Newbie bloggers are often given this advice: Find your tribe. There was even a terrific panel dedicated to this at BlogHer last year. The blogosphere is all about niches and community-building after all, so seek like-minded bloggers and band together. Maybe you do this for personal satisfaction, maybe in hopes of creating the critical mass attractive to advertisers. Maybe both. Maybe neither! Maybe you start looking for kindred bloggy spirits just for the fun of seeing whether there even IS a tribe out there that would have you as a member.
I would like to announce publically that I am seeking a blogging tribe. I am as naked in my need to belong as Kevin Costner’s ass cheeks in Dances with Wolves. He found a tribe and he can’t even act, surely it’s not that hard.
Maybe I’m too schizophrenic. I kind of want to be all things to all people. This is a good skill to have in PR as you are constantly required to straddle the needs of clients, media influencers and parent company overlords. But maybe it’s not helping me in the blogosphere. I probably need to focus a little. And since I can’t expect my tribe – whoever and wherever they may be – to show up on my doorstep bearing flowers and vodka, I am going to be proactive. I am going to grease the skids, as they say.
I submit to you my Top Ten List of Blogging Tribes I Feel Qualified to Join to help you, the reader, better assess whether or not we are destined to be tribal soul mates. All you need do is see if you fit into any of these categories:
- PR people who secretly want to be full-time bloggers earning Dooce-like coin
- PR people who do way more than just plan events and do publicity (pffft)
- PR people who swear on their children’s lives that PR is totally not like “Kell on Earth”
- Moms still losing the baby weight (even though the baby is in elementary school)
- Moms of boys who (literally) climb walls (Audrey McClelland, that one’s for you)
- Moms who can recite entire episodes of “iCarly” word-for-word and think Spencer’s hot
- Moms referred to by their offspring as “Dude” or “Devil Woman”
- American women married to Russian men who argue regularly about parenting tactics
- Droid owners married to iPhone owners who argue daily about those Luke Wilson AT&T ads
- People who are on Facebook because they feel they have to but secretly wish they could shut the account down and just hang out on Twitter
Leave me a smoke signal in the comments if you want to be in one or more of my tribes. Or if you’d like to publically declare your own tribal aspirations.
How come when I’m asked to post at someone else’s blog the words flow freely from my fingers? It’s kind of like how I don’t mind doing the Thanksgiving dishes when it’s someone else’s house. Everyday tasks are more enjoyable when I’m doing them on someone else’s turf.
The Mouthy Housewives hang out on pretty awesome turf. Their advice site is hilarious and smart and kind of like having your best (funniest) girlfriend sitting on your shoulder 24/7 whispering encouragement and wisdom in your ear. I first encountered Wendi and Kelcey, two of the four Mouthy Housewives, at the BlogHer Humor panel last year. I was struck dumb by their brilliance, or maybe by the sauna-like heat in the panel room. I’m not sure which. It’s a quick hop and a skip from Wendi and Kelcey to Marinka who not only is wicked funny but is Russian. As any regular reader of this blog knows, I have a soft spot for Russians. Though Russian women scare the s*** out of me so maybe Marinka was sent my way to help me sort through my issues. As for Heather, I have not yet connected with her personally but she quotes Nietzche and Jung on her home page. And says bad words. Which makes her a well-read badass, so naturally I want to be her best friend.
You can imagine my delight The Mouthy Housewives invited me to guest advise because while I am not a housewife I am seriously mouthy. And I have been known to wear curlers though mine are velcro not foam because I’m quite modern that way. Here’s the post. I enjoyed doing it though I’m still afraid of lady bloggers who quote Nietzche, Russian women and people who appear on fancy BlogHer panels. I think the Housewives owe it to me to let me hang out with them more so I can sort out these issues, don’t you?
I like this guest posting thing and am officially on the hunt for other mothers working in PR, especially those who work in offices. Is it me, or are we underrepresented in the blogosphere? We don’t even have a proper acronym. There are SAHMs, WAHMs…what’s the label for broads who squeeze into Spanx and schlep to offices every day? WOOHMs (moms who work out-of-home)? Maybe WIOMs (for moms who work in-offices)?
I prefer WOOHM (rhymes with womb).
So while I’m off scouring the internets for PR-focused WOOHMs to guest post here (’cause they’re my tribe and I learned at BlogHer that I gotta find my tribe) I thought you might enjoy a little gender-bending diversion. That’s right: a guest post from a PR Papa.
As PR guys go, it doesn’t get much better than PR Cog. As many of my social media pals know, “PR Cog” is the pseudonym for a PR practioner here in NYC who chooses to blog anonymously about our industry because, as he’s said, “someone’s got to.” Cog is smart, funny, accomplished (I think…if only I knew where he actually works) and always there to lend a digital helping hand to a colleague in need. And he’s a dad, father to two young “coglings.” So without further ado, I give you this view from the other side, that of a working PR dad:
Same Conversations, Different Audiences
I’m relatively new to the world of PR. Most anyone who follows me knows I basically came into it because I previously worked in my area of PR specialty — the clients feel comfortable talking to me and I did a significant amount of writing in college for an extra-curricular project, so I’ve got most of the necessary tools in my toolbox.
Needless to say, it was trial by fire — learning as I went along. I still do, in fact. Some from my colleagues and more recently, the wonderful group of people on Twitter and (specifically) my cohorts at [shameless plug] PRBreakfastClub.com .
As my responsibilities grew over time at my agency, I found it increasingly difficult to balance the time at home with the Coglings (an hour or so in the morning and another in the evening before bedtime) and work.Inevitably as soon as I’d arrive home, there was some sort of crisis — a lost briefing book for a client on the west coast, the limo service for the desksides has to cancel because of Fashion Week and I need to track down a Town Car to play driver, or (one of my favorites) Client A sues Client B and both call us for the work.
Recently, based on a tweet from the exceptional Heather Silverberg I’ve realized the balance problem isn’t caused by the schedule, but because I’m having the same conversations at work as I am at home. You doubt it? Try this conversation on for size:
Cog [to child]: Cogling, do you want to wear your red shirt or green shirt today?
And now this:
Cog [to client]: Did you want to start the meetings at 10 or 11 during your visit?
Same conversation, different audiences. Same result, too. Unanswered calls (one across the room, one across the country) seeking an actual answer and a look (or sound in the case of the client) of confusion that the question was an ‘or’ proposition and that both can’t be done simultaneously (ok, I guess Cogling could’ve worn two shirts, but we’re not letting him know that’s an option).
Think this is only a one time problem? How’s this?
Cogling [playing next to Cog while he reviews some emails]: Daddy, can I have your little thing? [He was referring to the iPhone, people….the perverted jokes are my territory.]
Cog: Sure [handing over phone after loading one of the games].
Cogling [after Cog moves to the laptop to continue reading emails]: Daddy, can you show me Moon pictures on that?
Cog: Sure [loading up some moon videos on YouTube]. Can I have the phone back?
Cogling: I want them both.
Cog: Client, great news, the Wall Street Journal loves your story. They want it as an exclusive.
Client: Great. What about the Times?
Cog: Well, if we give it to the Journal [with emphasis] as an exclusive, we can’t leak it to the Times.
Client: Why not? I want them both.
So, for all the other PR Daddies out there, consider all the frustrating calls you’ve had with clients lately. If they feel oddly familiar, it might just be because you’ve had the conversation with your own very special (and short) live-in client.
PR Cog is a PR Pro at a mid-size Manhattan PR agency, and father of two Coglings. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and at two blogs: PR Cog’s Gear Grindings and PRBreakfastclub (of which he is editor).
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.