Monday, April 20, 2009

Marketing to Mommy Bloggers: Inviting Diversity Part I

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Last week I sent off an article that will appear in MediaPost's Engage: Moms column in a few weeks. The title (for now, anyway) is "Inviting Diversity to Your Brand-Sponsored Blogger Retreat" and based on the group photo I saw from a recent Hallmark mom blogger event, the timing couldn't be better.

Hallmark invited a group of mombloggers to their headquarters to learn about and discuss the brand. No wait, they did even better, they invited the moms and their children to attend, and planned a day of fun for the kiddos that rivaled the moms' experience.

That was a fabulous! So family friendly! If you've been in this space for over a year, you will recall the flap caused over babies being banned at Johnson and Johnson's Camp Baby. Kudos to Hallmark! It was very forward thinking to take this family-friendly step.

Which is why it surprised me to see that the attending guests were overwhelmingly white.

Haven't businesses been promoting the value of diversity for a couple of decades now?

Then why is it that company after company seems to be hosting groups of white women bloggers on their corporate retreats? Hallmark is by no means alone in this, um, shall I call it an oversight? When you see my article you'll note that one of the fab mamas I interviewed uses stronger language than that.

For the record, I am Caucasian. In fact, I am so white that the last time I went to the beauty counter for a consult, the tech pulled out a bottle of Liquid Paper to use as my foundation. And the mom I mentioned above, the one who calls it as she sees it? She thinks that white mamas like me need to represent for their sisters of color.

That is, if a (white) blogger is invited on a swank retreat or even to a local brand event, it's incumbent on that blogger to not only ask who's included, but insist on diverse crowd. And stay home if there isn't one.

If you're a blogger, could you? Would you? Have you done this?

If you're a PR pro, please share ways you make diversity a priority. And if you don't yet do this, you'll find some great pointers in my upcoming article.

I'll follow up on this post and give a shout-out to some of the folks who chime in below, when I post Part II after my article goes live.

36 comments:

Renee said...

It would be great if people would start to insist on diversity. The problem is that opportunities for bloggers to gain exposure are not vast yet and therefore when people receive an opportunity to tend to think only of themselves.
Unfortunately is like everything in life, whiteness is representative of the masses even though it is highly racist. These companies don't think of black women as mothers. Our motherhood has historically been disavowed. In some circles we are still referred to as rampant breeders.

Deb on the Rocks said...

This is absolutely needed in the blogging community! Racism is certainly a problem. Also, many lesbian mothers who have excellent blogs do not feel welcome at all in the "mommyblogosphere" and feel excluded. Diversity has to be be encouraged at all levels, and that means by participants, too. The recent HP/Dara Torres meeting was, I'm pretty sure, all straight and white, also.

stacey @ tree, root, and twig said...

Hmmm...some thoughts:

I agree that the bloggers who are identified as "most influential" & who most frequently get invited to these gatherings are pretty white-bread. They also, I think, tend to be of a certain age bracket (or maybe that's just my impression).

I agree that there needs to be more diversity in these mommy/marketers conversations. That's something I would love to see.

But if invited, would I choose to insist that more diverse bloggers be invited, and would I refuse to go if that's not the case? Probably not. Which bothers me on some levels, but the truth is, I'm pretty much a nobody in terms of blogging. I'm still trying to figure out how to build my blogging platform, or what it really is in the first place. When I was invited to the Mom 2.0 Summit, I was just so thrilled to be able to expand my knowledge, and the thought of diversity didn't even cross my mind. And maybe that's part of the problem.

Justice Fergie said...

Great post (as usual!) Kim. And you know my position on the issue. I think it's partially what the previous commenter said: the issue of diversity doesn't cross many marketers' minds. it's not necessarily intentional, it just IS. I also think that the other part of it is that markters don't necessarily know how to reach diverse demographics. Unless there is some obvious clue on a blog that it's author is of color, the marketer may have no idea and often when they are sending out their invitations, they are shooting in the dark. I recognize that as a big problem and I'm working on a solution (stay tuned!) That said, companies need to make sure that reaching a diverse group IS a part of their marketing plan. And they need to be creative and proactive in finding ways to reach that dempgraphic. Business just can't afford to exclude such a large and equally important part of the population when marketing their products and services anymore.

Looking forward to Part II!

Cinnamon said...

More than just refusing to attend because of a lack of diversity I think all bloggers (mommy or not, and I'm not) need to expand their own networks so that the people they know and link to online aren't just a bunch of people who think and act just like them. Diversity is important, but until diversity happens at the granular level, it won't happen at a convention/gathering level.

And even though I'm not a mommy blogger I have found several mommy bloggers who are writing about things that I'm interested in so I follow them. This is one of the sites that I've grown to thoroughly enjoy, even if I can't relate to every post or issue discussed.

Deb on the Rocks said...

I did a little more research and it seems that Kim from Mom in the City was at the HP event, but she wasn't listed on everyone's summary post.

Elizabeth said...

Amen, and alleluia. Great call to action.

Nina said...

I would have to say, I would be less inclined to attend an event that was not diverse. It really is a shame that PR folks assume only white women are interested in mommy events, when motherhood is universal. Still, I would go to events where I knew my presence was represented, not just tolerated. Thanks for this post!

WkSocMom said...

Great post. I used to work in recruiting where the company was required to seek out diversity, but not meet quotas. It is hard work, and almost as hard to explain why having a diverse workforce (or diverse group of bloggers) is important and going to give you better results. Unfortunately, people like to hire, invite, work with people like them. In our case the majority was male and asian or indian, which also mimicked the local schools.

I'm so out of the loop it's hard for me to figure out who the influential bloggers are or how they decide. But I do agree with Veronica, it's up to all of us to push back, whether we're WOC or not. But I also completely understand those of us (like me) who don't get invite to these to not want to turn them down.

AKA Blogger said...

Racism? Racism???

I think companies should be able to invite anyone they wish to invite to their events?! I'm sure they don't intentionally exclude certain races. Why the HELL would any company exclude a possible customer segment???

It's hard to figure what race someone is, even by their pic on their blog. By diversity, we could also be asking for more mom bloggers from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. I sure haven't met any of those. There are so many demographics missing from events, it's silly to focus on one.

I think when you dictate how a company runs their guests list, it is INAPPROPRIATE. You can suggest invitees, which I frequently do and the hosts are usually grateful for the input. I don't see why this is an important topic and see a lot of overreacting and drama. Please think how silly you sound making it out to be some conspiracy.

How about bloggers of certain races unite and create a database so event organizers can find who they are looking for?

Christie-A Work In Progress said...

This was absolutely fantastic, Kim! I love your series on Marketing to Mommy Bloggers and the fact that you, a white blogger, acknowledges the lack of diversity in mass PR events speaks volumes. Kudos to you. This was one of the reasons that my good bloggy buddy Lorriane (Ask Wifey) and I started our new project, The BlogRollers (http://www.theblogrollers.com). We wanted to continue to raise awareness of the power of female bloggers but also show that bloggers of color are here and we are consumers too! Again, thanks for this! I am glad you are taking a stand for all of us!
PS> Hope to meet you at BlogHer and hope you will consider joining us at Blogalicious!!

MelADramatic Mommy said...

To AKA Blogger: What is your nationality? I'm just curious because your comment was spoken like someone who's never had to wonder whether they're being excluded because of their skin color.

This hasn't happened to me in the blog world, but it's happened in real life and the feeling is unpleasant to say the least.

I think Kim just wants us all to be more aware and proactive. I agree with Cinnamon that our own blogs should lead by example.

Veronica said...

Thanks Kim! It's great to have a fab ally and friend in you.

I find it amazing that people can't see the racism in crafting PR campaigns around all or mostly all-white moms. It's very subtle racism, one that I acknowledge I fight myself. Take a second and picture a mom. Any mom. I bet most of us picture a white blond woman. That's really where PR people start off with, then it just rolls from there.

I don't think that Kim is telling PR people how to work, but saying "if you want to craft a PR campaign that reflects a product that is for diverse populations, then have a diverse group of moms/women pitching it for you." If blogs are supposed to help products get a broader base of viewers, how is that going to happen if they keep using the same people or the same type of people?

Michele@Integrated Mother said...

I always appreciate your candid posts and ability to call it like ya see it Kim. I look forward to the day that corporations will not just strategize about diversity, but actually execute those strategies in a visible way.

As a former HR professional, I've seen this from the employer standpoint and issues of inclusion are always an issue - at some level, someone feels left out. Now, from the "mommy blogger" perspective, it's clear that inclusion and diversity issues are far-reaching.

Heck! Recently, my daughter's white Kindergarten teacher stopped me and with great enthusiasm explained how he had done "Black History Month" teaching segment in the class for the very first time in his long career as an elementary school teacher. He said he was inspired to do it because he had my daughter in the class (the only one of color). While I appreciated the gesture, it was confirmation that even as children our society isn't doing enough to teach about diversity and inclusion. (sigh) But I digress..

This is an important issue and one that won't be resolved here, but I am glad you've started a dialogue because that's what will evoke change.

ACW said...

Kim - as a professional communicator who consults across all disciplines of communications, including PR, I think perception is critical. If blogging is really meant to inform freely, bloggers should represent all people. When, in particular, an event is planned that targets diversity as a theme, well, yes that's a no brainer. You need diverse representation.

I think this is a major paradigm shift companies (and individuals)grapple with as social media becomes more prevalent. This is no longer the controlled environment in which there is tremendous control of the message; this is a stage where perception is shaped on the level of what people see as authentic and transparent.

On the other hand, you can't have a blog event like this looking formulaic in regards to diversity. The interesting aspect of social media is its transparency - and readers will immediately pick up if the mix in attendance comes across as "planned."

My strategy would be to form a collaboration between HR, Diversity, and communications, and integrate social media tactics with overall diversity strategy. My sense is that things like "blogging" may, in many areas of a company, be perceived as an add-on, not an important strategic element to the overall plan.

Anne Witkavitch
C-Suite Communications and fellow TravelingMom blogger

AKA Blogger said...

MelaDramatic Mom,
My nationality is American. My race is caucasian.

The president is a black man.

I don't deny racism is alive and well in some parts. However, PR organizations are not practicing racism.

I've piped up about helping out with guest lists. I even mentioned a black blogger I knew should be invited along with some white ones I know. I didn't do an affirmative action run down when I thought of people to invite. I thought of the BEST people to invite.

I know black people who are my neighbors and friends who pretty much consume the same stuff I do with the exception of hair products. I don't see any diversity involved in inviting them to a PR event.

Some poor white woman in Appalachia would bring more diversity to a Hallmark PR event.

When we keep labeling, pointing, announcing quotas, chirping about diversity, and on and on....We take away from the fact that some people are going where they are going and doing what they are doing because of their skill, knowledge and preparation. Not that somehow they are soooooo different because they are a different color. We in fact CHEAPEN their accomplishments.

Having done some blogger research in the past, I know for a fact it's often difficult to figure out who a blogger is, how to contact them, their age, plenty of stuff. I'm friendly enough with enough PR folks who come at me to know they are often shooting in the dark trying to get events together.

Like you said, you haven't experienced racism in this arena. So why are we accusing them of being racist? I. Don't. Get. It.

ChefDruck said...

Kudos to you for calling this out and encouraging PR firms to raise the bar.

Naomi said...

When I see pictures from these events, I am aware of the color of the bloggers' skin. But I'm not sure that I think companies need to have quotas to fill. It's a tricky question.

I am always confused about which camp I fall into. I'm not particularly white and I am nowhere near black. I don't fit into the Asian mommy bloggers ranks. I'm not Hispanic, although most people assume I am.

Devra said...

Companies should open their eyes to the fact mothers are not monolithic and it is utterly insulting when we are treated as such.

Renée aka Mekhismom said...

As usual an excellent post Kim. The comment section is also filled with wonderful ideas. As a woman of color when I see trips/events etc. that are conducted by companies I immediately look for diversity. I think it is important that the participants reflect the diverse nature of the blogging world.

There are some of us that are working ensuring that companies have the resources needed when seeking out diverse bloggers. I believe the first step is for companies to start from the premise that this is a diverse world and keep that in mind when planning events.

Liza said...

Fantastic post, Kim!

I think that your call for all Mom-bloggers to ask event organizers if the event is diverse is a great one, and would make a huge difference.

Look at BlogHer! Diversity of viewpoints has been a consistent priority for the founders, and it has worked.

While I take issues with AKA Blogger's tone, one of the points she raises is an important one -- diversity is most likely to happen if it is easy for the event organizers to make it happen.

I'm going to shoot an email to Guy Kawasaki and ask that they consider adding a "Women of Color" category to AllTop.com. But it could be a great opportunity for an enterprising blogger to create a "Mothers of Color" blog directory, too.

And you marketing mavens? We've already made it as easy as possible to find lesbian moms of almost any niche -- just check out www.lesbianfamily.org. Pregnant lesbians, TTC lesbians, lesbians with babies, lesbians with teenagers, lesbians in interracial families...and many of us would be happy to learn about your products and services.

Veronica said...

Liza! That's a great idea. You really could be THE go to gal for hooking up lesbian moms & dads to the goodies of the marketing world.

One other thought on this...I get the feeling that most of the moms of color I know who blog, aren't blogging just on mom stuff. They are blogging about the world around them, politics, technology, economics. Perhaps marketers are looking for "safe" mom bloggers who might not say something "controversial?" I would hate to think that a woman's honesty about her life would keep her off a junket trip when she would be a great spokesmama for greeting cards.

MBB Founder and Editor Denene Millner said...

Thanks, Kim, for such a wonderful, thoughtful post. I'm a mom of color and I'm passionate about parenting issues, and there isn't a moment of the day that I'm not thinking about ways to reach out to African American moms. I do this not just because I'm black, but because it's important to me that moms who look like me have the opportunity to be a part of the national motherhood discussion. That they, too, have their say. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, we ARE almost always left out of that debate, and it's a shame, because we, too, have a voice and opinions and love our children with passion and abandon and want to do right by our babies. You wouldn't know it, though, if you went by commercials/talk shows/TV programs/opinion columns/most mom blogs and, yes, the assemblies of mom bloggers tapped by these ad companies to give their opinion on products.

AKA Blogger: You're right. You don't get it. But maybe this will help you understand why diversity at these kinds of events are important. Say Hallmark had a mom bloggers event where they were presenting a new line of cards geared toward moms who want to put cute notes in their kids' lunchboxes, and those notes had only white moms hugging on their children, and messages that seem universal and heartwarming. In a room full of white mom bloggers, those pictures may be perfect and those messages may be wonderful. But if there's no mom of color in the room, then chances are there won't be anyone there to raise and hand and say, "Um, yeah, those cards are cute and all, but my kid is African American and so am I and I'd like to include a note in my child's lunchbox that looks like HER. Where are the cards featuring black moms, or Asian moms, or Latina moms, or the messages that speak to lesbian moms?"

The point of having a diverse audience at these conferences is so that the overwhelmingly white staffs at these PR firms and these huge companies, who don't have a problem taking black folks' money, understand how to talk/market/reach out to ALL moms, not just white ones.

And you're right, too, that moms invited to these events are asked to be there because of their skills, knowledge, and preparation. But then, if there aren't any moms of color in the room, shouldn't one assume that they're suggesting black moms don't have the skills/knowledge/preparation to be in the room? Frankly, this is the height of insult. Right here in this comment section, you'll find some incredible moms of color who are doing wonderful things in both the virtual and the real worlds, and in a perfect society, their skills would get them the FIRST seat at the table.

Alas, we don't live in a perfect society, do we?

But commentary like this, and calls to action, certainly help move us closer, don't they? We're not hard to find. If people opened their eyes and acted like they cared, they'd find us moms of color quite easily. I did. Just by paying attention.

I don't know that white moms should refuse to attend these colorless events; it's great if they could ask ahead of time and make suggestions, but I find that if you're in the room, you have more of a chance to speak up on our behalf.

And then take the time to come to our blogs and see what we're talking about and comment--just like we do on yours. You might make some wonderful new friends, and learn a little something in the process.

Kim: Thanks again, girl. Keep up the fantastic dialogue!

Robyn - Who's the Boss? said...

As a blogger who doesn't get invited to these fun events all that often, I'll admit that I get so caught up in the ego-boost of getting an invitation that I never even thought to ask who was coming, offer up bloggers of color, or ask if they had a diverse representation.

I think that most of these PR & Marketing folks are doing key word searches, seeing what blogs are out there, and aren't necessarily taking the time to look to read much about the blogger. That was true for me when J&J invited bloggers with teenage kids - why in the world would those bloggers be interested in baby products?

I do think that we as bloggers can do a lot more to make it easier for PR folks to find a diverse crowd. The Alltop idea would be a great start.

ModernMommy said...

This is a great post. So important and something I didn't think about before. I don't get invited to many PR events but in the future I will be sure to ask about diversity.

Kim Moldofsky said...

Thanks for all these great and thoughtful (if sometimes a bit blunt) comments!

I wanted to let you know that I have heard from someone at Hallmark as well as at the PR agency that helped develop the event. Both have expressed a willingness to learn from my post and, more to the point, your comments.

I look forward to continuing this dialogue in a couple of weeks after my Engage:Moms article goes live. http://tinyurl.com/bj2uaa

In fact, I think some of you should query the Engage:Moms editor about writing an article of your own for that column. Drop me an email for details.

Jennifer James -- Mom Bloggers Club said...

Kim -- you're brilliant and so right on. I give great kudos to Pampers, EA Sports, and Disney who have actively recruited black mom bloggers to attend their events. It's great for their brand and it's great for the message.

I just came back from a Pampers event that invited a black mom blogger (me!), a dad blogger (Matt Logelin) and a mom blogger all the way from China. They understand that if they want to expand their brand in the social media world they have to talk to diverse people. It's as simple as that.

Can't wait until your article comes out!

kristina said...

Kudos, Kim. Well said, as always.

jon said...

Great post, Kim ... great comments too. I'm getting here late after seeing a link in the Women's Rights blog's roundup so don't have much to add.

diversity is most likely to happen if it is easy for the event organizers to make it happenthat's true to some extent, and anything that makes it easier to get diverse attendees is a good thing. however i think it also lets organizers off the hook too easily. yeah, it's hard. if organizers care about diversity, they need to prioritize it.

jon

Kimberly/Mom in the City said...

Deb on the Rocks, you made me laugh. Yes, I was at the HP/Dara Torres event. I was the brown one (with the cute red shoes)in the group photograph :-)

Seriously though, it's obvious that marketers still have a ways to go in being representative of the diversity of moms in this country.

I must say that I have been fortunate (primarily because I live in NYC) to be included in a lot of corporate outreach. I think that it's a great idea for moms to build marketing and blogging relationships across the color lines so that when opportunities arise, we can recommend one another. (I do!)

Specific to moms of color, I would add to do consistently, great work and not to get caught up in the "crabs in a barrel" mentality - there's room for more than one woman of color at an event - the more the merrier!

Kimberly/Mom in the City said...

Oh wow...I just looked at the Hallmark picture. You weren't exaggerating!

Anyway, as a mom of color, this makes me feel more compelled to attend similar type events when asked (simply in order to be a physical representation for bloggers of color). I must admit that I have turned down several travel-related invitations in the past because I have 2 preschool aged kids. None of them have offered child care/activities like Hallmark though...

(Okay, that's it. I'm done filling up your comment section!)

meowmie said...

Thanks for this post, Kim. I've found the comments to be thought-provoking, too. OK, I'm never going to be invited to some Aussie Mum Blogger Symposium (teeny tiny fish here!) but I would certainly be interested in seeing the diversity of those who blog. I'd be hoping Aboriginal or Vietnamese-Australian mums who blog, for example, would be there.

maria bailey said...

This is a great post! More needs to be done to recognize moms of color. To company credit over 75 attended a recent BSM media Webinar on Moms of Color now they need to spend money on reaching them.

Susan Getgood said...

Great post Kim. I would add that diversity in this country is a problem, full stop. Not just in the momosphere and notwithstanding a black family in the white house.

I'd go a step further and say that marketers shouldn't just be asking if their *event* is diverse. If their product is aimed at a wide demographic, like moms or tweens, they should ask, is ALL the marketing diverse?

Or are they still aiming the product at a homogenized stereotype of mom that maps to roughly 30-ish white and often blonde, as I discuss at some length in my June Cleaver post (which you can read at my place Snapshot Chronicles or over at PunditMom's blog)

Thida said...

Good post. I agree with Veronica. Many of us moms of color are blogging about other things. Rightly or wrongly the term momblogger is typically associated with moms who publicly blog primarily about their personal life, rather than just moms who blog.

Jennae @ Green Your Decor said...

I don't know how I managed to miss this post when it was first published, but I am so happy to see the healthy discussion that ensued. I'm even happier to see that YOU were the one who started the conversation. Because when women of color like myself and some of the other lovely ladies who commented bring up this point, we're often accused of being oversensitive or looking for racism where there isn't any.

@AKA Blogger: I find it interesting that you would bring up the fact that our president is black -- as if that somehow has erased any traces of racism from the nation.

I'd just love to see more PR firms reaching out not just to moms, but to diverse women who have an opinion, have a passion and who don't fit in any boxes they'd like to put us in.