The mommy bloggers scene isn’t something I generally involve myself in, even though I work as a professional blogger and a PR rep who helps clients build relationships with them. It’s a scene loaded with more bullshit and entitlement than I have the stomach for.
However, a recent AdAge article* on a BlogHer event demonstrated just how bad the situation has gotten. So it’s time to chime in with some reality checks.
To summarize, caring more about swag than your readers is not OK. Dragging companies for not giving you freebies is also not OK. It’s time for mommy bloggers to be a little more aware of this bad behavior in their community. And it’s time for PR pros to stop enabling this nonsense.
Here are some important takeaways from the BlogHer coverage:
1. Mommy bloggers aren’t special.
This cult-like mentality in the mommy blogger community is something to behold. To be fair, it’s not exclusively mommy bloggers. They’re just a group that demonstrates these issues fairly regularly and were a key group at the event in question. And by all means it’s not all mommy bloggers – I know plenty of honest ones who don’t engage in the kind of behavior here.
It’s a subgroup of the whole WAHM group which I’ve taken issue with for years through my freelance writing work. It’s the epitome of mob mentality. And they need to stop isolating themselves, acting like they’re special in the blogging world.
Yes, they may have a natural audience. So do most niche bloggers.
That doesn’t make mommy bloggers special.
It doesn’t mean they deserve special treatment. It doesn’t mean they deserve loads of free shit just because they want it, and (heaven forbid) blogging actually involves some work.
Yet that’s where the entitlement stems from. Some of these bloggers get into this because it’s fun. Then they realize publishing involves… wait for it… real work. So they decide they should be compensated. But they don’t feel like they should have to earn that compensation through well-planned, responsible business practices. They just want companies to “buy” them and their attention.
Frankly most bloggers (including mommy bloggers) do not deserve half of the swag they get as it is. They get it because some PR and marketing folks responsible for securing coverage are too damn lazy to find out exactly what reach those blogs have. Guess what folks – if they did their job and took a hard look at your stats, chances are you’d get a whole lot of nothing. So rather than demand things you haven’t earned, maybe count your blessings.
2. Nobody “hates mommy bloggers for their swag”
What we hate is the fact that not only do they get the swag, but then they proceed to bitch about it.
If you think PR folks (or marketing folks in many of these cases) are evil for doing their job just because you’re too greedy to say “no” when people offer you free things, then learn to say “no” instead of biting the hand that feeds you (or more accurately buries you in your precious swag).
BlogHer wasn’t the issue alone. The PR Blackout wasn’t the issue alone. It was the hypocritical combination of moving from “PR people suck for giving us free shit” to “Gimme, gimme, gimme!” in record time.
Again, not all mommy bloggers fall into that group.
But I found myself wondering at the time how many of those swag-in-arm mommy bloggers at BlogHer previously decided to spit in the face of the people (and companies) offering them those goodies.
That’s the difference between mommy bloggers and so many others. It’s bloggers behaving badly, and doing it as a group. I can’t recall the last time I saw people up in arms about other blogger groups who get equally valuable review material. Why? Because they don’t act like self-important snobs who demand more, more, more — at least not on such a grande scale.
They don’t tell PR and marketing people to shove off because they can’t juggle their own responsibilities, and then run back when they want free crap again. They also don’t pretend to have an incredible reach for products they simply want as opposed to those best targeted to their readers.
Do moms care about cars? I’m sure they do. But that doesn’t mean a mommy blogger deserves one (even for a while). There are better targeted publications and sites, and ones with bigger audiences who reach the same kinds of buyers.
3. It doesn’t matter what print magazines do.
The argument that this behavior from mommy bloggers (demanding free things and complaining loudly when companies don’t cave) is okay because women’s magazines get swag is as absurd as saying they deserve it because blogging is such hard work.
First, if blogging is such hard work (it is) that you can’t do it without feeling compensated, then do as every other online business owner has to do and learn how to properly monetize your damn blogs. If you’re too lazy to learn the business side of the game, you don’t get to use the compensation / hard work argument.
That’s the equivalent of lazy writers complaining to me constantly (because I guide new freelancers elsewhere) that they can’t earn more than $5 per article. No, they’re just too lazy to learn how to move beyond that. All the information is out there for them to improve their careers, and all the information is out there for mommy bloggers to learn how to (ethically and effectively) monetize their own blogs. Swag isn’t meant to be compensation for the oh-so-exhausting work of blogging.
Back to magazines…
When you’re one of the few mommy bloggers who have a comparable audience (and well-targeted), then you can make the argument that you deserve equal treatment. Maybe. IF the company’s target audience is the type who reads blogs. Hint: your blog doesn’t fit into the marketing mix of every company that happens to target women.
At the same time, why should mommy bloggers (who specialize in writing for moms, not women in general) equate themselves to women’s publications? They’re not the same thing.
They’re focused on a narrower niche within the female audience, and not all companies are specifically targeting moms – more general publications make more sense for them. It would be like me saying I should get all the same crap BusinessWeek journalists get just because I run a PR blog. PR is a narrower niche. BusinessWeek reaches a much bigger, broader audience. Of course they’re going to be treated differently.
Promotional budgets aren’t endless.
Companies can’t afford to send samples out to every Jane Doe who happens to yap to other mothers on the web. Get over it.
I don’t hate mommy bloggers. I really don’t. Some of my favorite people are moms. Some of my favorite people are bloggers. And some of them are both. But there’s no excuse for the kind of behavior some have demonstrated recently. It’s as if they had no idea people would be watching. And if you don’t realize that, it’s time to get out of the blogging game.
While the PR blackout was a poorly thought-out plan, it did get one thing right.
How about everyone shutting up about all the crap they get and start getting back to your readers? It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t review products if you want to. But do that. Review them. Don’t post just because you got something. Don’t brag about how important you think you are because people are giving you shit. You’re not.
Instead, go through all the swag and ask yourself “of all this crap I really don’t need, would any of it be truly useful to my audience?” If the answer is yes, then write an honest review for your readers. If not, then scrap it. It’s not a difficult concept.
In the end remember this — you can survive without swag, but you’re nothing without your readers.
* As of 2019, the referenced AdAge article has been removed from their website and is not available via online archives. You can read similar coverage that demonstrates some of the same behavior discussed in this post here.