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Adventures in Mommyblogging Land

December 9, 2008

Layne commented on my blog a couple of weeks ago that she wanted to hear more about my job, which is as a digital media public relations professional (trying say that three times fast!). Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to attend a PRSA NY Chapter event “Meet the Mommy Media” with five influential mommybloggers. They were Nicole Feliciano from Mom Trends, Sarah Caron from Voice of Mom, Stacy DeBroff from Mom Central, Kimberly Coleman from Mom in the City and Victoria Pericon from Savvy Mommy. The room was packed with PR professionals from the New York City area and the panel had a lively discussion on pitching, blogger relations and the latest controversy surrounding Motrin Moms.

Now, most of you probably aren’t in public relations, but some of you may be getting pitched yourself. How to deal with the press releases that are starting to trickle into your inbox? You’ve probably seen that big yellow icon that says “PR?” which lists my preferences for how PR professionals should reach out to me. The mommybloggers had interesting experiences that might help you form your own pitching policies. I’ve received a less weird, untargeted press releases than before, and if I do, I can quickly email back, “Please refer to my PR pitching guidelines.”

Here are some thoughts from the mommybloggers, plus my own take-aways, that you might be able to incorporate into your own pitching policy:

Pitching Best Practices

  • Victoria started us off with a helpful tip that I’m constantly surprised people fail at: Spell the name right. Both Victoria and Sarah said that they often had people use the wrong spelling version or a nickname, which is inappropriate for a professional relationship. Take Away: Make sure you have your name clearly written somewhere so the PR professional knows what to write. Personally, I have come across many blogs where no name is given, or it is a nickname of some sort.
  • Stacy recommended telling a story with the pitch instead of a generic information pitch. She says, “Give a story that’s worth talking about.” Her example: Instead of using some fake holiday, like “Fire Safety Day,” incorporate questions or a story to get the blogger thinking. Using higher thinking will intrigue the blogger. Take Away: Make sure you write out the kinds of things you are interested in and the kinds of things you’re not. Sometimes PR pros need a little help in figuring out your tastes – we’re not mindreaders!
  • Nicole said, “Don’t use the phone!” Moms are busy and could be changing a diaper or feeding their child. Email is convenient and can be done when children are sleeping or otherwise occupied. Take Away: Make sure your prefered method of contact is listed clearly on your blog. Your email address should be loud and clear!
  • Kimberly suggested giving mommybloggers a week to respond to an email. Parents are busy! After that you can follow up. They may never have gotten the email. Around the holidays, give it some time and use judgment. Take Away: If you are interested in a pitch, make sure to write back as soon as you can, even if it’s a quick “This sounds interesting. Please give me a few days to get back to you.”
  • Stacy explained that there are different types of blogs: Personal blogs, review blogs, journalistic blogs. While a mom may not blog about your pitch in one place, but they might write about it elsewhere. Take a look at their About Us page and see what else they do. Take Away: Do you even want to be pitched? If not, say so! Also, make sure that you include other places you write or blog and include contact information for that. You might be getting passed over for great stories that could be used elsewhere.

    Here are some pretty cool experiences from the mommybloggers that just proves that you don’t always have to be afraid of the PR pros (there are some good ones out there – like me!):


  • Victoria’s best pitch: Victoria wrote about something her daughter didn’t like, and a PR professional sent her a pitch with a product as another option. Relating to what she said and incorporating something her daughter’s preferences showed the PR professional was paying attention and cared.
  • Kimberly’s best pitch: Nintendo sent her a Wii Fit after reading her New Year’s Resolution to get fit. Sending a pitch that she got excited about was key in getting her attention.
  • Stacy’s best pitch: Someone sent her a magic cleaning tile that allowed her to be hands-on with what she was being pitched. Be innovative and pragmatic – send something to bake or something to do.

    Motrin Moms:

    Did you hear about Motrin Moms? It’s a commercial that was posted on their website a few weeks ago that created quite the hullabaloo on Twitter and the blogosphere. Here’s the video if you haven’t seen it yet.

    It even went so far as to get written up about on the New York Times’ Parenting Blog.

    The Q & A with the mommybloggers about Motrin Moms focused on the question “Did Motrin miss an opportunity to do real dialogue?” A corporation’s ability to communicate effectively with their audience online *and* offline is really important. Remember that Johnson and Johnson One Touch PSA fiasco last year? Same concept, only instead of our community, it was mommybloggers.

    Stacy brought up the interesting point that Motrin did not intend to enter the social media space, which is possibly why they were so quick to pull the ad (it was gone less than 48 hours after it first appeared on Twitter) and to not do much dialogue. They were not prepared for the Twitter and blogger firestorm that erupted when the first critiques of the ad surfaced on Twitter.

    Stacy recommended that Motrin, and other companies, create a Mom Bloggers Advisory Council, especially if they are working on a campaign that has the potential to create controversy. Nicole and Kimberly both wanted to know who was in the focus groups before they ad ran – if there were even focus groups.

    Kimberly added that she thought it was good that Motrin apologized, but that bloggers need more grace when companies make mistakes. I think this is a great takeaway point because the people behind corporations are people and people make mistakes. The important thing is to take proper steps to ensure that when a mistake does happen a new message is quickly sent out through the proper channels – in this case, Twitter and the blogosphere because that’s where the problem was occurring. The apology to bloggers was a great step, but if more companies utilized Twitter, it would be easier to stop these issues and provide a quick response to those criticizing, which could have slowed down or prevented the backlash.

    One thing I found interesting in listening to this community discuss their problems with PR professionals is how disconnected I feel the diabetes community is from our own marketers. A few pharmaceutical company employees have reached out to bloggers (hey Albert!), but for the most part it’s more reactionary than proactive. What about having our own Diabetes Blogger Advisory Council for pharmas and their PR companies? Would that have prevented our own marketing blooper? I see a lot sales people at diabetes conferences, but rarely are they the marketing VPs of companies that are in charge of the material we get – can anyone say ubiquitous 104 mg/dl on glucose meter packaging? How many times have you rolled your eyes when you saw that?

    There is an overlap when it comes to the various communities because at the end of the day we’re all people who are trying to form a community while dealing with people who are trying to sell to aforementioned community. It’s tricky. It’s also really interesting. One of the reasons I like my job.

    1. December 10, 2008 10:55 AM

      What most media consultants fail to appreciate is the fact that people are not monolithic and their interests are as divers as human nature itself and keeps changing. What one person considers a sales pitch is a very sound piece of advice to another.

    2. December 10, 2008 11:03 AM

      This is a great commentary on the panel!

    3. December 10, 2008 12:50 PM

      Kema: I completely agree! That was actually a point mentioned by one of the mothers (I can’t remember who said it at the moment). Essentially, mommybloggers should not be stereotyped or generalized in pitches. A PR pro shouldn’t say, “All mothers hate this…” or “All mothers do this…” because it’s not true! Very important things to keep in mind.

      Kimberly: Aww, thanks! I appreciate you stopping by. I thought you were terrific!

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