The sordid tale of the fake Toyota pitch.
A blogger named Crissy received a pitch that made it look as if Toyota was willing to pay mom bloggers $10 Amazon gift cards to write a post about how great Toyota is, and "like" positive news stories about Toyota around the web. Only it turns out, Toyota did no such thing.
A blogger, acting on her own accord, figured it would be a good way to get into the PR biz, start conducting blog tours, and "make a name for herself."
Shelly Kramer summarized the whole thing crazy super well. She needs to be a professional spy.
When I first looked at the pitch, there was not a doubt in my mind that this is not a pro PR person writing this. The astute Alli Worthington said the same (and beat me to it in comments, damn her!). There is no way Toyota would have approved this kind of strategy, and the Mommy Networks website looked all pretend and scammy-like to me. But then, Shelly and Alli and I do this kind of thing for a living.
When most bloggers looked at the pitch, their initial instinct was YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT FOR $10 GIFT CARDS?
Because that is what they are often asked to do for a living.
In other words, despite the fact that the pitch looked amateur, the website looked like a fake, and the entire scheme seemed hairbrained, ethically devoid, and possibly illegal; it also seemed entirely plausible.
Not only plausible, but worthy of vengeance. Plenty of the commenters couldn't wait to spread the word about this evil company, post comments to all their message boards and Facebook pages, and BRING TOYOTA DOWN.
That's a little freaky for brands and PR folks, don't you think?
There is so much mistrust of marketers out there, so much history of gift cards for positive reviews, so many ridiculous schemes presented to bloggers on behalf of big brands that we are ready and willing to believe (and share) the worst about companies.
One commenter on Chrissy's blog even assured the group that this kind of outreach is "standard PR and in no way appears to me to be shady."
There's a lesson in here for the bloggers, of course. We have to learn to be better critical thinkers. We have to learn to analyze pitches and do a little digging before we act. Or react. Or overreact.
As for brands, hoo boy. I don't know where to start. Wait, maybe I do.
I'd say start by putting pros on the payroll. The Weber-Shandwicks and the Edelman Digitals and 360 PRs and the Stephanie Smirnovs and Stephanie Azzarones and David Wescotts of the world. The very very best, very very smartest ones that you can afford.
Your carefully constructed brand is in their hands. And frankly, some of the other folks are messing things up for all of you.