I feel a moral obligation to post a BlogHer recap that does not mention any of the following: Swag, swag whore, swag bag, swag hag, Croc-bribing, over-imbibing, baby elbowing, baby hating, sponsor hating, Nikon-Gating, vibrator sampling, crowds trampling…I discussed some of that stuff already but I wonder if perhaps we should turn the page now.
Next topic. I’m not positive but I heard a rumor there were some sessions at BlogHer where people got together to discuss things like….dammit, if only I could think of the word.
Writing, that’s it.
Far away from the sponsored Expo Hall, bloggers got together to talk about writing – about race, serious illnesses, topics other than parenting, political commentary, food, pop culture and, in my favorite session of the weekend, humor.
Here’s who sat on the panel, emcee’d by Deb Rox (@debontherocks)
Wendi Aarons (@waarons)
Jessica Bern (@bernthis)
Kelcey Kinter (@Mamabirddiaries)
Jenny Lawson (@TheBloggess)
Anna Lefler (@annalefler)
Not that I’m complaining, but the room was like seven sizes too small. With the previous panel having been standing room only, we walked into a soggy chamber of sogginess where every seat was already taken because none of the previous session’s attendees were budging. It’s not their fault, you’d be a chair hog too if you had a chance to get within petting distance of The Bloggess.
So I shoehorned myself into a cozy spot on the floor in the middle of the center aisle to commence sweating and live tweeting. Unfortunately, Tweet Deck kept punting me off thanks to the Sheraton’s state-of-the-art wi-fi (which tauntingly worked on the side of the room where I was not, the side where people had chairs and iced coffees and smug expressions.)
So I closed up the laptop and admired my neighbors’ cute shoes and pedicures from my unique floor-level vantage point. Then I listened to six brilliant women talking about the art of Blogging While Funny. Here is what I learned:
1. BlogHer attendees are awfully bi-curious. I can’t tell you how many tweets I saw before my wi-fi died about people hoping to get a peek up The Bloggess’ dress.
2. From a distance, if you blur your eyes, Anna Lefler looks a little like Ann Coulter, by which I mean tall, blonde and lanky. The resemblance would be even closer if Ann Coulter were a) attractive or b) a member of the human race.
3. I’m not sure Jessica Bern knows what a twitter hashtag is. This strikes me as funny.
4. Putting words together that don’t belong is funny. Like Rita Arens’ suggestion from the audience that a baby is like a flesh purse, at which point a fellow floor-squatter murmured, “My flesh purse doesn’t hold nearly as much as my Coach purse.”
5. Horrible things like death can be funny (cf: The Bloggess here) and yes, catharctic (not just for the writer.)
6. Rhythm is important. Read your posts out loud to see if the words flow optimally for bringing the funny (no one on the panel actually said “bringing the funny,” I did. Funny people don’t say “bringing the funny.”)
7. Humor pisses people off. The panelists agreed they often leave angry comments up on their blogs because they themselves are quite funny (especially spelling-challenged commenters saying “your retarded.”)
I really wanted to share ten lessons, not seven, but here’s what happened. About thirty minutes into the session my legs fell asleep and I started to black out ever so slightly from the heat. I’m afraid this is the best I can do. In the meantime, if you’d like to see more love for bringing the funny on BlogHer, lobby the good ladies in San Francisco for a dedicated BlogHer Humor channel. If you’re on Twitter, check out the conversation at #blogherhumor (a hashtag I’m pretty sure Jessica Bern did not invent.)
I credit the fabulous Liz Strauss with the title of this post. As she tweeted yesterday, “Swag is the new black in broadcasting a message.” There is ample commentary in the blogosphere today on the deluge of product samples and other ”gifts” given away at BlogHer this weekend. Most of what I’ve seen is critical — of the marketers, the bloggers who made the pursuit of free stuff their priority, or both (see suggested reading, below).
Yes, there was an insane amount of product given away. The photo above, taken by Laura Mayes of Kirtsy.com, tells you all you need to know. (Full disclosure: some of my clients were there a-swagging, too). This is what happens when marketers discover an influential community: they want to give you stuff. People — or consumers, as we marketing/PR types call them — listen to women who blog. Corporate America knows it, don’t resent them for wanting to get their wares in your hands. Laura’s photo is not a sign of End Times; it is recognition of your incredible power. That’s a good thing.
(By the way, swag at professional conferences is not a new phenomenon. I nearly exfoliated my own hands off 15 years ago at the American Academy of Dermatologists convention, demonstrating a new anti-aging enzyme for 12 hours straight for the beauty company I worked for to hordes of sample-ravenous doctors and their wives. )
As Kristen Chase wisely tweeted today, “We’ve got to find more creative ways to start conversations between sponsored bloggers and attendees.” She was referring specifically to bloggers individually underwritten by marketers to distribute their samples at the conference, but I think the statement is true for any brand trying to make connections at BlogHer. I will absolutely advise my clients to repeat their involvement at BlogHer 2010, but will also make sure we all learn from what went on this year.
And with that, I offer this mini-PSA for marketers contemplating a BlogHer sponsorship.
PR Mama’s Advice for Marketers at BlogHer
Lesson #1: Be creative (to Kristen’s point.) Swag is not currency. What do you have of value that is wholly brand-ownable and will actually bring some value to the bloggers you meet?
Lesson #2: Go big or go home. You don’t have to be the biggest sponsor, but you should do/bring something (or someone) that gets every single blogger there buzzing. You’ll get lost othewise, you just will.
Lesson #3: Speaking of bloggers buzzing — if you have an off-site event, do make sure it’s baby-friendly. Trust me. If you don’t believe me, talk to the Nikon PR team.
There’s more but if I share it, my clients will accuse me of educating the competition and I’ll get in big trouble. And possibly lose my job and believe me, this blog is hardly a fall-back source of income (bizarrely, Sharpie and HP have not deemed me worthy of paid ambassadorship despite my vast readership. I was pondering that last night while I was typing on my thin, light and enticingly affordable HP Pavillion DV2 laptop with one hand and writing out loud with my teal Ultra Fine Retractable Sharpie with the other.)
Wait. What was I just saying about brands finding ways other than giving away free stuff to connect with bloggers…?
* * * * *
Alma Klein laments the increasing presence of marketers over the history of the conference here.
Kristen Chase weighs in on the darker side of blogger behavior at BlogHer, also discusses the Nikon party controversy. (Note that Esther Brady Crawford, the mom who found herself at the center of the “Nikon Hates Babies” controversy, comments on the post. Do read it for a first-hand account of what actually happened.)
There were some recaps NOT focused on swag. Kevin Pang from the Chicago Tribune captures more general soundbites and vignettes here. Jennifer Howze recaps one of the conference sessions (“How to Find Your Blogging Tribe”) here.
And finally — and refreshingly — some recaps were just absurd. Brilliantly so. See Adam Heath Avitable’s insightful interview with the, uh, BlogHer09 hashtag here. And this photo recap from Neil Kramer which speaks for itself.
So I bought my way into the United Red Carpet Club at O’Hare for the free wi-fi. That $50 is more than justified by the 20 minutes or so I’m going to spend here in this T-mobile Hot Spot, right? Good thing I think through my purchases. There’s a recession on, you know.
I needed to spend this money because I can’t cope with Concourse C right now. After three days in the womb-like embrace of the BlogHer conference, I emerged from the Sheraton like a mole, squinting and fumbling my way back out into reality (there are men here, lots of them. I had forgotten what they look like. And smell like. Girls smell better.) So the first class lounge is a necessary refuge.
I can’t tell you much about BlogHer right now because there’s too damned much to process. I tweeted from a couple of the sessions (when the Sheraton wi-fi cooperated) so there’s a digital trail of some of my thoughts, but that’s only the half of it. There are Smart Client Memos to write recapping conference highlights, tons of business cards to dump into Outlook, a million more new friends to follow on Twitter, still more blogs to feed into Google Reader….business connections to be optimized, blossoming friendships (I hope) to be nurtured.
My brain in mush. I am wrinkled (the linen Michael Kors tunic seemed like a good idea 12 hours ago). I am missing the Russian and son like crazy. I am hoping this flight back to Newark isn’t delayed. But I also feel — hmmm. Like a raw nerve, but in a good way. Being cooped up with that much estrogen does that to a gal. Nothing I could write would capture the energy, creativity, beauty, strength, charisma, humor, generosity, sweetness, snarkiness, wit, sexiness, confidence, vulnerability and (in some cases) insanity at that conference. Those women were electrifying.
So more to come on BlogHer. Just let me take a nap first. Meanwhile, I do want to let you know that — as at BlogHer — beauty abounds if you’re open and looking for it. Even in airports. There is a tunnel at O’Hare that leads from security in Terminal One to the gates and honestly — it’s spectacular. It looks like something out of “Logan’s Run.” It’s a series of neon light sculptures that move to music. You stand on the people mover and look at yourself reflected in the mirrored walls and ceilings, and watch the lights dance above your head.
I’ve been on vacation for two weeks. I’ve always felt my best vacations have been those spent in the homes of friends in unfamiliar places. Exploring a strange place with the safety net of familiar friends and a cozy guest room makes for the perfect combination. Unlike hotel or cruise ship vacations (which have charms of their own), the “home away” vacation lets me live someone else’s life, if only for a week or two. There was the time I experienced life as a well-heeled, work-at-home mom in Miami. Or the three bucolic weeks I lived in a 350-year old stone house in the Hudson Valley. I’ve stayed in mid-century moderns in LA, grand brick colonials in Virginia, suburban McMansions, townhouses in Twickenham, flats in small Russian cities you’ve never heard of. The common thread: the warmth of the people opening their doors to us – home truly is where the heart is.
Home is also where I spent this vacation. Yes, I “stay-cationed.” My husband was in Russia visiting elderly relatives, I was at home working the summer camp/swim team/taekwondo circuit with my 6 year-old son. And loving every single minute of it. As with those other vacations, I got a glimpse of another life: mine, as a work-at-home mom. I was in touch with the office, monitoring email and Twitter constantly, even coming in one day for an important meeting. But I was also present at every swim team practice, every meet, every play date. I got to catch up with a couple of moms in town I really enjoy – on the playground, at the pool, at the Dunkin Donuts. I felt connected to my town in a way I haven’t in a long time.
Sure, my laptop was my accessory (good thing mine is pimped out with a groovy new Gelaskin). I whipped that baby out whenever I had down time — editing presentations in the lobby of the martial arts studio, pruning my email inbox at the local coffee joint before camp pick-up. I took time to do something for this much-abused body of mine, too, hitting the local pool for good, hard mile-long swims; even hauling myself back to the gym where I was greeted by not one by three employees with a too-boisterous, “Haven’t seen YOU in a while!”
In other words, I was balanced. I was making it all work. I was taking care of things and people that needed to be cared for – and I was even taking care of me. I go back to the office tomorrow. Thanks to a few pretty serious emails that came in over the weekend, I already feel this fragile equilibrium slipping.
Stay tuned for further dispatches from the Working Mom Teeter-Totter.
Am on vacation right now and you know, I really did have very grand blogging aspirations for these two weeks. Am not so sure the fingers are gonna be flying as fast as I had expected over the old keyboard. So forgive the lack of new posts for the next week or so. Though you know, I might surprise you. And of course, I’ll continue to bang away senselessly on Twitter, feel free to chill with me over there. (It’s where all the cool kids are hanging out this summer.)