Company offered free breast enlargement to young female bloggers

This story is definitely a candidate for the Social Media Hall of Shame. Q-med is a listed biotech/medical company in Uppsala, north of Stockholm, Sweden that manufactures and sells medical implants. Two weeks ago the company sent a letter to 15 young Swedish female bloggers and offered them treatment during one year with the products Restylane and Macrolane in exchange for writing about the products on their blogs. In other words, Q-med offered young women breast and lip enlargements and treatments against wrinkles free of charge.

One 25 year-old model and blogger accepted the offer from Q-med. In a YouTube video you can see how her lips are injected with Restylane and the treatment is sponsored by Q-med, although that is not disclosed.

– I was contacted by Fredrik Möllersten at Q-Med on Facebook. I had done such a treatment previously which I had written abot on my blog and he asked me if I wanted to test Restylane again, the blogger tells Upsala Nya Tidning.

– Free is good. My readers are interested in this stuff and if Q-Med offer me to test their products for free doesn’t matter, she continues.

On her blog she has at least two YouTube videos of her getting Restylane shots, but nowhere does it say that Q-med pays the bill.

But other women who got the offer were offended. Beatrice Birkeldh is a blogger and a reporter at Expressen. She told UNT:

– I immediately told them that I would never go along with such a suggestion. I think that this is a detestable way to market these products.

Q-med are now backing away from the marketing stunt, after the negative publicity in both mainstream media and local blogs.

– We cannot stand for these offers. The email to these bloggers was an unconsidered initative, says Tommy Gullbo, Marketing Director of Q-med who adds that it will not happen again.

Beatrice Birkeldh published the email from Q-med on her blog and what is says is that she get to use both Restylane and Macrolane during one year but that she is required to write about them “regularly during one year”.

“Hej Beatrice,
Hoppas att allt är bra med dig. Jag jobbar som Global Internet Chef på Q-Med AB som tillverkar, marknadsför och säljer Restylane och Macrolane. Vi ska ta ut 10 personer i Sverige som vi ska sponsra under ett år. Du kommer att få prova Restylane och Macrolane under ett år mot att du skriver om behandlingarna och produkterna regelbundet på din blogg under ett år. Är detta något som vore intressant för din del? För mer information och om du har frågor så kontakta gärna mig.”

This is exactly how not to conduct blogger relations. Obviously it is hard to resist for a young girl when you are offered products worth thousands of kronor without any other effort on your part than to write a few lines on your blog now and then. If the blogger does not reveal that she is being paid to blog about products (Q-med does not mention anything about disclosure in the email), not only does it undermine any credibility the blog might have had, it is also against the Swedish Marketing Practices Act which states that any marketing effort needs to be indentifiable as such.

And when you market beauty products for lip and breast enlargements, of course you need to be extra cautiuos in your market efforts. Reaching out to young women is very likely going to backfire because you will have an ethical debate on your hands, which is exactly what is happening now.

A single shot with Restylane costs between 2,000 and 3,000 SEK and often a patient needs to come back for a refill after 6 months. So the blogger outreach program was at least worth 90,000 SEK for the fifteen bloggers all together, probably more. Money not well invested.

Disclosure: I once owned stock in Q-med, but have not done so for several years.

Media Culpa’s top 10 blog pitch pet peeves

At what point does pitching a blogger become spam? Well it doesn’t take much, if you ask me. I have been biting my tongue for very long (I don’t want to be like Chris “Long Tail” Anderson), but now I feel it’s time to let off some steam. So, without further ado, here are my top ten blog pitch pet peeves.

1. Don’t send me press releases about stuff I don’t blog about.
You would be amazed if you knew the kind of press releases I get. I have been on the Swedish Christian Democrats mailing list since the last election. Hello! I don’t write about politics and I have no intention to start now. Read my blog for a while so you get a sense of what topics I cover.

2. Don’t send me press releases from a generic sender.
Who on earth is “mediaservice”? Answer: the Swedish Christian Democrats again. I would rather have a dialogue with an identifiable human being.

3. Don’t send me attachements.
It’s bad enough if you send attachements to someone’s job, but you are sending me this stuff to my home computer. If this thing breaks, I’m toast. I don’t have an IT support to call if I get at trojan or a virus. I can’t afford to open anything with an attachement if it’s not from a trusted sender.

4. Don’t send me press releases with nothing but attachements.
How dumb are you if the only thing there is in the email is a jpeg file? Do you really expect me to open this crap? One of Sweden’s largest media corporations should read this and be ashamed. Bonus pet peeve: the attachement is 5 MB or more.

5. Don’t send me press releases with vague headlines.
Same company as above. Don’t send me an email just telling me to “hold the date” and forcing me to open an image file to find out what the date is about. I won’t do it.

6. Don’t send the same personalized letter twice, from different people.
Leading PR agency advises leading software company. Sends very nice letter to bloggers, asking if they can send a press release about a news story. Same “personalized letter” comes slightly adjusted from a second person at the same company a few weeks later. That makes our “dialogue” feel fake.

7. Don’t send me yesterday’s news.
Same PR agency as above. Sent me a press release dated the day before (yes, really!). And besides, the whole story had already been covered the same morning by the leading business daily, which made it not so interesting for me.

8. Don’t send me the same release twice within ten minutes.
This happens more often than you could imagine. Oh please, check your mailing lists for duplicates, would you? Bonus pet peeve: if you mess up and need to send out a new corrected press release, don’t demand that the blogger who just blogged the story shall update his blog post within minutes. I take responsibility for my own content and reputation, thank you very much.

9. If I tell you to stop, please do.
If you wonder why I have chosen to only name the Christian Democrats on this list, it is because they are the absolute worst on blogger relations. When I finally got tired of observing them making fools out of themselves, I sent them a polite email telling them to remove me from their mailing list because I wasn’t interested. That’s exactly one week ago and I still get their press releases. Nike was right: just do it!

10. Don’t send press releases at all.
Get to know me. Build a relationship. That’s why there is a ‘social’ in front of ‘media’ when we talk about blogs.

So what to do? A good start would be to check out the “pitching bloggers” section of the NewPR Wiki and this list of links.

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The fine art of blogger relations

Microsoft today communicates a report from European Interactive Advertising Association (EIAA) about how social networks, blogs and video sites are the driving forces behind the next generation of internet usage. How is this promoted? Through an old fashioned press release. It is of course possible that this story is also communicated through other channels, but no blogs are linking to this press release yet (search via Technorati and Knuff). Stories like this one should of course be given to bloggers like me (and not via a press release please). Instead, I have to settle for press releases with headlines like these:

DHL sees advantages with a differentiated kilometre tax for heavy vehicles
DHL ser fördelar med en differentierad kilometerskatt för tunga fordon

Healthy fast food ready for break through
Nyttig fast food står inför genombrott

Unity for freedom
Enighet för frihet

World leader in HR in new co-operation with Jönköpings Södra
Världsetta inom HR i nytt samarbete med Jönköpings Södra

Star Wars robot in your own living room
Star Wars-robot i ditt eget vardagsrum

Kläppen attracts sun worshipers and people celebrating Easter
Kläppen lockar soldyrkare och påskfirare

I can go on and on with mindnumbingly boring press releases about topics that have absolutely nothing to do with what I am blogging about. It is quite obvious that Swedish PR professionals have a lot to learn about blogger relations. Contact me if you want a crash course 🙂

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Swedish corporates are pitching bloggers

Having spent three weeks in my summer house in July, I had to wade through hundreds of emails when I returned back to civilization. One of them was from one of largest companies in Sweden, I will spare you which one because I am a friend of their head of PR. I believe it is the first time I have been approached by the communications department of a large Swedish company in my role as a blogger. I’m glad that public relations professionals are aware that bloggers are influential and potentially a target for PR pitches. But when it is performed in such a clueless way, I’m baffled.

First of all, the PR person hasn’t read my blog. If she had, she would know that I never ever write about stuff from her company’s industry. Is it really so hard to figure out that I blog about PR and media? It is in the headline. I do not blog about your products.

Second, if you are in the process of sending out a mass mailing, please make sure that I don’t feel like I’m on the receiving end of a spam attack. The email I got had obviously been forwarded at least once, so it had the “>” sign before every line, and the second half of the first sentence had apparently been edited, because it had a different color than all the other lines, at least in my email program. Translated:

> Hello,
> You receive this email because you are one of the most frequently read and
noticed blogs in Sweden.
> We wonder if you are interested in subscribing to press releases from XYZ?

Now, I am not trying to be mean, rather show that if you are pitching bloggers, you need even more finesse and fingerspitzgefühl than if you are pitching journalists. Not the other way around because bloggers will tell everyone that you’re making a mistake. Besides, it would have been smarter to let people sign up to press release subscriptions via the online press room or via RSS, but of course you can’t.