The recent blog by @GeorgeGSmithJr about blag-grabbing mommy bloggers is an interesting counter to the self-important Momdot PR boycott challenge. It seems the PR world has created another monster by elevating the importance of “mothers who blog”.
As Bad Mommy Blogger implies this online network is rapidly becoming a laughing stock. Remember the Motrin “crisis” – where a total sense of humour failure saw a call for the end of Johnson & Johnson just because the company made a pretty dumb online advert?
Very quickly, the ability to share your thoughts with other mothers (and whoever else reads “mommy blogs”) attracted the attention of PR folk who saw an opportunity for promoting product via this network.
Hundreds of Mommy bloggers (or Mummy Bloggers, this side of the pond) have expressed their shock and horror that Mr Smith was “threatened” over a pair of free Crocs. But many seem to have happily accepted freebies – so I can’t help but feel that George is partly responsible for the slated Mommy blogger’s sense of entitlement.
The comment from Scott Monty hints that Ford likewise experiences bloggers expecting to be loaned free cars – and that doesn’t surprise me one bit.
As everyone knows, the motor industry has been having a tough 2009 and this has led to reduced PR budgets. But correspondence in the current edition of the Guild of Motoring Writers newsletter reveals that some motoring journalists do not realise this means an end to many of the old ways of doing things and a greater need to justify every press fleet car loan.
Over the past 40 or so years, the motoring PR world has generously supported a wide range of journalists. Like the mommy bloggers, it could be argued a monster was created – one that lapped up the hospitality, weekly car loans, partners weekends and kudos associated with attending international motorshows and exotic car launches.
Many of these “journalists” (who often wrote for a town newspaper) are now freelance writers, even when well past the age of retirement. But they still expect all the perks that they’ve become used to over time.
The reality is that in supply and demand terms, there are too many motoring writers and too few outlets for their words. Some are even supplying copy to publications for free, just to continue with the luxury lifestyle.
At the same time, the motor industry is under huge financial pressure, local traditional media are arguably less influential at least in selling new cars and there are new opportunities to communicate direct with consumers using social media. Online is now the first port of call for anyone checking out a new car.
Criticisms that PR practitioners are being “shortsighted” in not accommodating the traditional journalists’ needs, are backed by unsubstantiated claims that the “free publicity” that can be generated “as opposed to costly advertising – must be of paramount concern.”
In fact, the cost of organising a car loan today probably exceeds the cost of buying advertising in many local or other types of publications. The idea that a press fleet administrator can simply redirect an unsold car to a regional hack is laughable.
But that’s the impression that has been given over the years. Sucking up and accommodating the media’s every whim has led to complaints about “some 21-year old newcomer to the press team” directing a “professional journalist” to a website for information, when he wants a glossy press pack sent by post instead.
Petulant performances are not the exclusive preserve of Mommy Bloggers stamping their feet for a free pair of Crocs. But any PR person who has used freebies as a strategy for generating copy must recognise the risk this creates in creating a prima donna culture.
I spoke at a CIPR Wessex online event last week and cautioned against sending freebies to bloggers in exchange for reviews. This was questioned by one of the attendees, who worked for an agency where this was a “successful” strategy – notably in targeting “beauty bloggers” for the BodyShop.
I remain to be convinced that many of the bloggers praising the products (often with no disclosure that they’ve had a freebie) are delivering much of great value to their readers or the brand. But then, we’re all used to women’s magazines which trade largely on this approach of shameless product promotion.
And if you’ve ever seen an episode of Absolutely Fabulous or Ugly Betty or the movie, The Devil Wears Prada, you’ll know that motoring media and mommy bloggers have nothing on the elite of the blagger profession.