(Disclaimer: This is not a post about parenting. I put on my professional hat for this one. I did however, do a recap of all the recaps that my fellow dad bloggers published regarding the recent Dad 2.0 Summit, which was the inspiration for this post. So if you want dad content, scroll all the way down!)
The two words: About and Behalf.
Now that I gave you what you came for, let's slow down to uncover why these words are so crucial.
Most of you know that I am a dad blogger (well, you do now). Some of you know that I also work in the PR industry as a digital strategist. This dual citizenship on both sides of the influencer marketing equation has served me quite well in my career. I can provide clients with the "real deal" on how to work with bloggers, and the blogging community knows that they have an advocate on the inside. Kind of like insider trading without the orange jumpsuit.
But with great access comes great responsibility. I'm privy to the frustrations that my industry peers have toward bloggers, but I am just as attuned to the pet peeves that bloggers have against agency and brand folks. I cringe a lot in my day to day, is what I'm saying.
I was recently afforded the opportunity to do something to alleviate this cringing when the organizers of the Dad 2.0 Summit approved my panel idea: The Secrets of PR...Revealed! I wanted to bring this panel together to help bloggers and brands better understand the inner workings of both sides. To help me with the proverbial mile in each others' shoes were my co-panelists Barbara Jones, founder of the One2One network, Justin Aclin from Hunter PR, and Beau Coffron of Lunchbox Dad.
I want to share with you one of the main takeaways that I hoped everyone in the room walked away with, because I have seen the lightbulbs of sudden understanding go off whenever I have explained this to PR peers and blogger brethren alike. Opposing sides have laid down their arms and extinguished torches, replacing the acrid scent of strife with lavender cucumber seaside breezes. Yes, this has happened and you cannot prove that it hasn't.
To do this, I'm going to kick it dad-style. I'm going to sit you agency and brand folks on one side of me, and you blogger influencer types on the other. And I'm going to be doing a lot of finger wagging. I understand that both sides may get their feelings hurt a little bit as I do this, but believe me it is for your own good. For our own good. And I wish I could say this hurts me more than it hurts you, but it doesn't. I actually take much pleasure in doing this because it's been a long time coming.
BLOGGERS: I know you feel like you are the center of the world, but you aren't. You are a small piece of the marketing equation. But more important than that, you exist in an ecosystem we call media. You may not like that, and it may not be fair nor accurate, but that's the reality in which you exist. I know that as a blogger, you aren't the same thing as a news outlet, because you are a storyteller, you are driven by passion and your job is not to cover the news. You don't even have to be objective. You are allowed and even expected to have opinions and passions and biases. The "media" does not have this luxury. I know this. I feel you. But to a brand, you are an outlet that creates content and has an audience, just like People magazine or USA Today or Yahoo Food. Before I get to my main point, I'm going to turn now to the other side.
BRANDS/AGENCIES: Bloggers are not just waiting in the wings for content inspiration from you. They are not seeking breaking news like your traditional media contacts might be. Bloggers don't "need" news to thrive. They are not reporting on anything. It is not in fact their job at all. They are regular folks who have somehow managed to parlay their talent for storytelling or content creation to attract an audience that is highly valuable to you, and they owe you nothing. They put a lot of work into developing compelling content and cultivating an audience that trusts and likes them. Everything you value about them is something they have invested time, energy and money in. Whenever they work with you, in other words, they are doing you a favor. It is your privilege, not theirs.
BLOGGERS: When you get pitched a product or a story, relax. This is not some conspiracy to exploit you to work for free. In the marketing/PR world there are multiple activities going on simultaneously when we are promoting something. One of them is pitching. This began way before the internet and will be a part of the equation pretty much for infinity. This is what we call earned coverage and it's earned because the PR person is essentially selling an idea that they hope is newsworthy enough for a media outlet to cover. Because you are considered media, you may also get pitched. PR folks are offering Bon Appetit magazine the same thing they are offering you when they pitch: $0. But wait, what about bloggers who get paid? I'm going to explain this after I turn to the brands and agencies to say something.
BRANDS/AGENCIES: Do not, do not, do not ever get pitching something about your brand confused with proposing content on behalf of your brand. I just made a lot of progress on the other side explaining what pitching is all about. I know it's real tempting to turn everything into a "pitch" but there is nothing that will shred your credibility more than abusing that privilege. When you pitch, you are offering up information or news and it stops there. If you want to offer product where applicable, that's ok too. The important thing is you are providing fodder in hopes of triggering interest from the blogger. You are not dictating or suggesting how, when, where or what they do with it. You are hoping they will somehow create content about your brand. The second you add any stipulations about anything - ANYTHING AT ALL - you have crossed into the territory of content on behalf of your brand. At this point, you are entering into a partnership with a specific output in mind. This is when you are leveraging the blogger's creative talent, audience and ability to weave a positive story for your product to benefit you. This must come with compensation. You are making them work on your behalf. Be a sensible adult about it, you know what that entails ($$$). And no, sorry, "exposure" isn't compensation. Don't you ever let me catch you saying that.
BLOGGERS: For the love of all things digital, please stop trying to "educate" PR people about respecting your worth when you are being pitched something to write about. Nothing makes me facepalm worse than when I see a blogger huff up his chest, go on social media and say how he "schooled" a PR person who tried to pitch a story about their product. You aren't schooling anyone. Most of the time that person you all-caps-rage-replied to isn't even related to the person who is in charge of the paid "on behalf of" content campaign that you are now blacklisted from. Also, please stop charging for reviews. Charge all you want to create content on behalf of a brand, but a review is impartial by nature and if you take compensation, you aren't being impartial. If you have a problem with that, don't review things. Conversely, if you do take money for a project on behalf of a brand, that is NO LONGER a review, and you forfeit your right to trash that brand, even if you hate the product. It is now your job to create something positive for the brand (or bow out of the project). That's the partnership thing. They are respecting your creative talent by paying you, you should reciprocate that respect by doing the job you were paid to do. Clarification: you have the legal right to trash them, but it makes you the guy everybody hates, and rightfully so. On the flipside, the moment a brand or PR person asks you to do anything uncompensated on behalf of the brand by dictating ANY GUIDELINES AT ALL (what medium to post on, what to say, how to say it, what hashtag to use ... anything) you have my complete permission to trash them all you want. I might even RT that ish for you.
BRANDS/AGENCIES: Even when you are paying for content to be made on behalf of your brand, keep your hands off the creative! Make sure you cover all the things that the blogger can and cannot do on the project brief or statement of work, but after that, let them do their thing. You chose them for a reason. If you aren't going to let them do it their way, then you should just buy an ad. That way you can control every detail. The beauty of third party voices is that they understand what makes their followers tick, and they can weave your brand into their story in a way that will resonate best with this audience. The blogger wants this to succeed as much as you do. If their content sucks, they lose their audience. They have as much to lose as you do. And this is where that partnership thing comes in. When they do well, you do well. That's the beauty of the influencer/brand universe - it is a self regulating system.
That felt really good to say. In case you couldn't tell from this post, I love both communities that I am part of. I consider myself so lucky to be a trusted core member of both sides and I take that status dead seriously. I may raise my voice and wag my finger too hard sometimes, but this is out of passion. It is out of the strong belief that this is a game that both sides can win. And if it takes a little tough love every once in a while, well, that's what dads are best at.
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This post is done.
I added the section below to give my fellow dad bloggers some well deserved visibility.These are some of their recaps from the recent Dad 2.0 Summit. Give these guys a read, send them some traffic and, hell, pitch 'em while you're at it.
Recaps from Dad 2.0
- City Dads Group compiled thoughts and reflections from members representing their various chapters. The common denominator: a community that is as close as any, even though we interact 95% of the time online. You can now tell all the people who doubted your AOL chat room friends: TOLD YOU! The internet people are real!
- The founding chapter of City Dads Group, the NYC Dads Group, shared some reflections from their group and it was all about the feeling of inclusion no matter where you fall in the parenting spectrum, as well as a nice opportunity for some “me” time with friends. For me, that involves a tab of some kind.
- Logtar’s Blog talks about his reflections as a first timer at Dad 2.0. As someone who knew these folks before the first one, it is interesting to get the perspective of someone who is brand new to the community I take for granted. Plus: it’s not all about shoving product down your throat like most conferences. Minus: it’s still difficult to integrate into a group when you are a newcomer. Find me next year, Logtar. I have the magic potion: beer.
- Over at Amateur Idiot / Professional Dad, Dave talks about this magical land we call the dad blogger community, and even though the rest of the world furrows their brow when they find out there is a parenting conference devoted dads, we are energized, inspired and motivated by it every single day. He also pays homage to one of our patron saints, Oren Miller, who lost his fight with cancer last year.
- Carter Gaddis is a former journalist, and his job was to write stories. But at Dad 2.0, these stories wrote themselves, as he so eloquently recounts on this post. He also remembers a lot of hugs. He’s not wrong about that.
- Rob Ainbinder - Digital Dad writes from the perspective of a first time attendee, but a longtime member of the dad blogger community. This is a great breakdown of everything that made up this conference, from individuals that he met, to his favorite panels and events. I myself missed the Thu night bourbon party. I wish he wrote about that, because bourbon.
- Ruddy Bits is a dad who saw the dad blogger community as the friends he never had, once he became a parent and couldn’t do happy hour on a moment’s notice with his brick and mortar friends. Finally meeting these “internet people” in real life felt "surreal… and very real.” Couldn’t agree more. Very real has kept me coming back since the first Dad 2.0 5 years ago.
- Instafather reflects upon what football great and Good Morning America host Michael Strahan said in his interview on the Dad 2.0 stage and turns them into takeaways for new dads. I’m really bad at making plot connections in movies, so this was a good post for me. Sometimes I need it handed to me on a plate. Lessons served here.
- Inked Up Dad sums up his Dad 2.0 experience with words that usually are not associated with conferences: honesty, emotion, legacy. And he nails the reason why. We aren’t creating a network, we are are creating friendships. Sorry for the spoiler. It was too good not to say.
- Dig It, Daddy-O went all artistic and wrote a poem. It doesn’t rhyme, which means it was deep. And yup, it was. Nice one!
- Father Nerds Best talks about something I think a lot of dads who blog have experienced: that journey that begins with “none of my friends can relate to my experience as a dad,” then goes to discovering that others who write stuff on the internet are experiencing the same thing, and then realizing that there is a conference for these guys, then drinking bourbon, which leads to the epiphany that we’re all in it to better ourselves and the role of fatherhood.
- Dadapalooza has been to all five Dad 2.0 Summits and sums up the reason: the community. He also manages to weave Oren Miller’s poignant letter to himself that his widow read in front of us, his hello kitty diary and a Shakespeare sonnet into it. Transition master!
- On the recap by Dads Who Change Diapers, that common theme is again echoed: being totally apprehensive at first because who flies to attend a gathering of hundreds of people you only know by their avatars? But like the others, this soon gives way to realizing when you connect with hearts and minds, the “real life” part is just a formality. He also talks about being inspired by keynote speaker Derreck Kayongo to start his own social good campaign for next year’s conference. But he isn’t saying what it is yet, so I can’t spoil it. Foiled!
- And I’m The Dad explains the key takeaways from Dad 2.0 with equations. Never thought that was possible, but leave it to dads to get pythagorean with it!
- Papa Brownie isn’t afraid to admit that Dad 2.0 made him shed a few tears, on more than one, or two, or three occasions. But that’s the community that dad bloggers have. We’ve lost our leaders (the late great Oren Miller), we thrive on inspiration, and we’ll share a virtual or actual beer like old friends anytime.
- A Dad Influence talks about his second Dad 2.0 and took the keynote themes of leaving a legacy and embarking on second act to heart. He’s now going to reinvent himself. Some conferences leave you with cool keychains. Dad 2.0 leaves you with missions.