Camp Baby Blogstorm
Lori Dolginoff of Johnson & Johnson has had better days. She started today on jury duty and ended it in a blogstorm around Johnson's upcoming Camp Baby event.
For those that don't know the story, here's the Cliff Notes version. Johnson and Johnson invites lots of mommybloggers to a 2-day all expenses paid event in early April. Mommybloggers looked forward to seeing their friends, making new ones, lots of conversation ensues in the back channels. Then within the last few days, two well-read moms, Julie Marsh and Stefania Pomponi Butler, were "disinvited." Read their posts (if you haven't already) for the full stories. Short version: both women were late RSVPs, for different reasons, but both were confirmed for the event. But when each introduced a variable unexpected by Johnson's -- Julie needed to bring her 9 week old son; Stefania couldn't stay for the whole thing -- both were "disinvited."
Now, as I've written here recently, I'm participating in a panel at BlogHer Business in two weeks called Improve This Pitch, and this sure sounded like one that could stand a bit. I also thought the whole affair would make a great blogger relations case study for Marketing Roadmaps. To do it justice, however, I would need the company perspective as well as the bloggers', and it really couldn't be done until after the event.
In light of the swirling blogstorm, however, I emailed the marcom agency doing the outreach asking to speak to someone from Johnson's. About the disinvitations and for the later case study.
Imagine my surprise when Lori Dolginoff, Director of Communications for the Johnson's brand, and the architect of the Camp Baby event, called within hours of my email. On some level, I suppose she was glad to hear from someone about this who she could call -- my phone numbers are in my email signature -- but still, it was a good sign.
Johnson's made some critical execution errors in this outreach, which I will dissect shortly, but I want to state clearly that I was impressed by Lori's wlllingness to take responsibility for the mess, and her genuine desire to mend the broken fences and learn from the mistakes. After speaking with her, I do believe that their intentions were good. They wanted to do something nice for the moms as well as promote their products. Give them a getaway from their kids and families. They also clearly understood the importance of transparency, which is no small matter.
We'll talk more about the actual content of the event in my post-event post. Right now, let's focus on the outreach.
Where did it fall down? Errors of execution.
They didn't really understand the mom's point of view. Lori told me that they thought it was understood that this was an adults-only event with no child care. Well, yes, it was. Part of the disconnect was that J&J thought that meant no children or babies whatsoever. Mommybloggers, however, likely interpreted it simply as no child care.
What J&J didn't understand was that a mom with a very young nursing baby might expect something called Camp Baby to accommodate her and her infant since the whole point of bringing such a young baby was that the mother couldn't be separated. In other words, she didn't need child care. Remember: no one was looking to bring older babies, toddlers or children to the event, at least as far as I know. We're talking young, breast-feeding infants. If Johnson's wanted no children of any age for any reason, it should have been explicit. If it was, I doubt Julie Marsh would have given it a second thought.
Now of course, it probably should have had some child care options. Doesn't mean it had to pay for air tickets for children. Doesn't even mean it had to pay for the child care, although the spirit of all expenses paid implies all expenses. I know personally that arranging child care can be tough. I'm lucky that my husband doesn't like to travel except on family vacations; he used to live on the road so he now prefers to stay home. But for many mommy bloggers, child care does make a tremendous difference in their ability to participate in an event or not. But no matter. The mistake was in not being explicit about the policy. Not in whether or not there was child care
Hype & lack of knowledge about the bloggers. Spaces are filling fast. RSVP today. Read Stefania's post. They were really pushing her to say yes. So she did. And then once there was a wrinkle, it all fell apart. Now, as someone who both follows and participates in the momosphere, I absolutely understand why you would want Stefania at your event. She's a smart articulate Asian-American woman who writes for multiple blogs. She has lots of readers. So,why, once you get her to say yes, would you f*** it up??? Particularly since she has written on more than one occasion about poor blogger relations. Do a little bit of homework on her blog. Just click the PR category. Takes a second.
Same for Julie. She announced Oliver's birth on the blog. There is really no excuse for not knowing that she's a new mom. She even told the person organizing the event that she just had a baby. I suspect that the fact that the agency person didn't understand the possible ramifications of this is due to a common blogger outreach problem: the folks sending the emails are often junior staffers without much experience. Clearly, in this case, no kids.
Clarity & expectations. If space was limited and preference to be given to women who could attend both days, it should have been stated upfront. Women who couldn't commit to the full timeframe wouldn't have replied. Or tried to arrange childcare as Stefania did. It is all about expectations. Set the right ones, and you'll be successful. Confuse people? Blogstorm.
Final point. In recent months, I've noticed a disturbing trend toward big programs/events. It's understandable and entirely consistent with a "big brand" approach but not necessarily consistent with establishing long term relationships with bloggers. Or your customer. Because that's what a blogger is. Your customer. Don't forget it. It's about the relationship over time, not overnight. So, think about it. Do you want a one-night stand? Or a commitment?
I gave Lori some advice, which she seemed to appreciate, and will be watching closely to see what the company does now. The most important things to to do, IMNSHO:
- reach out to the women who were not accommodated, starting, but not ending, with Julie and Stefania;
- address the whole mess head on at the event in two weeks. The women there already know about it. Deal with it;
- put on a good event;
- do it better next time.
I'll be watching, and I know for sure, I'm not alone :-)
Posted @ 10:03PM in Blogger relations
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