Five Things I Learned from Mom Bloggers Last Week
Last week I posted on the topic of proposed FTC guidelines on blogger endorsements and disclosure. Thanks to Twitter and some nice link love (thank you Debbie, Mark and Liz), the post attracted more attention than I’m used to, including a slew of terrific comments from a number of different mom bloggers. Today’s post was inspired by the exchange in the comment thread, some of which I’ll quote directly in a bit.
Wait, I’m being lazy. I said “mom bloggers.” That’s convenient shorthand for woman with offspring who maintains online personal journal filled with reflections, comments, and hyperlinks, shared chronologically. The reality is this group of women is no more homogeneous than any other group of mothers out there — which is to say, not at all.
Which brings me to #1 of the Five Things I Learned From Mom Bloggers last week. “Mom blogger” (or worse, “mommyblogger” – by the way, when did that happen, that run-on, lower-case thing, like Wal-Mart becoming Walmart?) is painting these women with too broad a brush. We need to rethink the nomenclature. I don’t have an alternative, all I know is there’s a difference between how Katja Presnal reviews product at Skimbaco Lifestyle and how Jenny “The Bloggess” Lawson does it at Good Mom Bad Mom. To say the least. They’re both wonderful, and about as different as – I don’t know – lingonberry soda and tequila. The kind with the worm in it that makes you loco.
#2. Some bloggers currently maintain (or are thinking about creating) separate product review sites. While some integrate reviews and personal narrative within a single blog, others prefer to write without “commercial interruption” in their personal blogs. Victoria Pericon provides terrific product information at Savvy Mommy, and personal reflections on parenting and other stuff at Veep Veep. Liz Gumbinner writes a brilliant personal blog at Mom-101, and reviews products at Cool Mom Picks. Jessica Gottlieb’s eponymous blog is emphatically review-free, but she might do a giveaway or review products at other sites where she’s a contributor. And some bloggers only do product reviews and giveaways. (Jessica Smith of Jessica Knows makes an interesting case against writers with established blogs creating product review off-shoots, check it out here.)
#3. Some mom bloggers have no interest in ever reviewing products or forging brand partnerships. They might be moms and the Chief Purchasing Officer/Primary Decision Maker/Key Gatekeeper/etc of their household, but that doesn’t mean they want to hear from the likes of us PR/marketing types. They might be blogging to chronicle their kids’ lives as they grow older. Maybe they blog to document a difficult parenting challenge, like bullying or drug abuse, so others might benefit from their hard-earned experience. Some bloggers chronicle events so painful it knocks the wind right out of a reader, like the terminal illness of a child or a shattering divorce. Woe to the PR person who spams these bloggers with their press releases.
#4. Product giveaways are great. Well, for the PR and marketing people and the blogger’s readers for sure — but the blogger? Unless she’s getting paid a promotional fee, maybe not so much. I was speaking with a blogger last week in preparation for a panel discussion I’m moderating this week for a client; she walked me through exactly what she has to do to facilitate a giveaway at her site. It’s tedious work: notifying the winners, trying to extract their mailing addresses and real names (let’s assume the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t deliver mail to them as “BeerWench666” or “Crazee4Shooz”), packing up the product and shipping it out, etc. This is why we have fulfillment houses. They like doing this tedious stuff, and they get paid for it. As should bloggers.
#5. The world of mom bloggers is often called a community. I’m beginning to think it’s more like an ecosystem. Dynamic, evolving — a complex system of interdependent relationships way more intricate than the traditional media communities I’ve been dealing with lo these many years. When I first started doing beauty PR, it took me about a month of intensive lunching and drinks-ing with magazine editors to figure out what the pecking order was, who was BFF with whom, who had just been canned where and had managed to land a better gig at a better book, and so on. Easy when you’re dealing with a core group of about 20. But it’s not just the size of the group that was easier to manage. Try as you might to follow bloggers (RSS, FeedBurner, news alerts, Twitter, etc.), tracking every word they say in response to other bloggers’ posts is a whole other undertaking. Their opinions and influence can spread as quickly and in as many different directions as cracks in spring ice — so try and keep up, and don’t go in without a guide.
So back to the question of nomenclature. Like I said, I haven’t figured that out. At the very least, we can start by being more precise in our descriptions, acknowledging (as Liz Gumbinner pointed out in her comment here last week) the difference between parenting blogs and review blogs. Or being aware of the woman behind the mom, as Candace Lindemann of Mamanista suggests:
It is important to remember that before a lot of ‘mom bloggers’ were moms and bloggers, they wore other hats, too. They have expertise in marketing, journalism, education, medicine, law, science, etc… labels have the power to empower and build community. They can also limit and denigrate. I think it is difficult to change language (though not always impossible and sometimes necessary). What I prefer to concentrate on in this case is to get people to see each of us as individuals as well as a community.
I kinda know how Candace feels. There are plenty of PR people who would say the same: we hope to be seen as individuals, not a pack of silly flacks blanketing the ‘sphere with generic press releases. That we’re working overtime to better understand bloggers so don’t we don’t biff and fumble. It’s a tricky ecosystem, as I said. And we’re working towards our wilderness scout badges in real time. Please bear with us – we’re trying.