Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Engaging Bloggers by Hiring a Blogger

It's great to see brands engaging mombloggers on a professional level as spokespeople, content creators, consultants and more. I believe in the old truism that a rising tide floats all boats, so rather than complain that Brand A hired her instead of you, I believe it behooves us as a community to celebrate that person's success with the understanding that she's opening doors for others.

I witnessed a good example of this a couple of weeks ago when Audrey McClelland passed through Chicago as part of a TJ Maxx/Marshall's back-to-school* event. Audrey is known for being a stylish mom with an eye on fashion, as well as a mom with four young boys to clothe. If hers boys are anything like mine, which is to say adventurous and messy, she doesn't want to spend a lot on their school clothes.

Audrey was a great fit, and as an out-of-towner, her presence added to the "one show only" atmosphere. I didn't want to miss her on her quick visit, whereas, if the brand had simply invited me to an early morning breakfast in the city, I don't know that I would have joined in.

Audrey also did a great job; she not only related to and was accessible to the moms in the crowd, she stayed "on message" and, I thought, made a wonderful ambassador for the brand.

By contrast, when brands hire bloggers, but spin it differently, it doesn't work. I recently got a pitch from a brand that noted they had engaged a handful of Chicago's top mommybloggers for a project and thought I might want to post about it on my blog.

Wait a minute, I thought I was one of Chicago's top mommybloggers?!

That's what I wrote the PR rep, wishing that I could be as much of a smartass as The Bloggess is. But I don't channel her that well.

I received an explanation back, but that's not the issue. My concern was not who was or wasn't chosen, but rather how I was pitched. This was not the first pitch I've received that essentially says, "You are cool enough to pitch, but not cool enough to actually participate."


Behind the blog, behind the words on the screen, there's a girl who was picked last for the team, had her best friend asked out by the guy she was crushing on, or didn't get invited somewhere special.

(Wait, are you saying that's just me? Because I'm pretty certain it's not.)

Nobody likes to be reminded they are on the B-List.

But many people do like to support their friends.

Brands, choose your words wisely.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Zoom Xoom with Motorola and Verizon

I'm part of of the new Midwest Moms group from Verizon Wireless. They have provided me with a Motorola Xoom and a Verizon data plan for six months and set me loose to share my experiences. 

I received my tablet just before BlogHer, which was perfect timing because the wi-fi network at a women's blogging conference, especially one with 3,500 highly connected women, tends to be a bit sluggish. No worries for me. I was able to create my own wifi hotspot and zip around online as needed.

Having only played with my mom's iPad (my mom's iPad, how wrong is that sentence?), I wasn't sure what it would be like using a tablet as my only computer while at the conference.

It was handy in some ways, not so much in others. For example, one of the tasks hanging over me on the flight to San Diego was to crunch numbers to calculate the surface area of the rooms in our new house so I'd know how much paint we'll need for the walls and ceiling. I was able to pop open my Xoom to complete this. However, later, when I went to enter my data into a Google Docs spreadsheet, I realized it was too cumbersome to achieve without a keyboard (which I may purchase).

That said, having a computer I can tote around is fabulous! Angels sing each time I power it up.

Two weeks ago I attended a high school orientation on my son's behalf while he was away at overnight camp. I took notes on the Xoom (via the Google Docs app) and then snapped shots of his classroom as well as the recommended route to the room from where the bus will drop him off each morning.
The other day I stuck it in my purse before heading to the mall with my younger son. I popped it open while we were waiting for our food (I know, bad manners, but we were in a "fast, casual" place- does that make it acceptable?). Everyone who walked by our table stopped to comment on the Xoom.

I showed my 11-year-old son pictures I'd taken with the Xoom on my flight to BlogHer and within seconds, he was making movies on it. Nothing to feature here just yet, but give him a few weeks and we he'll have something other than me ducking away from the camera.

The Xoom has dual cameras, meaning they can face what you see, or with a quick tap on the screen, capture you as your laptop computer might, so my clever boy tried to switch the camera before I snapped my shots.

And Twitter, dear Twitter, I can finally tweet out pics, something that would be cumbersome (impossible?) with my not-very-smart phone.

I'm really enjoying the Xoom and will be sharing updates on how I'm using it to make my life easier, better (truly!), and the cool apps I've my boys found in the Android Marketplace.

Disclosure Recap: Verizon Wireless has provided me with a Motorola Xoom and six months of data service, so I can be online all. the. time.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

BlogHer and BrandHer

Each year after BlogHer (or any conference, really) I intend to share a little blog love with the sponsors, but I rarely get around to it. By the time I return home I'm some combination of exhausted and overwhelmed from 3 overstimulating days of conference fun.

This year, I'm driven by a bag of blogworthy swag that I swore not to put away until I blogged it. And I reaaaaaalllly need to get that bag out of my already full room.

I spent more time than I ever expected in the expo area at BlogHer. It was very social and I ran into so many friends that it took me a while to work my way around the room. Speaking of which, special shout-out to The Mother Company for hosting an informal gathering of my Yahoo Motherboard friends and I and for not kicking me out when I spilled a grande latte all over their floor. Their products skew a bit young for my guys, but I'm going to watch the award-winning DVD they gave me and then find a good home for it.

I had a few brand conversations, too. I have to be honest, though. I'm not one for deep engagement with brands on the expo floor. Perhaps this is largely because I don't imagine deep relationships with most of the brands.

This is not good or bad. It just is.

That said, here's what caught my eye and a bit of commentary. If I had a name a theme for the swag that came home with me, it would be PRACTICAL.

Glad's new "To Go" line. BPA free containers with a little cup for dressing or dip that snaps into the underside of the lid. It's different. It's practical. We'll see if they're a hit once school starts.

Centrum vitamins. The free bottle saves me a trip to the store, FTW! On the downside, their ingredients include artificial food coloring. Also, why can't adult vitamins be smaller? I'd rather swallow two small pills than one giant horse pill. I often skip taking my vitamin just because of the thought of having to swallow those honkin' big pills. The travel packets of Advil are also a hit.

Lindt chocolate bars. I think they knew I'd eat of every last Lindor truffle if they put them on display, so they brought their new line of intense dark chocolate bars instead. Nom nom. I blogged it, now I finally get to eat it.

My tool belt! D'oh! I was wondering where I'd stashed that. No wonder my swag bag seemed so heavy and full.

Also, the wood. Yes, I brought home some leftover pieces of wood and an unopened pack of shims from the swag exchange room (left over from Lowes) because I'm a total nerd practical like that. Who doesn't need shims, especially when their entire house is being gutted?

3M not only hosted a fine party, but handed out all manner of practical items at their booth. I happened to stop by with my friend Deb who raved about the Command line of products in a more convincing and authentic way than any official brand rep could. 3M is all excited about their new line of full adhesive "super sticky" Post-it notes, but my tween son is less enthused because he loves to turn regular old Post-it pads into cute animated shorts. I should post a video on YouTube.

More likely to be a hit with him is the new Next Generation 20Q! An electronic, handheld version of 20 Questions.

Another hit: Arm and Hammer toothpaste. Between this and the vitamins, I figured I've saved about $15 and a trip to Target.

Did you know that the company that makes Mega Blocks also puts out the Rose Art line and a brand of pens called "The Write Dudes"? I did not. These bright, shiny pens are sure to be a hit with the same boy who makes the Post-it animations. Though he also does this thing where he turns pens into mini-cross bows, so no one can really predict whether he will actually use these to write.

My biggest surprise on the expo floor? Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt. I love it!

What did you think of the expo area this year?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

BlogHer Food

I'm talking about the food at BlogHer11, not the BlogHer Food conference. This was my 4th BlogHer conference and I have to give big kudos to Stacy's pita chips and Sabra hummus for the best BlogHer snack ever.

Saturday afternoon, they served up pita chips and hummus alongside loads of freshly chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, guacamole and other goodies. I was in heaven!

It doesn't hurt that I enjoyed the snack while getting to know Michele Spring, who I'd met earlier in the day at a Blogging Angels event. We talked so long we shut the (snack) bar down.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Why You Shouldn't Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast

The short answer: because if you wind up heading to the ER later that day with a gallstone attack, you will feel very defensive about your food choices. (I swear, it was only about a 2 ounce scoop, and I was out running errands at 6 AM on a very hot day; it seemed like a decent idea at the time.)

I had a handful of gallstone attacks a few years ago. They came painfully and unpredictably, but disappeared withing 20 minutes to an hour. When this one came on, I was pretty sure what it was and waited, maybe too patiently, for the pain to go away.

The pain was as relentless as that of childbirth labor pains. It simply Did. Not. Stop.

I couldn't get comfortable. I bent, I turned, I twisted, I moved from my back to my side to all fours, but the only relief I felt was a brief respite after a moaning til I ran out of breath. But then, how long could I go without breathing? And if the pain was so bad that I was writhing and moaning, why did I wait three hours before deciding to go to the ER? Good questions all.

Eventually, a small dose of morphine put some distance between my mind and the pain. But while I still had my senses, I thought of friends like Brandie, who recently had a double mastectomy, and dear Susan, whose fight against cancer has brought her more pain than anyone should experience in her lifetime (and yet, she still runs circles around me productivity-wise. For example.).

I especially think of Susan each year around BlogHer. In 2007, just weeks before the conference, she was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, the breast cancer without a lump. Because she need to stay home and start chemo, Susan passed her room at the conference hotel to Robyn and I.

She's been fighting on and off since 2007 and she's not done yet. She's mentored women in the planetary sciences (yeah, she's a rocket scientist), as well as other mothers with cancer. Susan has also inspired and helped so many more.

So, um, how do I neatly wrap up this post?

My pain was bad, but the pain of women with breast cancer is worse. The number of my friends who have or have had breast cancer is growing at an alarming rate (I was warned this would happen after 40). There is no way to neatly tie this up with a humorous punch line.

I can only say I'm sorry I won't see these friends at BlogHer this year and I look forward to seeing them later this year.

Please, please sign up for the Army of Women and do what you can to support breast cancer research.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Obligatory Pre-BlogHer Post

BlogHer, Blissdom, Blogalcious- all blog conferences can stir up anxiety, but with 3,000 attendees BlogHer 2011 is going to be the MacDaddy (MacMama?) of them all.

Here are two fresh fun posts to help get you ready:

A reference guide to common blogger types from Mom101.

How not to be that jerk everyone talks about next week from Mommy Needs a Cocktail--she is also my ticket sponsor; thanks Kristen! She shares 10 great tips, but in case you don't read down to the comments, I'm going to share number 11 via Backpacking Dad:

It’s always a great thing if someone knows who you are, but it’s not an insult if they don’t. The Internet is a big place, and even if you’ve left 90 comments on someone’s blog some people can’t even remember faces, let alone a comment-pseudonym that has some combination of “mom” “kids” “crazy” and “booze” in it. Taking it personally just means you invented a relationship in your head that isn’t there, not that the blogger is a bitch.
PunditMom's comment about tipping the lovely ladies who clean your room is also one to take to heart. (Does swag tipping count? You know, thanks for cleaning my room. Please enjoy a year's supply on hand lotion!)

And finally, here's a bit of my own timeless blog conference wisdom:

Why I'm not going to talk to you at BlogHer

You are not invisible

How to have the best BlogHer ever

Ten Commandments for BlogHer success (good, but not nearly as funny as Kristen's post above)