It’s funny how it took a day away from my family for me to realize I need a break. A self-imposed time out. No working on my holiday gift guide, checking email, Facebook, or Google Reader, and very little Twitter for 3 days. I almost made it to a fourth, but decided to jot down my thoughts about the Bloggers Brunch while it’s all still fresh in my mind.
The second annual Bloggers Brunch, organized by Child’s Play Communications, took place at a private club in New York City. It started with a panel of leading mom bloggers discussing “What Does a Mommy Blogger Want?” – best practices for reaching moms through social media. The panelists included, from left to right, Debbie Bookstaber (Mamanista), Kimberly Coleman (Mom in the City), Liz Gumbinner (Cool Mom Picks), Jo-Lynne Shane (Musings of a Housewife), and Melissa Chapman (Real Moms Guide). Stephanie Azzarone, president of Child’s Play Communications, acted as the panel moderator. She also has a blog – Mom Market Trends.
I managed to find a seat in the back row, and was surrounded by a few dozen PR reps furiously taking notes. I pulled out my laptop and tweeted some of the highlights of what I was listening to. That’s my version of note-taking. There were very few bloggers in attendance, as the panel was meant for companies and PR. However, my friend Jill (Musings From Me) stood nearby, and I spied Niri (Mommy Niri) in the first row.
So what does a mommy blogger want, you ask? What are the dos and don’t of pitching us? The following are some of the main points that I gathered from looking at my notes. It was hard for me to see who was speaking at any given moment, so I apologize for not quoting anyone specifically.
- What topics are mommy bloggers most interested right now? Anything eco-friendly. Food. Educational products. Safety. Mom-owned products. Parenting advice. Children’s books. Author/expert interviews.
- How do we like to be pitched? E-MAIL. Bloggers mostly use social networks (Twitter/Facebook) to communicate with other bloggers.
- How do you get a mom blogger’s attention? A personal email, a relevant product, a nice introduction to the company. Look for more than just a placement on a blog. Your goal as a company should be to reach a blogger’s entire network.
- Do bloggers want press releases? If relevant, they’re great. If not, be assured that we’ll hit the delete button immediately. Mom bloggers aren’t journalists; we’re looking for relationships.
- What’s the best way to get accurate numbers/stats? Compete, Statsaholic, and Google pagerank, but don’t use that as the only basis for consideration. Consider the demographic & voice you’re looking for.
- Is there a nice way to say “No, sorry, your Google rank is 0?” Say something like “I’m sorry, but we only have a limited number of samples…” instead. Don’t threaten a blogger’s influence.
- How many blogs should you get to write about your product? It depends on the product itself and a company’s goals. Do you want to create buzz? Drive sales? For campaigns, choose bloggers in different geographic areas. Start with influencers and work down from there.
- How do you know WHO the influential bloggers are? Look at Technorati authority, Postrank, and again, Compete, and/or Statsaholic. BlogHer editors are usually key influencers, too. Look around. If you see a site that tends to be on everybody’s blogroll, that’s a good sign.
- Comments aren’t always a good indication of influence. That’s just one of many factors. Bloggers have reach beyond their online audience. Product reviews usually don’t get many comments, if any, as readers are just looking for information, not conversation.
- Deadlines… what’s reasonable? When can you expect a review? As a company, be understanding, but clear on your expectations.
- Giveaways help create buzz around a product, but this isn’t the most effective way to get people to buy it, as those who enter the giveaway want to win it. Mass giveaways “water down” the uniqueness of a product.
- Discount codes are helpful. This gives that extra “nudge” to someone that was already interested in buying the product anyway.
- How do you create ongoing relationships? Hire spokesbloggers (like Wal-Mart’s Eleven Moms), and develop unique promotions geared to them.
- Celebrity mom bloggers – are they “prima donnas”? Not all of them! Marketers shouldn’t reward the bad behavior.
- No-no’s (What do companies do that makes us crazy?)
- “Dear Mrs.,” “Dear Sir,”
- “Here’s some content for your blog…” (It’s insulting when companies make bloggers feel like they’re doing them a favor!)
- Use of Comic Sans (Looks unprofessional!)
- Mass emails.
- Telling bloggers when to post and exactly what phrases to use.
- “I love your blog…” then something about the most recent post… followed by a pitch about a completely irrelevant product. Look beyond a blog’s homepage.
- Don’t pitch a blogger the same way you pitch a journalist! I think many marketers forget this. Journalists generally get paid to produce content. Mom bloggers write about what they’re passionate about. Once in a while – but not always – the two “professions” intertwine.
Ultimately, it’s important, as a marketer to do your research, read the blog you’re pitching, and create a long-term relationship. Be honest about what you’re looking for and you’re more likely to find it.
After the panel, we went upstairs to eat and mingle with sponsors and bloggers, many of them members of the Child’s Play Communications review network, Team Mom. Most of the guests were from New York and New Jersey, though there were a few that traveled a good distance – Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia (me!), Maryland, and even as far as Georgia and Florida! It’s always great to see familiar faces, and I was thrilled to see so many of them. Niri and Nicole (Pink & Posh) I had just seen last month! A few others I met at BlogHer in July – Briana (Bargain Briana) and Debbie (Mamanista). And I even made a couple of new friends – Lisa (New York Chica), Kristina (MamaDivas), Stacie (The Divine Miss Mommy), Mindi (Moms Need to Know), Corine (Complicated Mama), and Kristin (About.com Toy Guide). I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few…
As for Stephanie and Marie from Child’s Play, I first met them at BlogHer, when I had only been part of Team Mom for a short time. They made me feel welcome and part of their “family” back then, and the atmosphere this time around was just as inviting. It was all very low-key… delicious food, complete with “momosas” (I have to admit I thought that was a typo at first. DOH), and a handful of interesting sponsors.
In alphabetical order, the exhibitors included: Cuisinart, FujiFilm, Goddard Schools, Good Housekeeping, Joy Berry Enterprises, Nickelodeon, the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Toy Industry Association. Also, Lord & Taylor arranged for a makeup artist from Laura Mercier to provide makeovers. The sponsors gave away fun products at their tables – a Cuisinart rice cooker, a custom mug from FujiFilm, and a set of Nickelodeon DVDs, among other things – and even bigger prizes at the raffle later that afternoon. Corine (Complicated Mama) took home the grand prize – a $2,000 trip to Orlando from the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau!!
When the brunch was over, I hopped into a hired car with Lisa and her adorable daughters, and after a short interruption by the Veteran’s Day parade, we were on our way to the Hearst Building, for a tour of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute. That deserves a post unto itself, so I won’t delve into too many details. Let’s just say I have a newfound respect for the Good Housekeeping Seal, and the magazine may have a brand new subscriber! 😉
After the tour, I parted ways with my friends, and spent some time at Border’s. I generally love the free WiFi there, but when everybody and their mother is using it, it’s not so great. And my macbook’s battery was dying. When I found myself desperately slyly pushing displays to the side and looking behind stacks of books – trying in vain to find an available outlet – I knew I had a problem. It hit me that shutting the computer down and unplugging for a few days wasn’t a bad idea!
There’s something so glamorous-sounding about going up to New York City for a day. For brunch. In reality, it was anything but! Waking up at 4am, running to my train in the rain, I was exhausted before the event even started! Not to mention walking through my door at 12:30am. In the rain. As much as all that sounds like a complaint, I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe next time (because, yes, there will be a next time) I’ll see what I can do about spending the night so I’m not quite so harried…
I can’t forget to mention that Debbie made a big announcement at the panel. She and Candace from Mamanista have partnered with Child’s Play Communications to launch Bloganthropy.org. A non-profit organization which combines the power of social media with the resources of corporate giving, Bloganthropy’s goal is to connect companies and bloggers in order to allow us to use our talents and influence to make a difference in the world. Bloganthropy is actively recruiting volunteers ready to use the power of their blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks, to give back this holiday season and throughout the year. Visit Bloganthropy.org and fill out a short form to sign up.