Don't Bite the Brand That Feeds You
Don’t Bite the Brand That Feeds You
Don’t Bite the Brand That Feeds You

There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle in the parenting/lifestyle blogosphere this past weekend, related to a brand’s blogger outreach program. The brand in question is KFC, and (from what I understand, as I wasn’t there) they invited a number of bloggers to an in-person event, with their children, to learn about KFC’s new kids meals.

I’ll disclose up front that I don’t ever eat at KFC because I’m sensitive to MSG and they put it in much of their food. This fact generally puts me in the category of people who think that KFC is unhealthy: if it makes me sick, it must be unhealthy.

But I also live in reality enough to know that there are untold millions of people, including many who live in my low-income neighborhood, who have very few food choices in their lives (we have a dearth of fresh food options in my neighborhood – called a “food desert” – as do many other urban locales, and we do have a KFC nearby, along with a half-dozen other fast food choices). While KFC could never be considered healthy on the whole, they at least seem to be aware that their kids meals need to have some healthful aspects, and they’re taking small steps in that direction. I’d rather see the kids in my neighborhood eat applesauce than mashed potatoes, and baked chicken rather than fried.Bloggers bashing brands won't get them anywhere. Be respectful.

And I unconditionally support KFC’s, or any other brands’, ability to choose how they market their products and to and through whom.

Look Who’s On the Playground

Yet, following the KFC event, the blogosphere erupted because a number of bloggers, none of whom were at the event, felt it was inappropriate and perhaps disingenuous for other bloggers to promote KFC, given that the company’s “healthy” choices are not really all that healthy.

A few of those bloggers bullied the bloggers who were present at the event (which was public information once the bloggers in attendance started sharing on social media about it) by attacking their food and brand relationship choices. The bullies also hijacked the hashtag with negative information about the brand, and generally made a mess of this brand’s marketing campaign. (I’m not going to link to the haters to give them any credit for bashing, so you can go search #KFCKidsMeals on Twitter yourself.)

Many of these bullying bloggers did those things while saying “it’s our job to correct misinformation out there.” Which I appreciate – truly I do – because thankfully, in our country, you have the right to protest against whatever you want, in social media or otherwise. But if you’re a “professional” in the blogging space (and by taking money for blogging, you have become a professional), and you’re going to launch a protest, you ought to do so respectfully, professionally and in a classy way.

My friend Robyn Wright did a beautiful job of summing up what I consider to be the right way to protest, in a tweet:

Robyn also wrote an excellent post about how to respectfully dissent, related to this controversy.

The Echo Chamber May Damp it Down

As a marketer first, my instinct here is to feel bad for KFC. As an agency person, I’ve put together my share of blogger programs, and boy would I be upset if my brand or clients were on the receiving end of this kind of vitriol and bullying. KFC is making an effort to improve their nutritional choices (however incrementally), and they invited well-regarded bloggers in to help them promote a product launch. If bloggers weren’t receptive to that message, I would hope that they weren’t in attendance at that event. (That would be disingenuous.)

Many of you who read me regularly know that I don’t have a lot of love for a certain tier of bloggers. I feel like the parenting/lifestyle blogosphere is overly junked up by reviews and giveaways, and a major echo chamber has developed whereby parenting bloggers are mainly writing for and being read by other parenting bloggers. As my friend George G. Smith, Jr. says,

“If you….talk to someone outside the community – they will look at you crazy like when you mention Motrin Moms, Maytag and Dooce, Walmart Moms [ed: previous blogger controversies]….They would just stare at you and you’ll realize – oh yeah. We’re kind of crazy in our own little bubble world.”

So on some level, maybe a bunch of playground bullies won’t really make an impact, and KFC and other brands will continue to work with quality bloggers and create blogger marketing programs even after this negative experience.

But If You Can’t Say Something Nice

You bashing, bullying bloggers: As with most other things, there’s a consequence to your actions. Many of you have had wonderful, and lucrative, brand opportunities come your way as a result of your blogging. Those of you who are fortunate enough to be presented with these opportunities get to choose which brands you work with. You use your own moral compass to decide with whom you partner up and which brands you decline. As do your fellow bloggers.

If you make it treacherous and scary for brands to create blogger marketing programs, they will eventually cease to do it – and you’ll see fewer and fewer paid opportunities available for you and all your friends. And that’s when I feel bad for the brands (certainly not for you), because it’s potentially going to close an interesting and creative marketing channel for them. And if you keep bashing brands you don’t like, even the brands you do like won’t want to work with you – the risk will be too great that you could turn and bash them.

Some of you bloggers have powerful platforms. Use them wisely and well. Be the professionals you become (whether you like it or not) when you accept payments for your work. Because otherwise, your profession (the paid part, that is) may someday go away.

About the Author

Stephanie Schwab
Stephanie Schwab is the Principal of Crackerjack Marketing, a digital marketing agency specializing in social media planning and execution. Stephanie is also the founder of the Digital Family Summit, the first-of-its-kind conference for tween bloggers and content creators and their families. Throughout her 20-year career, she has developed and led marketing and social media programs for top brands and has presented on social media and e-commerce topics at numerous conferences and corporate events. Stephanie writes about social media at, sometimes hangs out at Google+, and tweets @stephanies.
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  • Brand management is an important aspect for any marketer to understand and assimilate properly, when it comes to brand crisis, bullying about a brand comes in handy but it must be remembered you are not being a thorough professional if you are throwing one brand out of the window. In the era of never ending and thickening competition, i agree that many a times we marketers have to play games to keep our brand at the top but like the blogger mentioned here,instead of bullying over on one’s weakness, we must concentrate on our strengths – a mantra well followed at Synechron.

  • I see I am late to this discussion, but I wanted to thank you for writing this, Stephanie, and feel you are straight on. Let me preface my comments by saying that before I became a blogger, I had a background in marketing, writing, and the travel industry. I had a corporate career where I was expected to be a professional at all times. Blogging has changed the corporate world in so many ways, and bloggers who want to be taken seriously need to become industry leaders, by educating themselves, not just on the subject they write about, but on professional courtesy, which has not changed. Blogging is a different world, yet closely connected to the professional advertising, marketing, and journalism industries. Bloggers with little background in food and travel are becoming food and travel bloggers, and bloggers who have little to no marketing experience are becoming marketers. It is both exciting and a little frightening. Exciting, because it is opens doors for people who have a passion for a niche, and it allows them to share that passion with their readers, without having a lifetime of experience (or a degree) in a field. Frightening, because some bloggers are plowing headfirst into an industry they do not understand, nor take the time to fully learn about. No matter what your background, it is important to research, research, research, so you know the facts, and can be an intelligent voice in the community. It is also important to strive to continuously learn new things about the industry in which you work, so you can remain a leader. Some bloggers spout off statistics without learning the facts, and their words become propaganda, and when they do this, no one listens. Leah is one who knows her stuff, and I appreciate her “voice” in improving our healthy eating choices. There are others, however, who are not as informed, and try to “mimic” what Leah does, without understanding the facts. They go out of their way to “bash” others, because it becomes a platform of controversy for them, and they like the attention. It is those people who damage Leah’s “voice” and the voice of all us bloggers, regardless of where we stand on an issue. Most importantly, I think the key is professionalism. If we want to be taken seriously in our industry, as professional bloggers, and as social media influencers/brand representatives/writers etc, we need to remain professional. Some, who made their attacks personal, were not professional, and therefore I consider their “voice” to be nothing more than “screeching” or “noise”. If you were an ad exec, would you sit across from your client and “screech” at them about how unhealthy their product is? No. You would either decline representing them, or you would offer professional solutions for making their brand better. We, as bloggers, have the same responsibility, if we want to be taken seriously. I have a lot more respect for those who get their opinion across in a relevant way, without belittling their readers and other bloggers for personal choices. I am guessing more people “listen” to those who “speak” on their blogs/tweets/Facebook with professionalism, even if the subject is contrary to their own views. By all means inform people, and help people make more informed, healthier choices, but do not belittle them, and do not alienate people by “screeching.” When you do this, you are no longer a “voice”, you are irrelevant. Yes, we all have the right to our opinion, and I don’t think that anyone should stifle their own creativity or opinion to “cow down” to others, but If you are not professional, you damage the blogging community for all of us. Readers will think we are all “screeching”, and no one will listen anymore. If no one listens, brands will no longer need us.

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  • Sylvie St-Amand

    This brings back the whole question of getting paid to write a blog – the same situation we had a few years back when printed advertorials were all the rage… while I understand that bloggers still need to make a living, obtaining remuneration for voicing an opinion – however valuable this opinion may seem to a brand – certainly induces a number of questions with regards to the credibility of the endorsement, but for the consumer AND the company. I am in no way saying that bloggers are dishonest, all the contrary. They put in a contribution for all consumers out there by letting them know about new, potentially interesting products. However, it will always gets a bit tricky when money is involved… and it does bring even more frustration when the brand gets bashed in the process. And yes, as a marketing person, I would have been livid if a situation like this one had occurred for a client. Ouch.

  • I was one of the bloggers that attended the KFC event. Here is my thoughts on it:

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  • r3t0dd

    There is something particularly distasteful to me about marketing junk food to kids as a “healthy choice,” and bloggers that play along for a check deserve to be called out.

  • Call out the lie. If a brand is a bad brand, if they are bad corporate citizens, let’m have it. Ambassador be damned.

  • Yes, let’s promote controlled messaging by taking any realism out of the communication in order to please marketing teams around the world for major brands. That’s the right approach for allowing them full control over the message where your blogs become nothing more than a stealth marketing tool with little to no content value.

    Instead, why not just simply promote being constructive over deconstructive? We shouldn’t look at negativity as bad. We should actually embrace negativity without the fear of losing big brand relationships.

  • DanRowinski

    Well, that’s bullshit. Basically you say to pander to the brands so you can continue to get brands to kiss your ass. That’s terrible media and journalism advice.

    • Who said pander, @DanRowinski:disqus? I said don’t work with brands you don’t believe in – that’s the opposite of pandering. And always be professional – wouldn’t that be the advice you’d give to any journalist?

  • Brian Littleton

    Well said Stephanie – this is a really important lesson and one that bloggers can learn from affiliate marketers…from the past 15 years or so….

    Promoting only what you believe in, turning down work from companies you don’t believe in, and even sharing information with your colleagues and friends in business is all good and important for businesses. Bashing and essentially spamming a hashtag that essentially belongs to someone else is not a good business choice.

    On a side note – I stumbled up on this from Jason Falls facebook wall – good to see you and great writeup!

    The other thing to note….. the public, those that eat at KFC…. didn’t notice.

    • I think this is a fundamental difference in perspective…not all…or even most…bloggers are marketers. Not all choices they make on twitter are business choices. And spam = off-topic. Whether I agree with them or not, these were on-topic to a public conversation. Unless something has radically changed, twitter does not get paid for generating a hashtag. No one owns a hashtag.

    • Hey @9efc1dcb826805102e84954986d490e8:disqus! So great to see you too! (Though we’re friends on Facebook, somehow i never see your posts!)

      Agreed wholeheartedly re: lessons from affiliates. I’ve certainly known that for so many years. And you’re also right that the public would never see this kind of debate; per George Smith’s comment in the post, we’re living in a blogger bubble and so most of this is intra-industry. But then it’s even more crucial to build and maintain a professional reputation within the industry, because its a very small world and you’ve got to remain marketable if you want to survive (as a paid blogger, anyway).

  • greenandcleanmom

    First let me preface this comment with, this is not about or toward any particular person and/or situation but a reflection of what I’ve come to see online and what I’ve experienced in various different situations. I
    have learned over the years that I CAN have a voice but I have to meet people in the middle so that when they are ready to make a change in their lives they’ll come to me and ask me for help. The thing about coming into a Twitter party and tweeting @ those attending a junket is that you push the people who you so desperately want to help and educate away from you, whether you mean to or not and though you might have the BEST of intentions and it’s the brand that you’re unhappy with – you often times make yourself look like the bad guy (speaking from past mistakes with good intentions and a big heart). Now if I dislike a brand,I voice this to the brand not to the blogger. I’ll write a post about my perspective without calling out a specific blogger or person and if that blogger is a friend of mine, I’ll share with them what I know in a private email or message. Maybe they simply aren’t aware of “this or that” and I was there to be helpful not confrontational. Ripples make waves and I’d rather make small ripples and have my friends join me in creating a tidal wave of change verses being a hurricane and wreaking havoc – which is what I see online all too often and unfortunately it does come from the heart and from very passionate and loving individuals. In the particular case with Leah and KFC, those that know her well know she is loving, caring and everything she does comes from a good place. Again I say all of this because I’ve learned the hard way very, very early on in my social media and blogging career. Motivating and inspiring others to change and letting people know you’re there when they are ready heeds the greatest results, in my opinion. That is just my tactic however, we’re all different when it comes to voicing our opinion and trying to make a difference in the world and leave a lasting impression.

    I also want to comment that often time’s bloggers attend junkets to learn more about a brand and to ask tough questions BEFORE they officially align themselves with the brand. Attending a junket does NOT make
    you a brand ambassador. I had this happen before I aligned myself with eBay. Most often tweets from a junket are just information pieces the blogger is reciting from the brand’s PR and sometimes this information is not accurate which is where bloggers can accidentally get themselves into hot water. I’ve personally second guessed a tweet I’ve sent and when my followers press me for questions I try to find the answers and ask the brand or send the follower directly to the brand. It is certainly a dance and sometimes we get it wrong and step on toes or have our own toes stepped on.

    I’m sorry that in this particular case there were hard feelings and people were offended or upset. It is certainly difficult to say what you feel or to get a point across is so few characters. It can also very easily be misconstrued when a “tweet” is taken out of context. I hope that KFC was able to hear the opinions of others and take to heart the concern.

    • Thanks, @greenandcleanmom:disqus for jumping in to the conversation! I agree that small ripples often cause more change than big waves. It shouldn’t be difficult to be passionate and professional at the same time. Great insight here!

  • FadraN

    Aha. I see I don’t need to write the post brewing in my head. You said EXACTLY everything I planned to, right down to link to Robyn’s post. Be informational, not confrontational. I can appreciate bloggers that want to enact change but when the change is something that wouldn’t personally impact them anyway (would they support KFC if they STOPPED using MSG?) then you have to wonder what the true motives are behind the “conversation.”

  • Dara Khajavi

    This is a great post. Brand marketing and social media has changed immensely. There is a moral and ethical line that needs to be discuss in this new digital media era.

  • Jessica @FoundtheMarbles

    Sending you a virtual fist bump, my friend. Well said.

  • Lisa Lightner

    You can be passionate about something and still be professional. Yes, social media is lax when it comes to some rules, but if you want to be considered a professional, you have to remain professional.

    • @google-937e1af3f3860db58dc4a97890cd5f5c:disqus What an excellent post! I’m sharing it this afternoon. Thanks so much for commenting and leading me to it.

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  • Deborah Aldridge

    Stephanie, as one who supports and is friends with many mommy bloggers that have been around since mommy blogging began, I don’t understand this new breed. Seriously, they are the most mean spirited and holier-than-thou bunch of women I have ever known! They are prosletyzers, pure and simple. If you don’t believe like they do, you are a bad parent, and nobody can tell them any different. I’ll bet most of them don’t have teenagers. All the parents I know who have teens have became a lot more humble. Having teens can really bring you back down to earth. I’m a southern girl. I eat KFC. My kids ate KFC — not every night, mind you, but they did not die of heart disease or any other such thing. I applaud KFC for trying to make healthier foods for kids. Are they perfect? Hell no! But they are trying, which is more than I can say for a lot of the “mom-of-the-year” wannabes I see on the web anymore. One of these days one of those perfectly-fed kids of theirs is gonna slap the shit out of them. I’d love to be a fly on the wall.

    • @google-73f29012f361aa316b19e37b23050484:disqus Thanks so much for your comment and support. I’ve been working with bloggers since 2007 and agree that there’s been a big shift in the attitudes, and quality, of some of the “newer” bloggers, and not always for the better. Of course, while we can always wish the old days back, we have to figure out how to work in the here-and-now, so I’m hoping that this post will cause at least one person, old blogger or new, who may recognize some of this behavior in themselves, to take a step back and reevaluate. If that happens, I’ve done my job here!

  • I completely agree. This is america if you don’t like something then go find the brand you love and support what they are doing. Bashing other bloggers, brands just makes you look bad.

  • I think another important point to be made here is that bloggers who are friendly with brands that have questionable ethics get a reputation in the same way that bloggers who “bash” brands get a certain reputation. I’ve had people say “well, obviously we can’t work with the COMPANY XYZ bloggers” (insert Nestle, McD’s, P&G, whatever), recognizing that the type of blogger who would work with those companies is not the type of blogger that they want aligned with their brand.

    I think bloggers should consider their brand affiliations carefully and realize that aligning themselves with certain brands (even just by attending an event, participating in a twitter party) could be just as detrimental as speaking out negatively against those brands.

    • Completely agree @twitter-16703461:disqus! It goes both ways.

  • Very well written. THANK YOU. Every time I see a blogger bashing another business or another blogger, especially when they take the time to write an actual blog post about it, I think how much more it says about that person than it does about whatever or whomever they’re bashing.

  • Here’s my view of all this mess:

    We all make different choices – in what we feed our kids, how we parent, and what we write about on our blogs. Since the majority of moms DO feed their kids fast food sometimes, I think that when a brand tries to make their meals healthier – not HEALTHY, but better than they were – that’s a good thing. If they invite you to learn about it, and you hate fast food, then don’t go. If you are invited to go, and you want to learn more, then go. Simple as that.

    It’s ok to share information on why you believe KFC is a dangerous food to feed kids. It’s ok to offer information, to try to persuade people to your point of view. It’s NOT ok to bash people, to name call {like the tweet that stated that if you go to KFC you are either an idiot or hate your kids, there is no third option. Sheesh.} – or to think that you are “better than” other bloggers and parents who make different choices than you do.

    I read the tweets on this, and was so shocked at how nasty some of it was, towards the brand and the bloggers who went on the trip. The negativity TOTALLY turned me away from listening to the message they were trying to get across.

    It’s great to be passionate about an issue. But it’s not great to put others down when they don’t feel the same way.

    When discussing this with another group of bloggers, I compared it to the other types of “mommy war” issues that happen. One blogger mentioned that she was offered a very lucrative contract to do some work with Similac. She had to formula feed with one of her children, her values align well with the brand, the campaign was a great fit for her. But, she declined it, because she didn’t want to deal with the backlash from pro-breastfeeding moms. How sad is that? That people feel pressured to NOT take campaigns they want to work on, because some bloggers are so rude towards those they disagree with?

    I agree – the more we attack brands with messages we dislike, the less they’ll want to attempt to work with brands. You can still share your message, still disagree with a brand, but do it in a professional, respectful, positive way. I hate seeing bloggers act like those horrible cable news people, you know? Just trying to see who can shout the loudest….

    • Right on, @twitter-255566443:disqus. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. I was also appalled by some of the tweets I saw and really disliked the tone overall, and the blog posts on the topic were in some ways even worse. Since when is it okay to question another person’s intelligence for making the choices they’ve made? And particularly within the parenting blogger community. Really unfortunate to see how this played out.

    • @twitter-255566443:disqus You are awesome! You said everything I was thinking. I didn’t hear anyone saying KFC was healthy… only trying to provide healthier alternatives to other fast food choices.

  • We all have the right to free speech…for now. Unfortunately some people choose to use this freedom in a negative way. We don’t all agree on everything BUT IMHO it is NEVER ok to hijack a hashtag. It is spammy and rude. Use YOUR platform to share Your Beliefs and Your Message but don’t hijack someone else’s platform. Slamming people who choose to support a product/brand you don’t like is just grade school bullying. People still eat fast food because it is their choice and no bully blogger is going to stop that. Attacking brands is going to hurt us all in the end.

    • @twitter-16468763:disqus I think there’s a difference in who’s hijacking a hashtag and how. I support everyone’s right to use a brand hashtag in any way they wish. If you had a bad experience at a brand venue, by all means, talk about it and call them out on it, using their hashtag if you feel it’s appropriate. However, if you’re a professional blogger (as I point out in the post, once you’ve taken money for blogging, you’re a professional blogger), don’t expect bashing a brand via a hashtag to get rewarded by brands in the long run. If you have a gripe or a concern about a brand, by all means air it, just do it professionally and respectfully.

  • Amy

    Why does attending a press event as a blogger automatically make you an ambassador, advocate or spokesperson for that brand? I can’t get past that assumption. For me, press events are a chance to communicate with the people (in real life, not 140 characters) behind the brand. I’ve been on several press events over the years and was never once forced to endorse the brand. Instead, questions are asked, discussions are made and opinions are shared. IMO, it’s a low blow to assume the bloggers in attendance don’t have integrity or intelligence. It’s easy to point them out on Twitter and much harder to write the brand directly or on their own social media channels/hashtags. Hashtag hijacking just isn’t effective. Never is.

    • @fc9459f29fe90252202644ab21b686ea:disqus Thanks so much for your comments – right on!

    • I’ve attended press events for brands where I didn’t tweet anything and didn’t agree to have my name/brand associated with their brand.

      Once bloggers start amplifying the messages from those events (“Oh wow…did you know KFC kids meals are only ### calories!”), they open themselves up to people providing a different perspective or asking for further detail. That isn’t really unique to brand events though. I expect the same thing anytime I put anything out there on my blog, twitter, facebook, etc. If I’m not prepared to enter into a dialogue, I stay silent.

      Also, if bloggers agree to have their picture, name, blog name, etc. used in association with that band (“P&G Mom” or “Nestle Family Blogger”), that does create an official relationship of sorts. I don’t know whether any such thing happened with the KFC event, as I wasn’t following it closely. But certainly with the P&G event last year, bloggers were agreeing to an official title (even if they weren’t being paid for it).

      Further, the reason that people engage these bloggers instead of or in addition to engaging the brand directly on their own social media channels/hash tags is that the brands often do not respond. Where was KFC during the event? ABSENT. In other cases, it has taken brands a long time to jump in and respond or they never have.

      Finally, using an event hash tag to provide a different perspective has been INCREDIBLY effective. If it wasn’t, people wouldn’t keep doing it. I don’t call it hashtag hijacking though. I call it adding balance to the messaging.

      • I think there’s a professional way to use a hashtag to add a different perspective, and an unprofessional way. You have to figure out for yourself which category you want to fall in when you choose to use a hashtag you’re not supportive of.

        I wholeheartedly agree that any brand (and particularly a fast food brand who knows they could face some protest) embarking on a blogger program (whether online or an event) must have a reaction strategy in place. KFC was woefully quiet during this whole debacle. IMHO, they should have more enthusiastically supported their invitees while largely steering clear of the nutrition issues (because that could only dig them in deeper).

      • Yes. All of this. I would add that social media belongs to its users. The brands are entering our space because they want public engagement. They could host private chats and seminars if they want to control things. If they want to push into the public social media space, they need to be ready for all types of feedback. That’s no excuse to be rude but it seems almost all the public discussion was centered around healthy choices–not personal attacks.

    • It doesn’t unless you have agreed to let them use your name and image and tweet / write positively. Stephanie even said that it would be disingenuous to attend if you did not support a brand– either you are there as a neutral party or you are there to promote the brand.

  • Stephanie, I agree with you. As both a marketer and a mom blogger, I’ve seen it from all aspects. From the blogger point of view – if I don’t believe in what a brand stands for, I’m not going to talk about them at all. If I don’t believe in their practices (Victoria’s Secret is a big thorn in my side with 3 daughters 9-14) I will probably use my very large social media voice to try to let them know. But I will NOT slam them or hurl insults at them. Last I checked, that was called defamation of character and you could get your butt sued for it. Not sure about you, but I don’t have the time or the money to go toe to toe with a major corporation.

    It’s about respect.. I have no idea what all took place in this instance but judging from these comments it looks like it was a firework display for sure. And why is it wrong for a fast food place to try and have healthier options? Most of us that are commenting on this post are NOT KFCs target market so they’re trying to cater to the ones that are. Have you tried to feed a family of 5 organic foods on a minimum wage pay?
    It’s not going to happen. So you do the best you can with what you have.

    • Exactly. If you’re going to KFC, you’re going to KFC. Getting the comparatively better kids meal for your child IS healthier than getting them the even worse fried chicken with mac & cheese and a biscuit. It’s like the WhoNu Cookies I enjoy. I joke that they’re my nutritional supplement, but I know they’re not actually healthy for me. But the decision for me was never between eating a cookie and eating some organic veggies. It was the decision between the WhoNu cookie – which does contain supplemental fiber, vitamins, and minerals – or a cookie from Chips Ahoy or Oreo, which is devoid of ALL nutritional value.

      I’m trying to eat better, but you can’t go from eating all the pizza and burgers and desserts you want to eating a paleo diet overnight. (I’ll never be able to go paleo, but it’s only an illustration of my point.) You take small steps. You order the fast food meal that has LESS fat and calories than the one you used to order. You buy the whole grain white bread. You take the skin off before you fry the chicken. You visit the local butcher instead of buying so many pre-packaged prepared foods from the refrigerated section.

      • Right on, @ChristinaGleason:disqus and @KristenDaukas. That’s why I made the point in my post about my food-desert neighborhood. I’d love to see my neighbors eat more organic fruits and veggies, but first there would have to be a decent grocery in my ‘hood, and second, they’d have to make far more than poverty-level wages to be able to afford them.

        All brands have the right to market themselves however they wish. And I’m sure those who are not nutritional exemplars are used to some (maybe lots of) negativity around their brand. My point was that if bloggers want to protest against brands they don’t believe in, there are ways to do it where they don’t have to hurt other bloggers and also potentially make blogger programs go away (if brands decide it’s not worth the risk).

    • Amen Kristen. Besides all the blogger stuff, the reality is that the last thing I want to hear is a bunch of whining about what I feed my kids from folks who apparently think I am supposed to have tofu snacks and carrot sticks in my car at all times. No KFC isn’t healthy but hey if I am on the road and I have to make a choice between that and Mickey D’s at least we can hope there is quiver of a difference in which is better. I think some in the blogosphere go overboard and then we as bloggers have the nerve to get up in arms when the word Mommy wars is thrown around or we are stereo typed.

  • While all of us are entitled to our own opinions about this incident, I strongly object to the word “bully” being used to describe some bloggers voicing their OPINIONS about a brand via social media. Bullying can only happen between two MINORS. When anything similar happens between adults, it can be deemed harassment, abuse or dissent, depending on the level of vitriol spewed, but definitely NOT bullying. That word is used far too liberally by adults these days when all they are really doing is crying victim because someone doesn’t like them, their opinions or lifestyle choices. That’s life, honey. Suck it up. No one will agree with you 100% of the time.

    • Bullying can indeed take place between adults. Harassment is just another word for it.

      • No, it cannot. Bullying, by definition, can only happen between CHILDREN.

        • That is a website ABOUT school age bullying. There is scholarly research out there on the subject of adult bullying. Research studies about adult bullying have been funded around the world. Workplace bullying, prisoner bullying, relational bullying…

          • Bullying implies that the victim can do nothing to affect the situation or remove themselves from it. Adults can change jobs, leave an abusive relationship, call the police to report threats, harassment, etc. Children cannot. Adults need to stop using the word bullying to cry victim online because someone has a different opinion or doesn’t like them. Getting nasty comments on your website? BLOCK them. Those are called trolls. Adults have choices and avenues to rid themselves of toxic people that children do not. As for one or two vocal bloggers “bullying” a huge brand like KFC? Do you realize how stupid that statement is? As if a couple of vocal bloggers on social media could do anything anywhere near forcibly coercing a multi-national corporation to bend to their wills? Seriously? You need a reality check.

          • Miss the point, blame the victims. Moving along.

    • I defined more above, but we disagree on this point.

  • As soon as I saw KFC online I knew it was not going to end well. I think it is safe to say that blogger outreach does not work for companies that are considered ‘unhealthy’…..there is just too much vocal opposition that puts the bloggers in the middle, on the defensive and the name calling and judgement ensues. While I support marketers coming up with ways to work with bloggers (I work with brands myself) the brands themselves have to understand the lay of the land and be prepared and prepare their bloggers for it.

    I wish junk food would just stay as junk food. We know it ain’t good for us, but we can enjoy it once in a while. The junk food brands should absolutely look at making their food safer and healthier…but probably trumpeting those virtues is not a great idea….just make a promise perhaps that we are trying to not kill you with our fattening food by adding even more chemicals and leave it at that. Perhaps campaign that these foods should not be a families primary source of food..but as a treat…why not.

    The do gooders loose their power and educational chances when hijacking twitter streams… looks high handed and judgey and so yes, people get their backs up and then won’t listen to what ever message you are trying to promote.

    Yes we all need to eat better, but don’t judge people or assume that they don’t know what you know….people make their own choices for their own reasons…bloggers and non bloggers alike. Use your own channels to promote better living…share the facts that way.

    We are all trying to teach brands and marketers what sort of online social media and blogging relationships work and don’t work…..

    stay of the high horses

    • Thanks, Kerry, for your response. I agree with you: I’d love to see food get healthier, and I’d also like to see a really great grocery store full of reasonably-priced fresh food in my low-income neighborhood. But until that happens (and even when it does), I support KFC or any other brands’ ability to market their products how they see fit, with bloggers or without.

      So when bloggers use a brand hashtag in an unprofessional and negative way, I feel bad for the brand and the bloggers….because (as I said in another comment), even wholesome, organic, good-for-the-planet brands will shy away from working with bloggers if this is all they see in the blogosphere. And that won’t be good for anyone in this brand-blogger ecosystem.

  • terrik

    I’m not a blogger. I’m a reader of blogs, and as such consider myself “blog support”. To me, as someone on the outside, I think bloggers who work with brands are in a unique position to communicate the interests of their blog audience to brands. I don’t like brands working through bloggers telling me what I want. I like brands who listen to bloggers so we can tell the brands what we want. I wish brand marketing and PR would understand how much better it works for all concerned for them to listen to what would-be customers want, and then provide that (instead of paying other people to come up with something we keep saying we don’t want and try to shove it down our throats), then the power of social media is realized. Social media (and I include blogs in this) is not a giant microphone or extended commercial exclusively for brands to reach people, it’s a two-way street. That’s my two cents anyway.

    • @terrik:disqus, I think we’re on the same page here. I agree that it’s ideal for brands and bloggers to work together to improve products and services and achieve more input from bloggers (and their readers, as representatives of “real” consumers). Many brands (including some of my clients) are striving to do just that. And brands who create blogger events often don’t even ask those in attendance to tweet or post about their products or services – bloggers choose to do that on their own to show their support for the brand. Oftentimes, brands are not looking for broadcast, they’re truly interested in hearing what the bloggers have to say.

      And if bloggers don’t like what they’re hearing, they may even question the brand publicly. I think it’s perfectly appropriate for a blogger to disagree with a brand, whether they’ve been invited to participate with that brand or not – but they ought to do so respectfully and professionally, in my opinion, and without disparaging the other bloggers who may choose to support or promote the brand.

    • Terri I love that you are always open to sharing your thoughts as a blog reader with all of us. This helps us (bloggers) so much in what we do!

  • Jo

    Seems very little has been learned since the N*stle debacle of 2009, where attendees were able to drink from the marketing fountain of that company. I wrote an entire Masters thesis on that storm (forgive me if pushing my barrow here is inappropriate and unwanted). Stephanie, with respect, you are incorrect that bloggers will be ignored by companies in future for having strong opinions and making them known. Research demonstrates the opposite. *However* there are greater concerns over the lack of FTC-required disclosures in every tweet of participants who accepted funding to attend the event. That’s an issue that needs immediate focus. If anyone would like to see the thesis, I have uploaded it to Scribd so you don’t have to pay for it on Amazon.

    • Jo, there is a brand-new FTC disclosures guide which may address some of your concerns.
      And even though one 2009 event hasn’t changed the face of blogger relations, I believe it is changing, slowly, for the better. Many brands are more selective about which bloggers they choose to contact and contract with. And others will learn the lesson the hard way when they get burned by an unprofessional blogger at some point.

      • Jo

        Thanks Stephanie for providing the link to the latest FTC document. It is absolutely what I am referring to. I recommend all bloggers read them.

      • I think the lesson needs to go the other way, too. Annie wrote about this perspective–there is accountability to your choices as an influencer.

  • Jack

    I think the opposing side picked and chose who they wanted to attack. Their popular mom blogger friends are online promoting crappy food companies in twitter parties and these same people who are all about informing others re no where to be found…..

  • When we start to think that The Man/The Machine/Big Business has more rights than we do (they can control Twitter, but a single blogger can’t reply), that’s when we relinquish our individual rights.

    The other side is that Leah’s mission is clear: she’s trying to change the food system. It’s not like she’s a random blogger saying, “Hey, yo, KFC, you suck!” and trolling their hashtag. She’s spreading awareness.

    I understand that a brand has the freedom to market how they choose, as do bloggers, but why is it a double-standard? They can do their thing, but an individual can’t do hers? Maybe large companies need to change their campaign strategies if they don’t want anyone else weighing in…

    • This is not about when a blogger said to KFC. It is about the treatment of the bloggers who attended the event, and the targeted harassment they experienced. By all means, rail against The Man all you want, but be respectful to your fellow human beings.

      • That wasn’t harassment It was bloggers who are powerful voices in their niche being who they are…would you have said the same to the women who fought for equal rights? To the women who are still fighting to be treated as equals? To women in power who are often scrutinized for their decisions to voice their opinion? This post, and this opinion makes me fear for the future of women’s voices.

        The health issue aside… if you want to go on a press trip with KFC, or McDonalds, or whoever, great, wonderful… say why. Stand by your decision. Don’t cry foul when people question your choice. That’s what having a voice and influence means… you are living a public life, like it or not, and what you chose to take and be part of will be seen and noticed. Chose your road, and be ready for what comes with it, good and bad. Educate by telling us why you decided to align with them. Not leave me alone…it’s my choice. It’s part of living a public life, which is what bloggers do, despite how some protest otherwise.

  • Wow, I just got called some names. And here I thought we were friends.

    Go back and read my tweets again. I didn’t call ANYONE names…except KFC. But YOU just did by saying “You bashing, bullying bloggers.” You, my dear, are lying. Believe it or not, I’ve been attacking fast food and soda SINCE I STARTING BLOGGING OVER 7 YEARS AGO. Have you not been paying attention? Nothing new there. I look forward to a day when promoting fast food and soda will be like promoting cigarettes. And yes, it’s coming. That’s who I am and where I stand. It hasn’t changed dear.

    According to you I have to kiss the ass of ALL brands to get a paycheck. And I have to sit on my hands when I see things that are wrong because it’s not polite to say so. That’s not gonna happen. Brands like KFC used to be different. Over the years, they have changed their recipe to include toxins, MSG, fillers and other crap. It contributes to our #1 cancer rates internationally. I don’t apologize for calling them on the carpet and saying they are lying by insinuating they are healthy. Don’t say anything if I have nothing nice to say? Please. Grow up. You yourself can’t even eat MSG. I wonder why.

    If you market crap to children and allude it’s healthier, you should be ashamed of yourself. And you also open the door to people telling you that you are wrong. Kinda like when they put fiber in sugary cereal and then tell parents it healthier…that’s shameful too. And honestly, I think YOU are capitalizing on this by calling me a bully and then not even mentioning who I am. Kinda passive aggressive, really. I work in obesity prevention campaigns. My leadership has helped women lose over 3,000 lbs. All of this is online using that platform you think that I abused the other day. I’m an activist for the food supply, weight bias, and organic farmers. I have an opinion. With my platform I oversaw the creation of over 500,000,000 impressions for the labeling GMO movement in two short months before the election. Not bad, I think. Am I using my platform for good? Well, if good is defined by always being polite, then I’m not good. If good is defined by the legacy you leave, I think I’ve got that covered.

    • Go Leah! Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you need to apologize for making the world a better place.

    • ::slow clap::………………ROARING APPLAUSE

    • You don’t have to kiss the ass of all the brands to get a paycheck. You’re proof of that, I’m proof of that, many bloggers that work with environmentally responsible, health-conscious brands are proof of that. The funny thing is that even brands I would NEVER work with still continue to knock on my door (i.e. they are not all paying that much attention).

      • Brands want you because you are influential. People listen to what you say because you are genuine. And I’m honored to call you a friend.

    • If I have to stay silent about the companies that are harming us and the planet to get paid, then I guess I’m not getting paid! I support you 100% Leah!

    • Before we get too deeply into a discussion on this, I just want to clarify Leah where it is anyone called out or on you specifically? I didn’t discuss the particulars of the situation with Stephanie and I’m not 100% familiar with everyone that discussed the issue at the time, but your opening line is “Wow, I just got called some names.” Since I try to at least keep the peace and the conversation here respectable, I see no reference to you specifically and think the comment may be a bit incendiary since you’re projecting the issue on yourself. I’ll leave it Stephanie if she wants to clarify more, but the references to those she was pointing out are general, not specific. So please don’t take them as such. Fair?

      • I like you Jason. Never really got to know you, but I like you. Okie dokie.

        • Thanks. Just hope the conversation stays civil. If it gets personal, civility often goes out the window. This is a healthy discussion topic. Just want it to stay that way. ;-)

          • Jason, you should love me now for all the traffic I’m giving you. Ironically, I haven’t even written about this at all.

          • We always appreciate the pointing! ;-)

    • I hope don’t think my comments below were singling you out. I didn’t mention you’re name because you are not in the same category. While I do believe you had a hand in setting the stage for the bad behavior, I did not see you participating in the personal attacks on the attendees. Rail against KFC all you want, I don’t care, but that handful of people who decided to single out the attendees for harassment for daring to attend the event were being bullies. BE passionate about food integrity. Call KFC on the carpet. But some people crossed the line by shaming the attendees, telling them they were bad mothers, that they were giving their children cancer, that they had no integrity. THAT is not okay. It’s not about being polite. It’s about being a decent human being. That had nothing to do with changing KFC’s corporate practices and everything to do with belittling fellow moms and fellow bloggers who didn’t happen to share the same perspective about food. That is bullying. And I will call a spade a spade. I’ve been bullied enough in my life to recognize it.

      I did tweet you to let you know I did not approve in your tacit approval of the other people who were engaging in personal attacks. As the leader of the dissent, you could have said to people, “Hey, I think you’ve crossed a line. Let’s get the message back on target.” But as I also said then, I know you can’t control other people’s behavior, and I’m sure some of the people who ended up trolling the hash tag would’ve kept on bullying the attendees no matter what anyone else said.

      • I’m not mad at you Christina. Don’t worry. But I offer you some caution NOT to become the very thing you are fighting right now. If you think bullying is enciting people to react with emotion and dogpile, etc…then what are you doing to us, i.e. the bloggers that spoke their mind on Friday?

        • I’ve typed up a lengthy reply and deleted it more than once.If you were not participating in the bullying, then you are not part of an “us.” Perpetrators are not victims when they are called out for the aggression they perpetrated. I would recommend to you that you refrain from making excuses for the people who personally attacked the attendees simply because they share your opinion on the food issue. If you want to align yourself with people who utilize an aggressive “take no prisoners / I don’t care who gets caught in the crossfire” approach to a crusade against corporate practices instead of denouncing the bad behavior, then fine. Maybe you are part of an “us.” I would be really disappointed if that were the case.

    • ShellyKramer

      I didn’t know it was you Leah, who did this. And I agree with a lot of what you say here. Their food is unhealthy (McDonald’s also makes me laugh when they try to claim the healthy bandwagon). And you are passionate and committed and vocal. People who know you know that. But for me the larger point was that when you make the choice to do that, as a marketer, as a blogger, as a brand advocate – whatever – then you potentially preclude yourself from some brands wanting to work with you because you’re perceived as a loose cannon – and maybe even a bully because of the stances you’re not afraid to take.

      I have some strong feelings about marketing practices, brands, what they’re doing, not doing, etc., that I often don’t write about or do anything other than stew about because I’m mindful of how that might impact my business or reputation.

      I’m rambling here, but I think there is no right or wrong. You must do, say, stand up for, speak up against, etc. what you are passionate about and assume the risks that are associated therewith–which might mean that some brands and agencies are fearful of working with you and might also mean that you (or something you do) is the topic of a post like this (and I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing, by the way). And others, bloggers, marketers, agencies, etc., must do the same. I think it’s the doing of it publicly, with the intent to disrupt that this post identifies as bullying. I’m not sure that’s right, I’m not sure it’s wrong. Bottom line, it’s not for everyone. But the reality is that if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to also expect the repercussions. Both the good and the bad.

      But repercussions or not, for you, for your brand, your heart and the things you’re passionate about (e.g. your legacy), standing up is what matters. And when you’re passionate about something, it’s easy for people to interpret that as bullying (kind of like my ongoing support of women’s rights and the fact that I’m sure I’m labeled as a rabid feminist).

      So I think on this point, perhaps you can agree to disagree (not that you’re looking for my advice, either). Some will always perceive what happened as bullying, and others will view it as taking a stand on an issue you feel passionately about. And the debate will, no doubt, go on for a long time to come.

      But it’s an interesting one, no?

      • Very insightful as usual. And see, grownups can get along ;)

        • Two people I love and respect on twitter having quite a conversation. Shelly your points are very valid about branding and online engagement and repercussions … Leah, you are the fiery redhead with a passionate heart who just wants kids to live better lives through non-GMO food and healthier food options that is a large part of your brand. I know in my heart that the grocery store chain Whole Foods decided to phase in GMO labeling in large part because of your efforts and you have asked them similar questions in the stream as you did KFC and they and other bloggers didn’t react this way.

          I’m thinking about a comment above that the bloggers are in a bubble and we really don’t matter because we’ll just be screaming about something else in a week. Well honestly how condescending an opinion is that? We really have effected change for the better with our “rants.”

          I’m also thinking about people who are in mass media who are bullies. Rush Limbaugh calling lesbians “fat drug addicts” only yesterday comes to mind … but you can go back to Susan B. Anthony’s talks about the right to vote or Margaret Sanger’s battle to make birth control more accessible to women or even Martin Luther King’s peaceful attempts at change were certainly seen as bullying to some.

          A person with some power/clout will always be perceived by some with a different opinion on the matter as a bully … I hope Leah continues to bang her drum and I hope she does get companies to look at her POV and try to do better.

          That being said the “laughable” changes that McDonald’s and KFC is making, honestly … we should encourage them. They are billion dollar behemoth’s who can’t simple call their supplier and order organic sweet potato fries. They are slowly, slowly changing and we should acknowledge it when they do something and keep on them when they’re not.

          Just my two cents.


    • Leah, I just want to make the point that there were a number of things at play over the weekend with regards to KFC. There were conversations on Twitter (with and without the KFC event hashtag), there were a number of blog posts about it, and there were (private) conversations on Facebook. My post is a reaction to all that I saw on the subject, not all of which was coming from or directed to any one person. Thanks.

      • WHO are you calling the bully?

        • Does it matter? I don’t know that specific indications are necessary. It’s not the person in question, but the action/behavior. The who isn’t the important part. The only time it is, is when you want to get personal, which we don’t. This is a point of discussion, not attacks.

  • I agree that bloggers become professionals, whether they like it or not, when they agree to be a brand ambassador. In that role, as professionals, they should be happy and willing to take input from their community and share that with the companies that they are working with. Being an ambassador is not just about getting a company’s message out there. It is about facilitating dialogue on issues of importance between the company and the community.

    When I’ve raised concerns about companies products in person and on social media, I’ve had people thank me for feedback and get back to me with a genuine response addressing my concerns. I’ve also had them thank me and then throw a bunch of corporate doublespeak back at me (not idea, but it is what it is). Finally, I’ve had people throw tantrums about being bullied, which is ridiculous and unprofessional.

    • If a blogger is to behave as a professional in the role of brand ambassador, then the “input” they receive needs to be professional as well. You can attack someone, put them on the defensive by implying they are bad parents and have no integrity and then expect them to say, “Oh yes, let me pass that helpful bit of information along to the brand.” The attacks were not constructive. Yes, there were dissenting opinions that WERE handled respectfully and professionally, and I don’t think anyone had a problem with that. It was the aggressive nature of personally attacking the attendees that was appropriately labelled as bullying. And it was not the attendees who cried bully first. It was outside observers who started tweeting about the latest mom blogger drama in which moms were bullying other moms over food choices.

      • I am always straightforward and strong in presenting my opinions, but respectful as well. That said, even if I wasn’t being respectful, it would STILL be the job of the ambassador to say “Oh yes, let me pass your feedback along to the brand” or to respond with a respectful reply about why the person’s opinion is incorrect. As a brand ambassador, that blogger is being paid to be professional. As an activist, no one is paying me so if I act like a jerk (which I don’t), then it is only my own brand that I’m tarnishing, not the brand of the company that has paid me.

        • As far as I’m aware, none of these bloggers were on KFC’s payroll for any kind of contract brand ambassadorship. They accepted a trip to a single event from which they shared things they’d learned. “You’re a bad mother and you’re giving your kids cancer, shame on you,” is in no way constructive. What was the attendee supposed to pass along? “Hey KFC, someone told me I’m a horrible mother and I’m giving my kids cancer just by being here.”

          Nope. Unacceptable. No one invited that type of harassment by accepting that trip, and trying to justify the harassment is to make excuses for bullying and blame the victims. Though clearly not on the same level, I hear a bunch of people in Steubenville came up with similar excuses for the convicted rapists.

          • I didn’t say any of those things, but if I was an ambassador or just an attendee at an event, and someone did say something like that, I would ignore it if I couldn’t find a constructive way to respond.

          • I’m pretty sure the attendees did ignore it, at least by not making their reactions public. That doesn’t make the behavior acceptable, and that doesn’t mean the attendees were able to just shrug off the attacks, either. But as the victim of bullying throughout my childhood and occasionally in my adulthood, I cannot stand by and let people excuse the bullying and harassment of other individuals. I carry the scars around with me every day.

          • Yes, and people came up with excuses for the Nazis too. Also clearly not on the same level.

          • Easy. Let’s keep this civil. Loving the discussion. Love the passion. But blurring the lines there might spark some unwanted emotion from folks. Fair?

          • Absolutely. Let’s stay away from comparisons that are clearly not on the same level.

    • @twitter-16703461:disqus Thanks for your thoughtful conversation on Twitter! I think we’re on the same page here – you can protest and try to accomplish change professionally without hurting individuals.

  • We need to truly define bullying. Simply disagreeing and stating your reasons why is not “bullying.” Bullying implies that the bully is in a position of power, and are systematically using said power to keep “Use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.” The dissenting bloggers were not in a position of power, they were not trying to force the bloggers in attendance to do what *they* wanted, they were simply stating their own opinion. I saw two bloggers who strongly disagreed with each other on #KFCKidsmeals state as such, “I respect your opinion, but we simply disagree.” That’s hardly bullying. The knee-jerk reaction in our society today to disagreement is “YOU’RE A BULLY!” and it’s ridiculous. If a blogger felt “shamed” then they might want to re-examine why. If you agree to work with a brand like KFC, stand up and stand behind it.

    • As the verb to bully is defined as simply “forcing one’s way aggressively or by intimidation,” the term may generally apply to any life experience where one is motivated primarily by intimidation instead of by more positive goals such as mutually shared interests and benefits.

      Name calling, verbal abuse, embarrassing someone in public, arguing people into submission, saying certain words that trigger a reaction from a past event, mocking, social undermining… these are all forms of bullying. And it doesn’t matter if the bully doesn’t think of their comments as social undermining or verbal abuse… it’s if the victim thinks they are. Bullying is an abuse of power, the power to make someone else feel Less Than.

      • @twitter-14602718:disqus, from what I saw on the KFC hashtag and in a couple of blog posts I read, there was very unprofessional attitude and language from a few people who called out the KFC attendees as having been taken advantage of, questioning why bloggers would even take their kids to such an event, and suggesting that by attending the event (and tweeting about it) that they had lost their integrity. It was unquestionably mocking, intimidating and and extremely negative. There would have been far more civil ways to make a point than calling out the bloggers who were there and questioning their motivations.

        The brand (KFC) wasn’t bullied, the bloggers were. However, the brand was on the receiving end of some very unprofessional and vitriolic tweets, which was merely uncivilized, not particularly bullying. And witnessing that kind of behavior will give other brands pause before they choose to mount a blogger campaign, even wholesome, organic, good-for-the-planet brands.

  • paigewolf

    If people didnt voice their beliefs in fear of losing potential clients, then the world would be a pretty sad place. I will always stand up for what I believe and turn down paychecks from brands I dont respect. I will work that much harder to earn my income from brands I support and respect. I dont feel bad for brands like KFC and McDonalds that have their social media campaigns turned on them. Not only do they deserve it, but it is not going to affect these giants one way or another.

    • I think you bring up an important point: “it is not going to affect these giants one way or another.” I think this is certainly true. Then, to what end do bloggers engage in public dissent, and what IS affected by it? Big companies can afford to be silent as they watch things unfold between bloggers on Twitter, because – as our own history sadly shows – it’ll be another issue next week, and another the next, etc. I agree that it’s important that we voice our beliefs without fear, and that we each work hard to earn income from brands we support and respect (which is surely DIFFERENT for each blogger, no?). I just think that if – as you say – corporate giants aren’t affected one way or another by our dissent, that we could think harder about how to be most effective with that dissent, and how to do it in a way that perhaps *does* affect the corporations, instead of the blogging community itself.

      • paigewolf

        Good point Stacey. I really shouldnt say that it doesnt effect the brands. It may not always effect their bottom lines, but I have ABSOLUTELY seen groups of influential bloggers (and non bloggers) affect brand change through speaking up, signing petitions,lobbying brands, etc. Recently Tide took certain chemicals out of formulation because of the work of a blogger. There are plenty of other examples but currently my brain is fried – like fried chicken!! :)

        • I’m assuming in the case you site, it was bloggers’ *direct* efforts with a brand that affected change. Is that right? If so, I would say that’s smart, effective dissent. Where this situation tipped the scales, I think, was the way in which it took a whole host of bloggers as collateral damage, hurting the company not one little bit, but doing no favors to our community, either. I understand many saw the hashtag as a way to seize a moment to speak their minds & grab the brand’s attention, but in the end (and in our very insular world online), I’m having trouble seeing what it was all for – beyond another insular discussion, like the one we’re having right now. :)

          • I think THIS discussion is about manners vs. individual rights. Honestly, that’s what I keep seeing. Those who think you should be polite all the time are siding one way…and those who think that speaking up is important are siding the other way.

          • To clarify, I don’t think people should be polite all the time. And I don’t agree with any sentiment that we all ought to be “proper” if we want to work. For me, the discussion is more about the effectiveness of when and how we speak up. Is any opportunity an opportunity, period? Is every battle a battle worth fighting? The answer for you may be yes – you stated very clearly what your “endgame” is. And I’ve already said that I believe you carried yourself with decorum. But some others seemed to just want to come over, kick the beehive, and see what kind of buzz would come from it. In that sense then, “speaking up” takes on a slightly different tone, and affects no endgame at all. I saw many tweets asking the bloggers at the event to be smarter and more selective with their voice. I don’t think that’s too much to ask of BOTH sides, honestly.

          • Stacey, I agree that making personal attacks to the bloggers were not helpful. I was trying to get answers from the brand and the bloggers there were scared to speak, which of course didn’t help me. Attacking bloggers is not my style. Attacking brands when they are spewing bullshit IS my style. And I really don’t take every opportunity to bash on bad brands. I just simply don’t have the time. I got three kids, two of which have special needs: severe food allergic baby & autism. I also have a consulting business that subsidizes my Mamavation campaign. And I’m very generous to the people around me to a fault. I pick and choose very carefully what I’m going to direct my attention at. Most of the time, it’s a gut feeling and I’m of course scared of the outcome. But when I don’t listen to my gut, I’m always sorry and then I can’t sleep at night. .

            But one thing that is true of me. I’ve never been one that plays by the rules. And I’m kinda a trouble maker. Always have been. Some people love that about me while others hate it. But I AM a leader in the space when it comes to health issues. And it comes with A LOT of responsibility that I take very seriously. I don’t want to control other people and what they say. I just want to set a tone, which I did very carefully.

          • Maybe they weren’t scared to speak. Maybe they were just there trying to do what they were sent there to do. I think it’s largely about respect. You wouldn’t like it if something you were being paid to cover and share buzz about was hijacked. I just feel that doing it in the manner that it was done, was completely wrong and yes, unprofessional.

          • FadraN

            Leah – the question that’s on my mind is what’s the end game for you? Would you eat Kraft mac & cheese if they changed the dye? Would you eat at KFC if they removed MSG? If the answer is no, why not focus your efforts on educating consumers rather than attacking the brand since it would make no difference in your consumer buying habits in the first place?

          • Leah I think people SHOULD SPEAK UP – it is important! It is simply the way in which people voice those opinions that many of us are talking about. I want you to keep talking about healthy options in food and I want others to do it too. I just don’t want to see others attacked in the process (not calling out you or anyone in particular – just a general statement)

          • paigewolf

            Good point Stacey, but hey, it got us talking! ;)

      • It changes the tide, which is what is happening right now. The pendulum swings from outside pressure. This is similar to how cigarettes became a bad name. KFC may not change their recipe, BUT other brands will change theirs to capitalize on the growing demand for better food. PEOPLE BUY IT. My focus is on the entire food supply…and we are creating a tipping point that everyone will benefit by. ESPECIALLY the poor and unaware, whom are really the ones I think about. And if you could see the amount of new products at the natural food expo, you would be shocked. Natural food is one of the fastest growing markets there is right now. Organic is flying off the shelves. What we are doing IS making a difference…even if it is annoying to some. But all the best people who changed history were annoying to some. I’d LOVE to be considered annoying if I can make a difference.

      • Agree Stacey – it is the WAY WE VOICE OUR DISSENT that is the big issue here.

  • While I don’t agree with the tactics that the dissenters used, I’m not so sure that I would call it bullying. (I think that we as a society overall has diminished the meaning of that word.)

    Having said that, I’m not a big fan of hijacking hashtags. In my opinion, it would have been more effective for those who disagreed with the campaign to use THEIR social media space (blogs, streams and such) to share their opinions about the KFC junkets instead of invading on the hashtag of the event and making personal attacks on the bloggers in attendance. (When you question someone’s love for their child based on them feeding their child a KFC meal…yes, that is a personal attack!) To educate is one thing. To attack is another.

    • terrik

      I respectfully disagree with the hijacking hashtag part. I view it as a protest, and historically protests work when and because people go to the place they are protesting, not just put signs in their own yards or protest at their own homes. While a hashtag is a virtual place, I still think I have the right to protest there.

      • I hear you @terrik. I don’t agree, but I hear you. I would hope that you DO agree though that it is unprofessional and ineffective to make personal attacks geared towards the women who attend such events.

        That’s the great thing about being adults.. we can agree to disagree while still being civil and respectful.

        • terrik

          Yes, I do agree the best way to voice an opinion is to do so with respect to those you don’t agree with. Not only is it the most effective way to be taken seriously, but I think it’s necessary to maintain any kind of community, online or in person.

          This conversation is a perfect example.

    • I am with Terrik on this one. A hashtag is a public conversation–that’s why the brand wants it. They have to be prepared for many sides of that conversation. But I also agree that it is more effective to be respectful towards the people in our community while making your opinions known.

      • I understand where you @CandaceApril:disqus are coming from. I just don’t agree. It’s fine though…I don’t agree with certain other things that happen online. (What is considered professional and acceptable online doesn’t necessarily correlate to the “real world”.)

        I’m fine with that though and I don’t lose any respect/think less of those who choose to protest in this way…as long as they keep it respectful.

        • I think we can agree that being respectful of people is always a good idea. I do find it very hard to understand why some people think of a hashtag as a private, invite-only discussion. Since I have a lot of respect for you, maybe you can explain it to me in a way that I understand. After all, we have the technology to create private, online conversations. If a brand wants that, they’d host a private chat or webinar or what have you. They can even host a transcript in real-time on their websites. They come to twitter for the very reason that it is a public space and they will reach lots of people who otherwise might not have heard about their initiative. They just want to have their cake and eat it, too. They want to appear in all our streams as our friends and favorite bloggers tweet about them, they want that conversation to be organized in a hashtag anyone can follow, but they want it to be all positive. I see twitter as OUR social media space. Hacking KFC’s account or flooding their corporate blog would be invading THEIR social media space…using a public hashtag on a public space with my account IS using my own platform.

          • The respect is mutual :-) I think that different people have different reasons for disliking when dissenters use hashtags. For me (personally), it has nothing to do with it being a private conversation. It has everything to do with intent and communication. For the record, I don’t really care about people using the hashtags to question the company.

            My concern is when people use them to ask pointed questions and throw out accusations against their online “friends” who are attending the events. If you’re friends then why don’t you just talk to that person directly? I was raised to talk TO people first, not about them…or in front of an audience that “has my back”.

            I also don’t like the mob mentality that event hashtag usage consistently brings out. While there are certain people (like you, bookieboo, phdinparenting and such) that are consistently using their platforms to educate, others just tend to come out and make hashtag noise whenever there is the latest “drama”. It comes off as tedious, opportunistic and high schoolish (to me). That drama is what I really wish people would save for their own platforms…

            In any event, I hope that helps Candace. I’m sorry that I couldn’t answer your “hashtag as private” question, but that’s not my mindset. I’m more of the “if you put it out there online (even in “private” chats – we’ve seen people use private DMs and such against one another!), then be ready to own it” type of person.

          • That does make a lot of sense. I think I misunderstood your comments to be in general rather than about the few who were specifically calling out other bloggers. I think, in general, if I had concerns about something I would talk directly to the person I know. In these cases, though, a person is publicly using their influence to support a brand message…so they’ve chosen the forum, in a way. And I think your final sentence is very relevant–we need to own what we put out there. I would still personally go the route you suggest–chatting privately–but if a person is choosing to begin a conversation on twitter, addressing them there also makes sense as an option to me…even if it wouldn’t be my preferred option.

  • Yolanda

    So you are saying, to put it shortly, mute the voice you’ve built or live in fear of never working again?

    I wonder if Marissa Mayer or Anna Wintour would agree with that.

    • I don’t think she’s saying there’s no room for critical questions, but there’s a more productive way to disagree.

      • The women that posed the critical questions were acting in line with who they are and their brand… this isn’t the first time, and it probably won’t be their last. The issue is if you take a campaign or chose to represent a brand, or your brand… truly represent it. Telling women to just shut up and play nice, come on… is this the 50’s again?

        And why is no one questioning why the brand didn’t have the bloggers back here? They tweeted ONCE thanking the bloggers and then gone. I’ve heard they are emailing the dissenters, but that’s just taking the low road. Where’s the public statement? The replying tweets? Defend their bloggers and why they choose to do a press tour, with children, and say it out loud.

        • Attending a brand event and tweeting out a few messages are not the same as being a spokesperson for the brand. While some attendees at this other other events may send tweets that toe the party line, not all do. But your point is well taken that bloggers may appear to outsiders as de facto brand spokespeople at an event. That’s bloggers need to be thoughtful on what events they attend and know what their goals are in attending.

          • I’m absolutely not saying to mute your voice – we’re fortunate we’re in a country where we don’t have to. I am saying that there’s a connection between protest and professionalism. If you get paid to work with and promote brands (whether good-for-you brands or the worst junk food ever), you are now a professional in the blogging realm. Act professionally. There are plenty of ways to register your protest while behaving in a way that anyone would feel is polite, respectful and appropriate. Questioning other bloggers’ intelligence (in choosing to work with KFC, in choosing to take their kids to KFC, etc.) is not one of those ways.

          • I take acting professionally as being who you are and your brand. I didn’t see anything out of character for the bloggers that were dissenting. To not say anything? Now THAT, would have been out of character.

            Also- I found it interesting when this was posted in a Social Media group I am in, men chimed in and called this post link baiting, wrong, off with a poorly formed argument. Then it was posted in a group for mainly mom bloggers and they cheered. Gives perspective no?

    • That would be what I gleaned from it Yolanda.

    • That is not at all what she is saying.

  • Blogger junkets such as #KFCKids offer bloggers, and by extension their online communities, a chance to learn more about what brands are doing as well as why. Attending bloggers have access to executives and brand managers that they can use to question the brand and even express concerns. It’s a sad on so many levels the KFC bloggers were bullied and shamed rather than encouraged to engage in critical dialog.

    I once attended a blogger junket during which several bloggers called the brand out for some of the ingredients in their product. That brand eventually introduced a “natural” line and hired at least one of thse critical bloggers as a spokesperson. Dialogue is good; name-calling is not.

    • Yes. There is a way to address your agenda without resorting to the bullying and shaming of individuals. (YES. It was bullying. It is not the bullies and their compatriots who get to decide if it’s bullying, it’s the targets of their attacks.)

      The Healthier Than Thou crowd could have been constructive in making suggestions about additional steps KFC can take to make even more positive changes in their menus. Instead, they decided to go on the attack and make destructive remarks meant to shame and belittle anyone who dared attend an event by the Evil Fast Food Joint. The bloggers were not “asking for it” by attending, nor should they be expected to “grow a thicker skin” for attending an event by a brand they are receptive to.

      You may have the right to voice a dissenting opinion, but you have the responsibility to preserve human dignity when you do so. I wrote about this:

      • @ChristinaGleason:disqus Just read your post – wow, it’s great, and thank you. My first instinct when I saw this erupt was to decry the bullying – I hated seeing bloggers’ intelligence questioned in this way and there was no question it was bullying in my mind. You explained how and why so beautifully.

        • I’m glad you liked the post. I told my therapist about what I wrote this morning, and he asked if he could steal some of my wording. :-)

  • I followed this event and saw no bullying whatsoever. In a fact all I saw was professionalism and advocacy for healthier food choices and healthier children. Pointing out that a company is leveraging moms with influence to help foist their crap products on children is shameful. Calling out this behavior is simply the right thing to do. Only cowards would hide behind their blogs and stay out of the fray to protect income lest brands decide they cannot work with someone who has ethics and integrity. The brands who are acting in an ethical manner and who have products with REAL value will have no problem creating blogger marketing campaigns.

    • Momstart

      I have to disagree, when you say you “lost respect for those women”, or say someone is “ignorant for making a choice to eat fast food”, or saying they have no integrity for attending the event, then yes bullying is going on. Because that is attacking someone’s character.

      • Exactly. And the bullies don’t get to define bullying. It’s the victims. Intimidation and social undermining is bullying.

      • I never said any of those things. I think you all should go back and read my tweets.

        • Leah – my 2cents (and that’s really all it’s worth, I’m sure) is that most who saw this all go down agree that you carried yourself with some decorum. But many other voices chimed in that were decidedly less positive. And the things Tiffany mentioned were said (ie: questioning bloggers’ integrity, intelligence, parenting, etc). This article, any complaints, are not entirely about you.

          • Thank you for that Stacey because I REALLY try to be fair to people. And I have to say getting called a bully is hurtful to me because my intentions are pure. I think my opinions are shared by lots of people online. I did my best to keep the conversation about the brand. I think most people were mad about the brand and what they were saying. I think the bloggers just got caught in the cross fire. I call most of those bloggers friends, so I was especially careful not to call them names. It wasn’t comfortable for me to stand up to a brand as I had friends there, but again KFC was being shameful and then hid behind the women and children.

          • You’re not a bully, Leah. Not by definition of the word or by your actions. The people labeling you with that word, do not know the definition of it. Bullying happens between children, not adults.

      • Bullying, by definition, can only occur between MINORS. Between adults, it is harassment, abuse or dissent. Just because someone has a differing opinion or lifestyle choice, don’t use the word “bully” to describe them or their actions when you don’t even know the meaning of the word.

        • It’s a matter of perspective and/or semantics, but for the record, bullying is the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others. It can happen among any population at any level, age, gender, etc. It is not limited to children.

          I’m not arguing whether or not anyone was or was not bullied here. But I think it’s a narrow perspective to say it can’t happen to adults. It certainly can. Two cents.

          • @ChristinaGleason:disqus just wrote an excellent post on this topic (bullying) as relates to this incident. I encourage @ShanG:disqus to read it. And per the links Christina posted below, it’s absolutely not confined to minors. But who cares about the semantics: more importantly, who condones such unprofessional and immature behavior amongst adults? Is it necessary to question another adult’s intelligence for attending an event?

          • My point is that when mom bloggers use the word “bully” to describe anyone who disagrees with them in any capacity, it actually cheapens the word and meaning for the children who are being systematically bullied at school or in life by other kids. This incident can be deemed, in the loosest sense of the word, harassment. Nothing more. Adults stating their opinions on social media against a brand who is using deceptive practices to market to kids and moms is NOT bullying.

          • Did you miss the part where the attendees were being told they were bad mothers, were giving their kids cancer, were stupid, should be ashamed of themselves, had no integrity? This was not a “disagreement.” These were targeted personal attacks. That’s bullying.

          • No, that’s harassment. And I wasn’t online this weekend to see all the tweets. I have been reading the posts regarding this incident all morning. I’m am only defending Leah & Kim in this kerfuffle. I don’t know any of the bloggers who said those things. I know for a fact that neither Leah or Kim would ever tweet anything of the sort. And I STILL maintain that it was not bullying, no matter what was said or by whom. It can be called harassment or trolling (because twitter is filled with trolls, as we all well know), but NOT bullying.

          • Laurel Thomas

            You are so right, @JasonFalls:disqus. It is semantics. I was bullied quite a few times as an adult. Harassment isn’t an appropriate word for it. Now what @ShanG:disqus probably is referring to is that cyber bullying is against minors, while cyber harassment is against adults. I still don’t agree with the use of the word harassment, but that’s it from a “legal” standpoint.

      • If you are an influencer because people respect you, you can lose that respect through choices you make. Pointing that out is not bullying. Every time we publicly support or denounce something, we are being judged by our actions. There is a vast difference between criticizing someone’s parenting choices and expressing your lack of respect for their public business decisions that rely on their public influence.

  • I couldn’t agree more. Excellent post!

  • Amy

    Best response I’ve seen so far to this issue.


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