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 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?”
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.
Hold 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.”
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.