I was honored to be part of The Publicity Club of New England's "Meet the Bloggers" panel in Boston last week, where I joined a few well-known New England bloggers to talk about marketing, public relations, and how people in those fields can fine-tune their messages for bloggers. Specifically, Mommy Bloggers.
I was in some amazing company: Marketing guru Susan Getgood, one of the cofounders of Blog with Integrity, was the moderator, and the other panelists were Jodi Grundig of Multitasking Mommy, Audrey McClelland of Mom Generations, and Christy Matte of Quirky Fusion and More than Mommy. (Jennifer Leal of Savor the Thyme was slated to join us, but was thwarted by traffic and weather.)
The main things we had in common were that we were all moms and bloggers, but our reasons for blogging and our goals are vastly different.
Jodi and Audrey are entrepreneurs who are building empires out of their blogs. They represent other companies like Disney and Tide, go on junkets, attend conferences, have corporate sponsers and are, essentially, their own brands. Christy has a robust freelance career and a technology focus; while she's able to accept sponsorship to certain events, she's also a regular writer at About.com, which is owned by the New York Times Company, and so is bound by some of their rules. Me, I'm a newspaper editor and a freelance writer; my blogs are basically columns written for other publications, and WriteEditRepeat started out as my online clips file -- it's never been my journal. Since I'm a Boston Globe employee -- and therefore a New York Times Company employee -- I'm contractually obligated to adhere to certain rules when it comes to accepting sponsorship (not allowed), going on all-expense paid junkets (not allowed), and keeping samples of products I review (allowed, but with restrictions: If they're worth more than a certain amount, they get returned, purchased, or donated to charity).
The Pub Club event was really interesting. We spent most of the two or so hours discussing how our blogs are different, where we stand on issues like corportate sponsorship and branding, the new FTC regulations about endorsements and testimonials, and fielding questions about how marketing and PR people can pitch ideas and products to Mommy Bloggers more effectively. In retrospect, I think I was there mainly to show the differences and similiarities between blogging and journalism; since I write about parenting, lifestyle issues, and work-life balance, there is some overlap. I've never thought of myself as a Mommy blogger, and so it was fascinating to find out that I'm considered one, not just because I write about parenting issues, but because I blog and I am a mom. The panelists made quick work of blasting through the stereotypes, and I think I learned as much about the business of blogging as the 60 or so PR and marketing people in the room.
Some time ago, I wrote a post about how to write a press release that actually gets read, and a lot of what I wrote then applies to pitching to Mommy Bloggers, too. But there are a few additional points that all PR people should jot down:
1.) One size does not fit all. Jodi's blog is a cool combination of stories about her kids and her post-career career. Audrey's showcases her fascination with fashion and how she's built her blog into her business. Christy's blog points to her freelance writing, her love of technology, and how she tries to nurture her children without losing her sense of self. There's no way to reach all three of these amazing, talented, and well-connected women with a generic pitch. Take the time to get to know the blogger you want to reach, and then, once you have, tailor your pitch accordingly.
2.) Don't pretend you're doing us a favor. Chris has a great post about this over at Notes From the Trenches. Go read it -- especially her response to the company -- and then come back. I'll wait. Done? Good. The takeaway is this: Bloggers deserve compensation. Also, this: You get what you pay for.
3.) Do your research. If you want a Mommy Blogger to write about an amazing diaper bag, make sure she has kids who are still in diapers. If you're pitching a new show for kids on cable, make sure that her household is not TV-free. Fantastic video gaming system? Fine... as long as you're not trying to persuade her to have her teenage boys try out the latest Barbie extravaganza.
4.) We're professionals. Some Mommy Bloggers have left the work force; their blogs are now their careers and, in some cases, their businesses. Treat them they way you would want to be treated. Remember: You're reaching out to a potential client or coworker and building a business relationship, so don't call her "Mommy." Unless that's her given name, which isn't likely.
5.) Stats are fine, but be sure you're seeing the whole picture. Our networks are far greater than the number of pageviews on our blogs. Look for information from Twitter and Facebook; see which blogs are in our blogrolls, who we read, and where we leave comments. Is the Mommy Blogger you're targeting active at places like Work It, Mom! or BlogHer? How many people could she really talk to if she was to talk about your product?