Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I'm Not Going to BlogHer10

There, I said it. I'm not going to BlogHer10. I've attended the conference since 2007 and leave each year with a different feeling.

In 2007 I was a nobody. And though I had some good times at the 750-person event, I left feeling invisible.

But I went back in 2008 and had more fun.

And, honestly, BlogHer2009 was a lot of fun. By that time I had many friends in the blogosphere and it was great connecting IRL. There were even people that recognized me (or my blogs) and had nice feedback that I was touched to hear. But with close to 1200 attendees and a dozen or more unofficial brand events it was starting to feel like too much.

It really hit me when a few days after the conference I saw some online friends tweeting about it- people I wanted to meet IRL, people I didn't even realize attended BlogHer09.

So this year I'm sitting out. For me, it's too much, too many people. I mean have you seen this list? Oh, and I hear there's a conference going on, too.

I've enjoyed the smaller conferences I've attended in the last year. I'm talking Blogalicious, Blissdom and Mom 2.0 (next year in NOLA- want to meet up?). Those are just more my speed.

And the swag? Fuggetaboutit. We're getting rid of almost everything and moving into a minimalist phase. I don't need more stuff and right now; there's very little I even want.

I appreciate everyone who's mentioned they hope to see me or will miss me in NYC. And I'm tickled by the couple of BlogHer brand events I've been invited to, but I'm staying home this year.

If you're attending BlogHer10, I hope you have an amazing time; I'm sure you will. Especially if you take a moment to follow my advice on how to have the best BlogHer ever and heed the 10 Commandments of BlogHer Success.

Have fun, learn new things, make new friends- that's what it's all about. Maybe I'll see you at TypeAMom?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Really?! The Salesperson Edition

I'm clicking away at my computer actually putting in billable hours(!), when I get a call from my payroll service.

Do I want to meet with "Joe" to discuss tax saving they might be able to offer me?

Meet? In person? As in put on clothes and make-up so you can sell me something? Not really.

So I ask Joe what specifically he thinks he can offer me (the royal me, as in a very small corporation).

Joe tells met the doesn't know offhand, but he will research my company profile and history and come up with a few ideas prior to our meeting. And if it turns out that his employer, my current payroll provider, has no recommendations, then he will cancel our meeting.

What's wrong with this picture?

I'm lucky to have a payroll and Joe with his backwards business model (inconvenience the customer before you put in too much work yourself) is even luckier to have a job in this economy.

Note to self: take payroll in-house before the end of the year.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gifted Kids and Old Spice

We loved this geeked out riff on the Old Spice commercials!

Do your grades look like his?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dyson Air Multiplier: A Cool Fan

Just after I returned from DC last spring, I toured the Dyson facility with a group of bloggers. Though I left their facility with a new appreciation for the brand, I have to admit their prices still stop me in my tracks. Retailing for about $300, Dyson's new Air Multiplier Fan is no exception when it comes to price, but it is an exceptionally cool product.

This futuristic-looking fan has no visible blades. Wild! It's an immediate attention getter that draws people in like a super magnet. If you're a fan of clean, modern design, start saving your money.

How does it work? Magic, of course. How else could a fan work without big blades swooshing the air around? No, wait. The Dyson site explains it all.

The fan produces a cooling breeze from a stationary position or while oscillating. It can also be titled up or down to aim the air current at a desired spot and the strength of the breeze can be adjusted enough to clear your desk. And look, Ma, no dangerous blades!

Seriously, can you fan do this? (The fan is running during this video, but it's near impossible to tell because of lack of visible blades.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Marketing to Moms: Yahoo! Should brands pay their advocates?

This was supposed to be a quick post about my upcoming trip to Yahoo. In a few hours, I'll be on a plane to San Francisco, headed to a blogger summit at Yahoo's HQ. I look forward to the speakers, a tour of the Yahoo campus (free espresso drinks!) and a chance to hang out with several of my best blog friends. And prior to our kickoff cocktail party I get to have lunch with an old friend from my dolphin training days.

Shockingly, the only notepad I'm bringing to the event is a decidedly old skool one, but I'm sure I eke out a few tweets with the help of my friends. Follow along at #ymotherboard.


At the recent SVMoms brand/blogger meet-up we had a long discussion about paying bloggers for their services as brand ambassadors. It was an interesting discussion, but no firm conclusions were drawn, largely because the value exchange varies for individual bloggers.

I believe that each blogger needs to decide for herself what constitutes fair and appropriate compensation. A rural stay-at-home mom and a big city mama with a high-powered job will likely have a different definition of value. Heck, the blogger across town and I might have different definitions, different terms that define a fair value exchange between blogger and brand.

But Jessica Gottlieb has always been clear on her belief that brands get what they pay for, so they should pay well. She recently posted her reaction to an article in Forbes by Jeremiah Owyang, a social media thought leader. He wrote about creating a customer advocacy program.

While she agreed with most of his points, Jessica took issue with the fact that Jeremiah advised brands to give advocates a platform, but recommended that such advocates not be paid. In fact, he referenced "an unpaid army of customer advocates."

If you follow the links in her post regarding what happened with Walmart's 11 Moms or "free employees" after a Walmart worker was trampled to death in 2008, you may ultimately wind up back at my blog. Reading the comments on this post.

Go read them. The ones where the actual Walmart Moms chimed in, clearly without direction from Walmart.

Were they commenting as brand fans or employees? Contractors? Some entirely different kind of organism, because after all, they were not paid?

Also, it's clear they had not received media or crisis response skills training, something many (most?) brands overlook.

In the word-of-mouth community, paying brand ambassadors is considered unethical, but in the momblogger community it seems that sponsored opportunities such as blog posts, event hosting, and sometimes mere event participation are becoming more common, largely because the bloggers demand it.

Are we putting on our collective big girl panties and demanding our worth or damaging our collective reputation and community?

I tend to see the world not in black and white, but in many shades of gray, so my answer is "Yes."

Yes, collectively we are creating opportunities, jobs, even careers, in a space that was barely a blip on the PR/marketing radar just a few years ago. Leading brands are no longer marketing to moms, but marketing with moms. The smart ones aren't just selling to us, they are talking to us, listening to us. This is fantastic!

On the other hand, some say our community is suffering because too many bloggers now seem to focus on earning money, we're no longer as radical or authentic.

And I know they don't dare comment here, but I've had conversations with PR folks who are turned off by the diva-like demands of some bloggers or are simply overwhelmed by the number of bloggers writing in to request free review samples (some of these bloggers are every bit as sloppy and lazy as the spammy PR flacks we love to hate).

So, hooray for pay! But at the same time, keep in mind that money changes everything.

Back in 2006, after a very specific event (which maybe I'll write about when my kids are back in camp) I foresaw a time when bloggers might be doing little more than telling each other about their clients latest product. Sometimes I feel like we're getting dangerously close to that moment.

What are your thoughts about bloggers and pay? Since I tend to see shades of gray, I hope you'll share an example or two of when you think a blogger absolutely should (or shouldn't) get paid.

Updates: Nearly Wordless Wednesday

This is how far behind I am. I have yet to write about:

My keynote panel at the Sweets and Snacks Expo. Look at me all mic'd up like Britney Spears! (Note the tight pants due to the 8 pound media kit full of candy and snacks I needed to try in order to cement my role as expert panelist.

Also this:

A thank you note from my BFF, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, regarding my efforts to help pass health care reform. I excitedly shared this note with my 12-year-old after it arrived in the mail. Apparently he's unimpressed by a personalized note from one of the most powerful women in the United States of America. Whatever.

And then there's the wonderful Chevy Traverse we drove up to Canada and back in record time. The Traverse provided a really smooth ride, worthy of more than a photo, which BTW was taken next to a lovely U-pick strawberry patch in Warrens, Wisconsin (also home to a interesting cranberry museum).

And I haven't written about our visit to the headwaters of the Mississippi River, which took us off the interstate for about six hours, adding several hours to our road trip home. But, look, they walked across the Mighty Mississippi!

Ack! How could I leave out the fabulous Aebleskiver event with the fab women of the MN Blog
Pantry? That write-up will go up on MomImpact.
Starting on Monday, the boys will both be in camp for 5.5 overlapping hours per day, so I hope catch up on many aspects of my life in addition to blogging!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Chicago Moms, Because Mother Nature and Mother Bloggers Abhor a Vacuum

Originally posted at Chicago's new regional momblog, The Chicago Moms.

Vanessa Druckman and I (above) are managing editors of the blog. MJ Tam, who never sleeps, is the official founder, techy and site host. And we have a fabulous group of writers/social media moms on board.

In fact, we were happy before, but now that the posts are starting to go up for our "soft launch," look at how excited we are!
I am delighted to be working with Vanessa; lets hope she doesn't quit after she sees these pics.

Here's my first post for The Chicago Moms with some background on how this new blog came to be.

{clears throat}

That line from high school chemistry has always stayed with me. Nature abhors a vacuum. Mother Nature doesn't like empty spaces or gaping voids and neither do mombloggers, so when the recent news broke that the Chicago Moms Blog and its sister sites were closing, the conversation quickly turned to ways to keep the sites operating and the community going.

Questions started flying as soon as the news was announced. Concerns were aired. More questions were asked and many of them were left unanswered, perhaps for legal reasons or perhaps because the answers simply didn't exist. There were just too many unknowns.

We bloggers were staring into a void and we didn't like it.

Contingency plans were floated, urls were purchased. (I bought eight last week, though not this one.) Twitter handles were claimed and alumni groups formed. Plans were put into place as though there was no time to wait. Of course there no time to wait, every avid blogger knows a week online is like a month in real life.

Eager for news of the larger community and sorting through the mixed messages about what the future might hold, looking into our shiny monitors like modern day crystal balls, we started talking and planning, just in case. As time passed, again we’re talking speed of Tweet online time, it seemed that the best thing for Chicago’s regional mom blog was to forge ahead.

You see, as days passed, it seemed that even in the unlikely event the entire group was somehow salvaged, we’d be forever fractured. The initial news of the group’s demise came so swiftly and unexpectedly that putting us back together would be like hastily reassembling Humpty Dumpty. Sure, the larger pieces might fit, but the cracks would be visible. Trust and its sister intimacy would be slow to return after such a quick exit.

I believe in the power of women sharing their stories and their lives online. I see what my blog and Twitter friends are achieving personally, professionally and in their communities. I believe we have a tremendous opportunities ahead of us here at TheChicagoMoms.

I believe a strong regional blog is the rising tide that floats all boats. Whether our contributors are writing here with hopes of building a community or brand relationships, whether they are here to play with words or publish a book, I believe good things and exciting times are ahead.

Won’t you join us?