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BAD, BAD Mommy Blogger, Redux

By Stephanie Azzarone on September 16, 2009 in Marketing to Mom, Mom Bloggers, Social Media
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Last week, on the blog Everything PR, Phil Butler posted a rant on the subject of mommy bloggers. Apparently it was sparked by a news release he saw about tomorrow’s Bulldog Reporter PR University audio conference on pitching mommy bloggers. I am speaking on that panel, as a publicist who has successfully worked with this audience for the past few years.

He begins by blasting the organizers of the event for positioning the mom blogger, in their press materials, as the “holy grail” – his term, not theirs. Yet for most companies, mom is, appropriately, just that – the key target audience, the one responsible for 80-85% of household spending decisions. And these days, the way to reach her is through social media – especially, by means of mommy bloggers.

He goes on to say that “though many Moms who blog or use the Internet are still focused on their kids, some are wholly focused on the almighty dollar – period.” And if that weren’t enough, “I can tell the reader one thing about the Mommy blogosphere these days – marketing and PR money has turned many of these Moms into review slinging money grubbers whose only concerns are freebies and paid for positive reviews of products.”

Whew!

And let’s not overlook this: “I do not want to get into the specifics, or to hurt anyone unduly, but suffice it to say that large PR and marketing companies have pretty much “paid off” many of the most influential Moms out there.”

Hold on there. Paid? We don’t pay the mommy bloggers we work with. We never have. And it’s never been a problem.

He goes on: “We have people working on this very issue right now reporting all manner of “under the table” type operations.”

A little too cloak-and-dagger for me, Phil.

He then provides an example from his own experience, regarding a free service that he felt was valuable for families and that he pitched to the mom blogger community. The response:

“Out of about 50 Mommy Bloggers in our networks, and an untold zillion of others on Twitter and other networks, can you guess how many just told their readers about this wonderful kids tool? One.”

Hey, Phil. Maybe they didn’t like the service. Or maybe you didn’t approach them properly. Or maybe you just thought that they should be grateful for the information. Believe me, these days they get plenty of information. Did they not run it because it didn’t add to their bottom line or their kid’s toy chest? In some – repeat, some — cases, probably yes. The important learning here is that not all mom bloggers are alike.

“As for the ones who we have supported in their social media outreaches all these years, and offered to help in other ways so many times, not one even bothered to ask questions about this tool.”

OK. Now here – finally — we have something to agree on. Yes, when there is an ongoing relationship, and when an agency has gone out of its way to support a blogger, and that blogger simply refuses to review a product nonetheless and doesn’t even get back to the publicist to say why – well, yeah, that stinks. In fact it makes me crazy. But, really, much as I hate to admit it – how is that different from a reporter who may have covered your clients in the past, and then suddenly doesn’t?

Oh, and hey, Phil? Your “thing” in the article about the mommy bloggers’ ongoing use of the word “adorable”? Not so adorable.

  • Whoa. I was about to agree with some of what he said, but then, seriously? People didn’t post about something he deems “valuable”, and he concludes we’re all in it for money?

    We do not run bulletin board services.

    • Stephanie Azzarone, President, Child’s Play Communications

      Well put. Thanks for your feedback.

  • Sounds like a case of a few bad apples, if you know what I mean. As a “mommy blogger”, I could say the same argument about PR. Most PR folks are GREAT to work with. But every once in awhile there’s one I come across who isn’t. Maybe it’s how they pitch me. Maybe it’s how they expect so much from me, with nothing in return. Or maybe it’s that they can’t be bothered to say thank you after I’ve reviewed their product or client on my blog. Either way, there’s always going to be the bad apples. But they shouldn’t represent an entire community.

    As for the 50 bloggers he chose to pitch? I’d be curious to know how he selected those 50. That could very easily explain his lack of response.

    • Stephanie Azzarone, President, Child’s Play Communications

      That’s the whole issue in the dump-on-mommy-bloggers. Those few bad apples — and they do exist — are making everyone else look bad. The more mommy bloggers who actively post about products and services that don’t provide them personally with any financial benefit, but that can be helpful to their audience, the better to dispel the negative image. And good point, Tiffany, about the thank you from PR people — if I haven’t said that lately to the moms I work with (tho I think I have), I’m saying it now: THANK YOU.

  • I have built wonderful relationships with many PR reps. I value these relationships, which sometimes go well beyond the product review.

    Several things that outsiders don’t seem to realize is that (one) it does take time to write a thoughtful review, (two) most mom bloggers are not making a substantial income, (three) it is in fact difficult to write about a product unless you can actually experience it for yourself, (four) I do write about things that are of no monetary gain to me when they are a good fit, and (five) I am unlikely to respond when I get a cold pitch that says “Here’s a press release. Please respond when the coverage on your blog goes live.”

    I never get that one. Why do some (not all, thankfully not all) PR reps think that a random e-mail with no salutation, with no inclination that they even know who I am or what I write about, will get me to automatically write about whatever it is they are pushing?

    I would bet that Phil’s pitch was exactly like that. A cold pitch that was not relevant to those he sent it to.

    And writing so negatively about us certainly isn’t going to get us to work with him in the future. Sorry, Phil. Don’t bite the hand that feeds.

  • Really? Well, in my opinion, all mom bloggers are not the same (haven’t met one who breaks things, or trips up, as often as I do) and at least hoped we would have considered listening to this particular conversation, before publishing his opinions on “all mom bloggers,” first.

    [Disclosure: I was one of the speakers (a.k.a. money-grubbing mommyblogger) on the panel and my opinion still stands]

  • Stephanie Azzarone, President, Child’s Play Communications

    Way to go, LIz, thanks for the comment.

  • Stephanie Azzarone, President, Child’s Play Communications

    Leighann:
    Thanks for the well-considered comment. I do believe that relationships are very important for making the whole marketing/mommy blogger thing work to everyone’s benefit, and that it’s essential for both the publicist/marketer and the blogger to respect that relationship in how they treat each other.

  • well said!

  • That was hard to read, between the typos and barely subverted contempt and anger. I am sorry he had such a rotten experience but it seems silly to write off all mom bloggers just because they didn’t want to run your PSA.

  • Well he paints an unfortunately narrow, and negative, view of mom bloggers who post product reviews.

    I get pitched several times a day about products/services and I probably turn down about 50 percent of what is pitched to me. There are certain types of products that just don’t fit my demographic (ie I do not have babies or toddlers any more.) It’s also really difficult for me to devote the time to sit down with my kids to adequately review any kind of online service or program, especially with my oldest daughter in school and playing sports.

    Kudos to you and your team Stephanie for always being professional to work with through Team Mom!

  • Stephanie, Thanks, well-said.

    As a former PR pro and journalist now transitioning to full-time professional mommy blogger it is clear that a lot more trust needs to be built up between brands and mom bloggers for a win-win situation to result not only for each of them, but for consumers too!

    I only do product reviews about products/services that I believe in and I am never paid for these reviews (other than to receive the product so I can try it out). In my old career, as well as the new one that I’m pursuing now, ethics have always been at the top of my list. Pay for play is something that’s not in my vocabulary. Thanks to organizations such as Blog With Integrity, bloggers now have guidelines about proper behavior when it comes to product reviews.

  • Stephanie, it’s a great thing that you are running a PR company that doesn’t pay mommy bloggers ridiculous fees to endorse products. I think this is truly an art these days. 🙂

    As you already guessed, Phil doesn’t refer to all mom bloggers, he only refers to the “bad apples” – and one other, more important issue: disclosure.

    The truth is that without disclosure even the best intentions fall under a big question mark. FTC will scrutinize the most popular blogs soon, to see what types of endorsements are made by their authors – and many heads will fall. Some of the “bad apples” moms who get paid to review products (positively) are not even aware that they shouldn’t be doing it. I see how Phil’s tone may sound bitter and aggressive to some, but I assure you he only means well. There are many things to be learned from that editorial, none related to the fact that he was unsuccessful with a pitch, which wasn’t even a pitch if you want to know. We are PR people, Stephanie. If we want to pitch, we get more than one mom to look to a free product meant to improve education and children safety online, don’t you think?

  • Stephanie,

    Now that is how a nice lady should address some criticism, even if most of the criticism was not meant for them at all. 🙂

    In all honesty, I actually only read the tag line and first part of that article (press release) at PR University. The tone was a well known one to me, or anyone who ever read a “millionaire sweepstakes” brochure or Web 1.0 ad banner. I was really using it as a lead in to revealing what has now become a far bigger story than even I envisioned. Just so you know.

    I guess it is my own fault that other entities got involved, but then these things happen even in more than 140 characters right? All the more reason to leave Twitter for good – cryptic messages misunderstood.

    Not begging off here, just want to clarify that nothing in my posts has been about Childs Play, except of course the comments Liz left galvanizing that thought I guess. If you look at our history, my partners and mine, we have always been about kids and family. Helped some folks I hope too. But that being what it is, we are in the PR and news business, bloggers since medieval times, and really wired into credibility for all of us. So, ergo, the sometimes heated pointing of fingers when things do not look Kosher.

    I applaud Mommy bloggers, and if you take a look at other posts, spotlighted them on many occasions. The problem here, OUR problem (everyone) is that people lie. I cannot categorically say who at the moment, but the lie is the basis for all our troubles no matter what kind. So, if someone even appears to be telling one, who is to trust anyone?

    I never called anyone a liar (yet), but only carved out some who MIGHT appear to be less than forthcoming. Let me say that more clearly and define this please. In the days and months to come, the simple suspicion that a blogger is not transparent may become a super big deal. It should be a big deal. I am only pointing out situations (yes from some personal experience, where better from) where things APPEAR to be rather materialistic when they should be altruistic by nature. Just pointing out their mistakes is all.

    I am not the only writer criticizing Mommy bloggers, and I certainly am not talking about all of them. But, if all of them are following the ones with issues, then I will be. They hurt us, all of us.

    So, what am I to do? Just come up with some stuff about how I hate Mommies, even if I do not? These women may have thought I was pitching them, but I was really just asking a “friend” on a network to look at something. Maybe I am naive, but were they not friends?

    I hope anyone out there knows that if they ask me to do something, and I agree with their ideals on it, I will do it at no charge. This is not to say we are not in business and need to make money. If the time involved and our personnel resources have to be brought to bear, we have to charge for things, but other than that we just help people. Isn’t that why we are all here, to help and be helped?

    I have been at this for some time now Stephanie, and I still make mistakes. It is easy for you to see that I am on my ear about this credibility thing, and I am. I would never use those terms you mention unless I was 99 percent sure I was right. The question is; “What am I right about?” I am right about bloggers being true to principles we all should live by. About bloggers, business people, and just people being true to themselves. Who is going to believe these ladies if they even appear to be jaded in their views? More importantly for you, how will it help you when they don’t?

    I made no mention of you or your company, or even PR Universe for that matter, not being on the level. I said that the “painting” of this conference was done wrong. As for showcasing Mommies who “goofed” in their review or sponsorship areas, they bore the brunt of the argument.

    Anyone at the FTC or any organized body (let alone people with a brain) could easily tell a real review from a put up one. Come on, please!

    I am very sorry that your organization was ever induced into this fracas, but now that it is let’s all do out best to make things better. That is all I have to say, and I hope you understand. It is not like me to come to someone else’s publication to address them in such a manner, but the gravity of this effects more people than us few.

    I hope we can all sit down and come up with better ways to communicate and do well for ourselves and families. I truly do. Perhaps this is the start of something good for everyone. I believe this is the way we have to look at these things.

    Thanks Always,
    Phil Butler (alias Doctor Evil)

  • There’s no hell on earth like a bad PR person scorned…

  • Stephanie Azzarone, President, Child’s Play Communications

    Jamie:

    Thanks for your comments. We try very hard to be professional in all our social and traditional media relationships, and it’s great to hear back that we’re succeeding. Or as I’ve said many times before, yay Team Mom!

  • Stephanie Azzarone, President, Child’s Play Communications

    MommyBlogExpert:

    I think we’re all trying to make this a win-win situation, and it’s a learning process on both sides. Good to hear that you’re carrying your professionalism and ethics over to the mommy blogger world. Thanks for your comments.

  • Stephanie Azzarone, President, Child’s Play Communications

    Naomi and Kristin, thanks for your comments!