Mommy Dearest and the Public Relations of Mommy Blogging

I have been blogging now for about 5 years, and in that time I guess I have seen it all.  Our PR and consulting arm has been working with early stage startups and people in the social sphere for most of that time too. But the news, if one can call it that, from “PR University” the other day attempted to reveal a landslide methodology for PR companies to engage the Mom’s of the world pretty much took the cake. In this “press release” slash article about social media and the economic influence Mommy Bloggers leverage, “Pitching Mommies” is presented as some sort of “Holy Grail” of media outreach, but for anyone interested in this $5 trillion market, let me give you a heads up, get out your check book.

mommy dearest

Mommy Help Me

Being naive and friendly as a PR or news person is not exactly a rewarding experience sometimes. We have worked with any number of online startups, whether in a analysis, reporting, or just collaborative effort over the last several years, sometimes just helping them for the sake of good business or even good natures. I can remember thinking of Mommy Bloggers as a sort of online version of the nurturing and caring ladies whose main concern is always their children’s and family’s welfare. Well, though many Moms who blog or use the Internet are still focused on their kids, some are wholly focused on the almighty dollar – period. My new opinion of many of these ladies resembles the image at left shouting; “You will play with Suzie Cue because Mommy and Daddy do not want to pay for your toys.”

Being in social networking and media is about reciprocity and outreach for the most part, and I can tell the reader one thing about the Mommy blogosphere these days – marketing and PR money has turned many of these Moms into review slinging money grubbers whose only concerns are freebies and paid for positive reviews of products. The Mommy Blogger good advice machine requires greasing of its wheels like all the rest, sure. But in all cases and for so much dough?

Bad Old Daddy Blogger- Bad, Bad

Oh! How can he say such a thing? Well, it is not rocket science exactly to figure out that many bloggers would sell their first born for a case of Oscar Meyer wieners. We had a client not long ago, whom we agreed to help for basically our costs, and who we idiotically thought would be welcomed with open arms by moms. It was a free service for kids, one which would help revolutionize the way in which children would experience the Internet, intuitively, safely and with ultimate parental control. Our thinking (or anyone’s for that matter) was that many Moms who blog would be thrilled to write about this free and simple kids tool. We thought this would be especially true given we had supported so many of them in the past – for free I might add. Wrong answer!

I do not want to get into the specifics, or to hurt anyone unduly, but suffice it to say that large PR and marketing companies have pretty much “paid off” many of the most influential Moms out there. We approached any number of Moms who we know, and also any number of those on Twitter who are so “wired” into this social media extravaganza, and with the most astonishing results. Please understand, as bloggers of some notoriety ourselves, we have written untold articles about people, products and services which we thought would benefit people – for free. So it was that we naturally (and naively) thought at least a percentage of Mommy Bloggers (if not all given the value of the service) would jump at the chance to talk about something good for kids. The response we got, even from Mommy Blogs in our own network was a resounding; “What’s in it for me?”

shopping bagsMaternal Instinct Obscured By Shopahaulism

Out of about 50 Mommy Bloggers in our networks, and an untold zillion of others on Twitter and other networks, can you guess how many just told their readers about this wonderful kids tool? One. Ironically one of the most successful and read ones I might add, one who does paid reviews by the hundreds too. As for the ones who we have supported in their social media outreaches all these years, and offered to help in other ways so many times, not one even bothered to ask questions about this tool. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is busy and has people asking for favors all the time in social networking, but no more busy than we are. We get more requests than most I assure you, but these are Moms some of whom are targeting other Moms to buy stuff.

wwotwHold on Mommy Dearest! Before any of you go coo coo on me, I would not be writing this if I did not have proof, or if we did not already have reporters investigating just how serious the “paid for opinions” rabbit hole goes. I can say with all honesty now, that I welcome the FTC’s nose in the business of blogging now. I cannot tell you how even our closest friends in this sector rationalize being paid to tell others the good news about products. I suspect too, that if anyone cared or had the time to actually investigate all of these “opinions”, they would find a great number of them to be, shall we say, tilted towards the positive.

There is a big problem underneath all this you know? It is a credibility one for all of us, and for those of your on the “gravy train” or paid reviews and “products testing” perhaps a rude awakening. As for the Mom bloggers out there testing Walmart brooms, calling them “adorable” for doe, you should just use the term like the lady at left did when speaking to poor Dorothy.

Is Adorable A Universal Term For “Buy It, You’ll Like It?”

The only blogger network I am prepared to blow the whistle on today is Mom Bloggers Club. Well, blowing the whistle may sound a little too aggressive in some cases, and there are many very nice ladies in collaboration with this major hub for Mommies, so maybe “telling of on tale” is a better term here. I approached Jennifer James, the founder of the club, via Twitter at the onset. The response there was as brief and inconclusive as one would expect from 140 characters, so I joined up to Mom Bloggers to see what the best way to talk to some Moms there might be. To make a long story short, I was eventually sent what is for all intents and purposes, a list of “Mommy Blogger” prices for promoting products. Yeah, you heard that right, a price list for super duper, really special blog tours through Mommy-dom for the low low price of!

Reading some of these blogs the term “adorable” comes up with the frequency of sunshine – it is syruppy to say the least. The range of products and services fawned over, and the outright drippiness of the adoration these ladies plug these products is like something out of a “Girls United” flick. Some of them are so sweet as to be just swimming in adoration for a range of products that could make Walmart die of envy. So, I thought; “Wow, Moms really are enthusiastic about their kids’ health, well being, fun, and adorable jump suits too!” Well, there is a reason they were enthusiastic, as Jennifer’s mail to me revealed – there’s gold in them there hills!

Jumbo Beef Franks For Your Kids – MMM

The letter from Jennifer was basically an advertisement for the Mommy Bloggers at her site, one in which she touted companies like Oscar Meyer, General Mills, and Bumkins as former satisfied clients of their blog tours. She gave me some links to follow in order to see the various blogging campaigns the women had carried out too. I remember the Oscar Meyer one most pointedly, but sadly that video has been taken off of the OM site and replaced by another contest. It was however, a fairly greasy video depicting any number of kids and their parents chomping into Jumbo franks. I cannot tell you the “adorable” nature of some of these Moms’ video offerings for Oscar Meyer.

I will not delve into the other variants, there are many dealing with a variety of products. I think the essence of the Oscar Meyer campaign can be seen in these few. Oh! Everyone wants to know the price for getting premium coverage for products via the adorable Moms of the club? Well, I was offered one of several blog tours which cost according to the number of blogs who posted, here those number are.

  • The low-low price of $1750 for 25 blog reviews
  • At the Bronze level (my term) 50 blog reviews for $3000
  • Silver package (my term again) 75 reviews for $4250
  • And at the gold (no pun) level 100 reviews for $5000

I hope you can understand my shock and dismay when I received this. I guess I was just stupid to expect Jennifer to maybe check out the kids platform and perhaps write a review herself if the service warranted it? I had no intention of hiring 100 Mommy bloggers to rave over this startup, I just wanted honest reviews good or bad. We had great confidence that the service was something innovative and valuable enough to merit Moms and Dads wanting to use it for their kids. The other links Jennifer sent led to her site, where recaps of the campaigns (tours) are posted. I could not help but follow one lady’s comment to her blog, it was so adorable. In fact the trail read something like this:

“I received the most adorable Dr. Seuss Coverall Seuss Suit to review from Bumkins Finer Baby Products. — Moomettesgram’s Musings”

…and went on to reveal this endearing comment and link to the Bumpkins site.

“I received the most adorable Dr. Seuss Coverall Seuss Suit to review from Bumkins Finer Baby Products.”

Bartering For Food and Other Goodies

Getting cases of cereal and hot dogs to review is not a bad thing is it? I know my favorite Mommy Blogger has boxes of stuff stacked a mile high in her house just waiting to be reviewed, errr tested. The problem with all this is credibility for the sake of all of us. As for which huge PR firm is behind the “overfeeding” of this Mommy opinion machine, it looks like Webber Shandwick forked over some franks and some dough to stuff your kids with yummylicious hot dogs. I quote from one of the blogs it appears that Moms Club had doing videos.

“Courtesy of Oscar Mayer and Weber Shandwick, I received a $15 gift card to buy a package of Oscar Mayer Premium Beef Franks, and all of the trimmings.”

Well, at least there was some transparency here as far as sort of letting people know something besides the sheer joy of hot dogs was afoot. But, to make matters “appear” worse, this lady even changed here mind about the nutritional value of Oscar Meyer Hot Dogs.

“I do have a bit of a love/hate relationship when it comes to hot dogs though. Let’s face it – they’re quick and easy to make, especially when you’ve got to whip up dinner in between school, work, activities, etc. But there’s that little nagging feeling that they’re not exactly the best, healthiest meal to feed your family. Well, that feeling’s a lot smaller for me, now that I’ve discovered Oscar Mayer’s Premium Beef Franks.”

bad hot dogThe Truth Is Obscured

I want to clarify myself here for those Moms who work trying to both do good, and to be rewarded for their hard work. Every Mom blogger is not guilty of any crime against humanity here you know? So many people offer up genuine articles, even credible and genuine paid ones, that it would be unfair for anyone to suggest the whole basket of eggs is rotten. Heck, in many cases Moms or other bloggers are simply unaware of the harm they might be doing themselves and other people. Like us, they assume the world is made up of Moms and Dads who care for the sake of kids and humanity. The problem arises when money is entered into the equation in the wrong way, when disclosures are not made, and when nothing is help sacred or outside the influence of the dollar bill.

The instance of Mom Bloggers Club us not the only one. In fact we have people working on this very issue right now reporting all manner of “under the table” type operations. This is really a shame too, as Jennifer’s organization is so well done, and most of the ladies their seem sincere as does Jennifer. I almost got the impression she had simply rationalized away any conscionable issues with such bought opinions.

Whether people are influenced unduly by PR or marketing money, or simply are naive to the impact their communicating has, it all boils down to the same thing. All of us are held suspect with regard to our credibility. There is virtually no way of maintaining credibility in product reviews when gifts or money is exchanged. Once a million great products are obscured by sugar candy reviews of 10 million mediocre or worse ones, the end of the gravy train will be at hand. This is like paying a juror $100 to return a guilty verdict, versus paying nothing for an innocent one.

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Comments

  1. says

    I find your posts interesting and they make me think. However, I don’t think that your attack on Mom Bloggers Club in general/Jennifer James in particular is fair. You all but called her a liar in the comments. If she says that she didn’t get paid to do that program, unless you have proof that she did – you should apologize. Also, I don’t see what the big deal is regarding her hosting paid blogger outreach programs. She IS the founder of a mom blogging community. Advertising agencies, companies, etc. get paid for their programs with bloggers. Why shouldn’t she? (Disclosure: I happen to like and respect Jennifer as a friend and a fellow blogger. I am a part of Mom Bloggers Club, but I have not participated in one of their group review projects – I just rarely do group product blog posts.)

    Also, I think that your jump to mom bloggers being in it for the money based on the lack of response to your pitch is a bit faulty. Have you considered the timing and wording of your pitch? Kid safety is a HUGE thing right now and I have received many, many pitches regarding various products aimed at that market. Some I have written about (for free). Others I have not – primarily because I had just written about the topic. Of course you think that your product is unique (and it very well may be), but so does everyone else. There are certain themes – education, charity, safety, “green” products, etc. that we moms who blog are getting pitched about all of the time. I would caution against making broad assumptions regarding responses if you are a marketer in one of those categories. A more helpful approach would be to ask the bloggers to keep your product/service/etc. on file for when they are working on another story/post about the subject. Why assume the worst/call people out and burn bridges? That just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me – from a marketing relationship point of view.

    Take care,
    Kimberly

  2. Stephanie Azzarone says

    Phil and Mihaela:
    Since my PR University audioconference on pitching mommy bloggers is what kicked off this whole debate, I would like to both reiterate my disagreement with Phil as expressed in my Mom Market Trends post and especially refute both your comments about Cool Mom Picks. Liz of Cool Mom Picks has been a leader in establishing appropriate behavior for mom bloggers, including disclosure, and is recognized throughout the momosphere as such. I feel compelled to say that your comments in relation to her blog are not based on fact. On a more general note, I do believe that in many cases it is essential for a blogger to have a product sample in hand in order to do a proper review — frankly, I think that allows for far more accuracy and authenticity in coverage than simply feeding back what appears in a press release. As I said in my original post in response to yours — yes, there are some out there who are in it for, and influenced by, the “stuff” — but not Liz. She’s one of the good ones.

    And since I think this conversation has gone on WAY to long, that’s all I’m going to say.

    • Phil Butler says

      Stephanie, We respect your opinion and comments obviously. There is something being misunderstood continually in the discourse here and on your site. We are not suggesting even that Liz or anyone else is incontrovertibly “doing” anything underhanded. We are providing a snapshot if you will, of what the perception could be. Perception, as you know in your business, is just about as powerful as fact where consumers are concerned. That being said, when and if I can provide incontrovertible proof that someone is doing something under the table, I will reveal it for the good of everyone who might be harmed.

      I did not write the press release, and if I had I would not have suggested things the way they were. It looked Web 1.0 if anything, and wreaked of sales. This conversation has just begun, and I hope when the real end of it comes, many will have a better idea of how to carry out business in these areas. I do not have all the answers, but I do know that much of what I have said holds a lot of water. Tell me what does not, prove it, and I will reevaluate my position accordingly. Until then, I will be interviewing some people with regard to paid links and some other issues who might give many Mom bloggers a heads up as to how these things affect their standing.

      I already bragged on Liz for what I ascertained she and her team are good at. I suggest she get better at appearances and warm discussion.

      Always,
      Phil

  3. Sarah says

    Wanted to add…

    You said…
    “I hope you can understand my shock and dismay when I received this. I guess I was just stupid to expect Jennifer to maybe check out the kids platform and perhaps write a review herself if the service warranted it? I had no intention of hiring 100 Mommy bloggers to rave over this startup, I just wanted honest reviews good or bad.”

    I am more than certain that paying for Jennifer’s time to manage the bloggers does not equal “rave” reviews.

    Paid for time does not equal being paid to lie. I HATE it when I see that plastered all over the internet that if we receive money it’s for our opinions…no it’s for our MINDS, our time, our feedback (good and bad). We’re smart women, not androids that can’t be told what to write. If that’s what companies want or think that they are getting, they are doing it all wrong.

    • Phil Butler says

      Sarah, I could not agree with you more. So, along those lines I am about to show some, uh, “mis-truths” that I am sure everyone will find interesting. Stay tuned. As for Jennifer not getting paid, if that is true, I hope she does better next time. The problem will be of course, doing things in a way which adds rather than subtracts from the credibility of all bloggers. I hope everyone who is a Mom and Blogs does not really believe I am out to get them because some “mean old moms” did not do me a favor? This goes far beyond any misgivings I have had due to a few points of contention. Moms are special to me, as they are to so many people. I just want them to be well informed and what is best for them and the rest of us. I hope that is clear.

      Always,
      Phil

    • Phil Butler says

      Oh! I almost forgot too Sarah. I am hoping that in a short while I might be able to suggest an advertising and revenue platform than will effectively negate the need to do sponsored reviews. I just received a press release to test an innovative new schema for all sites that may just do what me and a number of others have begged for as far as monetization. Stay tuned on that, as the Web really (all of it) needs a better way to monetize outside of traditional methods.

      Always,
      Phil

  4. Sarah says

    Perhaps not the point you meant to make but reading this I’m thinking, “damn, the mom bloggers are getting taken advantage of.” They didn’t get paid that big money – did they even get a part of it? More than likely, no.

    Yes, Jennifer sets it up, and that takes time and she’s created a wonderful resource and community of women, but what do the mom bloggers get? They take time to create a video, write about it, build a community of readers who trust their opinions, and they get… Free wieners.

    (using that as only an example as I see Jennifer didn’t get paid for that either)

  5. says

    Phil, all i have to say is you are cracking me up. I don’t agree that all your points represent every “mom blogger”, but your so articulate and funny, that Ill just err on your side.

    Trisha
    (P.S. and not to leave a pitch on your comments, but if you have something you’re pitching for PR, we print public relations releases for free on our site. Just email me)

    • Phil Butler says

      LOL! Thanks Trisha. I am glad to see every Mom (of course I already know this because many mail me rather than comment) is not mad at me for crying wolf when there is one. The 50 million Moms who blog and want to do it rigth, get hurt like the rest of us if their credibility is hurt. Why can’t more people see that? Thanks for adding a laugh and a nice compliment to the conversation. I also like the last touch too :) I have done about 5 thousand reviews of the very technologies these ladies use for free :) I should have asked for more, would be the suggestion of some of these ladies. Thanks gal.

      Always,
      Phil

  6. says

    There are two issues on the table which are being conflated: Your own pitch which wasn’t well received and you are angry about, and the fact that blogging is a nascent medium and that PR and bloggers are still navigating their relationships and defining best practices. They are separate issues. There are any number of reasons pitches fail and it’s not always because they didn’t come with an Amazon gift card.

    There will always be less scrupulous people in the world, and yes, some of them are moms. Some of them are dads. Some of them are fashion bloggers. Some of them are tech bloggers. Some of them are PR flacks. You can’t legislate integrity or good judgment and you can’t “out” people with the hopes of shaming them into changing their value systems. What you can do is offer education, guidance, and start conversations with the hope that we can figure this all out together, which is the goal with Blog With Integrity.

    For a growing list of transparent bloggers, please see http://blogwithintegrity.com. As of today there are just under 1500 signers who are committed to disclosure and integrity, many of them moms. We held a successful webinar last week in which we started to define best practices in terms of disclosure and offered many examples. The response was extremely positive.

    And in defense of Childsplay, of course pitching moms is a feasible strategy for relevant marketers, and no, the niche is not well-defined, as evidenced by this post. You might consider joining the call. It will be enlightening, I assure you.

    Thanks for the discussion.

    • Phil Butler says

      :) It never fails. Never. Liz, you made a very great tactical error coming here to use the blunt tool of misdirection and quasi-authoritarian admonishment. Of course I was angry when so many Moms, who I sincerely thought would give a damn about something so refined (and not cheap jewelry I might add) would not even entertain the idea of looking at the thing. It was symbolic of what I later found to be a fairly universal schema for doing business with no intent on actual value (at least not the kind anyone would think inherent for Moms saying their piece online). The mistake? Well, the upcoming post will reveal that I know.

      You know, I have made the mistake (once) of not revealing every aspect of association I may have had with someone (or thing) I have written about. Ironically, I was stupid to believe that I was right and someone who actually knew what they were talking about was wrong. I wrote a post about a person (or thing) along these same lines (meaning, trying to impose some higher frame of value on readers or an industry), and my editor at one of the world’s top Tech blogs came to tell me the error of my ways. I was (in all my blogging fame and notoriety, of course incensed at the implication) convinced I was within my rights on my personal blog to say whatever I damned well pleased. Well, when all was said and done! You see where I am at now I think.

      For my part of the conversation you mention, I would suggest to never claim to have received no compensation, while all along knowing full well there has been. This is especially true when the flimsy playing card of renaming (semantics) said compensation, or redirecting it like some bean counter tax evader is employed to fool people. Just because someone is naive enough to believe Moms would embrace something actually (and I mean literally) superb and uplifting for their kids, does not mean they have not fairly covered the Web in all other respects.

      I hope we can all do better at engaging people, helping one another and getting a grip on how things should be done. However, I may never understand exactly how other people think, let alone rationalize their own actions. I will look at what you have sent me, and in the mean time I can only suggest that you and others monitor what they have presented to the world by way of their own actions and publications. The “two issues” you speak of are actually one in the same Liz.

      Always,
      Phil

  7. says

    Thanks for your response Phil. I suppose I’m prickly because you use the Bulldog call as your lead-in, when I believe the organizers of the call, ChildsPlay PR (a great, great group by the way) is aligned with your own values and issues.

    Here’s the important thing to keep in mind: “marketing and PR money has turned many of these Moms into review slinging money grubbers” is an incorrect statement.

    PR money hasn’t turned bloggers into anything they weren’t already. The vast (vast) majority of mom bloggers remain committed to writing about their passions which may or may not include products. What marketing has done is create a whole new group of bloggers in the past 18 months or so, who began using the medium as a tool for getting stuff or monetizing reviews. I wouldn’t even call them mommy bloggers – they’re “reviewers.” Although like you, I’d use that term loosely.

    I am also concerned with the reputation of my community which is why in part I’m one of the founding members of BlogWithIntegrity.com.

    As for “pitching” – I think this is semantic nitpicking. Call it what you will. I’d still be interested in knowing which 50 bloggers you reached out to, whether they tend to cover technology or issues of online safety, and whether their own children are old enough for them to have an interest in this as a topic just yet.

    • Phil Butler says

      Liz, I think everyone on the planet who cares will soon know of the (now many more than) 50 bloggers I was referring to. So, you will have your chance to see those as well as any number of other instances of “money grubbing”, if we are to be hung up on that vented term. You are right about the PR money thingy however, as money only serves as a conduit for releasing inhibition for most people. Or should I say, helps form a rationale for grabbing some of it.

      As for Childsplay, I had no intention of debasing them, but just used their rather broad painting of “pitching” moms as some sort of feasible strategy? Well, we both know that is a bait don’t we? I guess I should point out that we worked with this company virtually for free, and also asked hundreds of other blogs and newspapers to say something (objectively I might add) about a tool that Moms and Dads could use to educate their kids. Hundreds responded too, I might add. If you are in doubt about the numbers of ladies blogging for bling, just imagine the 50 or so who did videos about Oscar Meyer Hot Dogs, as Jennifer would attest, for only a $15 gift certificate! Imagine what effort they would make for a $50 Amazon bonanza?

      Mommy bloggers, as you say, are no different than any other editors on the web or otherwise. I can tell you with great certainty that many other venues are unindated with what you might call “gifts” for their “honest” reviews too. The problem for the Mommy niche is that is it so well defined and targeted out of necessity. It is a delicate thing to market to kids in my view too. To a degree, this is why we have not engaged this niche before for clients honestly. Someone from Brio Toys fairly chastised me once because the understood me to be asking them to “advertise” within this niche. The lady there, rightfully so, said; Brio will never market to children.” She of course went on to note that it is parents that they target to sell the world’s finest toys.

      So, maybe you can catch a hint of why I am so vehement about all this. I consider the family as a unit to be an extension of the children underneath. Mommies need to be very careful what they condone for other children to use in my view. I have about 15 instances of questionable reviews of products right now, where Moms are virtually certifying everything from Count Chocula to strange toys with what appear to be pretty sharp edges to me. This whole thing is actually a pretty big “rabbit hole” for anyone to suggest that I am being too critical. We are talking about millions of blog posts here, some of which even the toddlers being marketed could derive skepticism from.

      I hope I will also get the opportunity to spotlight some Moms on the other end of the spectrum honestly. Perhaps you could recommend some who are willing to be quite transparent about their blogging efforts? Until then, I hope at least some Mommy bloggers will take this article with a grain of salt and perhaps glean some good advice out of it.

      Always,
      Phil

  8. says

    I am part of the call tomorrow, in part because I’m the co-publisher of an influential blog that strives to be beyond ethical reproach and does not accept products or payment in exchange for recommendations. Your insinuation that the information we’re seeking to provide on the teleconference is useless because heck, we’re all for sale, defames me and the other women on the call. Let alone, it’s incorrect.

    Or wait, you did write: “I know there are more good Mommy Bloggers out there than bad or uninformed ones.”

    Only it appeared buried in comment #22 on the thread and not in your post.

    I have no idea who you pitched, how, or why, but I’d be happy to chat with you any time about the reasons some bloggers may or may not be interested in covering certain products and services.

    • Phil Butler says

      Hi Liz, I hope the following will clarify the fact that I do not believe all Mom Bloggers are in this soup. I simply made on giant block quote of all the instances where I differentiated between paid ones or ones who apparently care less for their credibility. Everyone should read the whole post and then make their assertions though. I wish everyone would also understand that there was no “pitch” involved in all this, I do not do pitches. If I need to pitch something to someone, it is then that I assume it will cost money. This is not my mode of operation, that is a sales and marketing approach to me at least.

      Liz, I said nothing to defame you or anyone on the right side of this, so taking that trac with me just makes me believe there is something in the hen house rather than chickens. I too would be happy to talk to anyone who has an interest in this particular subject. We are still doing ongoing work along these lines on several fronts. Like you, we take online publishing pretty darned serious too.

      “Well, though many Moms who blog or use the Internet are still focused on their kids, some are wholly focused on the almighty dollar – period.”……

      “PR money has turned many of these Moms”……

      “paid off many of the most influential Moms out there.”……

      “Moms some of whom are targeting other Moms to buy stuff”…….

      “I want to clarify myself here for those Moms who work trying to both do good, and to be rewarded for their hard work. Every Mom blogger is not guilty of any crime against humanity here you know? So many people offer up genuine articles, even credible and genuine paid ones, that it would be unfair for anyone to suggest the whole basket of eggs is rotten. Heck, in many cases Moms or other bloggers are simply unaware of the harm they might be doing themselves and other people.”……

      “This is really a shame too, as Jennifer’s organization is so well done, and most of the ladies their seem sincere as does Jennifer.”……

      There are 6 instances where I alluded to the fact that all Moms are not bad. There are 3 or 4 more in the comments as well. The bottom line on this when you get down to it Liz is, either you are for the kind of activity I described, or against it. We are not talking about one or two blogs here you know, we are looking at thousands Liz. Get back to me if you want to.

      Always,
      Phil

  9. says

    As a fledging blogger and a former journalist (PR girl now), I’ve watch these mommies grow and grow to celeb status and I think its nearing crazy.

    I’ve gotten approached to do a few book reviews by a publisher, after I started posting my reads on my blog, and since it was appropriate, I did it and continue to do so. But when I don’t like the book, I say so too. I’m part of Blogher and they’ve asked if we’d be willing to do reviews, but I haven’t done any yet. My understanding is they aren’t paid — except for the product to review, which could definitely be considered payment.

    That’s really the only thing I can say to relate.

    I’m sorry you had such an awful experience. Makes me rethink the blog directories I’ve signed up for – what are they doing with my info?

    • Phil Butler says

      Natalie, Thanks so much for your candid and appropriate take on this. I hope most people who read this understand that we are not trying to vilify anyone (unless of course they get villainous). Blog Her and other similar institutions of the blogosphere are a completely different story, though sometimes bad influences even infiltrate their conferences and etc. We have had so many good experiences with ladies who blog, in fact 3 or 4 of our authors are WHAM’s, and believe me their ideals and morals (plus their kids) are worn like a badge of courage. The problem I see, is that if Phil Butler (not that I am that famous or anything) can approach fellow bloggers of any kind, and be hit over the head with the money issue from the get go, then what is the message? Pay Da Man? Or MA in these cases?

      Splitting hairs about how people get paid is about the only defense against criticism paid review people have. I am not condemning paid review either, except that the disclosure and credibility issues are existent. Jennifer was never mean, and actually came across as being very nice, if fairly into the rationale. The set fees she quoted, were for all intents and purposes, rolled off her typing fingers as if from a company printer. I felt like an encyclopedia salesman came to the door offering me a great deal!

      We are here to do good as best we can. I simply could got go forward for long knowing how so many people are misled into buying into this crap. I hope you understand Natalie. I hope all Moms and bloggers understand. We all make mistakes, and we are all tempted to do things to make a living. It is how we go about it that matters. Thanks again for coming here to comment, it does actually mean a lot for people to do more than scribble 140 characters at something that might be very important. :)

      Always,
      Phil

  10. Lisa says

    I am the lone blogger who did write up the review for free. Why? Because it was a good product. And it was free. I saw value for my readers in that. It doesn’t matter if you pay me or not, if I like your product and if I think my readers will, I will write a review of it. I have plenty of products that I spend my hard earned money on that get free reviews on my blog too.

    Phil, there are a lot of mom bloggers out there just like me. You’ve just run across a bunch that their bottom line is more important than getting a good product out there.

    • Phil Butler says

      Thanks Lisa, I did not mention your name because I did not want to embarrass or include you unless you wanted to be. It takes courage to come forward in situations like this. I realize that my experiences, good and bad, can only be a small part of the whole picture. On the other hand, we are a PR firm with fairly long tentacles into the industry too. We have people everywhere who relate stuff these Moms do not think is being told. That being said, I know there are more good Mommy Bloggers out there than bad or uninformed ones. We have done a great deal of stuff about and for entities like Blog Her and others. It is just callous and materialistic of some of these women to act thus. You know me pretty well, and I think I have always been kind and reciprocated any time you asked (though you seldom do). Thanks for coming forward and know this, for every one of these blogs I mention who is doing wrong in my book, I will applaud two.

      Always,
      Phil

  11. says

    Phil –

    Wow. I had no idea the prices for blog reviews were so high – I guess I need to set some for myself – the dad-blogger gold price list, from the Dad Bloggers club – lol.

    I get pitched all the time, sometimes with a product to review, but the ones I like to cover for sites I write for are the products or services I would actually use – definitely no Oscar Meyer for me. And I’ve never made a dime from them.

    Cheers-

    • Phil Butler says

      LOL, Yeah you and me both Derek. If I were so inclined, I could play the part of a Mommy for 5 grand, even 50 mommies. :) Thanks for the candid comment.

      Always,

      Phil

  12. Jennifer James says

    I am going to post one final time about Oscar Mayer because it tells me how I dumb I was NOT to charge for this campaign because I delivered big time. I won’t do that again, believe me!

    I will yell it from the rooftops: I DID NOT RECEIVE A DIME! from Oscar Mayer. Straight up. Honest truth.

    Companies come to me just like they go to PR firms to spread the word about their product. I don’t pay moms to post reviews. They only receive product.

    Re: jabs: You left a pretty mean comment on the Mom Bloggers Club about me (since deleted), our emails weren’t that warm, and I read several tweets about how the mom blogging community was so horrible because we wouldn’t review a kids browser. You didn’t mention me by name, but I knew who you were talking to.

    And this post — another jab — and I didn’t do anything to you except not review your product!

    Regards

    Jennifer James
    Founder
    Mom Bloggers Club

    • Phil Butler says

      Jennifer, I told you the “poor pitiful me” approach would not work! I never said you recieved any money from WS did I? I said it seemed logical. What you are saying is that the world’s second most profitable Pr company sold you on Oscar Meyer hot dogs so well that you, out of the goodness of your heart decided to ask 50 Moms to do video’s with their families for a $15 hot dog gift certificate? On top of that, you are suggesting that a small PR firm, helping a statup for children and families essentially for free, was asked $3,000 for just 50 reviews? You are in this for the attention or what?

      I hope you see how all this looks? This is what the article is about, not about bashing just you. You just got the unlucky draw of being first on my list. Also, you said:

      “I have been getting jabs from you and Phil for months on blogs, via email and on Twitter. I’ve read it all.”

      Then in your last comment you clarified the statement. Which is it? You feared I was talking about you on Twitter, or I actually mentioned you? This is what 140 characters does to people. I stated that there are any number of other Mommies out there who have become very mercenary, which part of “many others” made you think I was talking about you or your outfit? Was it conscience? I am not trying to be mean here, but I hope you see my point. I am sorry WS was too cheap to pay you guys. After all the dust settles I expect many Mommy Bloggers will wish they had received more, that is, when the gold mine dries up after all credibility is lost.

      Always,
      Phil

  13. says

    Watching those videos was sheer torture. I get pitched all the time too and I’ve never asked “what’s in it for me” nor have I ever been compensated for blogging. I can tell you that as desperate as times are financially, I personally, wouldn’t change my morals or values for money. The only way I would ever accept payment would be if I could honestly review the product, good or bad. That’s not to say I wouldn’t do it for free though.

    I’m a business owner, a blogger and a mom and even though it is solely my responsibility to put food on the table, support my children and pay the bills I’m not going to compromise who I am to do it. That’s just me.

    • Phil Butler says

      Dayngr, I applaud your honest and attitude obviously. This article is not about all Moms who blog, I am not that jaded or mean in my assessments of other people. It is obvious, and I have mails and communiques to prove it, that so many people would sell themselves for a can of pork and beans. Well, you know where I am going with that. The essence of this is that I started formulating an idea for these stories and their impact long ago, when something really refined, presented in the kindest possible way, was spat upon by some of these people. I would as readily defend you and your efforts as I do those of others I assure you. I can prove this via thousands of blog articles and efforts too. I say for any number of reasons, but too because I hope attitudes like Jennifer’s do not abound among her constituents. There are so many good people out there, like you, who will be hurt by what the marketers are doing to this space.

      Always,
      Phil

  14. says

    I think the bigger picture is that there are literally millions of blog readers out there who do not know that these Mommy Bloggers are giving paid reviews. As a mom, I have been known to scour the Internet for product reviews before making a large purchase for my little ones. Some of these blog reviews can be extremely compelling!

    It sounds like Phil had an excellent, FREE product that unfortunately wasn’t going to be making anyone any money. I think that it is a shame that Mommy Bloggers couldn’t see past their checkbooks enough to make an exception and share something truly useful.

    • Phil Butler says

      Thanks Tara, It is important that anyone who enters this space for any reason understand what goes on. As an A list blogger, and a PR and consultant, even I was unaware of the depth of this problem. There is nothing wrong with getting paid for ones time, but in the end, lieing or misleading readers into buying something because you say so, can be a huge problem. I am not saying all Moms who blog lie, but I am saying they are being asked to by the thousands. A lie does not have to be a categorical negative review of a product I might add. When we are swayed to promote things, then a problem arises. I personally appreciate you taking the time to be candid about this too.

      Always,
      Phil

  15. Jennifer James says

    B. Joe — You are free to believe anything you wish.

    I did not receive one dime from Oscar Mayer! Not a cent. The moms received a $15 gift card to buy hot dogs for Memorial Day (error above: it wasn’t the 4th of July) and give their opinion. That’s it.

  16. Jennifer James says

    Mihaela –

    I never corresponded with you. I corresponded with Phil.

    As aforementioned, I am constantly inundated with pitches about kid browsers. Nothing stood out to me about the product.

    When I wake up every morning my intention is to help as many people as possible and be a positive person in this space. Lesson learned: I cannot please everybody.

    • Mihaela Lica says

      Then stating that you got “jabs” from me for months on blogs, Twitter and email is not entirely accurate,is it? You implied that our approach to you was not professional, but you did send Phil the price list. Why would you even consider making such an offer to a company that had an unprofessional approach? This really puzzles me.

  17. B. Joe says

    I think the point Phil was trying to make has nothing to do with what Jeniffer is trying to imply. She is trying to suggest that you and Phil have somehow been stalking her with messages “for months” – in an attempt to make you appear unprofessional. Well… maybe you did, and I personally don’t give a damn if this is true.

    Fact remains that I don’t believe that these women in the YouTube videos ranted about Oscar Meyer out of the goodness of their hearts and without being compensated somehow by whoever ran the campaign. After watching the first and last video, I wonder how anyone in their right minds can call this a well thought out and well-developed campaign! And how is Jennifer expecting us to believe that she did this for free? Come on! We are not stupid!

  18. Mihaela Lica says

    About the difference: the product Phil “pitched” you with was developed by stay at home parents and is 100% free – unlike all others you have seen on the market.

  19. Mihaela Lica says

    Jennifer, I really don’t remember contacting you. Could you please send me a link to a message I sent you?

  20. Jennifer James says

    Michaela,

    Thank you for responding and for approving my comment.

    I look at every product that I am approached with and I do remember it. I also told Phil that mom bloggers are inundated to review child-safe browsers and software and I didn’t see anything particularly different between the product Phil pitched and the others I have seen on the market. Sorry.

    I found value in the Oscar Mayer campaign because Weber Shandwick approached me like a professional and have treated me as such ever since. I have been getting jabs from you and Phil for months on blogs, via email and on Twitter. I’ve read it all.

  21. Jennifer James says

    Hi Phil —

    I am sorry you are still upset that I wouldn’t work for free to get moms to review your product.

    For the record: I worked with Oscar Mayer via Weber Shandwick, but I did not receive compensation for the campaign. The campaign was well-timed around July 4th, well thought out and well-developed, so I found value in it for my membership.

    Regards,

    Jennifer James
    Founder
    Mom Bloggers Club

    • Mihaela Lica says

      Jennifer,

      Phil is not upset that you wouldn’t work for free. He is upset that you didn’t even bother to take a look to the product, that could actually benefit your own children if their are under the age of 7. It was a product that insured children safety online if you remember; a learning tool as well, something for parents’ peace of mind and healthy behavior on the Internet.

      I personally don’t understand how you can find value in a campaign that promotes unhealthy food, and you didn’t find value in a campaign that could help moms better educate their children – but this is just me.

      Mig

    • Phil Butler says

      Jennifer, Thanks for coming by to comment. I want to set something straight for you and everyone who reads this. First of all, I implore everyone to read the words I write to extract the more exacting meaning from them. I take a great deal of time writing some of these editorials and news articles, just so not too much ambiguity can be derived. Secondly, that being said, I am not mad at you Jennifer, over anything. I am mad at every single Mommy blogger, or writer or any kind who convoluted what has become the greatest “voice” humanity will ever have – the ability to reach out in a two way conversation virtually everyone in the world. I was disappointed to discover that the converse of my intention to “appeal” for help for a service which somehow could not afford “big time” money for promotion, would be met with almost universal mercenary attitude to “anything” plead for in the promotion of what “could be” extraordinary benefit for people (kids in particular).

      I pointed out my own naivety in this regard several times. I was uninformed or blind to the fact that Mom blogs had been so inundated with marketing, I said that. This was by way of being transparent and also unbiased from the onset of our campaign for these nice people. If I had wanted to “buy” reviews, and had had the resources to do so, I would have sought out those out more fervently. The problem I came across, not only with you but with any number of other Moms, was that so many simply came out with some dollar amount wherein other people had paid for “reviews” or their products.

      As for your suggestion that you received no compensation for doing any of this, to be blunt, I simply do not believe that. This is of course my opinion until I have categorical proof to show. Also, you suggest that my partner Mihaela and I have been criticizing you for some time via any number of communicative sources. This is I am sure completely untrue. I have never mentioned your name along these lines before that I know of, and I am quite sure Mihaela has not uttered anything about this as it too far from her area and level of interest. Before this post, it would simply not be something in either of our focus.

      I have been on the fringes of doing these reports for some time, but has as of yet only talked to our insiders, and a couple of constituents. Nothing derogatory about you personally would have been imparted, and even if it were it would be based on my opinion of yours and other bloggers efforts given my experience. This effort on your part to mis-direct is in fact similar in every way to how many of the bloggers I have had trouble with like this. I will not go into that for the moment, it is a case for much more detailed reporting.

      You founder a very nice platform to help these ladies express and be a part of the community of people who care about family and all the things that go with it. Charging for services is not wrong! I never said that. the problem none of you seem to see is underneath all that. It is in effect a variable of money interjected upon an otherwise altruistic genre. I am not even really against paid reviews, though we do not see them as a viable way toward credible communication.

      I want you to succeed! Believe that or not, this has been my dogma, our dogma the entire time we have worked as bloggers or consultants. What we are against, and what this post is about, is the transformation of a great medium into a shabby “used cars sales” variant in the digital world. Webber Shandwick will not moan if your network is deemed un-credible, they will simply move on to whatever is next, don’t your realize that? How much more effective, and more credible would your reviews and efforts be if there were some other means of monetizing?

      I did not intend to come off as being mad because I did not get what I wanted, this is not the case. I could as easily post a story on any number of blogs more credible and popular than any you represent. You do not realize it, but I offered you more by way of expertise and commitment to collaborate with you or any of your Moms than Webber Shandwick paid for 50 blog reviews. I did so out of a desire to be reciprocal in all things, not some black hat PR or marketing hype. This is the way we have worked all along, and so many Mommy bloggers have been lied to or “spun”, I did not blame them for not seeing a point.

      Any way, I hope this all leads to some better place for all of us. I am sorry that your blog is one of a select number I will use as examples of how things could be much better. Trust me there are hundreds by now. I hope, truly hope, that this turns into a discussion which helps you, all the Moms who depend on and trust you, and in the end everyone who communicates via a blog. I mean this in sincerity. I will say though, that doing the “poor pitiful” or redirecting supposed blame on someone else, will not work in these instances.

      Always,
      Phil

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