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.
Lame web celebrity lists and gender equality
Yesterday, Forbes published its annual web celebrity list and last night, we had a bit of chatter on Twitter about it. I promised a post to further explain my thoughts on the list. Here goes.
There's more than one problem here, so let's start with the most obvious. Do we really need yet another web celebrity list?
If we truly believe what we say, that social media is about more than celebrity or rank, that it is about the democratization of media, that the long tail is just as important as the mass market, then we need to put our money where our mouths are.
We need to look deeper than the A-list. And not be fooled by lists like this one that merely scratch the surface of the richness of the blogosphere.
Now, I am not at all surprised that Forbes takes the easy way out by pandering to our culture of celebrity by creating a list that seems more appropriate to PEOPLE or the STAR. It's a chance to show that they are more than just a stodgy mainstream business publication. Oooh Perez Hilton in Forbes... who would have thought....
Unfortunately, this perpetuates a misconception about what social media is, and what it can become. What we can become as a result.
Not only is that a real shame, but also it goes a long way to explaining why so many companies get it wrong when they engage. If we treat social media just like everything else, why should we expect that they'd "get it?" That they'd understand the fundamental differences between mass markets and the long tail, between bloggers and journalists. And so on.
The other problem is the gender imbalance. The Forbes list, like so many others, suffers from an over-representation of white middle class men. Only four women out of the 25. That's 16%, for the math jocks out there. That doesn't match the demographics of either the US population or Internet users.
The Forbes list is merely one among many that suffers from this problem. In the tweet-around last night, Chris Baskind forwarded me yet another recent list that purported to summarize the definitive blog posts of 2007. Just as bad. I counted 38 different authors (many of the same ones as in the Forbes list by the way) and 5 women. That's about 13%.
Quite often, these lists mention the same women. Not to take away from their work and significant contributions, but there truly are more than a handful of women engaged in social media. And don't get me started on the fact that the "definitive posts" post attributes CommonCraft's great "RSS explained" video to Lee Lefever alone. No mention of business and life partner Sachi LeFever.
Now, we could say that these are stupid, lame lists, and why would women and minorities want to be on them anyway?
Unfortunately, that would miss the point of true equality.
True equality means that women and minorities should be adequately represented everywhere.
Certainly anything that claims to be a definitive summary of web influence.
And even lame web celebrity lists.
By now most marketing and PR bloggers have heard about the new Blog Council -- created by Andy Sernovitz, former head of WOMMA, 12 big company members, etc. etc. In fact, most marketing and PR bloggers have already written about it and I don't have much to add. I'm going to reserve judgment until we see what the Council actually does.
However, I do have one comment, which is that I am once again disappointed by an industry group's speaking roster. So far the Council appears to have had nine members-only presentations of some sort, with 13 speakers, some from vendors, some from member companies. 10 men (77%), 3 women (23%). Better than some recent events, but still not good enough.
We have to do better than this. I hope the Blog Council does.
One more for the road and one for the Roadmap
I promise, I do have some actual marketing content in this post, but before I get back to the Roadmap, I've got one more comment "for the road" about the absurdity that is our national presidential elections.
You may recall my comments in earlier posts about how the media always seems to pay inordinate attention to the appearance and demeanor of female candidates -- hair, make-up, nature of their laugh. You know, the really important stuff that tells voters whether a candidate is qualified for elected office. You know, more important than the issues facing our country like the war, health care and the economy.
Well, I must extend kudos to USA Today and reporter Maria Puente for an interesting story on the front of the LIFE section this morning about how style is "an issue for '08". The story presented a pretty balanced view of the media's obsession with the candidates' (and especially Hillary's) looks.
But the best was the sidebar on page 2 of the section that dissected what all the presidential candidates are wearing. Absolutely priceless. Absolutely perfect. Here are just some of the gems:
[...] Earlier this year, Edwards was captured on camera fussing over his hair. Then there were jeers when it came out that he spent $400, twice, on haircuts. But Edwards laughed off the criticism, spoofing the kerfuffle with his own video (featuring Hair from the Broadway musical).
The former New York mayor gets applause for finally giving up on the comb-over and accepting the realities of male-pattern balding. Now if only he could spiff up those oversized, un-stylish suits he sometimes wears.[...]
[...] Then it was reported on Radar Online.com that he was miffed at his staff for dressing him like a metrosexual in a "gay" V-neck sweater over a T-shirt. McCain's campaign did not return calls seeking comment, then or now.
[...] Romney criticized Edwards on the haircuts, but then it came out that he had spent $300 on a makeup job before a debate. [...]
Go read it.
Now back to the roadmap. You remember, the Marketing Roadmap :-)
The media landscape is shifting. Right in front of our very eyes. Customers are increasingly taking control of their own brand experiences. Generating the content, deciding what is important. Targeting by behavior is more effective than demographics. It's not just about viral, it's about spreading the right message for the right result.
Now, if you've been active in social media marketing for the past few years, none of the above is news to you. At all. You already know that the traditional lines between PR and marketing are blurring. We aren't talking in isolation to influencers (the media) and customers. Intermediation is no longer the name of the game. We can, and must, talk directly with our customer, who is simultaneously both influencer and buyer. Forget about messages. We have to connect with people. Honestly. Authentically. No bullshit.
If you've been doing this for a while, you understand how important this new communication is to our brands, our companies, our survival. You've sucked that social media kool-aid right down. You get it.
But it can be hard for people to put their heads and arms around when faced with it for the first time. And there's no real way to cut the learning curve down. You just have to jump in.
Now, I am always suspicious of business experts who don't actually do what they write about, so I viewed Larry Weber's new book, Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business, with a bit of a jaundiced eye. Sure, he has the PR background but I'm not sure he even has a blog... How much could he really know about marketing to the social web without doing it? Without being in it?
Well, I can't answer that question, but I just read an excerpt from his new book in BrandWeek, and while I'm not sure I'd get much new information from the book, I was pleased with the 12 steps he outlined for companies to follow toward an interactive future.
Which makes me think his book might be a good intro for brand marketers and PR execs. Budget is tight right now, so I don't plan to buy the book, but I'd love to hear from my readers if it is any good. And of course, Larry Weber, John Wiley & Sons, if you send me a review copy, I will read it.
Books are pretty much the only things I do review here.
Feeding the trolls
This week, events in two blog circles in which I travel drew the trolls out from under their bridges: the League of Maternal Justice's BreastFest and the "retirement" of a PR blog character whose public face was attractive but who was best known for its ill-spirited, trollish attacks on other bloggers.
When a topic is controversial, even if only mildly so, the trolls are inevitable. What do you do when they show up in your place or in your face?
The safest and sanest approach is to ignore them.
That's why I don't feed the trolls. Sure, I've had them here from time to time, but lack of sustenance leads them to go elsewhere for their jollies. I don't respond here, and if they attack in the comments on other blogs or Web sites, I ignore them there. It's hard, especially when they get personal, as they always do. But the child's nursery rhyme is true: sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.
Dealing with the trolls was particularly hard for some of the women actively engaged in the breastfeeding debate. The act and the decision itself are so highly personal, and it didn't take long for the trolls to get offensive. But remember: the troll is the one with the problem. Not you.
If a troll or two turns up here as a result of this post, I'll ignore them. But unless a comment is obscene or libelous, I won't delete it. I stand by my words. Let them stand by theirs.
Some folks take a different approach. They bait the troll, on the theory that a troll's arguments are so ridiculous, the troll will end up proving the initial point it is attacking. This can be successful, but you have to have a really strong stomach. Because a troll is not rational. No matter how logical your argument, it will never penetrate the troll's generally thick skull. You will never convince him. Or her.
But maybe, just maybe, proponents of this approach argue, if you can stay the course, the weird non-logic, personal attacks and ramblings of the troll, as compared to your logical, reasoned arguments, will convert a few folks on the fence. And of course, initially there is an adrenaline rush from building your argument to beat the troll.
The rush doesn't last, the troll will get ugly, and the chances of changing anyone's mind this way are pretty slim. So, think hard before troll-baiting. Because it is going to hurt.
As for the late, not lamented blog character, Robert French's "eulogy" for the not-so-dearly departed says it best.
In Support of the League of Maternal Justice
Tomorrow we will return to our regularly scheduled marketing topics. Today, however, I post in support of the League of Maternal Justice. And I remind you, this is from a woman who chose to not breastfeed for my own personal reasons, but will defend to the end another woman's right to do so, wherever and whenever her child is hungry. (YouTube video embedded below)
"A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." - Gloria Steinem
I grew up with these words. My mom had made a handpainted shirt, for herself, with the sentiment. It was a green long-sleeved T with a scoop neck, and she had done some really cute illustrations for the fish and the bike. I liberated it from her at the age of 10 and wore it until it fell apart.
I have been a feminist all my life. In the straw poll held at my elementary school in a fairly conservative town in liberal Massachusetts, I voted for George McGovern.
When I was in college, I campaigned hard for the Equal Rights Amendment. I canvassed for NOW and NARAL. I volunteered for a rape crisis hotline.A large part of my undergraduate work was in women's studies.
I hit my head hard against the glass ceiling, more than once, but still found a way to achieve "traditional" career success in the Internet software industry.
I did not change my name when I got married, and not just for professional reasons, although I readily admit "Getgood" is not a bad name for a marketing professional. I do wish it didn't map to the Treo provisioning software, but that's another story.
I discuss gender here on this blog. Often. Everything from the gender imbalance of the so-called A-list and the speaker rosters of high profile tech conferences to an anonymous blog supposedly written by a woman that just rings false. From harassment to the wonderful W-list meme.
I sit here today at 45, what I fervently hope is indeed the middle of my life, and I wonder. While women have indeed come a long way, we haven't gone all the way toward equality, not by a long shot.
And god damn it, I want to know why.
I want to know why politicial observers think it is okay to analyze Hillary Clinton's hairstyle, make-up, and fashion sense, but not Rudy Giuliani's, assuming he had any. Hair I mean.
I want to know why Facebook continues to get glowing press in USA Today when it seems to have a frat boy mentality that shows little respect for women. Banning photos of women breastfeeding, and then running a personals ad on the Facebook page for the group protesting the ban?
I want to know why women, even politically active women, feel that a man's voice carries farther than theirs, even when the issue is theirs. And please don't misunderstand -- I appreciate it when a politically aware man steps up to the plate and stands up for women's issues. But his voice shouldn't carry farther than hers.
Twenty-five years ago, actor Alan Alda spoke at an ERA fundraiser at my college which (small brag) I organized and managed -- everything from selling the tickets to dealing with the press, and this was BI - before Internet! We were lucky enough to get him because one of his daughters was in my class.
He told us then that women have every right to expect, to demand the same rights and respect as men.
We've earned it. We continue to earn it.
Why don't we get it? RESPECT.
I really want to know. Because we don't. Not across the board. And it just doesn't make sense.
Women still have to be better, smarter, brighter, faster, meaner, leaner than their male counterparts to get as far. Often for less pay.
Society in general still devalues the work of the stay-at-home mom while putting ever increasing pressures on the working mother. It's not right, but it is. Sure, there are glowing exceptions to this generalization, and there are wonderful companies doing wonderful things for the parents of both genders in their employ.
But they are exceptions.
Young welfare mothers still often have to stay at home, and on welfare, even if they don't wish to because they cannot afford childcare. And of course, they're looked down upon because they aren't "contributing."
People still suggest that a mother should breastfeed her child under a blanket or in the bathroom. Come on -- do you want to eat YOUR dinner in the bathroom? Sure, seeing a woman breast feeding in public may be uncomfortable for some people, but if it is, you just have to get over it. Because it is her right. Her legal right.
And so is giving a child a bottle instead. Personally, I'd like to see a little more tolerance for women's choices, on all sides. We cannot, should not, forget that the baby bottle was one of the things that made it possible for women to stay in the workforce after having children. Mother's milk may be best, and I applaud women who make that choice, with all that it entails. But formula ain't that bad, and it is important to understand that it is every woman's choice. Respect it.
A woman's choice. Her right to decide. I won't get into reproductive rights in this post, but let's face it, those are under assault too. All the time.
Why does our society have such a hard time with successful women? With women making public choices, for themselves, for their families?
With appreciating women's sexuality without objectifying it?
Why do we continue to define success by masculine measures? Morality too.
I really want to know.
The W List
Good things about the W list meme:
- Lots of linky love for deserving women bloggers.
- Exposes new blogs to potential new readers
Not so good things:
No organization, except for one poster who took the time to categorize the blogs as of one moment. So, no way to quickly find new blogs you might be interested in unless the name is obvious.
The list started as a list of women PR/Marketing bloggers, and then evolved to women business bloggers, and then just women bloggers. But it's pretty much missing a significant segment of the female blogging population: moms. Since my marketing colleagues have pretty much covered the PR/marketing and businesswomen I might have added, here are some of my favorite mom blogs:
- Mom 101, Liz Gumbinner
- BlogRhet, a group blog, all women
- Her Bad Mother, Catherine Connors
- Joy Unexpected, Y
- Picture This, Tracey Clark
- i am bossy, Georgia Getz
And here is the whole list, sucked up from this wiki.
2020 Hindsight by Susan Kitchens
21st Century Collaborative by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach
45 Things by Anita Bruzzese
Affirmagy Blog by Kristen Schuerlein
A Girl Must Shop by Megan Garnhum
A Little Pregnant by Julie
All for Women by Leigh, Naom, Patricia, and Barbara
Alkamae by Susan Reid
Allied by Jeneane Sessum
A Look at Art & Design: by Lisa Mikulski
andHow To Reach Women by Tami Anderson
angiemckaig.com: still a great pair of legs by Angie McKaig
Ask Dr. Kirk by Dr. Delaney Kirk
Average Jane by Average Jane
Babylune by Kate Baggott
Back in Skinny Jeans by Stephanie Quilao
Bag and Baggage by Denise Howell
Becoming a Woman of Purpose by Carolyn Townes
Becoming your StellarSelf by Mary Kearns
Be Relevant! by Tamara Gielen
Blog Fabulous by Tracee Sioux
BlogWrite for CEOs by Debbie Weil
Blogaholics by Arienna Foley
BlogRhet, a group blog, all women
Blog Til You Drop by Laurence-Hélène Borel
Biz Growth News by Krishna De
Brain Based Biz by Dr. Robyn McMaster
Brain Based Business by Dr. Ellen Weber
Brand Sizzle by Anne Simons
Branding & Marketing by Chris Brown
Brazen Careerist by Penelope Trunk
Breastfeeding 1-2-3 by Angela
Build A Better Blog by Denise Wakeman and Patsi Krakoff
Build a Solo Practice, LLC by Susan Cartier Liebel
Burningbird by Shelley Powers
Career Goddess by Susan Guarnieri
Chatting to my Generation by Anja Merret
Cheap Thrills by Ryan Barrett
Christine Kane by Christine Kane
Church of the Customer by Jackie Huba
CK’s Blog by CK (Christina Kerley)
Communication Overtones by Kami Huyse
Conflict coaching and resolution for the workplace by Dr Tammy Lenski
Confession of a Marketing Addict by Sunny Cervantes
Conscious Business by Anne Libby
Contentious by Amy Gahran
Conversation Agent by Valeria Maltoni
Conversations With Dina by Dina Mehta
Corporate PR by Elizabeth Albrycht
Cottontimer by Hsien-Hsien Lei
Creating Passionate Users by Kathy Sierra
Creative Curio by Lauren Marie
Crossroads by Evelyn Rodriguez
Cruel To Be Kind by Nicole Simon
Customer Experience Crossroads by Susan Abbott
Customers Rock! by Becky Carroll
CustServ by Meikah David
DailyAffirm by Jeanie Marshall
Debbie Millman by Debbie Millman
Deborah Schultz by Deborah Schultz
Decent Marketing by Katherine Stone
Designers Who Blog by Cat Morley
Design Your Life by Ellen and Julia Lupton
Design Your Writing Life by Lisa Gates
Diary of Claudine Hellmuth by Claudine Hellmuth
Diva Marketing Blog by Toby Bloomberg
Do It Myself Blog by Glenda Watson Hyatt
Dooce by Heather B. Armstrong
Downshifting - by Anne Howe
Driving Traffic - Carol Krishner
Eie Flud by Heather
Elise.com by Elise Bauer
Email Marketing Best Practices by Tamara Gielen
Emily Chang - Strategic Designer by Emily Chang
eMoms at Home by Wendy Piersall
EmpowerWomenNow.com by Ponn Sabra
Enter the Laughter by Marti Lawrence
Equip and Empower! by Carolyn Townes
Escape Blog by Melissa Petri
Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim
eSoup by Sharon Sarmiento
Essential Keystrokes by Char
Every Dot Connectsby Connie Reece
EvilHRLady by Evil HR Lady
Expansion Plus by Sally Falkow
Experienceology by Stephanie Weaver
Fish Creek House by GP
First Light by Julie Keyser-Squires
Flash and Accessibility by Niqui Merret
Flooring The Consumer by CB Whittemore
Forrester’s Marketing Blog by Shar, Charlene, Chloe, Christine Elana, Laura and Lisa
Franke James by Franke James
Full Circle - Nancy White
Funny Business by Elena Centor
Fusion View by Yang-Amy Ooi
Garden Variety Family by Karin Marlett-Choi
GenPink by Elysa
Get Fresh Minds by Katie Konrath
Get Shouty by Katie Chatfield
Getting Granular by Aimee Kessler Evans
Giant Jeans Parlour by Anjali
GourmetStation Delicious Destinations by Donna Lynes-Miller
Great Presentations Mean Business by Laura Athavale Fitton
Hartsock Communications by Nettie Hartsock
Her Bad Mother, Catherine Connors
Hey Marci by Marci Alboher
¡Hola! Oi! Hi! by katia adams
Horse Pig Cow by Tara Hunt
i am bossy, Georgia Getz
ifelse by Phu Ly
Illustration Friday by Penelope Dullaghan
In Women We Trust by Mary Clare Hunt
Infomaniac by Liz Donovan
Inspired Business Growth by Wendy Piersall
Internet Geek Girl by Stephanie Agesta
Jane Geneva by Jane Geneva
J.T. O’Donnell Career Insights by J.T. O’Donnell
Jemima Kiss by Jemima Kiss
Joyful, Jubilant Learning by Rosa Say
Joy Unexpected, Y
Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog by Katya Andresen
KDPaine’s PR Measurement Blog by Katie Delahaye Paine
Kinetic Ideas by Wendy Maynard
Kristy T’s Home Business Blog by Kristy T
Learned on Women by Andrea Learned
Lifeblog by anina
Lindsay Pollak by Lindsay Pollak
Lip-sticking by Yvonne DeVita
Little Red Suit by Tiffany Monhollon
Live The Power by Karen Lynch
Liz Strauss at Successful Blog by Liz Strauss
Lorelle on WordPress by Lorelle VanFossen
Making Life Work for You by April Groves
Marketer Blog by Leslie Jump
Marketing To Women by Holly Buchanan
Manage to Change by Ann Michael
Management Craft by Lisa Haneberg
Managing With Aloha Coaching by Rosa Say
Mandarin Design Daily:The MEG Blog by Michelle Goodrich
Marketing Roadmaps by Susan Getgood
Mary’s Blog by Mary Schmidt
MediaBlog by Daria Rasmussen
Media Influencer by Adriana Lukas
Mediation Mensch by Dina Beach Lynch
Misbehaving by Dana Boyd, Hilde Corneliussen, Caterina Fake, Meg Hourihan, Liz Lawley, Fiona Romeo, Dorothea Salo, Halley Suitt, Gina Trapani, Jill Walker
Mkgmd - le mag du marketing multidimentionnel by Christelle Alexandre
Moda di Magno by Lori Magno
Modite by Rebecca Thorman
Mogulettes in the Making by Carmina Perez
molly.com by Molly E. Holzschlag
Mom 101, Liz Gumbinner
My Beautiful Chaos by April Groves
Narrative Assets by Karen Hegman
Newbie NYC by Mary Hilton
Netdiver by Carole Guevin
On My Desk by Linzie Hunter
Orlando Avenue by Colleen Kulikowski
Passion Meets Purpose by Kammie Kobyleski
Peggy Payne’s Boldness Blog by Peggy Payne
Picture This, Tracey Clark
Poultry Discussion by Louise Manning
Presto Vivace Blog by Alice Marshall
Productivity Goal by Carolyn Manning
Purple Wren by Sandy Renshaw
Purse Lip Square Jaw by Anne Galloway
Quality Service Marketing by Sybil Stershic
re:Invention by Kristen Osolind
Rebecca’s Pocket by Rebecca Blood
Resonance Partnership by Marianne Richmond
Sacred Ingredients by Nicole Hanley
Sanctuary for Change by Susan Hanshaw
Sent From My Dell Desktop by Alejandra Ramos
Shiva’s Arms by Cheryl Snell
Small Biz Survival by Becky McCray
Small Business Trends by Anita Campbell
Small Failures: Sustainability for the Rest of Us by Jess Sand
So Close by Tertia
Solomother by Christina Zola
Spare Change by Nedra Kline Weinreich
Spirit in Gear by Debbie Call
Spirit Women by Carolyn Townes
Subterranean Homepage News by Sheila Lennon
Susan Mernit’s Blog by Susan Mernit
Sweet|Salty by Kate Inglis
swissmiss by Tina Roth Eisenberg
Talk It Up by Heidi Miller
Tech Kitten by Trisha Miller
That’s What She Said by Julie Elgar
The Artsy Asylum by Susan Reynolds
The Blog Angel by Claire Raikes
The Brand Dame by Lyn Chamberlin
The Budgeting Babe by Nicole
the Constant Observer by Tish Grier
The Copywriting Maven by Roberta Rosenberg
The Curious Shopper by Sara Cantor
The Engaging Brand by Anna Farmery
The Entrepreneurial MD by Philippa Kennealy
The Floozy Blog by Kate Coote
The Kiss Business Tooby Karin H.
The Krafty Librarian by Michelle A. Kraft
The Kristasphere by Krista Summit
The Marketing Mix Blog by Ilse Benun
The New Charm School by Jennifer Warwick
The Parody by Sasha Manuel
The Podcast Sisters by Anna Farmery, Krishna De and Heather Gorringe
The Qualitative Research Blog by Reshma Anand
The Shifted Librarian by Jenny Levine
The What If…? Women by Randee, Lori, Anne, Lynn and Norka (Pink Collar Club)
Think Positive! by Kristen Harrell
this is rachelandrew.co.uk by Rachel Andrew
Toddler Planet by WhyMommy
unstruc chitchat about information by Daniela Barbosa
Veerle’s blog 2.0 by Veerle
Water Cooler Wisdom by Alexandra Levit
Wealth Strategy Secrets by Nicola Cairncross
What A Concept! By Sherry Heyl
What’s Next Blog by B L Ochman
Wiggly Wigglers by Heather Gorringe
WomensDISH by Diane K. Danielson and Friends
Wonder Branding by Michele Miller
Woolgathering by Elizabeth Perry
Worker Bees Blog by Elisa Camahort
Write Ideas Marketing by Andrea Morris
You Already Know This Stuff by Jodee Bock
Ypulse by Anastasia Goodstein
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.
When the wisdom of crowds is replaced by the rule of the mob
Step into my minefield. Because, yes, I am going to comment on the Kathy Sierra/meankids blogstorm, and I already know that many of my friends will not agree with me. But I will soldier on.
I'm appalled that Kathy Sierra got death threats, as I would be about anyone who got death threats. I think the posts about Maryam Scoble and Ms. Sierra were vile and wholeheartedly agree with the critcisms of them. They cross the line. Legitimate, satirical criticism of the ideas of a public figure is one thing. Personal, vicious attacks are another. Especially under a cloak of anonymity.
I feel for Ms. Sierra, and anyone else who has been the victim of similar abuse and threats, and in no way want to dismiss their feelings or encourage on- or off-line misogyny. However, the public linkage of the anonymous death threats to the meankids site contributors disturbs me. It is trying these people in the court of public opinion, where, let's be frank, the standards of evidence are not so strict.
"Tell me sir, when did you stop beating your wife?"
Now, I don't know any of the antagonists in this tale particularly well other than through their public writing. I've exchanged a few emails over the past couple of years with Chris Locke, mostly about our mutual obsession with the television show Battlestar Galactica. I worked with Jeneane Sessum once on a teleconference organized by mutual friend Toby Bloomberg. That's it. I don't know Frank Paynter, Alan Herrell or Kathy Sierra personally at all. Until this disaster, I would say that they were all highly respected in the blogosphere. Now?
The wisdom of crowds has been replaced by the rule of the mob, which has tried and convicted Locke and friends, without really bothering all that much about the other side of the story. That this other side includes the fact that they were part of the meankids, and some were part of the successor uncle bob (or whatever it was called), doesn't seem to be in much dispute. As such, perhaps they share responsibility, whether they wrote the posts or not, for the unpleasant posts about Ms. Scoble and Ms. Sierra.
But it is a gigantic leap to then link them, by name, to the anonymous death threats. To be fair, Ms. Sierra's post did not accuse them, but the inference is definitely there. And that's pretty much what the blog mob went with. Everything got muddled together, and the rush to judgment was intense.
One could be guilty simply by association. For example, BlogHer, mentioned in Ms.Sierra's post, came in for a little mob abuse. Read BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone's excellent response.
I even got my small share simply because I had linked to meankids once, in its very early days when it had some amusing stuff related to the whole Locke/Tara Hunt blog spat. The site didn't stay at that level of satire, and I soon stopped reading it. Nevertheless, on Monday, someone left a snide comment on my blog implying that I was involved. I corrected that assumption immediately in my comments, but started to think: What does this mean for linking, for the conversation, if you run the risk of being held accountable for the actions of another site? Especially as in this case, when it diverges from what you liked, and linked, initially.
Now, let's turn from the rule of the mob to the offensive posts themselves.
Did meankids get a whole lot meaner? Apparently. Was bad judgment used? Probably. Do dark corners exist on the Web that exploit women, children, minorities? Absolutely. Is hate speech alive on the Internet? No question. I spent 10 years of my career working in the Internet and spam filtering industry and I can assure you, I have seen just about everything you can imagine. And some stuff you can't.
Were the posts about Ms. Scoble and Ms. Sierra vile, beyond the pale, bordering on hate speech? Absolutely. Did they "ask for it," simply by being public persons? Absolutely not, and anyone who makes that argument has missed the point completely. They don't deserve such abuse and neither does anyone else. However, as Michelle Malkin pointed out, it happens all the time. Public persons have to deal with everything from spoof and gossip Web sites to obscene snail and email, stalkers and the occasional death threat. Sometimes, it is intended to be funny and unfortunately crosses that fine line between humour and hate. Sometimes the material is simply hurtful. And sometimes, it is as, or more, unpleasant than the photoshopped images of Ms. Sierra.
When we blog under our own names, bloggers become public figures . When you become a public person, you give up some small measure of your privacy in exchange for recognition, celebrity, fame, etc. For most of us, the exchange is a positive one; we get more than we lose. Most of the time. But we can't pick and choose what parts of recognition we want, and what parts we don't. It just doesn't work that way. It's like the movie star who drives his way to the top, gets the fame and fortune he wanted, and then complains that the fans invade his privacy.
It's not right that we have to deal with trolls and hate speech and all those other things that come with being a public person. But absent a complete and total cultural shift, we have to deal with it. It is part of the price. We only can choose HOW we deal with it.
I agree with Michelle Malkin, and as a die-hard liberal, you know how hard that was for me to write. From her blog post referenced above:
"My response to this and other endless slurs and threats--most empty, some serious--has been two-fold:
1) Report the serious threats to law enforcement.
2) Keep blogging."
You can also choose to not be a public person. By blogging anonymously or in a gated community. Or by not blogging at all. But if you want the goodness that comes with being a well-read, well-respected blogger and expert in your field, you've got to be prepared for the badness. And as we've seen, it can get pretty bad.
And there is a corollary to this: you can't just get upset about bad behavior when it affects your "friends." You have to be just as willing to stand up and say it is wrong when it is your "enemy" being attacked as when it is your friend.
Now, today is "stop cyber bullying day," and I think that's a terrific idea. But the problem is, we have to do things for more than one day. If you are appalled at violence against women, don't just write a post and make some noise this week. Do something tangible next week, and the week after that, and the week after that. Instead of selling your old clothes on eBay, donate them to a local woman's shelter. Volunteer. Cancel your subscription to Maxxim. Whatever.
Cyber bullying bad? Sure it is. Stop it. And don't limit your definition of cyber bullying to just those behaviors that you don't like, done by the people you don't like. Cyber bullying doesn't have to be obscene or profane. It can simply be throwing your weight, and your words, around with an intent to dominate the discussion.
So, please look in the mirror, too.