This summer, BlogHer was a completely different experience for me than in past years. It was the first time I wasn’t speaking, although I did end up volunteering at the Birds of a Feather sign-up, which was a great way to see everyone, if only for a few moments. It was also the first time I went as both a marketer and a mom. In previous years, including this past Spring at BlogHer Business, I went to the conference with pretty much with just my marketing hat on. Don’t get me wrong – I was a mom then too, but I didn’t have a personal blog.
I do now. Snapshot Chronicles is all about taking pictures of and with my seven-year old son. A major reason to attend BlogHer was to talk about SC and a photo contest for kids I am co-sponsoring this summer with a couple of other women bloggers, Tracey Clark and Sheri Reed.
But I also had my marketing hat on. I’ve developed a project for a client that I truly believe mom bloggers with a specific interest will want to participate in. I knew quite a few of the women on my "possibles" list would be at BlogHer, making the conference an ideal opportunity to quietly sound them out. How did I know they’d be there? Because I read and comment on their blogs. And for a lot longer than a week before BlogHer.
What does this have to do with the woodshed? Patience, grasshopper, I am getting there.
BlogHer itself was great, especially the unconference on Sunday (more on that in my next post), and I felt like I accomplished what I set out to do over the three days. However, I was a little disturbed by the anti-PR sentiment at the state of the momosphere panel on Friday, and my feelings of unease have only intensified over the past few days as the posts, and comments, have been flying fast and furious about taking PR people to the woodshed and how much we (marketing and PR folks) suck.
I’m not taking it personally, mind you. At least not too much. Helping companies do blogger relations right has become a large part of my professional work. I write and talk about it all the time,and work very hard to make sure that my clients’ programs are a win-win for everyone. In fact, I advise clients if they aren’t willing to do it right, don’t do blogger relations at all. Spend your money on advertising or trinkets & trash.
So even though I know it is not personal, it’s hard not to take offense at the blanket statement that "we know you don’t read our blogs." I do read the blogs. I read about 500 blogs on a regular basis — mom blogs, food blogs, military blogs, tech blogs, travel blogs, health blogs, film blogs, marketing blogs, PR blogs, education blogs, and more. Sure, I enjoy the mom, marketing, photo and PR blogs the most because that is where my personal interests lay, but you cannot do blogger outreach well if you don’t get to know the people behind the blogs. Because it isn’t about inanimate things called blogs. It’s about people.
And getting really personal here, I think the momosphere has forgotten that there are people, real people, on the other side, trying to do this right. And a lot of them are women. An awful lot in fact. PR as a profession is well known to be a female-dominant industry. And by that I mean there are a lot of women in it, most often at the lower and mid levels. No matter what anyone tells you, PR is still male-dominated; men run most of the big agencies. And we sort of kept that meme going at BlogHer, since Jory only had time to call on two people from PR, both men.
Today, I feel like you want me to apologize for my chosen profession. And I just don’t feel like apologizing. Not for what I do for a living. Not for corporate America. Not any more. Women do that way too much for things they didn’t do.
So, my friends, readers and fellow BlogHers, I ain’t going to the woodshed. Not today.
Many of us want to get this right. And for outreach to all bloggers that our companies and clients might want to talk with, not just moms. Because those of us that "get it," get that there are much better ways to reach out to our customers. Not mass, generic, white-bread messages designed to appeal to all, offend none, and end up doing nothing much for our companies or our customers.
Simple stories that speak directly to people, not at them. Programs that give the bloggers access to people (Gloria Steinem), places (backstage at Sci Fi Network) and things (umm "toys") that in turn provides fodder for posts and podcasts. Not to mention the possible other benefits 😉
Programs that donate both goods and dollars to charity, often chose by the bloggers themselves. Outreach that focuses on the bloggers and their needs/wants, not just the company’s. There are good blogger relations programs, and good PR/marketing folks. Really, we aren’t all assholes. At least not all the time.
So judge me, judge us, on what we do. Not on what others do. Or don’t do. As I said, I try hard to get it right. If I fuck up, tell me. If you have suggestions, tell me.
But don’t assume that every PR outreach will be lame and impersonal. Some will be, but some will be interesting opportunities that you’d want to do. But you won’t get the chance if you completely close your mind to the possibilities.
One last comment, and then I will step off my soapbox. There is a diversity issue, no question. Mainstream media is pretty white bread, white man, and much of that has crept into the blogosphere as well. It’s why BlogHer exists, my friends; remember guys don’t link?.
How do we change it? Talk about it. Educate. Maybe even reach out to companies with products we’d like to evaluate and see if they come through.
I have some other ideas, which I am noodling around as I contemplate, but refuse to enter, the woodshed. And I may just be calling on you for advice.
So please don’t delete my email before you read it.