General Mills has launched MyBlogSpark, a network of more than 900 bloggers, about 80% of whom are mothers with young children.
General Mills and Coyne Public Relations report that they created the network, which reaches more than 8 million readers, by developing relationships and gathering information about the content focus of individual bloggers over a period of several months. (Some of the bloggers focus on food or topics other than parenting.)
Bloggers are not paid, but all blogs in the network include product reviews and all are provided with General Mills product samples to review. Bloggers also receive product samples and promotional items to give out to their readerships.
Bloggers indicate their preferences as to which types of products and information they want to receive, and a content management system is used to ensure that the information received is relevant. Information/sample categories span F&B, beauty, home, electronics, health and automotive care.
Coyne implements programs on the network based on a brand's budget and targeting needs, and continues individual contact with the bloggers, says Stacy Becker, account supervisor with the agency.
General Mills asks, but does not require, bloggers to disclose being part of the network. "We want them to be upfront and transparent," says the company's brand PR manager, David Witt.
Bloggers are also asked to contact the company prior to posting any negative product review, although Witt maintains that the intent is not to prevent negative posts. "They're free to write what they want," he says. "If there's an issue with a product, we just want an opportunity to address it." Most bloggers "want to stay positive," adds Becker. "They tell us that they'd rather not review a product than write a negative review."
Prior to the formal launch, General Mills used the network for test programs for about 20 of its brands and launches, including Chex Mix Bars and the Yoplait Yo-Plus probiotic yogurt line.
The CPG also intends to market the blog network as a channel for non-competitive, non-General Mills products. Costs for outside marketers will depend on the reach and nature of a specific program, according to Becker.