Letters to Publicists Articles

A Very Real Question For Publicists And For Nestle

02.7.10

It’s not a secret, I have an uneasy relationship with publicists. Oh, except one. Stephanie. I have a terrible relationship with food manufacturers, I really wish y’all would too. Food growers, particularly organic ones, they’re kinda hawt, and we have a good relationship… rumor has it we might kiss one day.

On the 5th I briefly noted that Nestle is in search of a public relations firm who can help them with the most recent backlash regarding their ill fated Mommy Hawking event.  Stephanie addressed my disdain with a really thoughtful comment.

Hiring a PR firm is exactly what they should do–assuming their intent is not to dissemble and spin but to get some counsel on how to repair their reputation through honest bridge-building with their consumers, critics and any other stakeholders important to them.

Oh really? I never really thought of it that way. My take was, and we will see if it still is, that Nestle needs a business plan and not a public relations plan. To be fair, I’m a Mommy Blogger so my exposure to the world of Public Relations comes in the form of emails that start with, “Dear Mommy Blogger.” and ends with “I’d like to send you a sample to review.” Oh, I’m also invited out a lot. You don’t’ see a lot of reviews here, and you don’t see a lot of sponsored events. I’m not as PR friendly as some, so perhaps that’s why I’m left not understand why anyone would go to Nestle Headquarters.

Here’s the event. I know it looked like fun, candy is fun, but hard questions were certainly not asked.

More check-ins at Nestle Headquarters
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Nestle isn’t good in my community. It’s substandard food, made with cheap ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated gloop. Were it not for their foray into social media I’d never mention them, they’d be off my radar as just one more junk food brand that doesn’t belong in my house. I don’t consider myself part of their formal boycott, because even if Nestle complied with the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes they still don’t have a product that appeals to me. If predictions are based on history, it’s unlikely that Nestle will comply any time soon.

With all that being said Nestle jumped into the virtual community of Mommy Hawking, and, well, here we are.

I have a few questions I’d like answered. I’d love to hear from publicists about this. I’m trying to understand how all of this matters. I know as a Mom I chose my brands with great care. I try to not bring things into my home that will harm my children. I don’t understand Public Relations, and I think this is a great moment for us all to learn something. Most of us bloggers only know Public Relations through press releases, spin and parties. What else is there?

If you’re a publicist would you mind answering any or all of these questions for us?

1. Do publicists help businesses shape a businesses marketing practices or simply react to what is out there?
2. When there is a thirty year boycott how does a PR firm address it?
3. Should a thirty year boycott even be addressed? Obviously Nestle makes plenty of money.
4. Is there ever a client you simply do not want?

I’m going to offer something unusual here. If you are a publicist, you may answer these questions in the comments and remain anonymous. Make up an email address, make up a name, or just write “publicist trying to keep my job” I don’t care. I moderate the first few comments anyone leaves here, and I’ll send through anonymous comments on just this one post.

I really do want to hear from you.

I Know You Hate It When I Do This

08.13.09

But I’ve got to rant a little more about Mommy Blogging.

I love being a Mommy Blogger. I love that I’m a mother and I can only see the world through a mother’s eyes. I suppose I could try to change that if I thought it was broken and needed changing.

There is a new breed of blogger. They call themselves review bloggers. I call it a splog. Spam + blog = splog. I know it will infuriate people, and I know that they have value, but they don’t have value to me.

What’s sad about the blogging community is that the barrier of entry is set so low. All you need is internet access. There’s no guarantee that a blogger is educated, literate, or even that they’re a real person.

Pages and pages of reviewing products is fine. Just please refrain from calling these Mommy Blogs. There is a wonderful community of women who talk about mothering and daily life without having a big box store behind them. My blogroll is pathetic, but I’m adding 2-3 people a day until I get caught up.

If you want incredible edgy writers (many of the non mom community) check out this site. If you’re a publicist looking to build a massive number of links or if you’re wondering what the worst big box store would like you think then you should continue reading the mom blogs that seem to find themselves in the news.

There is room for PR inside a mom blog, but first make sure it’s a mom blog and not just a bunch of press releases with a few baby pictures tucked inside.

The women with the real influence didn’t need to worry about their relationships with publicists. I dare you, go ask Rebecca if she cares. Methinks not.

The FTC And Mommy Bloggers: Tech Talk Tuesday

05.19.09

I’d planned a post about E911 and the need to keep your land line. But today’s headlines have me changing course.

BusinessWeek wrote a short article about the “influence” that’s both paid, and unpaid in the blogging world. Naturally, they focused on the Mommy Blogging World, and naturally they focused on Jessica Smith. There is an 86 page PDF on the site that serves as proposed guidelines to bloggers. I recommend reading the PDF and then taking the the article as commentary.

Jessica Smith puts herself out there. She was one of the original Wal Mart Eleven Moms (I forgive her for that), she’s accepted a Ford for a year after writing a very complimentary review of their car, and she has been paid by just about every company a Mommy Blogger would hope to woo. I want to tell you two things about Jessica.

Jessica Smith isn’t a Mommy Blogger. I’ve scoured Jessica’s site and I can’t find anywhere that she calls herself a Mommy Blogger. Jessica refers to herself as a PR person and a marketer, and I totally respect her as such. Jessica has a blog. But a Mommy Blogger? No, is she a friend of the Mommy Bloggers? Yes. Jessica Smith might be the best friend a Mommy Blogger has. She’s a Mom and she’s a marketer with a blog that appears to be well compensated.

Secondly, within this space I’d consider Jessica Smith a friend. We’ve certainly had our go-rounds, but from my perspective she is completely up front and just working hard to support her own lifestyle. Jessica often recruits Mom Bloggers for paid work. I respect that. She’s introduced me to some pretty terrific women, and her reputation is stellar. She’s an honest woman. I give you honesty and demand it from the people in my life. Honest is good.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking to make some changes. According to these documents the the FTC will be attempting to hold bloggers to some of the journalistic standards that real journalists are held to. If the FTC has it’s way there will be no more eczema cures from hand creams or reviews of car seats that magically appear at people’s homes. I welcome this change.

I’m pitched every day. I have a filter set up for press releases, and for the most part I file them away, never to be seen again. I have a few publicists I’m happy to hear from. There’s one lady out of New York that always has a great small business to introduce me to. I desperately want to point y’all to small businesses and organic practices. I typically keep reviews or mentions of specific products off this blog, I write at a number of other places, and I like to keep my reviews there, where I’m paid, so I don’t have to worry about the messiness of accepting free crap, I can simply write.

Would I accept a laptop from Microsoft (as others have)? Maybe, if I needed one. Let’s be clear though, the price of free is high. Is my blog now a Microsoft Sponsored blog? Do you care what I have to say about a product if it’s been given to me? What if my policy is to only write nice reviews? How would I be taxed on that “free” laptop?

My promise to you is to be honest when I talk about a product. If it is given to me, I will tell you. Things do not just appear in my home. It is not acceptable (in my mind) for a blogger to say, “Occasionally I enjoy featuring something that I really like (sometimes it’s given to me, sometimes I buy it myself).

I’m not the one making the rules. I love the blogosphere, I love that we’re writing the rules as we go along. Publicists will need to be more careful, perhaps asking bloggers for free reviews and then giving them eight pages of “product detail” will cease to be the norm. I doubt it.  As one of my favorite publicists once said, “there are legions of 23 year olds in fake Louboutins screwing this up for everyone.”

I’m sad for Jessica that she’s once again being held up as the standard of a blogger on the take. I could easily direct you to a dozen “mommy blogs” that call themselves Mommy Bloggers and haven’t a lick of original (or literate) content. I’m not really into giving them traffic though.

The advertising firms and the PR firms will need to choose their bloggers wisely. Thus far, the selections have been mind-boggling. I’d rather have no mention of me than a mention from ____.  I’ll give you a hint, the lists suck. I’m just going to grab a handful of popcorn, sit back, and watch the show.

Social Media Meltdown

03.24.09

The email begins with, “I’m working for _____ and I’d love you to talk about ____ movie.”

I reply with a “sure, send a screener or give me a date to show up at the movie”

Punch line. There are no screeners, there is no screening. There is a link where I can purchase tickets.

Stop.

If there’s a budget to hire a publicist, then there’s a budget to send me a movie ticket. This is just the last in a long stretch of “if you do this then maybe there will be a paid gig somewhere down the line for you” phone calls.

I will absolutely never review another product, movie, video game or article of clothing on these pages without being compensated.

Ever.

I don’t care if it’s the end of parties, swag or conferences. I’ll continue writing and I’ll continue taking advertisers, but if you’re looking for a Mommy Blogger to write about your shit… pay me, or go away.

I drive a new BMW, wear couture mixed with thrift store finds, I’m active in my community both in person and online, my reach is huge.
Congratulations, public relations, your collective ineptitude has kicked your asses out of my space.

Skiing and Living With Neither Fear Nor Helmets

03.20.09
30 years ago - Younger than my daugher is now

30 years ago - Younger than my daugher is now

Today there is finger wagging. Natasha Richardson should have gone to the hospital/worn a helmet/stayed at home/wrapped herself in bubble wrap. Today ski helmet sales are soaring, and well intentioned mothers are swaddling their tweens in bubble wrap, lest they tumble and fall. Helmet manufacturers are salivating, but they can’t market to you or it’d appear predatory at best, and ghoulish at worst.

It was a freak accident, she could have just as easily tripped on an evening gown and hit her head on a fire hydrant. My understanding is that Natasha Richardson had an unremarkable fall.

Really bad luck.

My kids wear a helmet when they ski. I do not. I’ve skied since I could walk, and it’s one of a very few things that I know I do well. I ski like I write, I’m fearless and I manage to make a few small leaps and if I lead with my hips I can avoid most hazards.

The few (blissful) times I’ve hut skied, I was required to wear a helmet. I wore a helmet when the ski patrol took me out of bounds on one of our recent trips (dude, I’ve got your back, I’ll never tell who you are). If they’d insisted I wear a tutu, I would have complied. I hated the helmet.

I love the sound of my skis carving into the snow. I love the wind blowing in my hair. I love being a teensy bit cold. I love not being able to see my feet in the powder and the ache in my thighs matching the burn in my lungs. I ski long runs, mostly black diamond, mostly flat and I seldom jump anymore. The reality is that skiing has a very low injury rate, less than one half of one percent.l1070586I no longer own skis and I traded in the 185’s to rent 160’s.

I want to tell you that in the wake of this terrible tragedy I’ll wear a helmet. I can’t do that. It’s not because wearing a helmet isn’t the smart thing to do. It’s not because I didn’t think about wearing a helmet after Sonny Bono died (even though he killed spring break in Palm Springs). I contemplated it even longer after William Kennedy died.

I still skiied without one all those years.

One thing I’ve vowed to be in this space is honest. I may not be literate, balanced, kind, sensible or fair, but I will be honest.

In all honesty, I won’t be wearing a helmet any time soon. There are a lot of things I do that are much more dangerous than skiing. There’s more than a little marketing on the evening news.

Related posts:
Skiing in 2007
Skiing in 2009

Dear Publicists: Yeah, that was me

03.16.09

Okay PR people I’m talking to you.

The big boys just gave the PR Agencies Are Dead talk at SXSW and I wasn’t there. I was home, in my bunny slippers waiting with baited breath for an invitation from you to a swanky party.

Actually I’m not.

I’m probably making beds, washing dogs, playing with kids or at tennis. I’m probably a little less online than you’d expect and infinitely less beholden to you than you’d like. Mostly it’s because I have no clue what Public Relations is. It makes no sense to me.

I loved that Quaker sponsored my inauguration party, I adore Dreamworks giving me a morning with my son that he’ll remember in 50 years, I even appreciate that Johnson and Johnson’s complete ineptitude made me into a blogger that people listen to. So thanks, and yes, I know I shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition.

What happens is this. Publicists and bloggers alike refer to one another as people they “work with”. I’m new to this space. I’ve been a webmaster for 10+ years, but I’ve only had this blog for seven months, it’s new. When you buy me dinner, does that mean I’ve “worked with you”? In my mind we’ve just gotten a little boozy.

In ten years of consulting with small to midsize businesses I’ve told them (mostly women) one thing over and over again.

Either have money boundaries or get out of business.

When I had online retail stores, having money boundaries meant not allowing friends to “shop” in my home. If they wanted something they could buy it online. Why? Because my friendship wasn’t about to dissolve over a pair of $300 shoes or a $25 tee shirt. I never gave discounts to anyone, and when discounting was the only way to stay in business, I got out.

Publishing is my business.

I didn’t really think much about blogging before last November. I knew that I wanted to have a blog with my name on it, and I wanted to be open and honest. I wanted to talk about parenting and bikini waxing, farting and show you my Mom’s pictures. All that changed in November with Motrin, and then in December I was off to Consumer Reports and by January every PR firm in town was emailing, saying “We want to work with you.”

I still don’t know what PR is. I know what marketing is, I know science, I know parenting, I know sustainability and I know what moves people. I also know that work is paid, volunteering is free.

So can someone, just one publicist please tell me how we’ve worked together?

Make up an email address for the comments, stay anonymous, because this is a question I’d like answered.

The Motrin Mom Wave: It’s Not a Tsunami

11.18.08

The Motrin Moms are everywhere.

It’s not what I’d intended, nor what I’d hoped for, but I do think it’s a reasonable outcome. It’s not for the reasons you might imagine.

This is a wave and not a tsunami. The Ad was the wind and the mommies gathered steam. As we came crashing onto the shore, there was foam and whitewash (the site went dead for several hours) and then it all receded.

An apology was posted online, and it was an authentic one too. The message has been criticized as “not good enough” I suspect it’s Ms. Widmer’s voice, and it was reasonably swift, but will still be picked apart.

marketing_message

Every beach kid knows that waves come in sets. Unfortunately, yesterday’s wave had me (and other Motrin Moms) being called hideous names by all the usual suspects. Fortunately none of those are voices I’m courting, they didn’t matter and I don’t care.

Today’s wave is the third and largest of the set. I assure you it won’t knock me off of my feet. I grew up on the beach and I know the tide, I’m standing sideways, like my mother taught me to. This wave will pass me by and I’d urge everyone to hold their breath and get splashed. Trying to swim against the largest waves in the ocean will only drown you.

Today is the day when the other women come out and call me silly. Ladies, I will not fight with you. The hate mail has turned dismissive. I’m “ridiculous” because this isn’t an issue worth an argument.

It is.

The more I speak, the less you listen. So I’m whispering now. I’m not doing the Mommy Wars. I won’t have it and I won’t feed the machine. Because the real Tsunami, the only thing that could knock me off my feet is if I engage in the most ridiculous of all arguments. And that’s where this is headed.

Did Motrin really need to take the ad down?

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Blame Me For Motrin Moms

11.16.08

Earlier today I got a tweet to check out an advertisement by Motrin.com. I did. I was furious and I asked the other mommies on Twitter to talk about why they’d never again use Motrin.

Here’s the tweet

The First #MotrinMoms Tweet

The First #MotrinMoms Tweet

A few hours and two thousand tweets later MotrinMoms is the #1 search on Twitter, eclipsing SNL for the first time since Obama was elected.

Follow me on Twitter, and if you’re looking for more on the #MotrinMoms story do send me an email. I’m the mommy with the hashtag on the left.

Jessica Gottlieb can be found at onlineauthor at gmail dot com.

Watch the video here!

Hat tip to Beth for the transcription.

Mommy Blogging and Social Media: Stumble Upon This!

09.15.08

I have the incredible privilege of contributing at the LA Moms Blog. Trust me, I know that there are other cooperative blog groups for women. Some of which would more accurately portray my positions (Republicans who aren’t WASPs but do drink before noon). For now I’ll have to hang out with a group of women who are ridiculously accomplished both in their homes and in their communities.

Every so often I ask The Mommies for a Stumble.

Cuz seriously folks, I’m writing some good crap stuff here. I’m giving away silk shirts and standing on my soccer soapbox, and throwing the entire Palin clan under the bus. Yeah, I’m a giver.

So, who cares what I’ve written? My husband? Maybe my mother and certainly my brother, but only because he’s laughing at me for loving Microfiber.

Lots of people care about what I’ve written, but the real secret is that those people don’t love every post. People need to be directed to the posts and that’s what Stumble Upon is good for.

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Promoting Your Product in Three Easy Steps: Email, Send, Pimp

09.12.08

It starts like this. There’s an email that includes, “I noticed you write at Celsias and Green Options (interesting National Lampoon does nothing for them). My client has a new product that is going to save us from ourselves. Can I send it to you/you the press release.”

With some regularity the answer is yes, I write a review, and send the PR person a link to the review.

They say, “Thank you.” and I never hear from them again.

Bad. Business.

Like any other part of our lives, social media (yes, when you read my blog you are engaged in social media) is about relationships. Facebook, Linked In, Blogs and web pages are all about building relationships.

Make me like you. Here’s how. Use E.S.P. Email, Send, Pimp:

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