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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. Very interesting. I’m glad things ended on a professional and somewhat happy note! I was dying to find out what he had to say! Thanks for sticking up for all of us Trisha, very informative indeed!

  2. Like I said to you on Twitter, there needs to be some kind of summit. I see a room full of bloggers, marketing execs, PR people and corporate representatives gathered around a table full of empty take out containers laying it all on the line. We have a meeting of the minds, find the middle ground and everyone leaves with a smile on their face. Could be wishful thinking on my part, I know. Kudos to General Mills and Mr. Witt for walking the walk and taking the time to have an honest dialogue.

  3. Lori wrote:

    for the record, you are using nofollow.

    oh lord, how did that happen. ROFL!!!!!!!!!!!!! I swear that everything I do is backwards today. I have an autosystem and apparently its auto smarting me.

  4. This has been a very interesting discussion to follow. Thanks for letting us know how the conversation went — my impression of General Mills’ PR/ blog relations is definitely improved. That being said, I still feed my kids organic oatmeal bought in bulk from my co-op instead of boxed Cheerios — it’s better for them. ;)

  5. for the record, you are using nofollow.

  6. It will be interesting to see how this episode impacts GM and other large corporations. It really is remarkable how many people are reading/writing/influenced by blogs these days. It can be a huge marketing resource for companies if they go about it right.

    Thanks for sharing the follow-up! It’s pretty amazing how fast they caught up with you. Looks like the corporate world is really watching the blog world these days!

  7. “PS- I follow linked you this time.”
    ROFL

    I think it is fantastic that he reached out to you in this way and I am impressed at the way he handled the situation.

  8. That was extremely well-put and I am glad the conversation was productive. I really do not think that many PR reps know that we share our experiences with each other. Maybe this will help to open the eyes of some reps who do tell each blogger something different regarding their units on hand, what blog stats they require, etc . . .

  9. It’s great that he seemed to listen to what you had to say, but actions speak louder than words. I hope he knows we’ll all be watching GM now to see if they follow through.

  10. Sounds like you had a productive conversation. I’m going to have to let this topic stew for a bit and come back when my thoughts are ready.

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