Why Targeting Mommy Bloggers is a Broken Outreach Model


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The term “mommy blogger” has been in use for nearly a decade but has never been less accurate and more misunderstood than it is in 2012.

Women bloggers are building incredibly strong platforms and communities but are still not universally respected by brands, PR people and marketers as the marketing partners they often are. Why do PR people and marketers insist on targeting this group as a monolithic whole, rather than as dynamic individuals? And how can brands make better connections to benefit both the brand and the blogger?

Appinions has written a guide for outreach to lifestyle and parenting bloggers which details:

- Why most so-called “mommy bloggers” are not exactly that
- The danger in relying on pre-packaged blogger lists
- Ramifications of a bad pitch to bloggers
- Pitching vs. paid or promoted content
- How to target lifestyle bloggers the right way
- Types of marketing partnerships brands can create with bloggers

It’s time for brands and agencies to abandon the broken mommy blogger outreach model, and instead formulate a smart outreach strategy that will take us away from cold, irrelevant product pitches to valuable long-term partnerships.

Check out our eBook to discover the right way to target lifestyle bloggers for your outreach strategies.

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Why Targeting Mommy Bloggers is a Broken Outreach Model

  1. 1. W h y Targ e tin gMo mmy B log g e r si s a Bro ke nO utre ach M od e l
  2. 2. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook Introduction......................................................................................3 A brief (very) un-history of the mommy blogger...........................4 The danger of relying on a flawed approach .. ................................7 How brands and agencies miss the boat .. .......................................8 How to target lifestyle bloggers (the right way)........................... 13 Now comes the hard part ..............................................................20 Find the Right Bloggers Faster .................................................... 212 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  3. 3. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook Introduction Hail to the mommy blogger, a severely misunderstood persona that still survives today despite the collective evidence that it’s laughably generalized and inaccurate. At the top of this so-called “mommy blogger” empire are women who have built platforms and communities from the ground up, leveraging their sweat equity into books, television deals and all-around celebrity status. They are rightfully respected - recognized, sourced and invited as guest columnists by premier media outlets like The New York Times, CNN, BBC, The Washington Post and others. Yet here we are, feet firmly set in 2012 and ready to go beyond, and we’re still poorly painting this rather diverse group of influential women as apron- donning, diaper-toting moms who just “happen to blog” in addition to their parenting duties. How in the world did we get here?3 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  4. 4. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook A brief (very) un-history of the mommy blogger Six or seven years ago when parenting blogs were first seeing signs of their impending explosion, the early pioneers were women tackling personal topics in narrative and creative fashion. Sure, these were moms who blogged about parenting (and now an increasing number of dads too - woot!), but it wasn’t the ONLY topic they blogged about. More specifically, these were moms who evolved their focus and creative energy along a wide spectrum of niche lifestyle topics: frugality, food, crafts, lifestyle design, home decor and much, much more. And while these “mommy bloggers” did have children to brag about to their steadily expanding audience, their focus wasn’t only on being a mother, but how these experiences gave context and color to the topics they were passionate about. Which is why we find ourselves currently neck deep in a broken outreach model that has brands and their agencies stumbling over their collective feet (or swallowing them whole in some cases), trying to pitch and connect with an entire universe of influential bloggers who ought not be defined by this label.4 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  5. 5. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook The Rise of the Mommy Blogger One of the better examples of this flawed meme rearing its head comes courtesy of an infographic posted on Mashable in May 2012. Commissioned by HR Block and citing data from a study by Scarborough Research, the infographic starts its dive with a rather monolithic definition of the mommy blogger as “women who have at least one child in their household and have read or contributed to a blog in the past 30 days.” According to this study: 14% of all American mothers with at least one child in their household blog about parenting or turn to blogs for advice. The average mommy blogger is 37 years old. 89% have kids between the age of 2 and 11. The average mommy blogger household income is ($14,000 higer than the average non-mommy bloggers). $84,0005 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  6. 6. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook The Rise of the Mommy Blogger (cont.) From there, we’re treated to a thousand-foot view on the average mommy blogger’s political and environmental leanings, their eco-friendly purchasing habits and how likely they are to volunteer compared to the average, non-blogger moms out there. Sandwiched between these broad brush strokes are 10 featured icons who have dominated top 50 and top 100 mommy blogger lists for multiple years - from Rebecca Woolf and Jenny Lawson to Heather B. Armstrong and more. Rebecca Woolf Jenny Lawson Heather B. Armstrong While any top 10 list could be a subjective pursuit, this list is a reasonable list; all of these women are well-respected bloggers and they are recognized for being at the top of their game. However, any top 10 (or top 50 or top 100) list, plus an aggregation of statistics about such a broad and diverse community, fails to capture the specifics of the varying niches, topics and talents these women represent.6 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  7. 7. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook The danger of relying on a flawed approach Pitching to mommy bloggers is really just pitching to a ghost, a mythical unicorn of blogger categories that is far too broad, requiring an insane effort to drill down to the appropriate niches that are actually useful for effective outreach. It’s this same fatal assumption that has brands Pitching to mommy bloggers is and marketers sending poorly-researched pitching to a ghost, a mythical pitches for blatantly irrelevant products. unicorn of blogger categories that And despite the obvious danger of pitching is far too broad. the wrong blogger with the wrong product and wrong approach (hello delete button!), tweet this there is still an insistence on targeting lifestyle bloggers from a “general parenting” perspective.7 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  8. 8. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook How brands and agencies miss the boat Of all the deadly sins to commit when targeting parenting and lifestyle bloggers (besides calling them mommy bloggers), these are the main reasons brands and agencies keep falling flat in their outreach approach: Relying on broad lists for influencer identification Taking a general list of “mom bloggers” and using it to blindly pitch family-focused or parenting products - that’s your first mistake. The “big list” from Babble.com is a perfect example of a well-respected, often sourced Taking a general list of “mom list of influential “mom bloggers” that lacks bloggers” and using it to blindly strong niche categorization. It becomes a pitch family-focused or parenting time consuming exercise of sifting through “the funniest” and “best design” categories products is a mistake. that give minimal insight into which bloggers are relevant to categories that brands can tweet this identify with.8 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  9. 9. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook Pitching products that aren’t aligned with a blog’s focus (cont.) There have been countless case studies on brands blindly mass pitching baby formula to bloggers without babies or pre-packaged snack foods to bloggers who are passionate organic foodies. There are more extreme examples where blatant lack of research and whole lot of assumption on the part of the brand or PR company makes for a painful (in some case public) pitch fail. A recent example of a pitch gone wrong is the infamous “reply all” gaffe where a VP of the PR firm had a not-so-pleasant exchange with Jenny Lawson, a.k.a. The Bloggess, ended in major embarrassment for the PR company. This PR firm was called out publicly on Twitter by Jenny and word spread like wildfire in the media. But the “reply all” debacle could have easily been avoided had the PR company done a little homework before sending Jenny a pitch on Kim Kardashian and pantyhose. Jenny is not the type of blogger who would ever write about Kim Kardashian’s pantyhose….and reading just a few of her posts would have made that more than clear.9 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  10. 10. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook Pitching products that aren’t aligned with a blog’s focus (cont.) Annie from the popular PhD in Parenting blog has cataloged a list of irrelevant pitches she’s received on her blog, including: • V personality substitute teaching kindergarten class T • ideo of executive of a big box store not wearing any pants while talking about a Christmas sale V • Announcement of a winner of a stamp contest • Octomom is going to be on a TV show One would hope that PR people could be just a bit more targeted in choosing what to pitch to a progressive, environmentally-conscious, children’s rights advocate who has elementary-school-age children.10 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  11. 11. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook Struggling with promoted or paid content PR agencies and professionals, who are most often charged with blogger outreach, have traditionally generated “earned” media through their efforts: they are earning the interest and trust of journalists to get coverage of their product or service. By contrast, marketing and advertising professionals are usually developing “paid” media – advertising or marketing partnerships. This distinction can lead to an earned vs. paid media debate, which often comes down to a fundamental disconnect - between agencies and the brands they serve, and the influential bloggers they target to amplify their promotional efforts. PR pros put years of hard work into forging relationships with journalists. After years (or decades in many cases) of pounding the pavement, and hitting phones and email to “earn” media attention, there is, not surprisingly, a lot of hesitation when it comes to paying lifestyle bloggers (or any blogger) for their time, energy and attention. It’s partially because PR pros are still stuck on the notion that bloggers should be approached and viewed in the same “earned media” light as journalists. But it’s also because PR companies rarely have an allocated budget for blogger outreach. This is an especially difficult debate in the lifestyle/parenting blogging niches, where there is an ongoing discussion between budding and established lifestyle bloggers on how they should be compensated.11 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  12. 12. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook Struggling with promoted or paid content (cont.) Bloggers are not paid by their publications Bloggers are not paid by their (like journalists); they ARE the publication, which means they need to generate revenue publications (like journalists); they to sustain their blog just like any other are the publication. publication, whether that’s through paid advertising or promotional (paid) marketing tweet this partnerships with brands. Blogger Robyn Wright from Robyn’s Online World has been the target of a number of pitches from PR people who seem to get that bloggers may work full-time on their blog, but who clearly don’t understand that it means that bloggers often look to get paid for their work with brands. Beyond the bad pitch elements in a recent series of pitches (“Greetings Mommy Blogger”), Wright points out the biggest problem with many PR Robyn Wright pitches: “He then goes into stating that “we realize blogging is a full time job” but then offers nothing in terms of recognizing that it is a JOB and payment – at least of some kind – should really be considered.” Marketing partnerships are likely to be the wave of the future when it comes to blogger compensation. In fact, many lifestyle bloggers in consumer-focused categories (babies, coupons, food, crafts, etc.) are focusing energy on short and long-term monetization strategies for their blogs, which leaves uncompensated PR pitches out of the picture, and marketing partnerships very much in.12 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  13. 13. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook How to target lifestyle bloggers (the right way) For the purpose of this exercise, we’ll use a made-up company (not an actual brand) to demonstrate how brands can determine the right lifestyle niche for blogger outreach. ABC123 Organics is a natural food company specializing in organic products for infants, and toddlers. Their product is especially appealing to a customer base that is increasingly eco-conscious, preferring to buy foods that are minimally processed and made in the U.S. To build brand recognition and expand their market presence, ABC123 has committed a small, but flexible, budget to their PR company for building relationships with influential parenting or “mom bloggers,” hoping to connect with their core audience - eco and nutrition conscious mothers. The challenge for ABC123 Organics is to identify relevant, influential lifestyle bloggers who have established thought leadership around specific topics that align with the company’s core products - NOT just general parenting or “mommy bloggers.”13 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  14. 14. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook Building the List Building an effective, relevant outreach list is Building an effective, relevant a process, not a plug-and-play or list dump outreach list is a process, not a type of approach. For ABC123 Organics to build a foundation for their outreach strategy, plug-and-play or list dump type they need to first identify relevant topical of approach. influencers - in this case, bloggers who are directly impacting conversations (action, not tweet this talk) in this brand’s market and industry. The evidence of impact comes through measurement of thoughts, comments and sentiment around the content that these influential bloggers produce. To accomplish this, a bloggers entire digital footprint needs to be accounted for, not just top-level metrics such as site traffic or the size of the influencer’s audience on social networks. To build their list, ABC123 Organics should first determine a core set of topics that are highly relevant to their brand, and then segment their engagement list based on the influencers that blog around these core topics.14 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  15. 15. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook Building the List (cont.) Some examples of core topics for ABC123 Organics might be: 1. Organic baby foods produced in the U.S. 2. Organic baby food recipes 3. Nutritional tips for moms with infants and toddlers 4. Product reviews for organic foods/products 5. Cost savings for organic foods/products An initial blogger outreach list for ABC123 Organics might focus on the following types of influencers: 1. Bloggers who currently have infants/toddlers of their own 2. Bloggers who write about health and nutrition 3. Bloggers who write about sustainable or eco-friendly products 4. Bloggers who write about organic foods for infants/toddlers - products 5. Bloggers who write about organic foods for infants/toddlers - homemade15 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  16. 16. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook The Research and Pitch Research is the foundation of a solid blogger pitch. It’s the “listen and learn before you speak.” It’s where the hard work and commitment to doing the homework comes to play. For ABC123 Organics to launch a successful outreach strategy, they need to first study and learn about the lifestyle blogger’s background, interests and audience. Assuming that the outreach list has been refined and vetted for maximum relevancy (not purchased or a list gone cold), here are few best practices to effectively pitch an influential lifestyle blogger: 1. Get into sandbox and start playing. Interact with the blogger’s audience on their turf. This means a deep dive into the blogger’s content and social feeds, bio, comment streams, etc. so that you can start adding value to the conversation BEFORE the pitch. 2. Always address the blogger by name, not “dear mommy blogger” or “dear [blogname]” or other generic salutations. 3. Send at least one short introductory communication or comment before the pitch. Thank the blogger for their contribution to the conversation on relevant topics (mention specific posts and why they resonated). 4. Never mass-pitch bloggers. Personalize each communication to the specific blogger (they can smell a templated pitch from a mile away) with talking points that show there has been a concerted effort to listen and research. 5. e respectful, professional and confident (not arrogant). First impressions matter, so instead of B attempting to get in good by emulating the blogger’s “casual” voice, pitch with the best foot forward. 6. itch a story, not a product. Ask - How does this product or solution directly benefit the blogger’s core P audience? Remember: To understand where a blogger’s passion might align with a brand’s core products is to recognize whether a potential relationship is the right fit for both parties. As Gini Dietrich says - “If you build a relationship with a blogger or a journalist and you pitch them what you already know they write about, you will hit a homerun every time.”16 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  17. 17. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook The Payment Once you have gotten a blogger’s attention, don’t assume your job ends there. While some bloggers may respond to a pitch and deliver an “earned” product review or story for you, many lifestyle and parenting bloggers will not. As discussed above, these bloggers are developing ways to monetize their blogs, which will often necessitate the development of a paid marketing partnership between the brand and the blogger. Note that in all of the examples below we are careful not to mention a product A review discussing the pros or service review as a paid marketing partnership. Although paid reviews do and cons of a product or service happen (frequently) in the blogosphere, it is should always be earned (unpaid) our belief that such reviews are tantamount blogger media. to “payola” and inherently unethical. A review discussing the pros and cons of a tweet this product or service should always be earned (unpaid) blogger media. 1 With that in mind, there are a number of forms a paid marketing partnership could take, including: A single post, usually defined as a “sponsored post,” on the blog. Sponsored posts are often written on a topic adjacent to the product or service being offered, or a post illustrating how to utilize the product or service. For example, for our organic infants and toddlers food company above, a blogger might write about how hard it is to feed her kids on a road trip. She may or may not mention the organic food item; however, the post will be labeled as “sponsored by ABC 123 Organics.”17 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  18. 18. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook 2 The Payment (cont.) A series of posts on the blog. For ABC 123 Organics, this could be a series of recipes developed specifically for them, using their products. Or a series of lifestyle posts about the bloggers’ family, loosely related to organic/eco-friendly topics. Any of these posts would also be labeled 3 “sponsored by ABC 123 Organics.” A blog post on the brand’s site by the blogger. Using bloggers to create content for the brand’s properties (site or blog) is a great way to build a marketing partnership. The blogger is then usually expected to link back to the post on the brand’s site from their Twitter or Facebook accounts and/or their blog. The partnership should be disclosed in all forms of links (in Twitter, the designation [spon] or 4 [client] will work; on the blog the designation would be the same as the sponsored post above). Another form of media created by the blogger on behalf of the brand. This could take the form of a video, or slide presentation, or even a podcast or audio file. Again, content would typically be adjacent to the product or service, or about a use for the product or service. An ABC 123 Organics video created by a blogger might be a step-by-step recipe. That video could potentially then live on both the blogger’s site and YouTube account as well as the brand’s site and YouTube account. All instances of the media display would carry a disclosure notice about the brand-blogger relationship.18 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  19. 19. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook 5 The Payment (cont.) A deeper marketing partnership, sometimes called a “blog ambassador” or “brand ambassador” program. A creative marketing or PR person will work with the blogger to define a more complex relationship which might often carry over months or even years. Such a partnership would allow the blogger to become more intimately familiar with the brand’s products and the brand to garner ongoing support from the blogger for their entire product line. An ambassadorship may include the blogger becoming involved in brand events, becoming a “spokesblogger” for the company, and creating content for both their own blog and the company site. Ambassadors might display a badge or button on their site indicating their relationship with the company, and they will of course disclose that relationship in every post they write. Of course, many other forms of partnership could be developed depending on brand goals and blogger interest – think creatively, and with an eye towards a win-win scenario for the brand and blogger. The Disclosure Every point above has noted that disclosure must be made about the brand-blogger relationship where compensation changes hands. Since an FTC ruling in 2009, bloggers have been required to disclose any free products or payments they receive for reviews or brand relationships. This is an important point for brands and agencies to understand, as you should expect bloggers in a marketing partnership to state that they have a paid relationship with your brand.19 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  20. 20. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook Now comes the hard part Blogger outreach is no different than any Bloggers, even women bloggers, other marketing or communications pursuit: are not a monolithic whole - they’re it’s really about your brand and your voice. an extremely diverse group. The bottom line in blogger outreach is making that voice accessible and engaging for bloggers. tweet this Be as specific as you can about your goals, your target audience, and the ways you connect to bloggers. Also: Don’t assume anything about bloggers, and don’t hesitate to ask them what they’re looking for in brand partnerships. Ask other questions about the size of their audience, who they think they can reach most effectively, what channels besides their blog (Twitter, Facebook, their book club) they can bring into the mix when evangelizing your brand. Ask for examples of other brand partnerships they’ve participated in and learn from them. Make your brand’s relationships with bloggers mutually beneficial for both sides and you will undoubtedly see success.20 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions
  21. 21. WHY TARGETING M O M M Y B LOGGERS IS A B ROKEN OUT REACH MODELshare this ebook Find the Right Bloggers Faster - Brought to you by Appinions Now that you know that a more targeted approach will greatly enhance your outreach efforts, you need a tool that will help you find the right bloggers to engage. Because manually searching for relevant bloggers can be a time-consuming activity, we created a platform to make this process simpler and faster. Appinions is an opinion-powered influence marketing platform designed to give brands and agencies the unmatched ability to identify, analyze, monitor and engage key influencers. Built on more than 10 years of Cornell University research, Appinions helps you discover your key influencers based on contextual evidence of impact – not just social mentions. And, because Appinions searches more than 5 million sources - including blogs, social networks, forums, and newspaper and magazine articles - you’ll get a more accurate and complete picture of the true influencers that matter most to your brand. Quit wasting your time chasing social media influencers from generalized lists based on who has the largest audience. Instead, Appinions can help you uncover relevant influencers who have the ability to activate their engaged communities on the topics that matter most to them. What are you waiting for? Contact us for a free 14-day trial to put the power of Appinions to work for you. Connect with Us Online: www.appinions.com Blog: www.appinions.com/blog Twitter: @appinions21 www.appinions.com | Copyright © 2012 Appinions