Since When Do Bloggers Ever Follow The Script?

The New York Times recently shared a story titled: when bloggers don’t follow the script, to ConAgra’s chagrin. You can already see where this one is going.

Before we go any further, since when does any blogger worth their salt follow someone else’s script and sacrifice their own voice and opinion?

What happened is some food bloggers were purposefully tricked by a frozen food company and their PR firm, Ketchum, to try to get press from said bloggers.

The details are as follows: food bloggers in New York were invited to a supposed four-course meal prepared by George Duran, the chef who hosts the “Ultimate Cake Off” on TLC. But instead being prepared by the chef, the lasagna they were served was Three Meat and Four Cheese Lasagna by Marie Callender’s, a frozen line from ConAgra Foods. A played out TV advertisement gag that might have amused people 20 years ago.

But to do this to food bloggers? Come on, clearly no one involved has actually read a food blog. They’re probably about one of the most serious categories of bloggers about their craft. Tricking food bloggers (or any bloggers!) is never a good idea on any level. The outcome is, of course, predictable: a backlash from the bloggers, and the above linked write-up in a national publication.

Let’s get to the reactions. They’re about as you’d expect:

From Mom Confessionals:

Our entire meal was a SHAM!  We were unwilling participants in a bait-and-switch for Marie Callender’s new frozen three cheese lasagna and there were cameras watching our reactions.  I’ve got a sense of humor so I was okay with it and I had been enjoying myself up until that point, but I could tell that the rest of the participants were not.  Everyone feigned weak shock and faked approval of the frozen meal.  My guests were eager to leave all of a sudden and refused to sign the release.  I felt awful!

From Food Mayhem:

…on the chef

On behalf of the the culinary world, we hereby revoke your dodin bouffant; apron; and most of all, your right to call yourself a ‘chef’.  You sir are an embarrassment to those in the culinary industry working hard to maintain and enhance a culture of food as one of the best parts of living.

…on the food

As we ate the “cheesy garlic bread” I said aloud how incredibly salty it was.  Jessica, her neighbor to the right, and the couple across from us all agreed.  Another guest said it wasn’t garlicky enough.  The cheese tasted cheap and like a lot of fat was added.

I started to eat the so-called “lasagna”. After a few bites I was done.  I said to Jessica that the sausage-kibble inside tasted like what you get at Domino’s and that the whole thing tasted like pizza hut.

…and on the PR team

What good P.R. teams do not do is lie to build attendance.  Lying to media makes it that much harder for legitimate P.R. teams to achieve their goals.  Build trust, not facades.

From Chubby Chinese Girl

Our “guided” conversation was ALL based of eating better, feeding our kids, the concern of childhood obesity, farmers, eating fresh and local, seasonal ingredients, CSA… and the list goes on. Yet they were serving us a frozen meal, loaded with sodium. We brought up reading labels while we shop and being aware of what we eat, Phil and George agreed, yet this FROZEN MEAL/DESSERT had exactly what we were afraid of, ingredients I can’t pronounce nor understand. This made no sense to me whatsoever. Maybe they thought that psychologically, if we are thinking/talking about good food, happy food memories, our tastebuds would be distracted? LOL so silly.

As bloggers we get invited to a lot of press/PR events/dinners and what not. Some turn out great, others like this one, not so much. I guess what I don’t understand is who’s genius idea was to bring in bloggers into this. Obviously we love food, we spend all our time, effort and money finding what’s above average. We don’t eat to live, we live to eat. Feeding me free food doesn’t automatically equate to great review. I’ll always keep it honest for myself and my readers, otherwise there’s no point to all this. I do advertising by day, thank you very much, at night, blogging is a passion and hobby.

Having done food PR in a previous life (for both national and local brands) where we successfully built community with food bloggers I’ll share this: deception is always a bad idea. You’ll get called out every time. As is trying to share lower-quality product with someone who is serious about eating. Just…don’t…do it.

Real  foodies don’t even eat frozen food. Kind of makes this whole the whole idea both confusing and useless. The only reaction I have to this situation is a bad taste in my mouth for both the company and the PR firm.

Are any of these bloggers – even the ones who weren’t upset – actually going to become a part of the ConAgra foods community? Exactly. Basically, they were exploited for a pointless 1-time mention. Misses the entire point of blogger relations.

image credit: Shutterstock