Blogging Moms Wooed by Food Firms - My rambly two cents on the LA Times Article
Although man I love Elisa Camahort-Page's pornography analogy. That alone makes it worth the read.
I spent nearly an hour speaking with the reporter about it, and frankly, it was a lovely conversation. I liked her a lot and I think she has a good handle on the issue of blogs and brands. Mine was one of the last interviews, and she was clearly shocked at that point by the stories she had heard from other bloggers about freebies, junkets, and what she described as something like indiscriminate effusiveness by a few (not all) bloggers about any and every product being presented at a corporate event. She also said something about exclamation points and all caps. As in OMG CRUNCH BARS ONLY HAVE 209 CALORIES! AM EATING 30 NOW! #nestlefamily
(Disclosure: Nestle Crunch was one of my first advertising clients. I too have eaten 30 in one sitting. Solidarity!)
The first thing the reporter mentioned was a quote she had jotted down that struck her as interesting: Because of all the attention from marketers, one source said, "there has never been a better time to be a mom with a computer."
"That," I said, "makes me cringe."
It made me cringe because there are a lot of great reasons to be a mom with a computer - and offers for free canned vegetables in exchange for positive posts on a blog, as far as I'm concerned, is not one of them.
The most radical thing about moms who blog is the way we've been able to form communities. Connect on deeply profound levels. Stave off isolation. We share our truths, however good, bad, controversial or painful. We've taken on politics. We've taken on societal ills. We've simply made one another feel good on a daily basis.
We've raised money for friends in need. We've started wonderful businesses. We've supported our families. We have literally saved one another's lives.
And sometimes, we even get ourselves published.
This crazy new democratic self-publishing tool, this thing called blog, it is awesome in a million freaking ways. So hell yeah, it's a good time to be a mom with a computer.
In the article, it seems my use of the term "cringe" was combined with a description of the motivation for starting Blog with Integrity. And while I recognize some things will get lost in translation when a reporter has to cull down my rambly 600 word description into one crisp sentence (no small task, sorry reporters), I would hope that anyone who knows me or Susan or Kristen or Julie or where we seem to be going with the campaign recognizes that isn't exactly the case.
If anything made us cringe this past spring, it was the media coverage of mom bloggers. The misperception that all mom bloggers seem to exist to do is reprint press releases about products in exchange for a freebie or two. That the marketing mom bloggers (Review bloggers? Ad bloggers? Gimme bloggers?) are consistently in the media as the only mom bloggers.
And now, once again. On the front page of the LA Times.
I do cringe at deception. I cringe at bloggers who are so flattered by the attention of marketers that they are willing to do their bidding for free. I cringe reading glowing reviews of products that I know first hand are second rate. It happens. Let's not pretend it doesn't.
But there are plenty of times it doesn't. Christine Young (who defends her position here) may have a closet full of stuff she won't feature, but isn't that preferable to giving the thumbs up to anything and everything that shows up in the mail? Her readers seem to think so.
I'm often torn when I'm asked to comment on these stories. I don't want to accept a nice comfy position on the front lines of the mommy wars. I've recently turned down two different talk show offers, in which producers seemed to want to create a forum for mothers to fight about hot-button issues. I love thoughtful debate and discussion, but I don't want to be the woman on stage attacking another mother's values because it makes a good sound byte.
On the other hand, I do talk to reporters. Because I want another side of the story out there. In this case, it may have been the very last line, but it was there - we are not all whores.
I also said that sometimes bloggers are just naive when dealing with brands.
I will count myself among them.
Maybe not right now, not as much. But there have been some things I have done that I'd change. There are a couple of times I used a branded hashtag on Twitter and regretted hitting publish. There are some events I attended where I found myself thinking, what the heck am I doing here?
I went because they offered. And it made me feel good to be on a list.
Isn't that how it works for so many of us?
It's tough navigating this tricky brand-blogger dance. Because it's completely new. It simply hasn't existed before. And we have no idea where it will be next month or next year. We're not journalists but we're not regular old consumers either. We are some weird new hybrid.
Just call us Pod People. Or geeks. That's what Nate does.
Now I'd like to put some of the onus on the marketers and PR folks here for a change:
You come to parenting bloggers because we're authentic. We're genuine. Our online relationships are real and our influence is palpable. We don't have gatekeepers and we don't have filters and maybe it makes your brand look pretty cool to share our space.
But if you continue creating an environment in which our credibility is consistently on the line; if you choose to engage with less ethical bloggers; if you send your products to anyone willing to write up a half-assed piece of crap review on it, complete with all the © and ™and ® symbols on your press release; if don't think through your junkets well enough that even thoughtful, credible guests are labeled as sell-outs, you mess it all up. YOU MESS IT ALL UP. You will destroy what was built here long before you came along and offered us free KY Jelly products.
And then, what good are we to you? What good are we to each other?