He was as I expected good-natured and normal; what I didn’t expect was that he wasn’t really defensive regarding General Mills or my post about the article, but rather open and interested in how we felt. In his words, they want to “learn” from bloggers and needed the feedback to do it better. He said he did appreciate the points I made in the post, even making a joke that he prefers to be called “half-witt” rather than the eloquent “dim-witt” I dubbed him.

While only time will tell how General Mills, My Blog Spark, and Coyne PR responds to embracing and exciting bloggers in social media, I can honestly say the fact they took time to call and listen to what I had to say (and as usual it was long winded), does say a lot for their interest in the growing and influential hold that moms have online. Its not every day General Mills calls you up to ask your opinion.

Although I apologized for the attitude I took with his name (it was the professional thing to do), he said that zero apologies were needed and that he was happy to have the feedback and open the door to talking with bloggers. I will mention that we did briefly discuss the article (please note that this is a summary and not exact word for word) and he said not only was it misquoted, but much of the info printed in it was incorrect or out of context. For example, on the quote regarding not buying ads on blogs, he said obviously they buy ads on blogs (as they bought one here) but that the question the reporter asked him was not “do you buy ads on blogs”, but are you going to buy ads on the blogs as part of the My Blog Spark campaign and the answer was no on that. That campaign was a specific review/giveaway campaign. However,  it was printed as if GM doesn’t purchase ads at all, thereby coming off as bloggers are not ad worthy. He also said that there were media costs, it was not cost free and that was also incorrect in the article. I can read people very well and he was very sincere when he said that they do appreciate and care about the bloggers that work with them and wanted to know how they can recognize bloggers better.

I think one thing I learned about all of this is that companies and bloggers are trying to find a way to meet in the middle and its much like hostage negotiation. One side has a goal, the other side has a goal, but neither side can truly understand the perspective of the other side without open communication. Bloggers are NOT PR and are NOT the companies but at the same time, PR and the corporations involved are not the Bloggers. Bloggers involve their whole being into their blogs, often spending the same, if not more hours than a regular 9-5 job on advertising, marketing, and developing their blogs and do it because they love it.  We are emotional, volatile, passionate, interested and much more than an editorial. Our audiences are not there to learn about products but to be involved in our life and community and that is why bloggers are so valuable. They truly can be a face for a product if it comes from a genuine voice.

We want companies to come and build excitement that generates an organic movement via the blogosphere and leaks to the media around us as a brand that ‘gets it’. What companies and PR have to realize is not only are bloggers talking on their blogs about the good and the bad in a public atmosphere, but they are also talking behind the scenes in increasingly growing numbers. In fact, our post generated from an already heated discussion in our forum that had gotten several pages long by a variety of bloggers prior to us writing it at all. For example, when companies tell bloggers they don’t have products to send out to one blogger but turn around and send them to another blogger, chances are, we know about it. No one wants to be lied to.  We share information about PR firms, individual reps, the best and worst companies, the good and the bad pitches, and more. If your a company that hasn’t followed through on a giveaway product, in a blink of an eye 300+ bloggers in our community have a bad taste for you-and that is just in our sub-city here, imagine where it goes Internet wide. While bloggers can lift a company up, it can certainly black ball it as well. Social media can be your friend or your enemy in one viral swoop.

At the end of the day dealing with corporations all bloggers have are their connections and hopefully the respect and appreciation of the companies that so desperately are evolving their presence in the ever changing media. Its very easy to flood the market with links and pictures of products, but not so easy to gain a solid and involved group of online leaders who want to carry that brand to the next level because they believe in the company and its message.

I am not asking to get rich, I am not asking to have ads bought every month, I am not asking to be invited to Disney World on a special trip, but a little gold star for a job well done never hurts the morale.

I do believe General Mills is on that path thanks to their forthcoming and head on attitude by responding. It shows us that companies are listening but more importantly that we have the power to not only shake up the industry, but to shape it to better improvements for us all.

~trisha

PS- I follow linked you this time.

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Comments

  1. Tim Marklinger says:

    I have always enjoyed familial advertismations that general mills can aquire at will . As I have known of the xxx divisions of the company . I nowdays find that just a good time with such a product or products such as BD company have always kept the family going .Still a supporter of some of the tastiest cereals to date .

  2. I think this post and your original were great and I appreciate that you shared the information.

    I also think you were correct in your original aritcle about the “form a union.” While I’m sure that is not entirely possible, bloggers are at a disadvantage because we are not a combined group like the companies and the PR firms. This hinders our ability to negotiate with companies and PR firms and come to some standard set of terms.

    I’m not sure that came out exactly the way I was thinking it so I hope it made sense.

  3. Courtney Velasquez says:

    It sounds to me like Carrie is just trying to head warning and offer advice and everyone is throwing up defenses and getting upset when she’s only trying to help. Geesh… do you turn down a bandaid too when you’ve skinned your knee? Take the advice and do with it what you wish. I added a disclaimer to my blog after reading a post from Jessica Knows and one from Resourceful Mommy. It’s smart to cover yourself…just in case:)

  4. Lauralee Hensley says:

    I’m glad they got back to you.

  5. Personally, I believe that Trisha handled this well and professionally. How many times in the media are we offered both sides? That is rare and not only did Trisha offer both sides (which she most certainly did not have to do).

    This whole thing actually boosted my opinion of GM. They handled it well. Instead of tucking their tails between their legs & hiding, they stepped up and set the record straight. I found David Witt to be candid and forthcoming.

    I am actually loving this whole thing. It truly shows that the voices of bloggers are heard. I think that is what the majority of us want.

  6. I’m beginning to think maybe Carrie works for some media outlet here in the US. I have seen such a biased slant in our media it’s, dare I say communist. Our media is so censored and so slanted you’ll never get an impartial view in any traditional news source. That’s one reason I like blogs. They’re one big Letter to the Editor. And quite frankly is someone doesn’t like my opinion, they can suck it, click to another page and move on. I’m not forcing you to read my blog.

  7. @ Trisha-admin:
    well said Trisha.

    I’m glad the conversation went well with GM, it sounds like it was quite productive.

  8. Trisha-admin wrote:

    @ Carrie:
    The one thing I did do was go to school for 5 years about the law…so nothing I said was slander or libel worthy. I didn’t make any false claims about the company, didn’t use their logos or pictures, or take any copyrighted information from their site, and only quoted the words they allowed someone they interviewed with to print and added my opinion. For a libel or defamation case to take place, they would have to prove I made statements of fact, not statements of opinion. Additionally, I made statements on the reasonable belief that their statements were true, which is an absolute defense.

    On top of it, after the issue was addressed, I shared both sides as well, which also shares that my intent was not to harm General Mills, but to address a specific issue. Honestly, what would give a company more bad press…me complaining about them or them suing me for complaining about them?

    Lawsuits do not scare me in the slightest. I am a huge advocate of freedom of speech and I would be happy to go to bat for it.

    If you read through the actual complaint, it says very little about the company at all, other than quoting the article and using it as a basis to talk about the larger issue at hand, which is companies relationships with bloggers.

    What I posted still falls under freedom of speech, not slander, of this I am 100% positive.

    In this case, the point is moot. They reacted and were not only kind, but said the article made great points and planned on improving.

    Sometimes the voice of the minority is the majority if it can scream the loudest.

    Trisha

    Well said, Trisha. Our blogs are our opinions only, unless stated otherwise. I thought that was common knowledge. Do we need to put up a disclaimer for every post now stating “sarcasm”, “my opinion”, “STFU”, etc.? I guess we all need a “Terms and Conditions” agreement added to our blogs that must be agreed to before</i> reading any of our content, huh? Are people really that afraid to state their own opinions and stand behind them? DANG!

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