When you tell a group of bloggers that you're going to send them a thousand dollar camera to play with, it's not hard to imagine them blogging about it ASAP. That's just what I and many of the 50 other bloggers that have been selected to participate in Nikon's blogger outreach program for the D80 have done.
Again, that part was expected. But I've already seen two top bloggers that AREN'T receiving a D80, blog about how great the program, AND camera is. Karl Long and Josh Hallett have both blogged about how they love the program and camera, and have both posted stunning pictures taken with their D80s. And seeing this simply gets those of us that are waiting on our D80s that much more excited about getting to use ours.
Something that's getting a bit lost in the shuffle here is that Nikon's PR firm, MWW Group, employs at least two well-known bloggers, Tom Biro and Chris Thilk. Think that makes a difference to have social-media experts in tow when designing a brand ambassador program aimed at bloggers? Of course it does.
As I've said before, a well-designed promotional program that's aimed at bloggers will generate a ton of positive buzz in the blogosphere for the program itself. That's a bonus to the buzz generated for the product.
Lewis adds in the comments: "At the end of the day, I prefer that writers not accept any freebies, except loaners, and that every post, every article, every photograph in this case, carry a disclaimer when the product is a loaner.
My gut tells me, however, that for me, reviewing products that I did not purchase or businesses that I have a personal stake in, is just not the right thing to do."
The Viral Garden, Marketing, Nikon
This sounds great, Mack. Can you tell us...Did they give you the camera or give it to you for a certain time? How did they go about asking you to blog about it? Obviously these co's are in new terrain reaching out to bloggers so I'm curious how the program is formatted. Are they asking you to fill out any questionnaires? Again, just curious and I hope to see MANY pics of you and your fun times with your cool camera.
note: You might also suggest to Nikon that they interview you guys for a piece they can put together on how the program worked as they have PR firms that can place it for them...and then you--and they--get exposure. Remember, you're doing THEM a favor. They may have likely thought of the article angle already ;-).
You know that I am not a fan of us bloggers, marketing, PR guys, journalists, etc., posting about freebies we receive. I think accepting gifts raises questions of credibility. Even though I know that you are a completely honest person, I don't know that about others' who accepted the Nikon, and in the back of my mind, I think any of us can succumb to the influence of expensive gifts.
My policy remains, never write about anything except review books that come as freebies. And return the freeby. And when reviewing books, write about both the good and the bad. No product is perfect, and readers deserve to learn about the flaws as well as the good. And I, for one, question any and all reviews thst overflow with praise only.
CK they 'loaned' me the camera for 6 months. At the end of the 6 months, I can either return the camera to them, extend the 'loan' period for another 6 months, or buy it at an 'editorial' discount. All proceeds from the sale of these camera will be donated to 'an organization with solid roots in photography and education'. And they are NOT asking us to blog about the camera or the pictures we take with it, only saying that if we DO blog about either, to please disclose that we received the D80 from Nikon as part of this program.
And that's a great idea about interviewing us to get our opinions on the camera. Tom and Chris may have thought of that, but since Chris reads TVG, I'm sure he'll see your great idea.
Lewis I don't see the problem as long as we bloggers disclose upfront that we are involved with the program. On the flipside, what if I did NOT disclose my involvement, and started posting pics taken with the D80, and raved about the camera. Then Nikon publishes a list of all the bloggers that participated, and everyone finds out that I got a 'free' camera, but never disclosed this information while blogging about how great it was for months. I'd think my credibility would take a major hit, as it should.
I've never really posted many pics here simply because right now I don't have a good camera. If the D80 is as good as its current owners claim, then I should be putting up plenty of pictures taken with it in the next 6 months. Better to disclose upfront the source of those pictures, and let you smart readers decide what value, if any, to put on my praise, or criticism of the product.
IMO more disclosure is better than less. If a different policy works better for you, that's fine too.
Thanks Mack. You know...Lewis has a GREAT point. After all, for Book Club (which is non-paid and a lot of work), I get free books and then every single book we feature I outright buy and then give my free copy away. I've stated that from the get-go. I do it because I wouldn't ask my members to do that which I won't (buy the book).
But...in the case of freebies and Lewis's chime-in, I'm gonna have to think this over. Great info. from both of you and a terrific topic for discussion. I'll have more on this after I think it over. Truly great topic.
As I e-mailed to CK, I love and respect you, and trust your credibility impeccably. I worry, however, that the majority of readers who don't know us will paint us with broad strokes when we take freebies. It reminds me of payola in the record industry.
Now, I have to admit something: I have been on the road for several days and did not see your earlier post saying that the camera is a loaner. I suspect that would be true of many of your readers, as we don't read every post.
I don't have a problem with loaners; however, six months seems too much of a reward for reviewers, and that worries me. As one who actually has won a few photography contests, my experience tells me it doesn't take six months to discover a camera's good and bad points.
At the end of the day, I prefer that writers not accept any freebies, except loaners, and that every post, every article, every photograph in this case, carry a disclaimer when the product is a loaner.
My gut tells me, however, that for me, reviewing products that I did not purchase or businesses that I have a personal stake in, is just not the right thing to do.
Mack, I agree with you and I see no problem with a blogger accepting a freebie or a sample, as long as there's full disclosure, which you've done and which, interestingly, the p.r. agency has asked you to do. From there on, it's up to you and your own sense of integrity whether you write about a product and whether you say good things about it.
I respect Lewis' position on this, but I think each of us must make our own call. We just owe it to our readers (and to ourselves,m if we value our credibility) to be upfront, as you've done, Mack.
Editors, reporters and producers at mainstream media do this all the time. The better journalists at the better media have integrity and would never write about something only because they got a freebie. Some media outlets now have rules barring reporters from accepting anything at all. To the extreme, last time I met with Stuart Elliott, the ad columnist at The New York Times, he insisted on paying for his coffee. (Like he's going to write about my client because I bought him coffee, and it wasn't even Starbucks.)
This is such an interesting and challenging topic. I really have to think this over...I'm truly 50/50. Great comments and insights.
One question - should recipients of the cameras feel obliged (or indeed be required by your laws) to declare the free loan on their tax returns?
I'm torn, too, Mack - especially since I have no camera at all :) In art school Nikon was THE camera to have. I had a buddy went into neck deep poverty to attain one. Its a top notch product. My gut instinct goes with LG - yet I KNOW you are driven by honest and worthy ethics. Evidence by how you write consistently that blogging is about the "other". I've never "met" you but trust and have a great deal of respect for you. Much the way David states - its an individual call. Its a gray area - somehow it feels better if the camera were a loaner sent for review - but not sure why? Your full disclosure takes care of that. Nikon - or their agency or however it works - has hit on something though. They are getting more product exposure - a "new" advertising. It will be something to see it play out. You are doing them a huge favor.
Great idea about having a caption on the photos saying they were taken as part of the blogger loaner campaign. I will do that.
As you may know, I take ethics very, very seriously, and even write a blog about ethics, called Ethics Crisis http://www.ethicscrisis.com
I would not have accepted the camera loan if the program was not completely transparent.
But I am troubled that not all of the 50 bloggers have said they're in the program.
I do think Nikon should publish the names of the bloggers who are in the program.
for some reason my comment is not pointing to my blog, or showing my profile. Just wanted to add that whatsnext is my screen name.
What's Next Blog
When a marketing blogger reviews a book for me, it's helpful as I know about the book and his/her take on it. After all, reading books helps us in our jobs. Sure, the authors want to sell us on their books but the practices that we learn help us for a lifetime.
Sorry Mack, but the only "thing" I can compare "free stuff" to are the books. And I even buy the ones we feature in BC.
I just wrote on pitch practices not a week ago and I didn't even mention "stuff" becuz, honestly, "stuff" didn't occur to me. Only books and pitches on events and items that they didn't send me.
Take Jackie & Ben's book, their message helps us. How does Nikon help us? I guess you'll have a prettier blog (tho' it's already pretty ;-) becuz, at least for, what, 6 months as a loaner, you'll have more pics. But how does that advance the conversation?
I'm open but less 50/50. Like, where does the line start and end. With a loaner PDA, loaner computer or car? Those might sound really expensive, right? But, compared to a $25 book (average price of books I find), a $1,000 camera is expensive.
I would go out and buy marketing books anyhow--would you be using a 1k digi camera anyhow? Maybe that's where you draw the line. I'm still not sure but I think I'm leaning to the don't-send-me-stuff side. Sorry that was long.
Or maybe the "line" is this: does the "free stuff" benefit the audience as much as it does the company?
I believe books/marketing practices do. But cameras don't. Yep, Nikon wins in this case and I fear bloggers lose. Now if they were giving their cameras to a shutterbug audience...or music labels gave CDs to a music audience that might benefit the audience as much as the co.
But when have you been a big shutterbug? Like, at least photo people could compare it to other cameras, ya know? Personally, I can intelligently speak to marketing books/practices but not to cameras (I'd sound like an idiot becuz I don't know cameras). I'd be like "this is a nice camera, it takes clear pics". That's all I could compare it to. OK, I'll shut up now ;-).
"Yep, Nikon wins in this case and I fear bloggers lose."
Remember that Nikon isn't asking any of the 50 bloggers to promote the camera, they simply said that *if* we do, that we admit that we didn't buy the D80, but instead have it as part of a loaner program with Nikon. So Nikon is just fine with me taking and posting a million pictures taken with the D80, without ever having to promote it. So it's conceivable that Nikon just sent 50 $1,000 cameras to bloggers that will never mention the camera itself.
Is that probable? Nope, it's instead far more likely that most if not all of us will take pictures with the D80, AND post about our experiences, good or bad, with the cameras on our blogs. That's what Nikon and the MWW Group are counting on.
But again, they aren't requiring anyone to do that. If we want to use a thousand dollar camera for free for six months and never comment on the camera itself to anyone online. Nikon is just fine with that.
So I don't think anyone 'loses' here, as it's up to bloggers whether or not they want to participate. Again, Nikon's disclosure policy IF I talk about the camera was a big reason why I decided to participate.
With the amount of "press" we've given (and I'm a big part for all my yammering) Nikon has already won.
But now I know what policy I'm comfy with. Don't send me stuff unless it's a book for the BC for all marketers. If I want your stuff I'll use my marketing smarts to land jobs to afford your 1k camera.
I really appreciate you're letting me be so mouthy. Ya know how much I think of you. And I can't wait to see all your pics.
BTW I will agree with BL, and I hope that all the bloggers that participate do indeed disclose their involvement. But that's up to them.
Check out http://www.givemeaneos.com, you think Nicon got inspired by this idea?
Interesting to read about your participation in the program - also good to hear exactly how it's set up!
Some great comments here in this blog about it, seems to arouse quite a bit of discussion!
Mack - I'm interested in your feelings about this, do you feel that your readership will understand your position and also not question your indepdance?
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