Sponsored Post: Granting a Wish with Sears

KEEP IN MIND THAT THIS CONTEST ENDS AT 11:59 PM ON DECEMBER 23, 2009. ALL PARTICIPATION AFTER THE FACT WILL NOT BE COUNTED. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

This post is a sponsored post on behalf of Sears via Izea. The opinions are mine.

The economy is tough right now, and in my personal life, things are as challenging to me as they might be for you. So when offered an opportunity to work with IZEA on a Sears Grant a Wish program, it piqued my interest.

Sears is not typically my store of choice to shop. Christina likes to accuse me of being a metrosexual – that is, I like to look good and am willing to put out money to make sure it happens. I don’t think that makes me metro, but who knows.

The program that Sears and IZEA are partnering on provided a $500 gift card for me to use in my Christmas shopping at any Sears store. The point was to grant a wish, as the Sears program name suggests. As an uncle of three boys on my side of the family (Ages 3, 2 and 6 months) and a girl (14 months old), there were plenty of wishes to be granted.

I went over to the Sears in Alexandria at the Landmark Mall and began by strolling the store. I checked out the electronics department (for me), the clothing department for kids, tools, toys… I even walked through the bedding section.

I was impressed that there were actual brands, mostly at discounted prices (50% off, 40% off, etc).

Without giving away the house (as folks read this blog, believe it or not), all the cousins were taken care of (my sister and her family and my brother and his family are really strapped right now, so this is a huge bonus for them, and it gives me an opportunity to Grant a Wish not only to the kids, but to my siblings who could benefit from the reinforcements). In addition, various other members of the family will be treated to “electronic gear” including a much needed digital camera. I was also taken care of in a small way to pick up some warmer winter clothes that I’m going to need here, especially with frequent trips to Boulder, CO for work.

Of course, 5 gifts were purchased to Grant a Wish to Toys for Tots as seems appropriate.

I want to be clear. This is not a business and technology post. This is not a how-to, or advocacy for smart social media presence in the web space. However, Sears is obviously positioning themselves to be smart social media citizens through their partnership with IZEA and bloggers (some of whom are Red Carpet bloggers). This is not a SEO post that is paid placement, for all intents and purposes. This is doing good for others with the knowledge that doing good for others will do good for them, and they are merely using folks like myself to do that good. I’m really blessed to have been given this opportunity.

I don’t know how often I will shop at Sears. I hate shopping anyway. But this was a great experience that helped me accomplish most of my Christmas shopping quickly (I don’t have a lot of time this month with travel) and allowed me to give where there was real need. I truly appreciate that most of all.

Obviously, larger principles apply here to business and life. It is what many have called The Golden Rule: Do to others, what you would have them do to you. Businesses can give if they don’t limit themselves to a bottom line, but engage in a culture of positive returns.

But wait, there’s actually more…

As part of this program, Sears has given me the opportunity to give away a Holiday gift package to one of you, my readers. That means I can Grant a Wish to you as well. :)

First the gift packs (Winner can choose one gift pack):

The iPod Pack

The Playstation 3 Pack

The “Electronics for Your Car” Pack

How to Play

Official rules are here. You can enter to win up to three times per person:

  • Use Twitter and tweet out “RT @technosailor please grant my wish to win the #Sears [package name] – tweet to win your own wish http://urlbrief.com/1c5ba9″
  • Leave a comment on this post with the Sears Item #s of products you would buy (up to $500). You can go to http://www.sears.com to look for item numbers.
  • Create a blog post about the contest and leave a link to it in the comments of this post.

Jeremiah Owyang Inserts Foot In Mouth (Again) Over IZEA Sponsored Posts

Rarely do I go after individual people on this blog. There have been a few occasions, but I prefer to talk about issues and not people. However, when the errors of a person are so egregiously over the top, I have a need to say something. This was the case over the weekend with Forrester research analyst, Jeremiah Owyang, who decided that he would depart from the typical role of an analyst, where neutrality and objectivity are key in providing unbiased advice, and instead insert himself into a conversation as a subject matter expert on a topic he really knows nothing about.

The topic is paid posting. As you are aware, I am going to be participating in a sponsored post campaign for Sears with Izea shortly. Izea recently did a similar campaign with K-Mart and a number of bloggers, including Chris Brogan participated in that effort. For longevity, here is Chris’ post, posted on his “Daddyblogger” blog.

Jeremiah picked up on this development and decided it needed to be a big issue, asking questions (in his typical braindead question asking style) about the campaign, and insinuating that Chris is not authentic in his post. This is not his role as a research analyst.

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This caused a massive stir on Twitter. My instinctive response, and judging by the response I’d say most people agree, is that Chris is one of the most transparent people on the web today. He exudes leadership qualities, and is highly respected among fans and peers alike. He has a tremendous reputation.

Jeremiah apparently has since had phone conversations with Izea CEO Ted Murphy and Chris Brogan, who serves on the Board of Advisors to “get the facts” about Izea and the campaign and this evening, he has written his own response to the response (lost yet?).

With all the background in place, let me offer my own opinion – less about Izea, and more about Jeremiah. Jeremiah is, as a representative of Forrester Research and in his function as a research analyst, expected to be a thought follower, not a thought leader. That is, his role is not to editorialize, or offer public opinion in such a way that exerts his influence outside of his Forrester client base. His role, in fact, is to analyze data, trends and the consensus of thought leaders in industry (online and offline, but largely online) and distill the data to a bottom line that is relevant to his clients.

Therefore, as someone who is not a part of the paid placements campaigns that Izea is running, his research should be more globally around paid placement/sponsored posts in general and not specifically about Izea. If he found flaws in the business, his advice to his clients might be to not consider using such vehicles. It should never have been about Chris Brogan.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh with Jeremiah. I am sure he’ll tell me if I am, and that’s fine. However, I have no patience for the riot incitement when it comes to one of the most ethical and upstanding men on the internet, and a friend. In this case, Jeremiah had no place asserting himself in a conversation that he had no information on. If you’re not part of the problem, and you’re not part of the solution, then you stay out.

If it’s a question of market research, as it should be for a Forrester Research Analyst, then the proper approach would have been private conversations with both Ted Murphy and Chris Brogan before stirring things up publicly.

If it’s a question of Izea reputation, then as a market analyst, the conversations and advice to Forrester clients should have been held within the confidentiality that I presume is expected between a client and a service provider with the above suggested advisement from those involved (Ted and Chris).

What should never have happened was the allowance of character assassination of Chris based on misunderstood premises and recycled arguments from two years ago.

I also don’t appreciate the condescension toward me when I challenged him on the matter.

@technosailor im listening, but you should call @chrisbrogan and @tedmurphy just as i did on the phone to get full story. Check your facts

For the record, I have spoken to both of them in great detail about this and other topics over the past year. Thanks, Jeremiah.

IZEA, Social Spark and Redemption

Update: This contest is now closed.

IZEA is one of those companies that everyone loves to hate. Why? Well… PayPerPost, the ill concieved program that when launched offered to pay bloggers for reviews of companies and products without disclosure and requiring positive reviews.

Many stories have been written about PayPerPost over the years, most of them negative. Ted Murphy, the CEO of IZEA, is a stand up guy though and adjusted PayPerPost to not require positive reviews and to allow for disclosures. This was better but wasn’t palatable for many bloggers. To his credit, Ted has been very open with me in the past year since I had a memorable conversation with him atop the rooftop bar at the Iron Cactus in Austin Texas for SXSW. We discussed the complications of IZEA programs. He noted that he wanted to provide a way for bloggers, particularly longtail bloggers who might not have direct access to large ad deals or corporate sponsorships, to be able to make a decent amount of money. My argument was that many longtail bloggers are new or inexperienced in the mine fields that are the internet and endorsements and that not enough education was presented around the concept. Bloggers could hurt their reputations or audiences simply lusting after the concept of “cheap money”.

Since that conversation, Ted and I have stayed in touch about new programs such as SocialSpark which seems to take the same principle of making money for bloggers and executing in a wildly different way. While I personally do not plan to jump in on the paid review arena, I would note that I am giving IZEA a chance with a big outreach happening next week. It’s redemption time and I’m putting my neck out for a company I’ve had odds with. However, I believe in the principle of redemption and I also believe that it’s really difficult to come back after making big mistakes. People remember mistakes, not the things done right. I feel like IZEA has started to execute well and that they deserve a chance.

As I said, I am participating in an IZEA/Sears program for the Grant a Wish program. The details of that program, and the benefits to you my readers as well as a Charity during these Holidays will be seen in the days and weeks to come, but considering the history, I wanted to stake my position on IZEA, Social Spark and Ted Murphy today.