One of my first projects as a public relations professional fresh out of college was to work on an account that sold a product whose target demographics were women or the party planner of the family. One of their goals with media outreach was to get their product into the hands of bloggers who would review and give away their product to their readers. I worked closely with multiple bloggers, many of which you could refer to as “mommy bloggers” and gained a lot of knowledge very quickly about how they operated.
It is because of this experience that I will say the ‘mommy blog’ is dead or at least on its death bed… but that doesn’t mean they have disappeared completely. Like most things that work well for a few people, the mommy blogs have been overrun with impersonators and individuals trying to make a quick buck or find and try new products for free. Are all of them this way? Of course not. Those who started this endeavor early, as an outlet for their experiences as a mom, genuinely wrote about products they used and how it made their life easier. They were true journalists, and advocates of the stay at home or working mom – but very few of them still exist.
The problem is the vast majority of them have ruined it for the few. In general, I have had pleasant experiences with the people who run mommy blogs. It goes something like this: I send them a pitch about a product that would speak to their audience. They would reply, sometimes quickly and sometimes not, requesting a sample and possibly a gift card for a giveaway, which I would promptly send. Upon receiving it, the author then writes a great post about the product and offers up a prize to one of their readers. It all goes well; the client is happy and all of the readers of the blog begin to buy the reviewed product. That is how it all happens… except when it doesn’t.
During my time pitching products to mommy bloggers I have run across nearly every kind you could imagine. There are the coupon queens – always posting about great deals on products and full of competitions and giveaways. There are also the ones who don’t use spellcheck. There are even those who talk exclusively about all of the fun (and not so fun) things they do with their kids and families. I have had products taken and not written about (or returned), I have received written reviews which were word for word what I sent them in the pitch (which is great because we wrote that pitch with SEO in mind), and I have even had blogs that looked promising disappear altogether after sending the product.
There was once a time when one could look to mommy bloggers as influencers who had important thoughts about products they used with their kids and wanted to share with other parents. That time has passed. We no longer know if the thoughts that these bloggers have are indeed based on a great experience they had and wanted to share with the world. Instead, it could just as easily be them saying that since ‘my blog is the only source of income I have,’ I will let leading product companies pay a decent amount of money to have a review written (which, most of the time, they write themselves). Just so we’re clear, that is an advertisement, not journalism.
Regardless of whether it is a mommy blogger or a news website that writes and reviews the newest and coolest technology, what matters is how influential the author is and how they use that influence to move their audience to take action by writing their thoughts online, through blogs, websites, and social media. In the end, it all comes down to sales for the client. We as PR professionals must be able to distinguish between the influencers and the imposters to ensure that the product is catching the eye of an audience who will be apt to take action.