If you need evidence that the PR community is adopting blogger outreach en masse, look no further than a group of mom bloggers who have declared they need a weeklong break from PR pitches. MomDot, an online community for mom bloggers, has announced a PR Blackout for the week of August 10, asking that moms who blog not review products or discuss pitches they’ve received in blog posts to be written that week. “Mom bloggers are simply doing too much,” says the site’s founder, Trisha Haas. “While we adore many of our fabulous PR reps and treat them like bloggy friends, our site, and many others, are inundated with hundreds, if not thousands, of product requests each year.”
What makes this remarkable? It was not so long ago that a great many PR professionals found the prospect of blogger outreach too intimidating to contemplate. “Bloggers aren’t accountable to editors, so what happens when they lambast my company without checking facts or giving us an opportunity to respond?” the thinking went. Obviously, that has changed. Many PR professionals have developed strong relationships with bloggers in their target communities, and those relationships have led to coverage on influential blogs. Now comes a Newsweek piece published online yesterday that paints mom bloggers as primarily interested in product freebies and free travel. We’ve discussed here before that the Federal Trade Commission seems more concerned about blogger payola than journalists writing about the same products provided to them free of charge for their review. (Side note: Cision last year published a tip sheet for PR pros on how to engage mom bloggers effectively and responsibly. )
To be sure, mom bloggers wield real influence, regardless of whether they serve as “the gatekeepers to a female segment that spends about $2 trillion a year for their families,” as the Newsweek story says. That’s why there’s such a ruckus about whether they’re inappropriately influenced by receiving a lot of free products in the mail, and why they’re inundated with PR pitches.
Don’t misundertand: if you’re sending out expensive products to bloggers (not just mom bloggers) for review, you’re better off asking that they be returned, to avoid the appearance of impropriety. At the same time, communications professionals wouldn’t be so interested in connecting with bloggers if there were any truth to the perception that somehow blogging is dead. Nor would these issues be attracting the attention of government regulators. The question remains, does a journalism degree make a tech reporter with a desk full of freebie gadgets more impartial than a mom blogger testing out a free stroller? Also, how can PR pros engage with bloggers in ways that avoid the kind of burnout that inspired the MomDot challenge? Mom bloggers, we would love to hear from you on this. And if you’re a PR professional, please take a moment to take our quiz below.