crossposted to Snapshot Chronicles. Warning: long post
Power. Of the collective. Of the parent. Of the blogger. That's today's topic.
Let's start with what the collective can achieve when we come together. In this case, for charity. As you may recall, about two weeks ago, in one of my Camp Baby case study posts, I suggested that companies interested in reaching women bloggers put their money into the charities that we care about. Not that we don't like schwag or free products, or hell, even some link love. But I have yet to meet a parent blogger that doesn't contribute what she or he can to charity. It's why BlogHers Act has such resonance for the community.
Which is why I was thrilled to get an email from Kristen Chase this morning telling me about the latest Parent Bloggers Network BlogBlast campaign. PBN has teamed up with Johnson's to promote Johnson's Baby Cause, the company's new charitable giving site to support the health and well-being of mothers and children worldwide. Details of the promotion are on the PBN post, but short version, blog about how you'd like to be recognized on Mother's Day. Both Johnson's and PBN are donating prizes; I love the PBN prize -- a $25 credit to donate to the cause of your choice at Baby Cause. Ten winners. There's also a charity auction for gently used celebrity baby goods on eBay that will benefit Baby Cause.
Why do I like this so much? To start with, charity. That will get me EVERY TIME. Which I am sure Kristen knew when she emailed me. And then there's the Johnson's component. I absolutely love that this Parent Bloggers Network campaign came about as a result of Lori Dolginoff from Johnson's and Kristen meeting at Camp Baby, a fact which I confirmed with Lori before posting tonight. (And perhaps of Lori and Julie Marsh, Kristen's partner in PBN, not meeting for all the reasons we already know.)
I'm sure the broader charity effort was well underway before Camp Baby earlier this month but as a direct result of the event, Johnson's decided to team up with PBN to promote it. In short, it learned how valuable it is to work with people within the community, and that, my friends, is worth the price of admission.
Okay, you get here for free, but you know what I mean.
Another way we exercise our power as bloggers is when we help build our community. As Kim Moldofsky did today with a "link love" post for her Camp Baby friends on parentcenter. Yet another consequence, and hopefully not unintended, of getting 56 women with common interests together.
The power of the collective to effect change. Use it. Write a post. Help a friend with a little link love. Donate, to Baby Cause or BlogHers Act. But I'm thinking, buy a new diaper bag.
Parent bloggers have power. And that's the segue into my next topic, which is to tell you about a project that launched its public beta today called ParentPower. Full disclosure: I've been consulting for the company developing ParentPower, advising them about the parent blogger space.
What is ParentPower? It's an application for parenting blogs. There’s a lot to it – a desktop widget, an index of top parenting blogs, links to sites we visit all the time like Flickr, Twitter and parenting sites, an RSS reader, the weather, and more. More details in the overview on the site.
Why do I like this project? Because Active Access, the company that developed the app, asked. And they listened. And not just to me and my colleague Kami Huyse, who brought me into the project. They did focus groups with parent bloggers. They've started talking in Twitter. We're talking with BlogHer about the best way to work with the community. And we are asking for even more feedback in the beta process. So if you decide to download the app, please complete the Polldaddy survey or send email to email@example.com
As everyone who reads my Marketing Roadmaps blog knows, I have my concerns about indexes, but Active Access has done a good job here. There's no subjective component in the Parent Power index and blogs that score the same get the same rank.
Personally, I'm LMAO that my personal/parent blog Snapshot Chronicles, which isn't even a year old and has a very small number of loyal, wonderful subscribers, currently has a better ranking on ParentPower than Marketing Roadmaps (three+ years old, 1000 plus subscribers) has on the AdAge Power150. I'll let you draw your own conclusions, but (hint hint) I think the ParentPower algorithm is better (no offense meant, AdAge 150), and hope those parent bloggers whose blogs are not yet included in ParentPower will add them and knock me down the pegs I probably deserve.
The power of parents. That's truly what the folks behind ParentPower want to support, and I urge you to give your feedback. On the application, on the index, on whatever floats your boat. The feedback from the parent blogger focus groups was invaluable, and really, we just want "more, more..."
And finally, power. As in laptop power supply. Marketing Roadmaps readers will remember rmy sad tale, posted on April 3, of a broken iGo power supply during my trip to NYC for BlogHer, the 4-hour search for parts and the $130 I spent on new cables because, contrary to the information provided by iGo support, neither Best Buy nor RadioShack stocked the part I needed. Well, today I got an email from a marketing manager at iGo offering to replace my broken part. While I am tickled pink? purple? some other color? at the fact that finally, a company actually read my frakking blog and responded, customer support already sent a replacement part at no charge to my home. Which is great and much appreciated, but does not compensate for the added costs or the wasted time while I was in NY. Nothing really can, but if they respond back to my reply, I will tell them that I'd be thrilled with some free product to give away on Snapshot Chronicles. (Sorry Roadmaps readers, all giveaways happen on the personal blog.)
We do have power as bloggers. Our opinions of companies do matter, as this study by SNCR demonstrates, and companies are starting to listen. Slowly.
So use that power wisely. Don't bitch to hear the sound of your own voice or read the melody of your own words.
Write to change things for the better.
Addendum - credit where credit is due (4/30/08)
Kim Moldofsky wanted to make sure everyone knows that
credit for the weekly post sharing idea goes to Jodi at www.momsfavoritestuff.com
In my zeal to be transparent about my small part in the ParentPower project, it came across to some readers as though this was my project. While I think ParentPower is a great product and hope folks try it out, I simply provided some advice about the parent blogger space. ParentPower was developed by Active Access. Livingston Communications and Kami Huyse led the product marketing, strategy and PR, and Shannon Whitley developed the Index algorithm.
The power trip
Some of you may have seen my tweets yesterday about my broken iGo power supply. In which case you will know that the power trip to which I refer has little to do with my ego and everything to do with my journey to find something, anything that would power my laptop and my Blackberry.
Here is the woeful tale. On the train to NYC on Wednesday, my iGo power adapter cord broke. It being the ONLY power supply I have with me for my laptop and my Blackberry and my iPod, I was pretty well screwed. I called my husband from the train and asked him to call iGo customer support to find out where in NY, preferably near the hotel, I could get a replacement part. Luckily, I only bought it in late January and still had the box with the model number in my office.
God bless my husband and high marks for effort to the iGo support techs. They had to do multiple calls because they had to check with me twice with questions about the broken bits. The recommended solution was for me to pick up a replacement part here in NYC. The iGo support tech told David that Radio Shack and Best Buy stocked the part, so off I went to the Radio Shack in the Manhattan Mall right next to the hotel. Unfortunately, Radio Shack did not have the part, so the Radio Shack sales rep recommended a basic wall adapter. Ka-ching $40.00 Back to the hotel I go to charge my phone and get some work done.
Then we have the OOPS. The wall adapter does NOT work with the laptop tip, only the small device tips. Back I go to Radio Shack. Where I learn that you have to buy a full converter package to charge a laptop. Wondering why the Radio Shack sales rep earlier in the day didn't know that, off I go to Best Buy (12 blocks away) to see if they have the replacement part.
Best Buy on 44th & 5th doesn't stock ANY iGo accessories of ANY kind. And I'm getting desperate. So I buy a regular power supply. Ka-ching $90.00
If you are keeping track, I've now spent $130.00, and about 3 hours on my "power trip." On top of the time that David spent on the phone with the iGo support techs while I was on the train. Because a $130.00 product that I've had for about 2 months broke. If you are still keeping track, that's $260.00 all in.
Now, iGo is sending the replacement part to the house, but really what the company should have done is fed-exed the replacement part to me here at the hotel. At their cost, not mine. From some of my husband's comments, it sounds like he did discuss this possibility with the iGo tech, but the overnight shipping would have been at my cost, not iGo's. Since all I needed to do was buy a replacement part, why spend the money...
Well, it didn't work out that way. I think the iGo techs meant well, but the information was bad. And I wasted time and money.
Tuesday I wrote, once again, that companies don't seem to be replying to bloggers' unsolicited comments, and it doesn't seem to matter whether the posts are negative or positive. The silence is generally deafening unless it is a very high profile blogger. I have no illusions about my profile so it doesn't surprise me that I've never heard from AAA, who I blasted in December, and Verizon Wireless, whose customer service I have complimented on more than one occasion both here and on Twitter.
Let's see if iGo is paying attention to the the blogosphere beyond the A-list...
The really top marks for this whole mess go to my husband for trying to sort this out for me while I was on the train. If you see him, tell him I said so.
He doesn't read my blog either.
Blogger relations is customer relations
Recently, I was explaining to someone why I wanted to shift the mix of my consulting business to include more blogger relations projects, both hands-on projects and strategic consulting to companies executing their projects themselves.
It's simple. Nearly every organization, regardless of size, is going to have to engage in blogger relations. Because blogger relations is the evolution of customer relations.
I hear the objection ... "But isn't blogger relations just PR campaigns aimed at bloggers to get them to write about products and services? How can that be customer relations?"
Outbound blogger relations, or blogger outreach, is only one part of blogger relations. It's also more, or at least should be more, than "just PR." Remember: the blogger is the customer. When companies engage with bloggers, they are strengthening, or weakening, their relationships with their customers.
For the moment, though, let's step away from the outreach discussion and remember that an interaction can be initiated by either party in a relationship.
It is equally likely that a blogger -- the customer -- will effectively reach out to a company by offering an unsolicited opinion about the firm or its products on her blog. How a company handles this blogger-initiated interaction, whether it be kudos or complaint, is equally blogger relations.
In my personal experience, companies rarely engage with bloggers under these circumstances. I've mentioned a number of different companies here, both positively and negatively, over the past three years. So far, only one company has left a comment on the relevant post. Other bloggers report similar results. The question is, why?
Are the companies not paying attention, or do they just not know what to say?
It's probably a bit of both. That's the opportunity for companies willing to step up and really start talking with their customers. Wherever the conversation may be.
It starts with monitoring what people are saying about the company -- on blogs, microblogs like Twitter, social networks like Facebook, Forums, your customer service or support lines -- wherever customers talk about you, whatever else comes along. But it can't end there, or even with solid outreach programs that offer relevant information to the appropriate people.
You have got to be willing to respond. To answer the question, acknowledge the comment, accept the compliment and address the concerns. Publicly.
That's the challenge for blogger relations. Engaging with your customers on their terms as well as yours, on their turf as well as yours. Consistently and for mutual benefit.
Ready, set, go.
I'm off to BlogHer Business tomorrow morning, so blogging will be light for the rest of the week, although I will be on Twitter. I will try to get my posts up about the sessions on the train ride home Saturday. While you are waiting, check out:
- SciFi Sunday on Snapshot Chronicles, a review of the Stargate SG-1 direct-to-DVD film The Ark of Truth, and an action figure giveaway. I've got some extra SG-1 figures and rather than mess around with E-bay, I'm going to give them away on Snapshot Chronicles.
- Coaching Tips from the Simon Cowell School of Professional Development from client Caras Training's blog For the Face of Your Business.
An excellent read adventure
Average Jane was kind enough to include Marketing Roadmaps on her list of most excellent reads in the meme started by Kayla at Project Mommy. The terms and conditions of the award, as with most memes, are pretty simple: pass it on and link back to the originator. You can repeat blogs that have already been awarded, but I think it is a cop-out to include ones that are on the same list as you, which is why you won't see my list below repeating a good chunk of Average Jane's even though I regularly read many of these same blogs and consider them most excellent.
Rules say award at least 10 Excellent Blog Awards, so here are 10 (out of the 500+ feeds in my feed reader) that will give you an excellent reading adventure. In alphabetical order by blog name:
- Communication Overtones
- Galactica Sitrep
- It's Not A Lecture
- Mary Schmidt
- Motherhood Uncensored
- Murphy's Law
- Occam's Razr
And if you've got a few extra minutes, please check out three blogs that I recently brought online for clients:
- Notes of the Urban Blues - all about the blues, with an emphasis on the Chicago urban blues
- Business Forward - a podcast for small and medium businesses
- For the Face of Your Business - thoughts on sales, service and leadership from my client Caras Training
Tags: excellent blog awards
SNCR research surveys that need your input
The Society for New Communications Research is doing two research projects right now that need your input.
I mentioned the survey with corporate partner Nuance on the impact of blogger/customer opinions a week or so ago here, and have some additional comments on customer satisfaction today at For the Face of Your Business.
The second survey, sponsored by SNCR, Deloitte and Beeline Labs, was designed to assess the effectiveness of online communities and learn how organizations are measuring the success and progress of their online communities. If you're involved in managing online communities for your organization, please give us about six minutes and take the 2008 Online Community Effectiveness Study at http://www.communityeffectiveness.com.
All participants who complete the surveys will receive a special discount to attend the Society's annual conference, New Communications Forum where the preliminary results of both surveys will be discussed.
Please help us with this important research, and when you are done with the surveys, pop on over to my personal blog, Snapshot Chronicles, for an early peek at Spring from the Boston Flower Show.
More on podcasting and Business Forward SMB podcast
"I think she's got it." -- Professor Henry Higgins
It was an experience, my friends, but I've finally nailed the various technical and software issues I was having in the podcast production process. There is so much more involved than simply recording and uploading to a server to produce a professional sounding podcast. I don't think you can fully appreciate the process until you do it. I certainly didn't.
Take a listen to the most recent program, Business Forward #6: Making Channel Sales Successful, our interview with SAP Channel Sales VP Dan Kraus. While the content of all the episodes is great (if I do say so myself), and the previous episodes sounded okay, this last one just sounds cleaner.
On another, but related, note, if you are a small business owner and will be attending BlogHer Business next month in New York, I'd love to interview you for the podcast. Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
For the Face of Your Business
As I've mentioned a few times recently, the last few months have been a blur of fun projects for really nice people.
Here's the latest: For the Face of Your Business, a blog I developed for consulting company Caras Training. Caras specializes in training programs for customer-facing employees who interact with the customer primarily by phone such as call center reps, support techs, customer care and telesales. Company founder Ronna Caras started the firm in 1990 to develop and deliver training programs with measurable, sustainable results and a solid return on investment.
More than 30,000 people participate in Caras-developed training every year at some of the country's largest corporations. That's a lot of people, so this year, Ronna decided that it was time to extend her conversation with her customers, students and peers with a blog.
The principal writers on the blog will be Ronna and client services manager Gloria Mogavero. They plan to have guest authors from time to time, and I'll be showing up now and again to comment on the impact of social media on customer service. Or dis-service as the case may be.
Ronna also will be a guest on some upcoming episodes of Business Forward, the SMB podcast I produce for client GuideMark. We taped her interviews last week, and she had some very smart things to say about how to teach your customer service employees to recognize and capitalize on selling opportunities that arise in the course of business. NOT hard sell. Mostly learning how to tell when the customer is really asking for more information, begging for help, etc. And then making the offer in a natural way.
While I hope you'll subscribe to Business Forward so you won't miss Ronna later this month, I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that Ronna is always ready to share her thoughts with others. If the idea of maximizing sales through your customer service function appeals to you, I urge you to drop her a note at email@example.com
For the Face of Your Business was designed by Karen Rani & Leslie Doherty of Swank Web Style.
Bloggers & Customer Service: Do blog complaints make a difference?
"Conventional" social media wisdom would have it that companies need to pay attention to the blogosphere, or risk their brands. For proof, out trots the example of Jeff Jarvis and Dell Hell. Jarvis' complaints about Dell customer service percolated up to mainstream media and are oft-cited as the impetus behind Dell's *big* move into social media about a year ago.
Now, you may sense a certain cynical undertone in the above paragraph, and you would be right. While I absolutely believe that companies should be listening to what bloggers -- their customers -- say, I am regularly provided with proof that either companies aren't listening or they are, and have no bloody idea what to say, or how to say it, when faced with blogosphere complaints, or compliments, about products and services.
My most recent proof:
Ike Pigott has been tracking the response, or lack thereof, to a post on his blog complimenting Blockbuster on its customer service. He also divined that Canon saw, but did not respond to positive comments about its products.
While I haven't made quite such a science of it, I have written about customer service on this blog on more than one occasion. Most recently about AAA's piss-poor performance with my flat tire before Christmas. Any word from AAA? Nope. And I've also mentioned my general, and unexepected, pleasure with Verizon's support of its cellular customers. On every occasion that I've had to call, I've been treated well. Most recently by a lovely young lady named Amy who offered a credit on something that had gone wrong before I asked. Any response from Verizon? Nope.
Not to mention my friend Mary Schmidt, whose interactions with American Airlines prove without a shadow of a doubt that the airline just doesn't get it.
This is by far a scientific survey, which is why I am so pleased that the Society for New Communications Research is working with corporate partner Nuance to understand the extent to which bloggers think their opinions are, or are not, impacting companies. Please take the survey and let us know whether you think Corporate America is listening. SNCR is offering a special discounted registration to New Comm Forum in April for those that complete the survey. Direct link to survey here.
And that, my friends, is well worth it. There's a great roster of speakers and opportunities to network with other communicators at New Comm Forum. I'm moderating the luncheon keynote on the first day, a panel of conference alumni coming back to tell how they applied what they learned at the conference at their organizations. More on that next week.
Client News: Maxwell Street Documentary is doing a T-shirt giveaway at the blog Notes of the Urban Blues. It is a very cool shirt. Just tell us about your favorite Blues artist and you can be entered to win.
And please check out the new podcast Business Forward, strategic advice for small and medium businesses, that I am producing for client GuideMark.
Mommy bloggers, New Comm Forum & Business Forward
Hopefully next week, I'll break free from the technology hell I have been in to write a bit more here.
For now, though, please check out the article I wrote for Media Bullseye, Some Advice on Reaching Out to Mommy Bloggers and my client GuideMark's new podcast for small to medium businesses, Business Forward. Preview: next week's episode is marketing tips from yours truly.
Also, early-bird discount for New Comm Forum in April ends tomorrow, Friday February 15th.
Notes of the Urban Bluescross posted to Snapshot Chronicles
I haven't been posting here too much because I have been jamming to bring up two new client blogs, a podcast and doing media & blogger outreach for Electrified: The Story of the Maxwell Street Urban Blues. Hopefully after Sundance, things will settle down a little bit and I can get back to ruminating about marketing topics.
In the meantime, if you'd like to follow the action at Sundance and the big Electrifed party at Harry O's on Friday with Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Hubert Sumlin, you'll find me over at the film's new blog, Notes of the Urban Blues. Friday, I'll be interviewing Phil Ranstrom, writer/director/producer of Electrified at the HP Broadcast Studio, and during the party Friday night (and into the wee hours Saturday morning), we'll try to get some clips up in near real-time. I'll also be live-tweeting so please feel free to follow me at twitter.com/sgetgood. And don't worry, I won't be hurt if you follow me just for the weekend and then unfollow :-)
Notes of the Urban Blues was designed by the very talented Leslie Doherty of Swank Web Style.