On Monday, I covered the the mom bloggers’ perceptions of Johnson and Johnson’s Camp Baby and I was hoping to follow that up with an interview with the event organizers. Unfortunately, they haven’t responded to my queries. I can only hope that it was because my emails got caught in their spam filter or something…
While I could take a guess at their goals for the event, my speculation would still just be my opinion, and I certainly can’t pass judgment on whether it was a success. That’s their call, based on what they hoped to achieve.
But I go on vacation on Friday and need to wrap up my J&J coverage before I leave. Other stories beckon. For now, we’ll have to be satisfied with their public statement about the event on their blog and this short article in BrandWeek.
Instead, this wrap-up post will focus on what we can all learn from Camp Baby. Starting with some advice from two women who attended. I asked them what advice they would give to another consumer products company considering doing a similar event. Jodi, from Mom’s Favorite Stuff said:
"I’d recommend re-vamping the invitation process. It should have been more streamlined, and more explicit (ie: no kids, space is limited, etc). If another consumer products firm wanted to do something similar, I’d just recommend being very clear and transparent. Explain the objectives, the expectations, and I think most mommy bloggers will appreciate it!"
Christina from A Mommy Story also pointed out that they packed a lot into a very short time, and it took her a couple days to recover from the exhaustion. Her advice for another company trying to reach out to mom bloggers:
"Events like these will work to draw in a lot of attention – just look at all of the Twitter noise from those three days! But be prepared for the snark as well as the positive blogging. And please, if you ask for our opinion about your products, be ready for a lot of criticism along with praise. We’re an educated bunch, and we know what we’re talking about. Take our suggestions seriously. I will be watching to see if J&J implements any of the suggestions we gave them."
Let’s make these the foundation for our learning points.
One. Be clear and explicit from the get-go. Make your expectations clear so the bloggers can set theirs. If you are going to do an event (more about my evolving opinion of events in a bit), define your group carefully and as narrowly as possible. If you can’t accommodate nursing moms or people who can’t stay the whole time, don’t invite them.
Two. Transparency. It is more than just asking bloggers to acknowledge the junket. It starts with clearly communicating the objectives of your event to the participants. It also means being honest about your agenda. Christina commented in her email, which I quoted in the earlier post, that it was clear that the sessions all had an unacknowledged product component. Guess what: the women figured it out.
Three. It’s not a one-way conversation any more. Just because a company says it is so does not mean that customers/bloggers will believe it. If you ask for feedback and opinions, be prepared. For critcism and to take some action. Or don’t ask. As Christina points out in her comment above, the women at Camp Baby had strong concerns about chemicals in baby products. Did J&J take them seriously? Only time will tell, but it does sound like the company was surprised at the strength of the bloggers’ convictions. And knowledge about the subject.
Four. You’ve read it here before. Read the blogs. Over time, not over night. You have to know what the bloggers are interested in — to invite them, to create a program that interests them, to have a relationship. There isn’t a ranking system or index available that can replace the knowledge gained by truly getting to know someone. At a minimum, as Julie (mothergoosemouse) says in the comments to my previous J&J post, at least read the About Page. You’ll be amazed at the wealth of information.
Finally, and this is my opinion, not something from the feedback or comments about Camp Baby — consider that a blow-out event may not be the best way to engage over time with the customers you are trying to reach.
Lindsay Ferrier (Suburban Turmoil) wrote this week about how the momosphere is changing, and not necessarily for the better. The focus on monetizing the blog, getting ad revenue, paid posts and all expenses paid junkets, whether to New Brunswick New Jersey or Orlando, has created a different, less friendly world than before. So far 72 comments and counting.
So the question is, what is the best way for companies to engage with bloggers? With their customers.
Sure, a big event can be a lot of fun — even for the organizers, there is a certain exhiliration in having pulled it off, but wining and dining is a date. Getting to know someone, helping them achieve their goals, adding value consistently over time. That’s a relationship. As a marketer, I want a long-term relationship with customers. Not a one night stand. Generally, those aren’t terribly satisfying.
How can you help the blogger all the time, not just once? Access to company resources for research? Involvement in new product development? User Councils? Think outside the box, and not just about getting this or that product reviewed. What is the customer relationship with the company over time? What will make her love you? Why do you love her?
If you work for one of those consumer companies salivating over the mom blogger segment, or even a smaller firm that wants to reach women bloggers, including mom bloggers, I have some advice for you.
If you want to reach women bloggers, especially in the United States and Canada, don’t dump thousands of dollars into a big event. Devote a fraction, just a fraction, of that budget, to supporting a BlogHers Act initiative. This year, the focus is on maternal health in the US, the environment in Canada, but there are other causes within this umbrella as well. I guarantee you, you will reach more people, garner more positive attention for your company, your brand, than any slick event.
Here are just a few ideas, all of which I came up with driving to a business lunch today. Imagine what we could do with a bit more thought.
- Make a donation. Through BlogHer’s widget or through a blogger whose cause you support;
- Give products to women bloggers in your network for giveaways/raffles on their blogs;
- Match donations over some specified period;
- Create a contest or giveaway on your site to benefit BlogHers Act — more complex than the other ideas but potentially quite rewarding.
Keep in mind, this is how I make my living, but today, in this post, the advice is free. I hope like hell someone pays attention.
But, no fooling, you want to explore one of these ideas and need some help, give me a call. 978 562 5979.
UPDATE 4/20: I have spoken to Lori Dolginoff, but just haven’t had time to write up the interview. Look for it later this coming week.