Session speakers: Lotta Svoboda, Devra Renner, Kristen Chase, and Dawn Meehan (Dawn is having some issues with her blog, check back later today or tomorrow when she'll be back online!).
From the BlogHer08 brochure: One code of conduct could probably never apply to the blogosphere...but do you have a personal code of conduct? Where are your boundaries? And do you publish them? Moreover, there has been lots of talk lately about how marketers blow it with MommyBloggers (and other bloggers too, for that matter.) Horror stories can be fun, but what if we could change the game? Do you have a code of conduct you wish marketers would abide by? Do you publish it? Do you outline how to contact you and who should bother? And let's be honest: Does your reaction totally change based on what you're being pitched, not on the quality of the pitch? Not every MommyBlogger is interested in that dread word "monetization." But for those who are, it will certainly be useful to talk about how we balance community, content and commercialism.
Goal of the discussion: Dealing with commercialization in the momosphere. Is the commercial relationship right for you? It's not for everyone.
Question for panelists: Do you have a code of conduct for your blog?
Lotta: I am one and they are many - don't let natural good manners get in the way. OK to have automated auto reply saying what you would and won't do.
Dawn: Does have policy, does review products and has ads. Started her blog to make money. If the pitch isn't personal doesn't respond. If it's addressed to her and it's by someone who knows her blog she'll respond. She'll write a very honest review, but gives the company the opportunity to review it first and if they don't want her to post it she won't.
Kristen: Has a policy. If you've decided to monetize and reviews and ads are what you want to do. It's your space so it's good to have a visible policy. She has it right above her email. She makes it clear so if she gets an email that ignores the policy she can refer back to it.
You can only disclose so much on your about page, and then there is going to be some reading that has to happen. Or the PR person won't know. But you can use the policy and the about page so readers get a good sense of you. You can offer suggestions so when you get a terrible pitch you have a reference point and you can use the pitch as a jumping off point for a good conversation with the person.
Lotta: You have to detach yourself and realize that it might be an intern who sends something. It's not personal, don't get too riled up.
Devra: When Disney scheduled an event over Passover she tried to fix it. She went through channels trying to change it, and then wasn't listend to. So she tried to handle it with humor. People make mistakes. We're all human.
Audience member from Edelman PR: Some PR firms are honest and transparent. Her company insist their staff read two months of archives before pitching. Some people write back with a pissy attitude assuming that all PR firms are evil, and not all are like that.
Lotta: You shouldn't take it personally . Not all PR firms are awesome. You're getting the repercussion from that.
Dawn: Some pitches come from awesome PR firms, who clearly have read her blog.
Heather from Rookie Moms: It boils down to what's the product and what do I care? And figuring out what your readers are going to care about too. Try to be relevant and have something to say. She sometimes makes her reviews are a bit too snarky. Once a product owner was really offended and wrote a mean email. It's up to the blogger to figure out what are the policies and boundaries.
Lotta: You decide where do you let them in. It's your blog.
Kristen: When you start a blog, it's a personal space. If you didn't originally make decision to monetize, when people send pitches you have to sit and consider what is the purpose of your blog. What's going to make sense? Is a review going to fit?
Lotta: Bear in mind that you're valuable. You're giving them a huge platform
Mom101: She gets 100 pitches a day. Do you (the panelists) have a memorable pitch you got? Something you weren't looking for, but worked out great?
Kristen: The T-Mobil one on her blog now. They'd read the blog carefully. Referenced great posts and presented the T-Mobil thing in a not so clear way. She called to get clarification. The rep was open to the dialog so it made it a great pitch. Opened with "I'm not sure this is something you might be interested in, but..."
Dawn: For a long time didn't realize that she could say "Sure, what are you going to pay me?" Your time is valuable.
Lotta: It's OK to ask for more. She also approaches companies. It's fine to approach them.
Kristen: That's when having a good relationship comes into play. Before refusing rudely keep in mind you might need them or their product at some point. Keep dialog open.
Devra: Surprising pitch? Chicago Auto Show. she almost deleted the email, but decided to open it. The rep had read blog post about a road trip trumping a guilt trip. They wanted her feedback on a family car. GM sent her to Chicago, took her to the House of Blues, and sent her to the car show. She wrote about the experience in the style of her blog. After that she got invited to another event for GM, about different work/life policies. Then they wanted to work with the SVMoms group and that's where the road trip came from. None of that would have happened if she'd hit delete on that first email.
Audience Member: How do you handle commenters from PR people who make sort of/not really relevant comments with their link.
Dawn: Deletes them if they are just plugging.
Lotta: Unless they're funny, deletes.
Kristen: Emails the person. Tries to educate the person.
Mom Central consulting: She started as mom expert and then got into dialogs with corporations. They are experiencing a paradigm shift. Corporations used to control dialog. And all of a sudden the conversation has been hijacked from the corporations by the consumer. So now corporations who are used to controlling the way we talk about things, are at a loss. Web2.0 has given us the power. Corporations are trying to enter the dialog and they find it terrifying. Like going over Niagara Falls. So they are trying many things to enter the dialog and they aren't used to conversing, they're used to telling.
Devra: It's important to remember there's not just one universal mom out there. We all have different aspects to our lives other than just the mom part. So some times we might hear things that are relevant to mom part or business woman part or whatever other part.
Kristen: It's one thing if you care about it, but it doesn't mean you're going to write about it on your blog. We're not one dimensional, blogging is about 25% of our lives. Caring is one thing, what we're going to write about is another.
Devra: It's also about our readers and what they'll care about.
Audience Member: She sees pitches from Etsy store owners. Do you react differently to pitches from individuals as opposed to corporations?
Lotta: If it's a mom she'll probably do it for free. If it's a corp she'll be tougher.
Kristen: She's more inclined to write something if there's a story behind it. Snippets of info are very interesting. Sadly she gets more pitches from large corporations.
Audience Member again: How do you handle something you don't want to do?
Devra: Just no thank you. Hit delete.
Kristen: Used to answer all the emails at Cool Mom Picks. Not any more. thought if it's not right for their blog, but know someone who would be interested then they'll refer them to that blogger.
Devra: all about the relationship
Katie of Rants and Raves: Lots of blogs that are ill designed. Hard to figure out what it's about. Sometimes the about page is not enough. Lots of bloggers need to look at their site and need to pare down.
Devra: Know your audience and know what you're about.
Katie again: Who do you contact if you want to review books?
Audience Member: Little publishers really do want to connect with bloggers. Because they are competing with huge companies. Contact other mom bloggers, contact publishing houses. Keep trying.
Kristen: Beauty of this community is that it's fairly small. So reach out and ask other bloggers for help.
Janice of 5 minutes for mom - They work with PR companies. She loves her reps. Wonderful people. She chats with the reps, gets to know them, and then they come up with great projects together.
How do you differentiate posts you get paid for versus ones you don't? We're the pioneers and we're trying to do it best. Find way to get medium to work best for everyone.
Kristen: Started Motherhood Uncensored in '05 and didn't think about monetizing at the time. Now she writes a quick post about a company and realized she might need to put a disclosure at the bottom stating that she didn't get paid to write it. We're in that place where we're starting to need to think about full disclosure.
Devra: We live in a world where there are different assumptions. People have different agendas. People aren't assuming that you're being honest.
Dawn: If she writes about the product on main blog she'll write if she got it for free. But she doesn't feel she has to disclose.
Lotta: Will say she got paid, but she'll do it anyway.
Janice again - Not saying we shouldn't get paid, they want a win win situation for all. There should be compensation all around. The whole concept of disclosure. Would never write something she's not about. Since we are authoring the posts we are innately giving it our endorsement.
Kristen: When you endorse it then we open ourselves for their advertising. But best to be open.
PR Audience Member: Fine line. Some policies are very clear. Where do you see it going? Do you see a time when it's all paid or unpaid? Fine line between PR and advertising.
Kristen: Needs to be a differentiation. Understands there isn't money involved in every pitch.
Lotta: Still a way to make it a win win.
Fran from Merlotmom - Info very helpful, but has two questions. Just started 6 or 7 months ago. How much traffic do you need before PR people get interested? How do you promote your traffic?
Kristen: Blog rings help. Other thing time consuming: read other blogs and comment. Be an active part of the community. Copyblogger and problogger will give you hints.
Devra: Some people have searches set up for some terms. Use key words. Businesses are searching their own names. Even on Twitter. They are definitely interested in what you're doing.
Tim Ronnen - Primo Water: Thanks to many people who have written nice things. Thank you for being honest. What make you all readable is because you are honest. Not frightened, excited. Doesn't have the money to tell tell tell.
Question: As a brand builder, what is most relevant to us to make it so we do write about it?
Devra: Look to see if it's relatable to something out readers are going to want to read about. Understand that each blogger has a readership, not reaching out just to that one person, but to the entire network.
Kristen: Don't forget there are other opportunities beyond product reviews. There's consulting. It's great to get a blogger to help you reach bloggers. Get the blogger to help you think outside the box. What do you want? Links? Feedback? Focus groups? Really think about what you want in the long run. There are creative things that can happen that other women have done.
Devra: When everyone has their policy laid out it's easier to have a honest relationship.
PR Audience Member from Ketcham - They are fortunate to have lots of great blogger experts. Do you find it useful to talk to these experts that are moms? Do you welcome a guest post from these experts?
Kristen: Never does guest posts. But a webcast or conference call if interesting or compelling, then sure. Some great opportunities there. Logistics of those are hard, but great to think about. Needs to be compelling, something bloggers will want to talk about.
Marty from Don't take the repeats: Blogging is a new field in the arts. She does it as a creative outlet. She finds that we need to remember that we are selling out time and our talents. Can't forget that no matter how much we believe in the product they're making money by us helping them.
Devra: It's a business relationship. Even if you form friendships, can't forget that.
Marty again: Doesn't want to give away space and voice for free hand sanitizer. You're making them profit, why can't we be included on that?
Devra: Ad dollars are going much farther with us than with a SuperBowl ad.
Audience Member: If you get a 100 pitches a day, how do you handle it? Do you take a free razor or ask for money first?
Dawn: No right or wrong way. It's a personal choice!
Snapfish: Gets Google alerts for all the blogs. They give free things to people who have great ideas, not just big readership. She responds to people who hate them as well as love them. They are always looking for ways you use the products creatively.
Audience Member: If you aren't adding value to blog with your pitches then it's best to advertise. To PR members: Read your pitches. If you wouldn't want to get it, don't send it!
Kristen: Love the thought that blogging is an art. Write really well and people will find you.
Devra: In the end it's all about developing professional relationships and setting expectations.