BlogHer 2011 & Brands: Match Made in Heaven?
BlogHer…well, I’m not sure we can be friends. All kidding aside, this annual conference for bloggers attracts swarms of online scribes from across the globe to gather, learn, and connect. No one can deny that blogging, specifically mom blogging, has exploded over the past five years. What has surprised many is how blogs have become a major go-to for marketers, ad agencies, and companies looking to expand their reach in the family/women sector. Every day bloggers receive pitches from companies who sell everything from baking soda to cars. Unlike the magazine publishing world, rates and modes for advertising are not cut & dry, black and white. Bloggers must negotiate directly with the company or representative to determine whether they’ll be writing a free review with giveaway, paid advertorial, or selling ad space. This has opened up a Pandora’s box of discussion and controversy as the blogging community tries to develop standards of ethical, transparent engagements. This subject was a hot button at this year’s BlogHer in sunny San Diego. Interestingly, the conference was not only attended by writers, many companies paid big bucks to attend and pitch products to writers in hopes of scoring a review. Many bloggers attended the conference with a secondary goal of working with a company. In the days preceding BlogHer, Twitter was aflame with women asking for advice regarding how many media kits they should bring and when to follow up with PR people. Landing advertising or at least connecting with a target company for a paid engagement is definitely a priority for bloggers who want to turn their love of writing into a lucrative gig. It seems, though, as if many bloggers and businesses didn’t exactly have parallel goals leaving some BlogHer attendees feeling miffed. According to her website, “Rachael Herrscher is the CEO and founder of TodaysMama.com, an online media and publishing company founded in 2004. TodaysMama produces regional reference guides for mothers and families and has a presence in 27 markets across the U.S.”. This popular blogger and entrepreneur shared her thoughts regarding the BlogHer/brands disconnect in a blog post entitled, ” 5 Things Brands Should Know Before Going to BlogHer”. “I heard overwhelming feedback from attendees that brands seemed unprepared (or unwilling) for the conversations that they were having in the BlogHer’11 expo hall.” She went on to write, “Brands and bloggers goals seem to be misaligned. Bloggers really want to work together with brands on a campaign level at some point and some brands seem solely interested in product sampling.” It makes one wonder: are bloggers being taken seriously as a whole by companies or do they only want to work with the queen bees of the Internet? If a company attends a blogging conference with the goal of passing out yogurt samples rather than connecting with writers who can WRITE about their product, they are missing a huge opportunity. Even if companies are not prepared to pay for advertising or a short-term marketing campaign, I believe that that bloggers still need to be approached like journalists rather than just consumers. One of Rachael’s blog commenters put it well: “…brands need to realize is that a women’s tech conference is not the place to send “booth babes,” especially for tech products. A friend approached someone in the Samsung booth and wanted specs on the different products and no one could tell her. The answer about the difference between 2 tablets was “This one is bigger?” Not acceptable. They needed to send product reps who could actually represent in a respectful way. The failure to do so showed a profound disrespect for the audience – and, as you know, this audience broadcasts their experiences to a large viewership.” In a day when anyone can become a blogger faster than I can say “Wordpress.com,” it’s no wonder why some companies don’t seem to understand the power online writers have- especially those with dedicated followings. Companies these days are faced with a legitimate challenge: how do they know which bloggers align with their brand on a level wherein it would be beneficial to walk hand in hand toward the sunset? How do they know which bloggers are interested in a true mutually beneficial, deep connection and which ones are looking for a more superficial relationship based on product reviews? These days desirable companies receive hundreds of emails a month from bloggers asking for product. Perhaps bloggers who are dedicated to finding like-minded companies with which to partner rather than just the one night review need to separate themselves from the pack. My suggestion for BlogHer 2012 is two-fold. Bloggers, lower your expectations when it comes to rubbing shoulders with your favorite brand during large conferences. See the event as an opportunity to flirt rather than go steady. Brands, send someone with experience in the blogosphere and who knows your company inside & out. Send someone with a genuine respect and appreciation for bloggers. The waters of social media are still relatively new and there are no set rules. It’s my belief that a little patience and understanding goes a long way towards making improving the experience for everyone.If you don’t know about