Free Advice to Brands and PR Firms Looking to Work With Mom Bloggers

Since publishing my lists of mom bloggers with Klout there has been quite a bit of interest in them. For brands, media, and PR firms who are looking at these lists I caution you to understand that one’s Klout score is only a minor dimension into someone’s overall influence. In order to really understand a mom’s influence you have to get to know her by reading her posts and conversing with her either at conferences, events, or on Twitter. It takes more than reading lists to best determine who will be a perfect fit for your brand or campaign.

One of the most poignant comments left on my blog regarding Klout and influence was written by Katy who blogs at Bird on the Street. She said, “We tend to think of the digital space as a pyramid, but that’s hardly true. Everywhere you look women (and men) are creating and influencing in their particular niche.”

And, that is brilliant and so true!

In my last post, I mentioned there are pockets of influence throughout the mom blogging community instead of there being top mom bloggers and then everyone else.  That is what I sought to illustrate with my Klout lists.

In my chart above I have two mom blogging scenarios. The first is true to a certain extent, but for brands, it is important to understand that the second scenario is more true.

Scenario 1 : When you think of the mom blogging community certain names always bubble to the surface. These moms are the ones who dwell at the very top of the pyramid.

Scenario 2: What is more true of our community, however, is there are a lot of little niches like green, luxury, and travel mom bloggers and in each of those niches there are pockets of influencers. As a brand, this is the scenario you have to think hardest about.

A lot of the brands who are serious about the mom blogging space already understand this. But, if you are new to the space this is a lesson you have to learn quickly if you want optimal outreach with mom bloggers.

Why Top Mom Bloggers Have Greater Earning Power

If you ever want to know how to make money as a mom blogger then you have to think like a businesswoman! Every blogger, no matter the niche, who continually works with brands is constantly sought out because they:

a) produce quality work
b) consistently deliver
c) are versatile
d) are always willing to learn
e) are careful about their online reputation and
f) know their worth

If you don’t have a business background it can be extremely intimidating to hear that you need to start thinking like a businessperson. The hard truth is that unless and until you start thinking like a businesswoman and become a “big picture” person you will continue to struggle to flip your blog into the business you envision. It’s that simple.

There is a reason a lot of the same mom bloggers work with brands. It’s because when they wake up in the morning and look at themselves in the mirror they see a savvy businesswoman, not just a mom blogger. They understand that perception is everything and they have made the conscious decision to perceive themselves as “more than” than “less than”. Some mom bloggers take several years to recognize the transformation from mere blogger to businesswoman. In fact, it took me several years to see it. I clearly followed the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hour rule except I sped up the process by working as a blogger more than 20 hours a week and I am still working to improve the work I do.

The great thing is brands are recognizing, too, that these moms are businesswomen and treat them as such. The brand-blogger relationships are symbiotic because brands call on these moms time and time again for campaigns and in return the moms do everything in their power to produce the results the brand is looking for. These moms are not selfish in their outlook. Rather, they think about the brand and what they can deliver first before thinking about the pay-off in the end.

These mom bloggers are versatile. They can tweet about a live event or put together a video series for a brand. They can pen creative content for a sponsor or drive their readers to get involved in a cause they believe in. They are never limited by always working to their strengths. Instead they figure out ways to bolster their weaknesses if that means a better outcome for a brand.

These mom bloggers are always learning and never get stuck in a rut. When they hear about the latest blogging trend or social networking site, they open an account right away or ride the trend wave for a while. They test everything because they are regarded as trendsetters and wouldn’t be caught not “in the know”. How do these bloggers know when new trends and sites come about? They are keen observers and don’t miss a beat.

Additionally, these mom bloggers guard their online reputation and keep it safe. They understand that people are always watching and that brands base who they work with by the reputation bloggers create. These moms understand the true power of their words and influence and don’t abuse it.

As I write this I am definitely thinking of several moms who embody these traits and I love them for it! I’m sure you know mom bloggers like this as well. They serve as great examples to us all.

What the Next Year Holds for Mom Bloggers + Brands That Court Them

Flying cross-country affords me the rare opportunity for uninterrupted thought. I started this post while flying home from LA on Monday and put the finishing touches on it today.

While it is always difficult to accurately predict what will happen in the next year for mom bloggers there are already actions in place that make me think the following trends will either emerge or pick up.

One thing I know for certain is the collective voice of blogging moms will remain one of the strongest in the country. No one can tell a brand’s story like bloggers. That’s what makes our community so unique and influential. Even though millions of moms currently read blogs, millions of moms don’t blog yet. We’re not even close to the saturation point of mom blogging because thousands of new mom bloggers come into the fold every month.

That said, the upcoming year will be even bigger than last and the year before that with opportunities for mom influencers.

The following are predictions for the next year as I see them. Make sure  to share what you think about the next year for moms who blog.

1) Select Mom Bloggers Will Really Make Money: There is already evidence that 2010 has been a big year for some mom bloggers. Moms are really starting to make money either with one big partnership or with several partnerships facilitated with various brands as either ambassadors or spokespeople. This trend will certainly continue as moms demand more and as other blogging industries, particularly beauty, fashion and food look to mom bloggers to continue to set the earning trends.

2) The Year of the Financial Services: I wrote in a recent post that the financial industry is lagging in their outreach to mom bloggers along with the pet and automobile industry. After talking with a few financial brands and seeing evidence already on blogs, look for the financial industry to kick into full gear especially as the holiday season gets underway.

3) The Year of PR Selectivity: Parts of the PR industry are starting to realize there are definitive nuances and hierarchies in the mom blogging community and a blanket approach to outreach is not as effective as being selective about the bloggers they work with. Some have even figured out that when newer, smaller bloggers are pitched a product and run with it, influencers won’t touch it. Look for PR firms to tighten up their outreach efforts in the coming year.

4) The Cream of the Crop: As much as this pains me to write, there will be a gradual separation of the influential bloggers and those who are trying to make their way up the mom blogging ladder. At the end of the day, brands need to deliver value to their clients and most brands equate value with hard numbers. Bigger, more influential bloggers have larger numbers. It’s hard to measure influence with relatively small numbers.

That said, however, there is still ample room for movement for new mom bloggers who have a stellar work ethic and professionalism to boot. Many small bloggers will be relegated to working with small companies while influencers will continue working with large brands.

5) The Rise of the Mom Blogger Spokesperson: More moms will be offered spokesperson duties (not ambassador roles) with brands either on a campaign by campaign basis or for an extended time. Brands are realizing mom bloggers are less expensive than celebrities, but possess more authenticity and are definitely more Net and social media savvy. This circumstance can result in a win-win situation for bloggers and brands.

6) Non-Mom Industries: Industries that traditionally do not market to moms will begin inching their way into the community as they seek to discover new ways into the family bank account. Most of these industries have only heard of the infamous “mommy bloggers” and will want to figure out how to tap the market to drum up buzz.

7) Product Reviews Will Still Rule the Space: I know this will make many of you unhappy, but product reviews aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They are too valuable to both bloggers and brands. There are still large companies we all know that are scared of working with bloggers. I’ve talked with a few, in fact. There are also small regional PR firms with large national accounts that are just getting wind of the mom blogging community and want to tap into blogging promotions. Product reviews are here to stay, at least for another year.

8) The Year of Tricky Gimmicks: Some companies and marketers will seek to take advantage of novice mom bloggers by promising a lot, but in actuality the return is not much at all. Yes, this has been going on for years, but the approach is definitely getting more sophisticated. False opportunities promise mom bloggers a lot, but  really turn them into free endorsers for huge brands.

9) SEO Wars: As more brands fight to snag the most influential bloggers, moms will look to stretch their influence by using SEO tactics to up their blog rankings and get on the radar of brands making keyword searches for bloggers in various niches.

Using SEO to get better search rankings is one thing, but the war over keyword bidding is an interesting phenomenon to watch. Look for mom bloggers to increasingly stake their claim to blog searches on Google.

10) Brand vs Brand: The mom blogging community is much smaller than most of us realize. That means brands need to outdo their competitors in the space to really establish relationships with key bloggers before their competitors.

11) Best Behavior: As the stakes rise and there is more to gain and to lose, there will be less mommy spats on Twitter, Facebook and on blogs and a more professional tone will arise from those whose brand is intimately tied to their earning potential.

12) Blog Skins: I have no idea why mom bloggers have perpetually stayed away from skins as a source of income. I foresee daring mom bloggers getting paid to run skins as a revenue source.

Amended to Add (9/2/2010):

A word about skins: Yes, they are essentially sponsored backgrounds. Check out Perez Hilton’s advertising page and see examples of skins he has run. I think this would be a very smart way for mom bloggers to also earn money.

13) Agents: I mentioned this in my last prediction post and I still believe this to be true: As mom bloggers are presented with more spokesperson jobs, they will need skillful agents to negotiate their contract.

14) Sponsored Bloggers: I still envision forward-thinking brands sponsoring a group of bloggers, paying them really well, and signing them to an exclusive contract to work with them only for at least a year. This is a perfect fit for those bloggers who want to work with brands, but don’t want to write tons of reviews and who don’t want to be a part of a lot of mini campaigns, but have a throng of loyal readers. I think it could really work and push forth a new revenue model for bloggers and an innovative way for brands to work with influential moms.

What trends do you think will emerge over the next year?

Mom Blogs Are Getting Younger: What That Means for Brands and Mom Bloggers

Recently, I looked at a group of the latest 1000 moms to join the Mom Bloggers Club and who listed the year they began blogging. The results probably will not surprise you. The vast majority of these moms started blogging in 2009 and 2010. In fact, 33% started blogging in 2010 and 32.31% started blogging in 2009. The numbers fall off considerably starting in 2008 at 15.91% and plummet each year thereafter.

What do these numbers reveal? These numbers could mean one of these things, or all of them working together.

  • Moms who started blogging in 2008 and later are experiencing blogger burnout now or are less interested in connecting in a club like the Mom Bloggers Club.
  • The Mom Bloggers Club is largely a social network that attracts new mom bloggers.
  • Many mom bloggers who have been blogging for 3 or more years are already a member of the club. This could be true since the club has been around since 2007 and is nearly 10,000 members strong.
  • Moms are starting blogs like never before.
  • The age of mom blogs is getting younger quickly.

Looking at these percentages, they’re not surprising! As mom blogging grows in popularity and the benefits flood in, the more new moms come into the fold and join our community. Moms will not stop blogging at the same pace moms begin which will prolong its peak for many years to come because the benefits are too abundant. At some point the novelty will wear thin, I’m sure. I just don’t see that happening anytime soon. In general terms, mom bloggers are born every day and there are even millennial bloggers who are already being primed to become parenting bloggers once they become moms and dads.

Right now we’re seeing an influx of new mom blogs, at least that’s the trend I am seeing at the Mom Bloggers Club.

What does this mean for brands?

1) It is going to be harder to catch the attention of those bloggers who have been around the block for three or more years (see the graph on the right). These are the bloggers whose inboxes are out of control with pitches and subsequently are extremely picky about the brands they work with.

2) Brand ambassador programs where moms are paid for their collective influence will continue to increase. The only other option is to blanket the community of smaller bloggers with product and pitches, but the ROI might not be there, or pray influencers notice your pitch or even care about it.

3) Brands will have to work harder to build relationships with influencers. That means pitches need to be spot on and influential parenting bloggers need to be courted.

4) This also means brands can become extremely picky about the bloggers they work with, too. It may become easier for brands to work with a select group of influential mom bloggers with a longtime readership who they trust, know and respect as opposed to working with a huge group of mom bloggers they don’t know.

What do these numbers mean for mom bloggers?

1) As mom bloggers continue to enter the fold, there is greater opportunity for your voice to be lost in the crowd. That means you have to work more creatively to be noticed.

2) Building a loyal audience is going to be key and set you apart from the growing sea of bloggers who are joining the blogging community every single day. Brands will be looking for personality over the number of product reviews you can post.

3) There will be greater opportunity to work in closer relationships with brands as they look to work with influencers who have been around for a while as opposed to those who started in the last two years or so. That is certainly not to say younger mom blogs aren’t experiencing success now, it’s just not as many as the longtime mom bloggers.

4) Due to the sheer numbers of new mom blogs, the definition on mom blogging will continue to change on their terms. What used to be “mom blogging” when I started five years ago will never be again. That age of mom blogging is gone — forever. If you’re a old-timer you will have to figure out how to stay relevant in this new age of blogging without losing your voice or your passion.

I am excited to see how the community will continue to change. It’s always fascinating to see.

What do you think the growing number of new mom blogs mean?

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Dance With Me: How PR Professionals and Mom Bloggers Can Dance to the Same Beat

Today I followed a few links from Twitter to discover the most unfortunate public fight between a mom blogger and president of a PR firm. It’s not pretty. I’m not going to link to either post because I’m sure both parties just wish the story would die. I do, however, want to address PR professionals and mom bloggers about how to work together where everyone is happy at the end of the day.

PR Professionals: Tips for Working With Bloggers

1) Read the blogs you seek to pitch. I mean, actually read the blogs and not just the last three posts.

2) Follow the bloggers you want to pitch on Twitter. People are different on Twitter than they are on their blogs. You’ll be able to glean insights about a blogger’s tastes and personality that you otherwise wouldn’t catch if you only read their blog.

3) Never pitch bloggers in a mass email. Personalize and individualize your pitches. Last month I spoke to a group of PR professionals from smaller firms and their main concern was they don’t have time to personalize emails and instead opt for mass emails. In a nutshell, I told them they need to make time. They don’t have a choice and neither do you.

4) Always address bloggers by name.

5) Build a relationship with bloggers. If that means going to conferences and networking until you’re blue in the face, or even taking bloggers out to dinner without pitching involved, do it! Increasingly, PR professionals who dance best are those who pay attention and form key relationships.

6) Quality is better than quantity every time.

7) Understand this: Every mom blogger is different.

8) Resist pushing unusual requests on bloggers even though you know some will comply. For example,

  • Do not require bloggers to tweet or “like” your client’s product in exchange for a review. In fact, don’t require anything in exchange for a review. Bloggers ultimately make the decision whether they want to review a product or not, even if a product has been sent to them.
  • Do not require bloggers to use certain keywords and link to a specific site page in their review. They’ll word their review any way they wish. Remember, it’s a product review, not a SEO shill post.
  • Do not ask moms to review a product from a high res image.

9) Don’t hound bloggers for review posts. It’s fine to follow up, but don’t hassle bloggers about a $25 product.

Mom Bloggers: Tips for Working With PR Professionals

1) PR firms, for the most part, do not pay for product reviews. Why? Most of their clients only understand traditional media and would freak out if they knew their PR firm is “buying” reviews. However, if a PR firm asks you to do things that go beyond a basic product review like tweeting, liking, creating video, penning a series of blog posts about a campaign or product, then they need to pay you. I repeat: If anything goes beyond the basic product review, they need to pay you!

I and other mom bloggers are imploring you to get paid for your work, but that doesn’t mean product reviews.

2) It’s OK to charge for giveaways. I know product reviews and the obligatory giveaway have been coupled for a long time, but if you don’t want to run a giveaway for free, that’s OK. Giveaways boil down to free advertising for a brand, plus they are a pain to facilitate.

3)  Be sure to be friendly, but firm with PR professionals, especially those you disagree with or who send you a terrible pitch. After all, they are people too and, believe me, the PR world is very small. It’s smaller than the mom blogging community and you know how we talk!

4) Don’t pass around PR professionals’ email addresses and phone numbers. Even though they pitched you doesn’t mean they want to be hounded by 100 of your blog friends.

5) If you demand a fee for your work, whether it’s consulting or being a part of a large, extended campaign, be sure to be able to prove your worth.

6) Even though a lot of PR people don’t read About Me pages, it’s your job to spell out the types of pitches you will and will not accept.

It’s unfortunate that PR firms and mom bloggers are starting to experience missteps. It’s my hope that my advice above will help the two parties make the dance work.