Respect Your Community Enough not to Invite Shame or Embarrassment to it

I’ve been sick for probably two weeks now (a month if you ask my husband who also says that days just run together when he has to work long weeks and overtime) but while I was lying in bed this weekend I watched many blogging friends on a press junket to cover KFC’s new kids’ meals.

*Disclosure no idea when the last time my family had KFC but I did get a taste for chicken tenders before I got pneumonia and had some at work one day.*

It was nice to see my peers, bloggers I know, respect, and have met, get to attend a cool (for the kids) event and hear what’s going on in the world of Fast Food Chicken.

What was not nice was watching other bloggers, ones I respected and looked up to for their insight and experience (and also know and have met) takeover the hashtag being used (search #kfckidsmeals on Twitter) as a means to berate and belittle their peers who were in attendance at this press event. Of course this turned the event into a twitter backlash.

The hijacking was done in attempt to get the other bloggers to call out KFC for the use of MSG and GMOs in their fast foods. It was done as a means (according to the bloggers doing the hijacking), as a way to “educate” the masses about all of the unhealthy things in KFC’s menu including the kids’ foods.

What I saw, as did other bloggers, was an unprofessional takeover of an event they weren’t at and using the bloggers’ kids as a way to guilt them for their choice in attending the event and bringing their kids along.

I am all for speaking out on something you’re passionate about. I’m passionate about organ donation, and removing sexualized advertising from the media as it pertains to kids. What I’m not for is the way the KFC event unfolded on Twitter (and continues to happen, even now). I feel that there is a right and wrong time to spread your message about something you’re passionate about. I also feel there is a right and wrong way. To me, this was just completely wrong all around.

Using children is deplorable

My biggest problem is the way many of the anti KFC bloggers used the other bloggers’ children as a means to make them feel guilty for being at this event and *GASP* bring your child and feed them the toxic fast food. However, what they were doing to the bloggers on Twitter was no better. In fact it was worse.

As a community that prides itself on giving every parent the right to parent the way they want, (breastfeed, bottle feed, formula feed, baby wear, cry it out, vaccinate, don’t vaccinate, spoil the rod, spare the rod… you get the picture) they really were calling into question the bloggers’ parenting abilities and their ability to make good choices for their children. I don’t get all breast feeding Nazi on those that choose to formula feed or call into question if they are inherently making their child unhealthy (and more likely to be overweight…) simply for the fact that it’s not my place to tell someone how to parent, what to do, or how to do it (unless of course you straight up ask me and then I’ll tell you but in a “this worked for me” kind of way).

I will be honest, the moment I saw tweets like “the grilled chicken still contains MSG which can cause neurological issues in kids.” And “ask them why #kfckidsmeals are full of sugars, chemicals and transfats. @blogger you wouldn’t really let your kids eat that.” And “If your vegetables come from a can you might as well give ur kids French fries”, I knew we as a community had crossed a line.

Had I been there, I would certainly have felt attacked and made to feel less of as a parent. Aren’t we beyond doing that to one another yet? It saddens me that anyone thinks that it’s okay to do this to their peers in the name of educating and informing. There were more tweets, a lot more. If you search the hashtag you’ll find them.

The anti KFC bloggers took the event bloggers’ non-responses to their tweets as being scared. I don’t see it that way; I see it as they were remaining professional both in front of the brand and in front of their kids (plus we don’t know the conversations or questions that were being asked at the event). How’s that for being bad parents? Because the first thing I want to do when I attend an event with my kid and people attack the event I’m at is lose my shit, make an ass of myself, embarrass my kids and mortify the rest of the bloggers, PR people, and the kids that are in attendance. (sarcasm)

Embarassment and shame by association

It actually shames me to say that the community (or blogger brand) that started the commotion on Twitter is a blogger network that I’m a part of. As a part of this blogger network I get opportunities emailed to me to work with brands in a sponsored or compensated (in one way or another) capacity.

*More Disclosure: I’ve never taken an opportunity with this blogger network*

I honestly have no ill will against the blogger(s) behind the network because I do feel that they meant well. I wish them well in their cause because what we eat is important to me. However, I don’t want my name associated with the network any longer. I feel extremely embarrassed and ashamed to be a part of a network that would choose to educate the twitter and online community the way that they did. I can assure you that if another blogger or group of bloggers were to come in and attack an event that they were at, or had organized, they would be up in arms over it.

I’ve opted to leave this blogger network through a request to have my account deleted. Honestly, I can embarrass myself on my own. I’ve done it before and with great success! I don’t feel the need to be a part of something that tries to smooth over their peers with tweets about how much they “love you” but… and they “adore you” but…. (again search the hashtag #kfckidsmeals) and in the next breath call question to my parenting as well as my choice to work with who I want to work with.

Respect Your Community Enough not to Invite Shame or Embarrassment to itWhy don’t you just say “Bless your heart” in the true passive aggressive nature that those “love yous” were intended and call it a day? Because that’s really what was being done – placating the ones in attendance with the notion that they are loved, that it wasn’t personal and that they should just “duck.” Yes, that’s exactly how you tell your peers you really care and support them (insert sarcasm here.)

It is absolutely one thing to be passionate about something and use your influence for good to raise awareness but I saw very little good come out of this and claiming that you love the bloggers involved in the event and tell them that it’s not personal is disingenuous. Because at the end of the day, it is personal to you. Your cause is personal otherwise you wouldn’t care so much about it would you? I know I feel that way about organ donation – it’s a personal cause to me because it affects me and those I love. (By the way, Zoe is doing great!)

Shame and embarrassment aside

In my job as a social media manager, I am asked every year to gather a group of bloggers for my company’s annual blogger event. I painstakingly go over their Twitter accounts, their blogs, their posts, and other social networks that are public and figure out who would be the best to come to our event. Who might care the most, who might be the most receptive to our event, who attends local events, and yes, who will be the least likely to turn on us. I do this for other clients too whom I work locally with as well as other PR people whom I may not be a fit for (but I know someone who is). I put them in touch with bloggers that I think are going to be receptive and open. I don’t send them someone who turns on others, or otherwise shows unprofessionalism in the social media space which was the great point that Stephanie Schwab made in her article “Don’t Bite the Brand that Feeds You.”

In it Stephanie says, “…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.” She is absolutely right. I’ve done my share of brand bashing (waves to Barnes and Noble) and in some cases I don’t feel bad about it. In other cases, I’m sure it’s hurt me and that’s something I have to deal with as a blogger.

It’s called brand accountability. Ultimately you are responsible for what you put out there both as a blogger and as a brand (because as a blogger, you are a brand). If you have your own network of bloggers, then I’d think you’d hold your brand to an even higher accountability. You may think that if a brand snubs you that it’s probably a brand you didn’t want to work with (nor ever would) But consider this: maybe one day that PR person or agency will represent a brand you do want to work with; guess who they won’t call for their press junket. You never know, KFC’s PR agency may work with a company you would give your left eye to work with but I guarantee they won’t call you now. That goes for the brands you’re bashing. PR people move on and agencies serve more than one client.

I may not be the most sought after blogger in the business, my credit list is short, and maybe this is the pneumonia, fever, and kick ass antibiotics talking, but I do know this; I can do so much more with my voice than use it to cut others down just for the sake of my cause and I can do it in a way that won’t hurt myself, my brand, or shame my community and network.

If we continue to tell bloggers how powerful our voices are and how much influence we have, why are we resorting to the playground antics of children in order to get ourselves heard?

I mean, isn’t that what our blogs are here for in the first place? 

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About Nichole Smith

Nichole Smith has written 765 post in this blog.

Founder of Chaos in the Country and (original) The Guilty Parent blog, Nichole is a professional writer, blogger, social media strategist, and collector of yarn, books, and pretty paper.


  1. Well said, Nichole. I too have passed on bloggers for campaigns that might have been a great fit but worried me with their loud crusades against other brands. I’ve heard many who spoke out against KFC say “well, if that’s what happens, then fine” and that is their prerogative, but I think it’s important to let all of the newer bloggers who are sitting back and watching all of this know that this is how brands think.
    Maureen @ Wisconsin Mommy recently posted…Win a Safari Trip to Africa From Kalahari – or at Least Some Theme Park PassesMy Profile

  2. And honestly it wasn’t until I started getting clients and working for a company where I had to do these things myself did I ever consider that I might not want to use my voice in such a way. I was on the side of “so be it” and I KNOW without a doubt that it’s hurt me. I think it’s completely fine to speak up and speak out but there absolutely is a right and wrong way to do it. Thank you for chiming in!

  3. You know how I feel about this. Very well said. Once you start shaming moms for the choices they make for their family, you’ve crossed a line, and you’ve tainted your message. Other moms/bloggers don’t need to grow a thicker skin; other people need to show respect and preserve human dignity.
    Christina Gleason @ WELL, in THIS House recently posted…The Right to Not Grow a Thicker SkinMy Profile

  4. That’s exactly what I feel – the message gets tainted and lost when you cross lines like that. It doesn’t need to happen in order to say what’s important. It should never happen in order to say what’s important.

  5. Exactly the way I feel. The organization that started the backlash? Fabulous group of women who encourage each other. The founder of that group? Smart and someone I follow because I AM interested in healthy eating. BUT, I can not align myself with that community any more. In my opinion, they are internet bullies who have gone about this all the wrong way.

    Want to educate people? Start a campaign with healthy brands. Blog about them, educate your community on healthy eating habits and let them make the choices themselves. Then, put your money where your mouth is and buy the healthy stuff.

    Bashing companies that make/sell unhealthy foods isn’t going to change their mind if everyone is still buying them!

    I should stop now and just go write a post…
    Erica Mueller recently posted…Social Media Tips from Jon AcuffMy Profile

  6. And I agree with you! This is a group of smart, savvy, intelligent women who have power in their individual and collective voices and we too are interested in eating healthy and I do credit this group with opening my eyes to some things food wise. However, and I don’t think they will ever agree with this way of thinking, the way it was done was improper and unprofessional. There are so many great brands that would eagerly join a campaign to educate but I’d be willing to bet that less than half of those would be willing to participate the way the weekend played out.

  7. And yes, you should write about it.

  8. Candace says:

    I wasn’t part of this and this is not a hot button issue for me (although I generally agree more with more healthy and natural food choices). I agree with being polite. Almost all the tweets you listed were directed at the company. Only one was at a blogger and it wasn’t nasty, perhaps borderline sarcastic. If I endorse a brand, isn’t it a fair question to ask if I used it with my family?

    I believe twitter is our community space. If a company wants to start a conversation in our town square, they need to expect all sorts of feedback. Joining the conversation is totally appropriate. It is the brand entering our (meaning all social media users) space–not the other way around.

    And bloggers who agree to use their name and influence to promote a company, whether for pay, for product, or for other gain down the line, need to understand that these decisions affect perception of them–for good or for ill. I wouldn’t! personally say I have lost all respect for any of them…but I may be less inclined to listen to anything they say about nutrition or health in the future if they were extolling the nutritional benefits of chemical-laden meals.

    There’s a difference between endorsing a product versus using it occasionally, too. I won’t criticize your parenting if you occasionally grab fast food but if you are out in the public space endorsing a fast food brand, you aligning yourself with that brand on another level. It may impact you positively with some and negatively with others–you make your decision and accept those consequences.

  9. I know that one blogger had a private conversation with one of the anti KFC ones after she made a comment on an instagram picture. The comment got deleted by the parent blogger but there was an exchange that brought into question just how much they were passively agressively directing tweets at the bloggers.

    So does that mean that when I instagram or tweet a picture of pizza from East of Chicago that I’ve aligned myself with that brand or show a picture of a Happy Meal (like I did recently when I took my son lunch at school) that makes me an advocate? I don’t think that attending an event makes you an advocate.

    Journalists attend press junkets all the time and they aren’t proposed as advocates. I know bloggers aren’t necessarily the same as a journalist but think about tech bloggers that attend press junkets or conferences and tweet or blog about the products. It doesn’t make them advocates either.

    I do agree with you though that brands have to realize what they’re getting into when inviting conversation into social media and they absolutely should’ve had someone on hand to answer all the questions that were being directed at the bloggers.

  10. Candace says:

    Once you agree to promote them, let them use your name and likeness, etc. yes, you have become a brand representative. If you go on a trip and make clear, I may or may not write about this and, if I do, it may be negative, and I do not agree for my name and likeness to be used…then, yes, you are an independent voice. That’s not what most blogger trips are about, however. Bloggers are generally invited as influencers, not press.

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