BlogHer Boston Sessions
I've posted the recordings of the two BlogHer Boston panels that I participated on over at the new Marketing Roadmaps site: getgood.com/roadmaps.
BlogHer '08 - Too many parties?
I've just returned from my trip to California for BlogHer '08 and a short vacation, both of which I intend to tell you ALL about either here or over on Snapshot Chronicles, depending on the topic. I certainly didn't intend a two-week hiatus from blogging, but I was so busy being there and truly enjoying the experiences -- in San Francisco with my mom and son, at the conference and then up in Sonoma for a few days -- that it just sort of happened.
But I have some great posts planned, which hopefully will make up for my absence.
Starting with my reflections on BlogHer '08. I've been to all four BlogHer Conferences, and have seen it evolve from its fairly humble beginnings in a San Jose office park to a world class blogging conference, community and advertising network.
1000 attendees this year. Sold out again. As the song goes, I've seen the changes.
From the first conference which had a definite tilt toward technical and business types. So much so that the few mom bloggers in attendance said quite clearly that they felt marginalized. (2005 post-conference observations).
To year two, which was the explosion of the mom blogs. So much so that the conference seemed to tilt completely the other way, leaving the more business-oriented adrift. BlogHer Business came along to fix that little problem. (2006 post-conference observations one and two)
To year three in Chicago. BlogHer was definitely growing up. With the accompanying growing pains. Bigger and better than the year before, it had terrific programming, but suffered from being dispersed over three locations -- the Navy Pier conference site and two hotels. The sponsors were also much more prominent. This is purely a statement of fact, as I agree with BlogHer's sponsor policy. Sponsor support is the best way to keep the cost of the conference within reach of the community, most of whom are NOT submitting expense reports to their companies for the trip.
In 2007, the community was now too large for everyone to know or speak with everyone else during the conference, and it was clearly stratifying along both topic and, for lack of a better word, popularity. Mom seemed to be the word. It was clear that advertisers and sponsors were most interested in mom bloggers, with an emphasis on A-list moms. Read last year's post conference posts (mine here, for others, just search on BlogHer 07) if you want to rehash all the post conference controversies that resulted. I don't, at least not in this post. Let's just say there was all sorts of resentment, along multiple topics. From why do companies send mom bloggers lame pitches for laundry soap to why don't the advertisers and sponsors value women who aren't mom bloggers or A-list. Many valid points, all of which have been discussed 'til the horse became glue.
The most relevant thing about last year for today's discussion is that 2007 was the first year of numerous invitation-only parties, most held the night before the conference began. In previous years, the organized party action was by and large at the BlogHer sponsored events.
This year, there were even more invitation-only parties and swag suites, both outside of and during the conference hours.
While I am glad to see BlogHer grow into a world-class conference that attracts sponsor attention, I worry that the spirit that attracted so many of us to a woman's blogging conference will get lost in the swag and party shuffle. One of the reasons BlogHer has the sponsored parties on both nights of the conference and also started the Newbie party this year is to make sure that no one gets left out. Rankings, ratings, book deals, tv appearances etc. etc. None of that matters. Everyone gets the same two drink tickets.
It's all about the community. That's one of the things that makes BlogHer so special. It's more than a conference. Sure we don't always agree and sometimes we fight, but there's more there there than just two days in a swank hotel.
Don't misunderstand. I don't have a problem with swag or parties. It has been terrific to see the women's blogging community grow and attract attention from sponsors and advertisers who, to use a cliche, "get it." Who get that you should talk with bloggers, not at them. That you should participate in the community, not try to "leverage" it. For many women who attend BlogHer, this is their vacation. For the moms, it may be one of the few times in the year that they get a couple days to let their hair down without kids. It's terrific that companies want to take them to dinner or throw a cocktail party or give them some good swag.
It's also very understandable. If a company has been working with women bloggers, why wouldn't it want to have an invitation-only dinner for the people they've been working with, as Nintendo did Friday night. Or create an event for Sunday like Michelin. The swag suites are okay too, as long as they are open to everyone, as MomSelect did by handing out flyers and Alpha Mom did by announcing on Twitter.
I just think we're reaching a point where it's too much. How many parties can people really attend? How much swag can we stuff in our suitcases before we have to pay the overweight or second bag charge to the airline? One mom I spoke with on Thursday night at the Kirtsy/Alltop party had six other parties to attend that night, including the open-to-all People's Party.
While it's fine -- wonderful even -- that sponsors are willing to foot the bar bill the night before the conference, how much is too much? What do you really get out of a party if you are worrying about being late to the next one? Are we counting cards collected or making connections?
One problem, and reason for so many pre-conference parties, is that there is so little time outside the conference hours to connect. BlogHer did its best to accommodate the sponsors by making sure that the breaks were long enough for attendees to check out Sesame Street, the spa suite, the Internet Cafe and all the exhibit tables. While this may have made some of the breaks too long, by and large I think attendees appreciated having unstructured time to talk with other bloggers without feeling like they were blowing off the conference sessions.
Swag, parties, it's all good.
Until it's not.
I personally draw the line at invitation-only events held during the conference hours. I just think it is wrong to have a private event during the conference hours that draws attendees away from the conference program. Away from the speakers who have worked so hard to prepare for their sessions. There were other examples during BlogHer but far and away the worst in my opinion was the private suite that SixApart held Friday afternoon during the Community Keynote.
At the Community Keynote, twenty bloggers read their posts on everything from depression, body image and suicide to the Wiggles, porn and farts. For some bloggers, this was their very first time speaking in public. The emotion on the stage and in the room was palpable during the more intensely personal posts. When it was funny, we all laughed.
It was the very essence of the BlogHer community. And at least five of the bloggers who read at the Community Keynote are on SixApart platforms (Moveable Type, TypePad and VOX).
But SixApart decided to hold a private party at the same time.
Definitely not in the right spirit. Which is why I didn't go, even though three people offered to let me tag along with them. Yeah, even though this blog is currently, and I stress currently, on TypePad, I didn't rate an invite. Oh well.... I wouldn't have gone anyway :-)
What would I like to see instead?
I was pleased to see companies getting together for joint events like Kirtsy, Alltop and the sponsors of the People's Party, and I hope we see even more of this in the future. But I'm greedy. I want more.
I'd like to see a major company NOT throw a party and instead donate a significant amount in the names of the attendees to breast cancer or autism research, two issues which are very near and dear to this community. And I'm not talking a token $10,000; make it meaningful, and I guarantee the BlogHer community will remember you.
And the swag? While it's fun to collect trinkets and trash (and there was some good stuff this year), in the end we really pay for the free shit. Either the suitcase weighs too much or we have to check a second bag or we have to ship a box home, all of which costs money. For the free stuff. In my case, I was glad to have it because it made lovely padding for the wine we shipped back from Sonoma. But what would be really cool is for companies to mail it afterward. Just show us the goodies and get our mailing address. Don't abuse our trust by automatically adding us to your mailing list, but I guarantee you, people will appreciate NOT having to lug your product samples home. Unless it is small and really useful, we really would prefer to get it later.
I also think companies that throw parties or host swag suites at the conference should be official sponsors of the conference at some level. It's about supporting the whole community, not just part of it. This will require some creative thinking from BlogHer on how to structure it, but I know they are up to the task. It will also require the companies throwing the private events to coordinate, not compete, with the main event.
That's the spirit of BlogHer.
Speaking of useful swag, the best items were the 3-plug outlet from Topix and the Joby Zivio Bluetooth headset. Both already have a home in my laptop bag and purse respectively. Small, useful items. Everything else? In the box with the wine.
And the best party? Y and Lindsay's infamous Cheeseburger party. Supported this year by Alpha Mom.
What I learned from Camp Baby (part 2 of 2)
On Monday, I covered the the mom bloggers' perceptions of Johnson and Johnson's Camp Baby and I was hoping to follow that up with an interview with the event organizers. Unfortunately, they haven't responded to my queries. I can only hope that it was because my emails got caught in their spam filter or something...
While I could take a guess at their goals for the event, my speculation would still just be my opinion, and I certainly can't pass judgment on whether it was a success. That's their call, based on what they hoped to achieve.
But I go on vacation on Friday and need to wrap up my J&J coverage before I leave. Other stories beckon. For now, we'll have to be satisfied with their public statement about the event on their blog and this short article in BrandWeek.
Instead, this wrap-up post will focus on what we can all learn from Camp Baby. Starting with some advice from two women who attended. I asked them what advice they would give to another consumer products company considering doing a similar event. Jodi, from Mom's Favorite Stuff said:
"I’d recommend re-vamping the invitation process. It should have been more streamlined, and more explicit (ie: no kids, space is limited, etc). If another consumer products firm wanted to do something similar, I’d just recommend being very clear and transparent. Explain the objectives, the expectations, and I think most mommy bloggers will appreciate it!"
Christina from A Mommy Story also pointed out that they packed a lot into a very short time, and it took her a couple days to recover from the exhaustion. Her advice for another company trying to reach out to mom bloggers:
"Events like these will work to draw in a lot of attention - just look at all of the Twitter noise from those three days! But be prepared for the snark as well as the positive blogging. And please, if you ask for our opinion about your products, be ready for a lot of criticism along with praise. We're an educated bunch, and we know what we're talking about. Take our suggestions seriously. I will be watching to see if J&J implements any of the suggestions we gave them."
Let's make these the foundation for our learning points.
One. Be clear and explicit from the get-go. Make your expectations clear so the bloggers can set theirs. If you are going to do an event (more about my evolving opinion of events in a bit), define your group carefully and as narrowly as possible. If you can't accommodate nursing moms or people who can't stay the whole time, don't invite them.
Two. Transparency. It is more than just asking bloggers to acknowledge the junket. It starts with clearly communicating the objectives of your event to the participants. It also means being honest about your agenda. Christina commented in her email, which I quoted in the earlier post, that it was clear that the sessions all had an unacknowledged product component. Guess what: the women figured it out.
Three. It's not a one-way conversation any more. Just because a company says it is so does not mean that customers/bloggers will believe it. If you ask for feedback and opinions, be prepared. For critcism and to take some action. Or don't ask. As Christina points out in her comment above, the women at Camp Baby had strong concerns about chemicals in baby products. Did J&J take them seriously? Only time will tell, but it does sound like the company was surprised at the strength of the bloggers' convictions. And knowledge about the subject.
Four. You've read it here before. Read the blogs. Over time, not over night. You have to know what the bloggers are interested in -- to invite them, to create a program that interests them, to have a relationship. There isn't a ranking system or index available that can replace the knowledge gained by truly getting to know someone. At a minimum, as Julie (mothergoosemouse) says in the comments to my previous J&J post, at least read the About Page. You'll be amazed at the wealth of information.
Finally, and this is my opinion, not something from the feedback or comments about Camp Baby -- consider that a blow-out event may not be the best way to engage over time with the customers you are trying to reach.
Lindsay Ferrier (Suburban Turmoil) wrote this week about how the momosphere is changing, and not necessarily for the better. The focus on monetizing the blog, getting ad revenue, paid posts and all expenses paid junkets, whether to New Brunswick New Jersey or Orlando, has created a different, less friendly world than before. So far 72 comments and counting.
So the question is, what is the best way for companies to engage with bloggers? With their customers.
Sure, a big event can be a lot of fun -- even for the organizers, there is a certain exhiliration in having pulled it off, but wining and dining is a date. Getting to know someone, helping them achieve their goals, adding value consistently over time. That's a relationship. As a marketer, I want a long-term relationship with customers. Not a one night stand. Generally, those aren't terribly satisfying.
How can you help the blogger all the time, not just once? Access to company resources for research? Involvement in new product development? User Councils? Think outside the box, and not just about getting this or that product reviewed. What is the customer relationship with the company over time? What will make her love you? Why do you love her?
If you work for one of those consumer companies salivating over the mom blogger segment, or even a smaller firm that wants to reach women bloggers, including mom bloggers, I have some advice for you.
If you want to reach women bloggers, especially in the United States and Canada, don't dump thousands of dollars into a big event. Devote a fraction, just a fraction, of that budget, to supporting a BlogHers Act initiative. This year, the focus is on maternal health in the US, the environment in Canada, but there are other causes within this umbrella as well. I guarantee you, you will reach more people, garner more positive attention for your company, your brand, than any slick event.
Here are just a few ideas, all of which I came up with driving to a business lunch today. Imagine what we could do with a bit more thought.
- Make a donation. Through BlogHer's widget or through a blogger whose cause you support;
- Give products to women bloggers in your network for giveaways/raffles on their blogs;
- Match donations over some specified period;
- Create a contest or giveaway on your site to benefit BlogHers Act -- more complex than the other ideas but potentially quite rewarding.
Keep in mind, this is how I make my living, but today, in this post, the advice is free. I hope like hell someone pays attention.
But, no fooling, you want to explore one of these ideas and need some help, give me a call. 978 562 5979.
Almost Live from New York, BlogHer Business
I'm still catching up after a whirlwind 3 days in New York City at BlogHer Business, where I caught up with old friends, made some new ones and didn't get nearly enough sleep.
As promised, I will be posting the HP Case Study as well as some observations from the Improve this Pitch panel -- look for the posts mid-week -- but in the meantime, please check out the posts from the BlogHer live bloggers.
I was also interviewed by the Screengrab team from Weber Shandwick. They were doing a series of short interviews with participants. Here I am, almost live from New York, talking blogger relations:
PR people: do your homework BEFORE you reach out to bloggers
As we've seen this week alone, from the Camp Baby blogstorm and other incidents (like inviting Jewish moms to Disney over Passover), it is painfully apparent that many PR firms and reps reaching out to bloggers don't do their homework. This is probably the root cause of the most egregious blogger relations SNAFUs. A poorly written pitch makes you chuckle. A poorly targeted one pisses you off.
Some of you may recall my 4Ps of social media:
- Then and only then Pitch or Publish.
Companies and agencies spend far more time analyzing every word to create the perfect pitch and putting together spectacular events designed to wow bloggers and customers, than they do on the research -- on getting to know bloggers, reading the blogs, figuring out who would be most interested in a particular product or program.
They still play the numbers game -- build as big a list as possible, focus on the "top" blogs and bloggers, blast the pitch and see what falls out. I, on the other hand, am convinced that if you spend the time to narrow your list and reach out to a smaller number of bloggers who will be very interested, you'll get better results.
I'll give you an example. I created a small program for HP last year for the launch of the HP Photo Books. I've written about it here before, and we'll be presenting a case study that includes it at BlogHer Business in April. I'll publish the full case study here after the presentation, but for now, I want to focus on how we decided who to reach out to with the Photographic Memories component of the program.
You could make an assumption that most moms take pictures of their kids. Pretty safe bet. But the Photographic Memories project involved a time intensive component of writing interviews with the moms for HP.com. We also had a limited supply of the compact photo printers we were offering to make it easier for the moms to try out the books.
Twenty interviews. Something in that vicinity felt right. With 20, we felt we'd have a nice cross section of women from all over the US with different personal and professional backgrounds. We also wanted moms who were really into their photos, but that didn't just mean women who were actively engaged with it as a hobby. We wanted a mix of moms that simply liked to take and share snapshots, dedicated hobbyists and professional photographers. Why? Because when other women came to read the interviews, we wanted everyone to be able to find someone they could identify with.
Homework time. I combed through my blogroll of mommy blogs. And trust me, that is a lot of mommy blogs. Looking for moms who wrote about their pictures, often included pictures in posts, and had a Flickr badge on their home page or a special photo album for family pics. I also contacted a friend who is a professional photographer and blogger for her recommendations.
In the end, I had a balanced list of 40 mommy bloggers. Some of them have lots of readers, but most are in what has been termed the "magic middle" - blogs with 20-1000 other people linking to them.
Only 40? I can hear you all now. That's not a lot. Well no, it isn't. And that's the point. If you do your preparation properly, you don't have to cast a wide wide net. Twenty-two --22 -- from that initial list of 40 participated in the project. Even math-challenged me can do that math -- more than 50 percent.
Do your homework. Build relationships. Develop programs that offer strong value to both sides. Narrow cast. As narrow as possible. Your program will benefit, and by the way, your selection criteria are much more defensible. One of the things J&J got tagged with this week was reaction from the many mommy bloggers who weren't invited. The more focus you have, the better off you will be.
Friend and colleague David Wescott of APCO Worldwide has been working on a project for the past year or so with the Council of PR Firms to understand the perspectives of both PR agencies and bloggers. There's a lot of good information in the study, as well as an opportunity to contribute to future research, so I urge you to check it out. What I found the most interesting was that it clearly proves the biggest disconnect between agencies and bloggers. Agencies think they are doing a good job identifying the interests of bloggers and sending them relevant information. Bloggers resoundingly disagree.
(source: The State of Blog Relations)
Uhmm. Yeah. That would be my experience. And that of many bloggers I know.
We have got to get this right, folks. Bloggers are your customers. How do you want to talk with your customers? Think about it, and think hard.
I've said it before, and I guess I'll say it until we get it right. Bloggers are your customers. It's about the relationship over time, not overnight. Do you want a one night stand or a commitment?
If you want a commitment, figure out what matters to your customers.
I am woman, hear me speak
“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” - Rabbi Hillel
Diversity at business, and especially social media, conferences. Still a concept more than a reality, and quite frankly, it feels like we've been pushing this rock uphill forever. This week, Lena West started the ball rolling again over at Lipsticking, and Jeremiah Owyang and Elisa Camahort both joined the fray. And now me.
As we all have before. More times than any of us wishes.
Read their posts. Read the comments. There are so many people speaking eloquently on this subject... again ... that I don't have much to add.
Except the following: VOTE WITH YOUR FEET.
Stop going to conferences that do not embrace diversity. And not just gender. A conference full of white faces, whether they are male or female, does not embrace our population. Online or off.
Tell the organizers why you won't attend ... sponsor ... exhibit.
It will not change if we do not stop talking about it and start doing something.
For all these reasons, and many more, I embraced BlogHer from the beginning and am so proud to be part of that community. Man or woman, I urge you to attend BlogHer Business this April in NYC and BlogHer in San Francisco in July.
One of the sessions I'm part of at BlogHer Business is a panel on "Improve this Pitch." We will be focusing on pitches to bloggers that are ok but could stand some improvement. No worries though, we promise to share some really bad pitches for your enjoyment as well. Including the crappiest pitch ever. Really.
I'm also doing a case study with Victoria Naffier from HP and Liz Gumbinner, Mom-101, about the blogger outreach programs for HP Photo Books last fall.
Another conference I urge you to check out is New Comm Forum in Santa Rosa, California at the end of April. I'll be moderating the luncheon keynote on the first day, a panel of alumni from the conference coming back to share how they used the knowledge gained at the conference in their organizations. Planning to come to New Comm? Next year, it could be you.
BlogHer Recap Part 2: Everything and the Kitchen Sink
There was a lot more to BlogHer than a bit of a fuss about public relations, including seeing so many old, and meeting so many new, friends. Since I am bound to leave someone out if I do a list, know that I was so happy to see or meet you, and was sorry I missed so many people that I know or read. Next year....
This post is going to cover a variety of things, from the unconference on Sunday to politics and why the major media didn't come to BlogHer.
In fact. let's start there. Joanne Bamberger of Pundit Mom and Jennifer Pozner at the Women's Media Center have done an excellent job of summarizing the issue: the national media didn't bother with BlogHer, with 800+ women bloggers in attendance, even though a major policy effort, BlogHers Act, was a key element of the program and Elizabeth Edwards was featured in the closing keynote. Yet a week later. everyone finds time to go to Chicago for YearlyKos.
As I posted in a comment yesterday to my previous BlogHer post, I wonder if it was in part because of the absence of assholes?
Bear with me a moment.
It's a well known fact. Disagreement and invective make better stories than agreement and community. At least as far as the mainstream media is concerned. Don't believe me? Just pick up your local morning paper and look at the front page. Besides, there really is no other explanation for Ann Coulter.
Why doesn't the mainstream media understand that 800+ women bloggers are a powerful political presence? Especially in the context of BlogHers Act, a collective effort to make a difference on a significant issue, global health?
I'm wondering if it is because the BlogHer community generally embraces its diversity instead of encouraging controversy? The media loves arguments and assholes and division, and you know, there is plenty of all three over on most political sites. But 800 women coming together out of a mutual interest in using blogs to share their experiences, whether professional, personal or political, and agreeing to respect the diversity of the community, not proselytize?
Nah. That's no fun.
It's also not right. Think about how you can change it.
Moving on, let's be crystal clear. Just because the BlogHer community isn't a bunch of jerks doesn't mean that there aren't political differences among the members. Julie Marsh, mothergoosemouse, touched upon them on both her personal blog and on Imperfect Parent. As she notes, the women in the BlogHer community are good at coming together on the areas upon which we agree. But there seems to be a liberal bent, which may be off-putting to more conservative women. How do we embrace both groups? It's not a trivial question.
Especially in context of the thing that worries me the most about US politics, which is that we seem to have become so polarized (call it red/blue if you must) that we cannot come together on anything. I posted the following on BlogHer a few weeks ago and Lisa Stone referenced my question during the Edwards keynote:
A word about breast cancer
Cross posted to Snapshot Chronicles
Just before BlogHer, I started reading Toddler Planet, the blog of an incredibly courageous woman who had to change her plans to attend the conference because she had been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, a particularly nasty and often undetected form of breast cancer, and her chemo was scheduled to start the same week.
She has written a post about the disease and asked fellow bloggers to repost as much or as little of it as they wished. Please spread the word, and if you are so inclined, make a donation to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Here is WhyMommy’s post:
We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?
I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.
Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.
Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.
There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.
Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.
You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.
P.S. Feel free to steal this post too. I’d be happy for anyone in the blogosphere to take it and put it on their site, no questions asked. Dress it up, dress it down, let it run around the place barefoot. I don’t care. But I want the word to get out. I don’t want another young mom — or old man — or anyone in between — to have to stare at this thing on their chest and wonder, is it mastitis? Is it a rash? Am I overreacting? This cancer moves FAST, and early detection and treatment is critical for survival.
Post-BlogHer Recap: In Which I Contemplate the Woodshed
This summer, BlogHer was a completely different experience for me than in past years. It was the first time I wasn't speaking, although I did end up volunteering at the Birds of a Feather sign-up, which was a great way to see everyone, if only for a few moments. It was also the first time I went as both a marketer and a mom. In previous years, including this past Spring at BlogHer Business, I went to the conference with pretty much with just my marketing hat on. Don't get me wrong - I was a mom then too, but I didn't have a personal blog.
I do now. Snapshot Chronicles is all about taking pictures of and with my seven-year old son. A major reason to attend BlogHer was to talk about SC and a photo contest for kids I am co-sponsoring this summer with a couple of other women bloggers, Tracey Clark and Sheri Reed.
But I also had my marketing hat on. I've developed a project for a client that I truly believe mom bloggers with a specific interest will want to participate in. I knew quite a few of the women on my "possibles" list would be at BlogHer, making the conference an ideal opportunity to quietly sound them out. How did I know they'd be there? Because I read and comment on their blogs. And for a lot longer than a week before BlogHer.
What does this have to do with the woodshed? Patience, grasshopper, I am getting there.
BlogHer itself was great, especially the unconference on Sunday (more on that in my next post), and I felt like I accomplished what I set out to do over the three days. However, I was a little disturbed by the anti-PR sentiment at the state of the momosphere panel on Friday, and my feelings of unease have only intensified over the past few days as the posts, and comments, have been flying fast and furious about taking PR people to the woodshed and how much we (marketing and PR folks) suck.
I'm not taking it personally, mind you. At least not too much. Helping companies do blogger relations right has become a large part of my professional work. I write and talk about it all the time,and work very hard to make sure that my clients' programs are a win-win for everyone. In fact, I advise clients if they aren't willing to do it right, don't do blogger relations at all. Spend your money on advertising or trinkets & trash.
So even though I know it is not personal, it's hard not to take offense at the blanket statement that "we know you don't read our blogs." I do read the blogs. I read about 500 blogs on a regular basis -- mom blogs, food blogs, military blogs, tech blogs, travel blogs, health blogs, film blogs, marketing blogs, PR blogs, education blogs, and more. Sure, I enjoy the mom, marketing, photo and PR blogs the most because that is where my personal interests lay, but you cannot do blogger outreach well if you don't get to know the people behind the blogs. Because it isn't about inanimate things called blogs. It's about people.
And getting really personal here, I think the momosphere has forgotten that there are people, real people, on the other side, trying to do this right. And a lot of them are women. An awful lot in fact. PR as a profession is well known to be a female-dominant industry. And by that I mean there are a lot of women in it, most often at the lower and mid levels. No matter what anyone tells you, PR is still male-dominated; men run most of the big agencies. And we sort of kept that meme going at BlogHer, since Jory only had time to call on two people from PR, both men.
Today, I feel like you want me to apologize for my chosen profession. And I just don't feel like apologizing. Not for what I do for a living. Not for corporate America. Not any more. Women do that way too much for things they didn't do.
So, my friends, readers and fellow BlogHers, I ain't going to the woodshed. Not today.
Many of us want to get this right. And for outreach to all bloggers that our companies and clients might want to talk with, not just moms. Because those of us that "get it," get that there are much better ways to reach out to our customers. Not mass, generic, white-bread messages designed to appeal to all, offend none, and end up doing nothing much for our companies or our customers.
Simple stories that speak directly to people, not at them. Programs that give the bloggers access to people (Gloria Steinem), places (backstage at Sci Fi Network) and things (umm "toys") that in turn provides fodder for posts and podcasts. Not to mention the possible other benefits ;-)
Programs that donate both goods and dollars to charity, often chose by the bloggers themselves. Outreach that focuses on the bloggers and their needs/wants, not just the company's. There are good blogger relations programs, and good PR/marketing folks. Really, we aren't all assholes. At least not all the time.
So judge me, judge us, on what we do. Not on what others do. Or don't do. As I said, I try hard to get it right. If I fuck up, tell me. If you have suggestions, tell me.
But don't assume that every PR outreach will be lame and impersonal. Some will be, but some will be interesting opportunities that you'd want to do. But you won't get the chance if you completely close your mind to the possibilities.
One last comment, and then I will step off my soapbox. There is a diversity issue, no question. Mainstream media is pretty white bread, white man, and much of that has crept into the blogosphere as well. It's why BlogHer exists, my friends; remember guys don't link?.
How do we change it? Talk about it. Educate. Maybe even reach out to companies with products we'd like to evaluate and see if they come through.
I have some other ideas, which I am noodling around as I contemplate, but refuse to enter, the woodshed. And I may just be calling on you for advice.
So please don't delete my email before you read it.
On BlogHer and the Do's and Don'ts of marketing to bloggers
Well, better late than never I suppose. I cannot believe it has taken me more than a week to sit down to collect my thoughts on BlogHer Business last month.
Bottom line: the inaugural BlogHer Business was a worthy conference sister to the main BlogHer Conference (number 3 is this July), and I was honored to be a part of it. <Steps on soapbox> All those "all white boy, all the time" conference organizers who shake their heads woefully and say, "but we don't know any women to ask to speak at our conference," or "but women didn't submit any sessions," or whatever other lame excuse, could do well by getting a hold of the conference program and noting the great women who spoke at this conference. And don't stop there. Any of the women who attended could do a better job than some of the lame stuff I've seen in my career. <Steps off>
Highlights? Everything. It was great to see so many of the women I've gotten to know through BlogHer over the past few years. Elisa Camahort. Jory Des Jardins. Lisa Stone. Maria Niles. Yvonne DeVita. Toby Bloomberg. Amy Gahran. Marianne Richmond. Lena West. Elana Centor. My co-panelists in the blogger relations panel Elise Bauer and Michelle Madhok. The effervescent Shirley Frazier who I interviewed for the small business case study. New friend Julie Crabill from SHIFT PR who did a noble job in the "press release must die" session. And so many more. And of course distaff regulars Chris Carfi and Jeremy Pepper (pink shirt and all). The boys in the band??
As part of our session, Elise, Michelle and I developed The Do’s and Don’ts of Marketing to Bloggers. If you think of any others we should add, please let us know.
- Create a targeted list of bloggers. Read the blogs regularly.
- Know the blogs you are approaching. Address the blogger by name.
- Be relevant to the blogger’s interests.Make sure your outreach includes a benefit for the blogger – a product she’d like to review, exclusive information, access to company principals, etc.
- Treat the blogger with the same respect you would a professional journalist.
- Be open to constructive feedback from bloggers. Ask for it.
- Offer to send product with no strings attached.
- Ask bloggers what they need from you.(suggested by an attendee at the panel.)
- Do not send obvious form letters.
- Do not ask for links, unless you are willing to pay for them.
- Do not leave blog comments plugging your products.
- Do not come on too strong.
- Do not put the blogger on your mailing list without permission.
My husband and son joined me Friday night and we spent the weekend in NYC. On our way to see Tarzan on Broadway on Saturday, we ran into Rachel Clarke and the Kleenex "let it out" campaign in Times Square. Rachel works for JWT and this is one of her projects. She took some great pictures of us on the Blue Couch (we're the first three in the set.)
And then we saw Tarzan, which was much better than I expected. March is Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS month, in which all the shows (nationwide) raise money for charity. At Tarzan, we had plenty of opportunities to part with our cash, but I could not resist having my son's picture with Tarzan, proceeds to charity.