Julie Jimenez|Jul 1, 2013

On a recent press trip, blogger Nancy Brown asked for my thoughts on the scandal around the global recruitment firm Adecco and its controversial “Around The World In 80 Jobs” campaign. While the dust has more or less settled after the story picked up steam in the mainstream media, the blogger community has remained up in arms over what appeared to be a clear case of idea plagiarism.

Here’s the back story. Adecco launched and heavily promoted its “Around The World In 80 Jobs” social media campaign, while also trademarking the name, in April of this year. Now, that is definitely a catchy name that fully captures the concept of the program. Unfortunately, someone had already thought of it first: Turner Barr, a travel blogger who launched Aroundtheworldin80jobs.com almost two years ago.

Making matters worse was that Adecco never reached out to Turner for permission to use his blog’s name, never asked him to be involved in any way in the campaign and went so far as to hire a paid actor who resembles Turner for a marketing video.

In an open letter to Adecco posted on his blog, Turner said he reached out to Adecco and was engaged in several weeks of negotiations to be involved in some way. But Turner did not feel the company was offering him what he really wanted: giving him his brand and identity back.

And while everyone makes mistakes, Adecco’s response to the issue (at the time) only added fuel to the fire. Two short apologies on the company’s Facebook page, in which they did not admit to using Turner’s brand (they said they used a name that upset Turner and his fans), received over a thousand negative comments. Turner’s hashtag #MakeItRight has been used in hundreds of tweets from fellow bloggers, fans and sympathizers.

The story does have a happy ending, however. Adecco recently settled with Turner by meeting the list of demands he posted on his blog in his original open letter to the company. Adecco issued an official apology, dropped its trademark application, revised the name of the contest, compensated Turner in the amount of $50,000 (the equivalent of what Adecco originally paid its advertising agency), and donated $50,000 to Turner’s charity of choice, the Save Elephant Foundation.

More and more companies, and in turn PR professionals, are working with bloggers to promote their products and services. Whether the bloggers are compensated or not, it should be understood that they have a brand and identity to maintain, just like any company. And once you lose the trust of bloggers, who are in essence the voice of your customer base, it is very difficult to get it back.

The rules of working with bloggers are simple:

  • Maintain transparency: Don’t expect or ask a blogger to keep the fact that you’re working together a secret from their readers.
  • Be honest and expect the same: Just as you want your company to be honest with its customers, bloggers want to be honest with their readers. This could result in a negative review, but it’s important for bloggers to maintain their integrity. Be respectful of this fact, and be prepared for the outcome.
  • Do your due diligence: If you’re launching a campaign, and it sounds too good to be true, someone has probably come up with it already. Invest time in research and take the necessary steps to ensure no one is affected by the campaign. If it aligns with a blog, reach out to the creator to see if there are ways to work together. If that doesn’t work, pick another idea.

How do you think the situation should have been handled? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


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