Saturday, May 24, 2008

e-Reputation

The other day there was an all out war going on over at Garden Rant. If you haven't seen it make sure to check it out. It was riveting!

I was fairly disturbed about the Stepables fight while reading it and although I did check back a few times (I don't usually do that), I had forgotten about it by the next day. But then yesterday as I strolled through my neighborhood garden center, I saw the familiar Stepables display and instead of thinking I should eventually buy something to go in the cracks of the concrete by the porch like I usually do, I was reminded of the slanderous attack that the Stepables (OK maybe that's harsh but I'm trying to be interesting here) guy made on the sweet innocent Garden Rant girls (GR's, please send the check to my paypal account. ha ha). And that got me thinking about e-reputations and whether or not us e-gardeners need to be concerned with them or not.

Now, I fully admit that I did not pay really close attention to the sequence of events in the Stepables versus Garden Rant fight but maybe I'm the typical reader who we should watch out for.

I read something recently that said people normally won't read past the first 10-20 comments on a blog post and depending on what was covered in the GR's first comments, the reader could be left with 1 of 2 bad impressions. (1.) The Stepables guy is mean therefore Stepables are bad and we should not buy them or (2.) the Garden Ranters are swindlers who will say good things about a product only if you pay them to do so. I hope it's neither but I'm just trying to illustrate a point.

For the most part, garden bloggers seem to be pretty protected from the types of conversations that can leave the reader feeling negative. In general, blogging about gardens isn't really an emotionally charged topic and about the most heated debates you'll find are "daylilies, love em or hate em" and the old heirloom versus hybrid debates.

If I remember correctly, the Stepables guy is not the Stepables founder - he's just marketing the product which I find even sadder. I wonder if the Stepables founder even knows that some dude she thinks is helping her company has made me identify the Stepables product with this mean guy. Then again, maybe I'm the only person who over-analyzes things like this. But think about it. Now I've typed that brand name a million times in this post and it's possible that somebody will google Stepables, find my post and decide not to buy the product. I'm not trying to say that my blog could ruin a brand but I am trying to say that garden bloggers do influence product sales. To what extent? Who knows. And not only do we influence product sales but the way we write influences the success of our blog.

Like it or not, we've got e-reps to protect. There are some blogs that are, by design, more edgy and controversial compared to the average garden blog. In fact, I'm picturing the Garden Rant girls wearing the pink lady satin jackets from Grease with Garden Rant written on the back looking extremely cool. But for the most part, we're all just trying not to piss off our readers, which I for one find a challenge sometimes.

Here are my questions for you:

  1. What impression were you left with after reading the Garden Rant post in question?
  2. Will that post influence your decision to buy or not buy Stepables or to read or not read Garden Rant?
  3. Do you consider your blog a "brand" whose reputation you are concerned with? Or are you just in it for fun and could care less what anybody thinks or if they ever come back to read your blog again?

10 comments:

  1. Heather's GardenMay 24, 2008 at 11:51 AM

    1. I got the impression that Stepables needs to hire a new marketing firm because that guy sucks.

    2. I wasn't going to buy Stepables anyway, though I think it's a cool branding idea. The same plant in a non-Stepables container is much cheaper. I can't imagine what would make me stop reading Garden Rant.

    3. Since my blog is for my own enjoyment (though I do think it's fun that other people are reading it) and I don't plan to try and make any money from it, I don't think of it as a brand. I would, however, be upset if I hurt someone's feelings.

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  2. 1)What impression were you left with after reading the Garden Rant post in question?

    First of all, I love press releases. Releases that come with candy, cake, or other snacks are never bad and are most appreciated at my place of work. Press releases that come with free pens, water bottles, t-shirts, hats, tote bags, dvds and free tickets are even better.

    E-mail press releases with no free stuff are efficient, but they don't create the same excitement as the ones that come with fun stuff. I think they Garden Rant should stop complaining about getting things for free.


    2)Will that post influence your decision to buy or not buy Stepables or to read or not read Garden Rant?

    I never read Garden Rant....just checked it out b/c of your link.

    And I saw a Stepable's display two weeks ago...thought it was very clever marketing. But I don't have anyplace to put ground cover at the moment.

    3) Do you consider your blog a "brand" whose reputation you are concerned with? Or are you just in it for fun and could care less what anybody thinks or if they ever come back to read your blog again?

    I started my blog for myself as a garden journal to look back on from year to year. Now, though, I like having people read and comment. I would miss the comments if they suddenly stopped.

    I would like to say that I don't care what people think, but I think it is human nature to seek the approval of those around you.

    I also think I would like some free candy, but there is only free popcorn on the 'free table' today.

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  3. 1. What impression were you left with after reading the Garden Rant post in question?

    Really retarded media kit from a "garden" company. I agree with that. But I've meet some PR/marketing people and I have to say most of them have really _bad_ ideas.

    2. Will that post influence your decision to buy or not buy Stepables or to read or not read Garden Rant?

    Nope. I wouldn't pay for the 'stepables' name anymore than I am willing to pay for any 'brand' name. If the ingredients are the same, I couldn't care less who's name is on the package. I think 'stepables' is a cute idea, and I can see how it's a business opportunity. There's a sucker born every minute.

    Do you consider your blog a "brand" whose reputation you are concerned with? Or are you just in it for fun and could care less what anybody thinks or if they ever come back to read your blog again?

    I've never cared what other people think, even before my blog. Has gotten me in trouble at work on occasion, but then again..I didn't care...by then I didn't want to work there.

    If some company wanted me to test something for free I'd be happy to do it. In fact I already do that sometimes, but I'm the one who purchased the item . I'd turn down the item if I thought it was stupid or didn't actually want to use it. In the case of 'stepables' I'd ask what makes the plant different than the generic one from HomeDepot. I'm guessing the answer is nothing.

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  4. 1. I got a headache from all of the he-said, she-said and kind of felt like I was back in high school. (And I laughed, out loud, when I saw your, "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!") The whole conversation just made me feel blah all around. Kind of like... well, kind of like watching Jerry! lol.

    2. No, it makes no difference to my future actions in either case.

    Stepables is an interesting branding/marketing ploy, and I think it's good in that it generates interest from people who would otherwise not necessarily be drawn to "groundcovers." I don't care whether I buy Stepables or not, though... I bought sedum hispanicum last year in a Stepables container, for example, but passed by their plain old species leptinella for the darker/edgier 'Platt's Black' in the alpine section of "my" garden center.

    As far as Garden Rant goes, it's an interesting skim for garden-related "news," and it's nice that it's regularly updated, so if you need a break at work you can generally go find a new post there. Overall I prefer reading private/hobby blogs, though--including some of the Ranters' own personal blogs, like Elizabeth's "Gardening While Intoxicated."

    3. Gah. Well, let's see. On the one hand, since I do marketing as my full-time job I have done my darnedest to keep it out of my garden and my blog. (No Google ads, solicited/paid product reviews, etc.) Since I'm not trying to make money, save the world, etc., I really want to say, "I don't really care, I'm doing it the way I want and that's that!"

    On the other hand, it's fun when people leave comments, and I care what many other garden bloggers think about me, my garden and my blog. Because I like them.

    One time last spring, I was getting burned out a bit with stress in my full-time job, plus another 24+ hours at the garden center and some strife in my home life to boot. As you might imagine, all of my comments were coming across as being pretty self-absorbed... and Annie in Austin called me out on that, via a comment-answer to the comment I had left on her blog.

    I was a little bit devastated, not just because I looked up to Annie but also because she was absolutely right--I didn't like the "me" who was commenting at that point much, eiher. And so I took a hiatus... it wasn't so much about protecting "my brand," however, it was about being a good caring person.

    (Does that make sense? I really shouldn't post comments at 1:30 in the morning after moving stone around in the garden all day, should I?!)

    So... are you going to answer your own questions, too, Gina? I can imagine from your post how you would answer some of these, but on the last count you sounded a little torn. Anything in regards to that one get clarified in your mind since you posted this?

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  5. Gina, great discussion you've got going here.
    As one of the Ranters under attack, I hesitated to get into the he-said/she-said because yeah, who wants to read that on a blog, especially a gardening blog? But people expect a defense, so I respond I did.
    Stepping back, I do think the whole thing's a pretty interesting example of old media being criticized by new media and reacting really badly (PR agent, PR yourself!) and showing a total ignorance of both blogging culture and the finances of bloggers (like we have $36,000/year to pay someone to get us publicity? Like we'd want it even if it were free?
    It all leaves me with the important question: Who the hell is Jerry??
    Susan

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  6. heather - thanks for responding. it'll be interesting to see if everybody feels the same about this.

    babs - all i can think of is that im in shock that you read MY blog but you don't read garden rant. will you marry me??? ha ha no i love garden rant and I thought every gardener in the world read that blog. very interesting! thanks for taking the time to respond.

    T - thanks for responding. As I said before, I really enjoyed the brita products that were sent to me to give away on the blog. they lady was super nice and not pushy. Matter of fact, I wish she'd send me more!! ha

    kim - great responses. me answer? this one stumped me a little and my own personal reaction bothered me and made me think I dont want to be THAT guy (girl). So here goes.

    1. I thought it was a shocking discussion for a garden blog and although I was surprised that the ranters would get involved in that kind of discussion, I know it was necessary to at least explain some of the shocking allegations that guy was making. Why? because I do think Garden Rant is a brand and they really do need to protect it. I thought they did as good a job with that as anybody could have.

    2. I've never bought that brand and I'm pretty sure I never will now. I mean I'm the type to read the label then go find a cheaper version anyway, so I'm not sure that the discussion really impacted my future purchases but I do believe that product owners are responsible for their image and I think that the stepables founder is ultimately responsible for the negative impact that the marketer she chose has on her business.

    3. I really struggle with this one because my personality is much more asinine than I show you here on my blog. I am always thinking something cocky and inappropriate and if I wrote all that stuff, nobody would read my blog. I wish I did think of my blog as a brand but in reality I'm not that good to be branding anything related to gardening or blogging. But lately I've been pursuing some things that have prompted me to send links of my blog to people outside my circle and that has made me realize the impact that what you say and do in blogging really could impact you later. I guess in the end this one totally comes down to whether or not your blog will ever be used for anything besides a gardening journal.

    susan - thanks for taking the time to stop by and respond. Yes I can totally see that you needed to defend yourself because even I was thinking "holy crap, did she really do that?" I think you handled a bad situation as well as you could. "jerry" = Jerry Springer. It was a very bad inappropriate joke but I just couldnt resist.

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  7. Thanks for the answers, Gina. :)

    Susan, I hear you--I didn't mean that I felt blah about your answers, because I completely understand that you needed to "defend" yourself and I thought that you did a wonderful job answering him while keeping your head above the muck. I just kind of felt blah that the situation existed at all...

    For the record, there are a lot of companies in the nursery industry who don't "get" the whole greening concept. For example, I received at least 5 or 6 different High Country Gardens catalogs last year, which were mostly the same interior pages with a couple of new additions. And it irked the heck out of me that they claim to be environmentally friendly when they're sending out so many duplicate catalogs each season, so I emailed to ask them to remove me from their print list (but wanted to stay on their email list) and explained why. I think my request really ticked them off based on the response I received, but they did follow my wishes.

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  8. What Heather said...

    And I read through the comments but after a while I felt like it was overload and sort of checked out...maybe I could have stayed in the game if it wasn't an election year and if I didn't hate confrontation so much.

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  9. A fascinating look at the dark side of garden blogging. I'm happy to stay out of the PR/commercial fray. I buy plants because I like them. I don't care how they're marketed or what their PR people say about them, other than I hate many of the trademark names of plants ("Pinky Winky"? come on!)
    As for my blog having a "Brand name" - I hate anything that smacks of corporate lingo or advertising stuff. I certainly refuse to consider my posts a "product." However, my e-reputation is another matter. I have a natural propensity to suffer from foot in mouth disease. I try not to give offense, but my smart-a** nature sometimes gets the best of me. Thanks for causing the little gray cells to do some work this morning.

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  10. 1.) My impression of the post was, that the Stepables brand kind of got shafted. I'm thinking that there was terrible communication between Garden Rant and the PR firm. Because if you look at the kit that went out displaying the contest from the stepables website (www.stepables.com/garden-center-contest-page3.asp) and the picture that was displayed in the blog - they are totally different! My only thought is that the PR firm just decided to give examples of everything NOT just the contest. I think both the PR firm and Garden Rant failed to re-direct the issue causing bad publicity to the brand. Say what you want about branding, as it isn't really the issue here. It's more a matter of what responsibilities do the e-press and marketing firms have? This wasn't a review of the press kit - it was a review of the marketing firms tactics with all negativity going to the poor company stuck in the middle.

    2.) Won't influence me at all. I have used their products and personally feel that their customer service and website offset a higher cost.

    3.) I suppose a blog is a brand if you are in it to promote your site. I see a lot of blogs that are just the owners area to be personable outsite of their typical website. In this case it isn't a brand as much as an opportunity to be casual amongst people whom enjoy the same interests.

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