The Cautionary Tale Of Mom (And Other) Bloggers

by Jason Falls |

Last month I was asked to speak at the Modern Media Man (M3) Summit, an event that was probably the first male-centric blogging and social media conference. When I was first asked to give a talk for what I thought of as BlogHer for men, I was specifically asked to talk about the role of blogs and bloggers in relation to brands and companies, to help educate bloggers in attendance about the world of brands, marketing and public relations and help bridge the gap between that world and that of bloggers who may or may not want to interact with companies.

I was more specifically asked to talk about some of the mistakes bloggers make when dealing with brands to help those in attendance avoid those mistakes. As I said in my talk, the elephant in the room was, “Jason, tell dad bloggers how not to get the bad reputation being developed by mom bloggers.”

Payola Accepted
Image by Quasimondo via Flickr

Mind you, I also stipulated several times that not all mom bloggers are guilty of the bad behavior. I said several times that it was an isolated group of them. I also made note that the bad behavior examples were not limited to mom, or even women, bloggers. John Porcaro, now of Dad Central Consulting but formerly a brand-side manager in the gaming industry, even confirmed for the crowd that there are several gaming bloggers out there guilty of the behavior.

One example of the behavior I’m referring to: I was visiting a Fortune 15 brand earlier this year and overheard a conversation about a person they’d invited to participate in a blogger outreach program. They offered a handful of influential bloggers the opportunity to attend a large industry conference, courtesy of the brand. The bloggers were offered conference admission, a flight and hotel room. While they were attending, they would participate in several brand activities and take home the option of writing about the brand in whatever way they saw fit.

At the last minute, one blogger emailed the brand to say she decided to bring her family with her, would need three more plane tickets, a larger hotel room and even intimated that if they didn’t comply, there would be editorial recourse.

Would it surprise you to know this is not only not unheard of, but there are a group of bloggers — slowly being identified by big brands — who routinely pull stunts like this with blogger outreach programs and companies interested in sponsoring their efforts?

Ron Mattocks of Clark Kent’s Lunchbox emailed me after the M3 Summit asking for clarification of my thoughts to help him communicate a similar message. I’m glad he did because it gave me a chance to refine the ideas a bit more. Here’s a curated version of what I sent him. I’m happy to hear your thoughts in the comments.

The Cautionary Tale Of Mom (And Other) Bloggers

I think many (mom) bloggers have done a fantastic job of building an audience, a community around their perspective and have shared lots of great advice and product reviews with millions of people. To take a free blog platform and build an audience around just your experiences, writing and generosity is powerful as hell.

But I think there are a few … a very few, isolated bloggers (moms and others … it’s not exclusive) who have taken the new medium of the Internet, and it’s lack of rules, regulations, etc., and have run roughsod on brands and companies willing to play without rules, too. Keep in mind that the blame here lies on both sides … bloggers and marketers.

The blame is for adulterating the separation of paid placement (advertisement) and earned placement (public and media relations) that has always protected the public in traditional mediums. No one is technically doing anything legally wrong, but ethics comes into question. Bloggers aren’t traditional media members, aren’t typically trained journalists and are the first media members in history to play both the editorial and advertising sales roles without an official ethical deterrent from blurring those lines.

When a brand realizes there’s an influential writer (blogger) that doesn’t have the ethical boundaries of a traditional journalist and realizes for a few free products or chump change (to a brand), they can get the influential blogger to write about their product and get third-party endorsement, they jump on it. When unknowing blogger (mommy or otherwise) hears, “We’ll give you $2500 and a free vacation to write about our dish soap!” they think, “Shit … beats Google Adwords!”

Unfortunately, there are also a small number of the small number that have let the attention from brands go to their heads. They think they’re big shot influencers and can just push brands around. In reality, they’ve got nice blogs and good audiences, but very small, niche ones. They’re not the New York Times and acting like it makes them look like douchebags. Big brands are starting to learn who they are and avoid them. Dads (and new bloggers) need to learn from that.

Run your blog like a business. Respect your audience, but respect your advertisers as well. Try to maintain an ethical balance between what you write and who pays you. Fully disclose everything and be nice to people trying to do business with you.

Am I wrong?

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).