01 August 2007

Because we really stink at this

So I'm at the State of the Momosphere panel, offering apologies on behalf of corporate america and stuff, and Kelly "Mocha Momma" Wickham gets the microphone and asks a question that basically stumps me:

My question, then, was directed at those two marketing professionals and I asked when they would tap into the mothers of color and bring us into the fold because they are leaving us out of the loop. When will the diversity come into play?

The microphone is passed around, and Kelly never gets an answer to her question. Then Stefania issues the smackdown:

I also told them that even though I get pitches everyday at CityMama, over at Kimchi Mamas we get none. Not a one. Ever. Because people of color do not matter to advertisers.

I've already offered my personal defense: I'm not really in marketing or advertising, I do issues, blah blah blah. But it's all a load of crap. I did a quick review of the work I've done recently, and looked at the bloggers I've "pitched." With only a few exeptions, my "target lists" are predominantly white.

And frankly, Mocha Momma and Kimchi Mamas easily "make the cut" in terms of the kinds of blogs I typically look for. I use the available search and ranking tools (which aren't all that great but are all any of us have to work with), and their numbers are stronger than some of the blogs I've occasionally pitched. And as for content relevance - I only pitch the folks who have expressed an interest in a particular issue - Kimchi Mamas have discussed plenty of health issues as well as immigration. Mocha Momma has discussed some of her experiences as a teacher (she's now a high school dean). So they discuss or at least seem interested in discussing any number of issues. In short, they deserve an invitation to participate in some top-level discussions.

I really don't know why the pitch lists I and others develop aren't as diverse as the blogosphere as a whole. The short answer: we just stink at this.

Maybe it has something to do with the relentless specialization that happens in our industry. I'm the "blog guy" at my company. A number of entrepreneurs approached me at BlogHer wanting to partner with my company, explaining that "we know how to market and communicate with moms." In DC, there are "republican" and "democratic" lobbying firms. And there's a constantly growing number of boutique firms that specialize in any "core demographic" - GLBT, African-American, Latino, you name it. Some might think it's harder and more expensive to develop your own core competency when you can just outsource it.

In one way, that's not such a bad thing. For example, the writers at Kimchi Mamas share a distinct cultural perspective, and I'm sure they're proud of that. The people in my industry who might pitch them should take the time to learn more about that perspective. Those who do it best might want to do it full-time.

However, it's also a huge cop-out. It's our obligation as communications professionals to know our audience. I can't say I put together an all-encompassing discussion about health care, for example, if I haven't taken the time to include as wide a range of perspectives as possible. And this isn't the web2.0 version of "political correctness" - this is my job.

Maybe it also has something to do with the sheer size of the blogosphere and the fact that the tools we use are so nascent. I'll readily admit I don't know what I'll find when I enter keywords in technorati sometimes. Sure, I have to read more fully to get context, but most searches start with really vague keywords and you have to refine from there.

But here's the bottom line: We just haven't made a point of including as many perspectives as possible in the discussions we'd like to join or lead, and there's no good reason for it. It's not about tools, it's not about specialization, it's not about the size of the blogosphere. It's because we just haven't made it a priority to include everyone. We have the power to change that. It's not like diverse voices are hard to find online.

I'd love to hear from the moms and anyone else who cares to speak up on this issue.


PunditMom said...

Your comment from the person who claims to know about marketing to and communicating with moms was interesting to me. Clearly, some "exhibitors" at BlogHer really missed the mark -- ButterBall & Jello? I'm not saying we don't buy those things, but I tossed the ButterBall potholder in the swag bag -- to me it just screamed, "You're just homemakers!"

Overall, I think that professionals who are trying to reach women are off the mark, just as I think most politicians are off the mark in assessing what's important to us as women. I have to wonder if, for some, it's an inherent gender thing (present company not included).

Motherhood Uncensored said...

I think folks rely too heavily on metrics and rankings. Certainly they are important but as we have discussed before, there's a quality that is missing when people rely just on numbers.

I liken it to Quan vs Qual research. Certainly with quan research, you've got generalization and hard figures on your side, but the personal report of qualitative research -- particularly when it comes to issues and products -- can be equally if not more effective.

The point is, there's something about blogs versus websites that requires the PR folks to get to know them better.

Maybe that's why you've done so well with us.

Susan Getgood said...

I have to admit, I don't get too fussed about what is or isn't in the swag bags. Nothing tops including a tshirt in the bags size xtra small, which happened last year. Clearly someone clearing out old inventory, which irritated me more than potholders. I was more dismayed that PBS thought that all the moms in attendance would have little children. My son is 7 and let's just say the vid they were handing out was a little young for him.

But I digress. As I said, I don't go for the trinkets and trash, and I appreciate that the exhibitors, whoever they are, help keep the costs down for attendees.

The issue at hand is diversity, or lack thereof. Mainstream marketers don't do a particularly good job of it either. I agree that there is a gender effect, but equally important is the mass effect. Mass marketing is based on stereotypes, and that is what is bleeding into the approach to bloggers. Not just moms. All bloggers.

We're always trying to reach as many as we can, so we make a generic, literally white bread message. And (no offense David) the "We" tends to be white men, so that's the bias that informs so much of the media.

David said...

Thanks J & K. First, to me, anyone who ever claims to be an expert on any particular community is just selling something.

second, I totally get the qual vs. quan thing but to be honest, the absence of strong metrics has been the most difficult challenge in building a client base. Companies invest money based on ROI targets.

It's this weird disconnect, as you know - relationship biuilding isn't about facts and figures. THAT'S the key to doing this right. But clients want you to calculate a relationship into ROI. A handful of people get it, but most still don't.

Her Bad Mother said...

What K said - the social connections and influence that mom bloggers wield is more complicated than any metrics can reveal. But what's a marketer/PR person/AVERAGE READER to do? Finding blogs and bloggers usually has everything to do with Google and little to do with relationships. I, for one, appreciate how you have endeavoured to forge relationships with bloggers, the better to tap into the less measurable aspects of our community. Sure,there's more that you could do, but don't under-estimate the value of the approaches that you've already been taking.

High Heeled Mama said...

I have to admit to being new to the blogosphere and was not in attendence at Blogher. As a former PR and Media Relations exec turned stay-at-home mom, this has been a fascinating discussion to follow and I thought I might add a thought or two.

I think there is a fear of the unknown for many clients. I found that most PR efforts were really measured on their media outreach -- sure, an important aspect, but not always the most important or even most relevant. Oftentimes, success was measured by the size of the clip book and audience reached. Targeting and reaching unique and diverse perspectives doesn't always result in high audience figures. And sometimes a client balks when they encounter an outlet they don't recognize, even if it is the most appropriate to reaching their target audience.

It will take voices like yours to continue educating clients and your PR peers alike to take a step back and really deliver your messages to the right audience, not necessarily the largest audience.

Busy Mom said...

You're right, there are blogs and bloggers with influence that traditional metrics can't measure.

I wonder if there'll ever be a way to quantify it for your clients so they'll "get it", too.

Thanks for your efforts.

Glennia said...

I'm one of the Kimchi Mamas, and I'm puzzled by why marketers think we are so difficult to market to, or write us off as a niche. We blog about, as you stated, a huge variety of topics, from racism and cultural stereotyping to Korean pop stars to parenting children whose ethnic identity is different from our own. The part that is overlooked, I think, is that we are mostly Korean-Americans, with the emphasis on that part after the hyphen. As Americans (and Canadians and one resident of France), we are concerned about the same issues as everyone else, and buy much the same products as everyone else. I would hazard to guess that our readership would be more likely to listen to what we have to say, and engage in meaningful dialogue with us than other more popular blogs, simply because we share that commonality of cultural experience.