May British Mummy Bloggers never need a PR blackout!

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Prblackout Mom Dot's PR blackout challenge has me wondering … how the heck did it come to this?

Trisha, one of the founders of the community, explains: "With the allure of giveaways, reviews, and blog trips, Mom Bloggers have turned from what they love the most, their family, into working directly as public relations for their captive audience. It boils down to knowing your worth and then standing up for it."

I agree that PR has got the best of many mommy blogs and I tend to read the ones rich on content and lean on press releases. That's just my preference.

But as the founder of British Mummy Bloggers and a mummy blogging evangelist myself, I am worried. I feel a bit protective over our growing, supportive, and often naive community.

What can we do to make sure the same thing does not happen here?

Should we have a code of ethics?

Should we all pledge to only run one competition a week (or none at all?)

Should we ignore PR completely when many have genuinely valuable information to pass on?

What are your thoughts ladies … (and gentlemen)? How do we preserve our parent blogging community? Are mums being asked to do too much? Can there be a balance?

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26 Comments

  1. 30/05/2011 / 07:25

    PR blackouts are so silly. Seems like a waste of effort to avoid something that shouldn’t be getting that much of a person’s attention to begin with, if ya ask me.

  2. 06/01/2010 / 12:08

    I wouldn’t blame bloggers for a second if they wanted a black-out year, let alone a day! As a PR and a blogger, it makes me cringe seeing some of the emails that PRs send out and I totally agree with Matts post above. I think its a case of PR’s needing to be made more aware about bloggers, who we are and how best to make contact with us – which is something I build into my Social media training sessions & something I belives PRs are slowly being made more aware of.
    Only yesturday I received a press release about dish washer tablets – needless to say it went straight into the bin! Rosie makes the interesting point of PR’s “expecting bloggers to do their job for nothing” – I think PRs forget that most bloggers are not journalists and we write about what we want, when we want.
    Great Post & Happy New Year πŸ™‚

  3. 19/07/2009 / 21:49

    Interesting post. I’ve started being approached by a few PR companies. I’m happy to run the odd competition but only if I feel the theme is inkeeping with my blog. I’m certainly not going to give anyone any free advertising unless I benefit in some way. These companies should use their marketing budget for that purpose and not expect bloggers to do their job for nothing. It will be interesting to see how the UK blogosphere chamges in the future. I hope it doesn’t become too commercialised.

  4. 19/07/2009 / 21:11

    I have added a meme tag for you on my blog as clearly I think you have nothing better to do!

  5. 19/07/2009 / 14:45

    I remember feeling all giddy at my first PR contact. Now, I take a quick glance and star the ones I’m interested in and bin the ones I’m not. Some PR people (Matt who posted above, for example), take the time to read and, as Little Mummy said, build a relationship. For these people, I will read the whole of their email and will (unless I’m being a forgetful pregnant woman) respond with an answer or request for more information if I am interested. Obviously blanket emails tend to get binned immediately.
    I have also taken it upon myself to contact (publishing) companies directly about running a series of reviews. I’m hoping to build relationships there, too, which will be directly related to my blog and my interests.
    I think there are plenty of ways to go, but I can understand why some Mommy Bloggers are wanting to take a step back. As the approaches get more and more widespread and frequent, it is all to easy to fill up one’s blog with reviews and PR-generated pieces and let drop the funny/interesting/moving pieces that might have been more common (if, indeed, that’s what we were writing in the first place).
    We’re all still finding our feet here (bloggers and PR people alike), so I think we can probably all just keep going on as we are. Thanks to the efforts of people like you, we’ll all gradually find our own individual positions, without having to follow, necessarily, the American way.

  6. 16/07/2009 / 10:52

    I am all against rules. Everyone should do as they please. I am crap at writing reviews, so I don’t do them. But I did enjoy to read Zooarchaeologist’s review on the halo pushchair, for example.
    A review has to be credible. The product has to fit the audience and the blog. And it shouldn’t be one non-stopping praise of the product reviewed. I sometimes get the feeling, that this is not always the case anymore.
    Same for advertising. I had people approaching me to advertise for loans and help with depth management. I am sorry, but did they read a single post?
    What also puts me off are companies that are ultra pushy and fill my inbox with 10 reminders to put up their competition on my blog. No thanks!

  7. 16/07/2009 / 09:58

    Hmmm…not sure about this one as its really hard….now where is my cup of coffee gone….?

  8. 16/07/2009 / 04:33

    What a headache! Bravo to you for tackling this. Sorry, I don’t have the answers but it looks like you are looking ahead and can hopefully avoid some of these nightmares.
    I do like the idea of a code of ethics though.

  9. 15/07/2009 / 23:45

    And I’d like to echo zooarchaeologist. I think you do a great job with all this. It’s a huge undertaking.

  10. 15/07/2009 / 23:41

    Isn’t it just like junk mail, or email spam, or phone calls from call centres? They are an intrusion, and an irritation, but you have a choice how to deal with them. You can ignore them if you like. If you choose to follow them up, then that’s up to you.
    I imagine most bloggers go through the cycle of finding the approaches flattering and fun, to slogging through a few invitations to promote, to being bored and ignoring all but a few juicy ones. I don’t really feel that bloggers need protecting. If someone is happy to give these approaches their time and attention, then what’s wrong with that? Maybe they want to.
    Maybe I’m just embittered because I don’t get that many requests at all!

  11. 15/07/2009 / 23:30

    At the end of the day you start a blog for your own reasons, there will be people who blog because they are passionate about their subject, people who want a place to jot down their daily goings on, people who want to make a living out of it etc.
    But nobody holds a gun to your head and forces you to add content to your blog that you do not want, whether it be PR related releases, reviews, or giveaways.
    Like previous suggestions if you are really anti-it, then put a message up on your blog or do not add in contact details.
    Personally the PR companies that I have dealt with on the whole have been brilliant and very helpful and have seemed geniunely interested in my blogs and where I am going with them and as such I have had no negative experiences to draw conclusions from.
    I think instead of moaning about how annoying PR’s are and starting mini revolutions, individuals should just turn round when contacted and say thanks but no thanks. Also if you find a blog is to content heavy with reviews, press releases, or competitions for you, then do not read it. There are so many blogs to choose from, nobody is forcing you to read that blog!

  12. 15/07/2009 / 22:52

    Ooh I wish I’d read this first before I’d just posted a comp on my site. I have come back after a bit of time off blogging and not realised about this new influx of PR stuff. I have done a crap post today about something irrelevant to wind a computer, because mine is held together with insulation tape and I don’t have the money for a new one. SO please forgive me everyone. But I think it’s a bit like magazines and reminded me of advertorials (you know, the ads that look like features but are actually promotions), as a feature writer, you got paid independently to write it, it was dull as dishwater to write and probably no one read it, but it bought you a few more drinks and meals when your salary was pretty rubbish. RIght now, there are lots of mummy bloggers not working and will do stuff to get free trips/free computers/ free CDs, if you don’t like, don’t read it.
    But I don’t think I would do another one. My blog is just an outlet for me to write. I just did it this time to try get a computer and now I feel a bit of a sell out. As the computer probably doesn’t exist. I feel a bit naive.

  13. 15/07/2009 / 20:37

    It is such a shame that the US Mommy bloggers community feel that a PR blackout is necessary to help them re-assess the content of their blogs, and more importantly, ensure that they do not begin to neglect their families.
    It is also very sad that Cat, an eminent blogger in the community, has felt the need to stop writing altogether: http://3kidsandus.com/2009/my-final-thought/
    To think that PRs, as a collective, have contributed to Cat’s decision, and the action that Trisha has called for, is a sad indictment of the PR industry.
    I empathise with the Mommy blogger’s complaints because as a blogger, I am also subject to pitches, most of which are totally out of sync with the content on my blog, or press releases which means I have somehow ended up on a list somewhere against my wishes.
    I am a by day a PR – I work for Edelman in the UK Social Media team. There are occassions when a client will come to us with a product or an idea that could be relevant to the Mummy bloggers community. The majority of my work involves reading blogs and trying to get to know the communities that form around them, so we consult them and try to speak with the bloggers who we believe it will be of interest to. If in doubt, we will only get in contact to guage interest and by no means will we attach or embed a press release.
    If a blogger we get in contact with does decide to try something, we ask that they disclose it came from us – this preserves their integrity and their readers can choose how to perceive the post.
    We try to help our clients add value to the communities who they want to interact with and will have a genuine interest in what the client is offering. We don’t aimlessly send out press releases to forty names on a list, and follow up with a pushy e-mail the following day.
    There is a large task in trying to help educate fellow practitioners that the old way of communication needs to change. But this will take time.
    We have to build relationships and understand what a blogger wants, and what a blogger’s readers want; we are learning all the time.
    I read Erica’s post (http://www.littlemummy.com/2009/07/15/suggested-code-of-practice-for-prs/) before commenting here, and her last point is something that pushy PRs, bloggers who feel compelled to write about a PR-driven product and even those who don’t, should have engrained on their keyboards:
    “it’s my blog and I’ll put up whatever I bloody well want”.

  14. 15/07/2009 / 20:23

    Hello, Susanna, I had some problem getting into your comment section yesterday. I would be honoured if you would post anything I write on the site you mentioned. Just let me know what I have to do. Thanks for visiting me and for your kind and valuable feedback.

  15. 15/07/2009 / 13:24

    Ooops, toddler pushed send before I finished!!
    I would agree with Karin and Zooarcheologist that there is a fair bit of unpleasant competition amongst bloggers and PR firms are obviously feeding on that. As is often said, you can not change other people, you can only change yourself. Its up to us as writers to collectively or individually change the way we respond to the PR firms, and then we can only hope for change from them…

  16. 15/07/2009 / 13:05

    Interesting debate.
    For me personally, the answer is quite simple. I do not respond to PR requests. I do not do reviews (other than the occasional thumbs up or down of something I bought). I do not accept advertising. While I am not going to go down the keri smith/ http://www.adfreeblog.org/ route, I do feel that for me, that kind of content would devalue what I am trying to do.
    However, I enjoy reading other people’s product reviews. I like giveaways (though rarely enter) and I believe it is each to their own. I do not read blogs filled to the brim with those kind of posts, but others do.

  17. 15/07/2009 / 12:17

    I’ve written my own response to this post today. It pretty much follows what Blogger Dad says, it’s a case of having your own standards and sticking to them.

  18. 15/07/2009 / 12:14

    I’ve written of my own annoyance with ill conceived product pitches many times. The fact is that many companies feel that giving someone free crap is a great way to get some cheap word-of-mouth advertising. It’s marketing 101, really. And as long as there are people who want free crap and bloggers willing to shill in exchange for trinkets, then this will go on and on.
    I really don’t have a beef with bloggers or PR companies who want to get into bed together. There IS a market out there and one person’s crap is another’s gold. My only complaint is when PR people pitch me as if they know me then proceed to present me with stuff which is not geared towards my blog in any way.
    No PR blackout is necessary. Just set up your own conditions, make them well known, and you can play the game by your rules and keep your integrity intact.

  19. 15/07/2009 / 11:51

    I think that’s a really intersting issue Susanna. Having read the original post you linked to on this, I can totally see where they’re coming from about getting back to basics and ignoring some of the white noise that comes your way as a blogger. But I’m not sure that such a radical approach is necessary over here; not just yet, anyway.
    As has been frequently mentioned, whilst we are getting more professional about blogging over here, we’re still some way off the uber-mummy-blogging culture that seems to be more prevalent in the US, and certainly I haven’t come across that many blogs here that are completely centered on pr-led activity. (But then perhaps I’m just ruthless about the blogs that make it onto my blog-roll).
    Having said that, I suspect that that is more because of the filtering process many bloggers use rather than that they don’t have the opportunity to run a pr-piece every single day if they wanted to. I certainly get a whole load of stuff into my inbox that I just ignore, in addition to the odd story that I do actually use. The ones that do make the cut are the ones that interest me or are relevant to my life or blog, so hopefully are actually adding something to what I write. And of course, as Linda says, that’s just what my take on what my blog should be: to each their own.
    So I’m not sure that we need a pr-blackout just yet, but it’s certainly something to bear in mind for the future – and hopefully then it will never get that far. Maybe this is one instance when we can learn by other’s (i.e. the US bloggers) experiences?

  20. 15/07/2009 / 11:49

    Oh I dunno about this one (sigh). Its really hard, I enjoy doing the reviews and stuff as I feel it expands my writing style a bit which is a challenge for me. Its also great to get free stuff as it saves us having to buy things and money is tight around these parts. Therein, though, im not innundated with things.
    I have to admit that im finding the whole mummy blog thing is going a bit too professional for me. I nearly packed it in altogether last week and if there was a code of ethics, I for one would leave BMB and carry on doing my own thing regardless. Its not supposed to be work like, its supposed to be fun.
    If anyone is unhappy with the PR stuff, well take your contact details off your blog and ignore them/use your spam filters.
    I think the sense of community with BMB is great, but lets all make more use of the forums and groups and the support side of it all. I think I should say that I think that Susanna you do a great job with it all.
    Just my little tuppence πŸ™‚

  21. 15/07/2009 / 11:45

    Good read πŸ™‚ I get a lot of emails from PRs, but they actually account for less than 10% of the content as I prefer to source my own content. A number of similar US sites are the same and in recent months, the number of PR initiated stuff has dwindled and I haven’t run any comps for a while, which turns out to be fortunate as there has been a bit of an explosion. When I do run comps, invariably most are directly with retailers or designers and they are very specific to my content and audience.
    I am with Linda and Tara – it’s very much different strokes for different folks and there has been a hell of a lot of assuming being done. I earn my living from blogging and my business isn’t driven by receiving freebies or by writing about my personal parenting experiences. I’m driven by a love of shopping, design, and relationships and when something that I found out about via a press release is appropriate, I write about it. If it’s not, I don’t, end of. I have a reviews section, a disclosure page, and have communicated directly with PRs, retailers and brand owners about how I do and don’t work, and this has proved to be the most effective for me as it makes it personal and let’s me get on with doing what I enjoy. Code of ethics? Well there are certain ethics already expected in blogging – if you are paid to write about something it must be a ‘sponsored post’ and you should only call something a review if you have actually tested and used it. But it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few months as there is bound to be a bit of a virtual shake up!

  22. 15/07/2009 / 11:21

    Tara, as ever, talks complete sense. As someone who has featured a giveaway on her blog and was invited on a trip to Disney, I must admit I bristled a little when reading the excerpt that seems to suggest I have turned from writing about what I love the most to doing a PR’s job for them. As it happens, I don’t write about my own experiences that often – and it’s these sorts of assumptions that wind me up on all “sides” – I now blog about family holidays – that is a specified area and readers of my blog welcome this because of the quality of the information provided – and I have been delighted to have had the fantastic feedback I have so far and all the brilliant reports from contributors. It states clearly on our blog that some PRs offer us trips and resulting trips are clearly marked as such – posts resulting from them are well-written and informative, from a variety of bloggers. They are not all glowing recommendations. Readers trust us and we would not betray that trust. Coming from the same place-ish as Tara and making a living in the same way, I identify with everything she says. Potentially just as pernicious for me is the now seemingly accepted ‘ranking’ of blogs by PR professionals – I had a sales call last week from an organisation telling me they could sell me information about who are the most influential bloggers in a given sphere. This will be the same potentially piss poor service provided by so-called media databases and it will go out of date very quickly.
    There is content driven by PR on my blog but plenty more suggestions made by PRs are ignored. While I’d like the PR community to treat bloggers with more respect on some occasions as Tara says, I’d also like bloggers to stop making assumptions that what they do, how they blog, when they blog and why they blog is exactly what I do too – any group of mums is very different and so is any group of mum bloggers. I’m not interested in being ranked in any list that a PR is touting as a true representation of what is and isn’t ‘influential’ – perhaps I’d be more interested if they had the courtesy to talk to me before selling information on.

  23. 15/07/2009 / 11:09

    I haven’t had the “inundation” that Sticky Fingers has had and have personally really enjoyed the experiences that I have had. My newest challenge is writing for MadeForMums with reviews which doesn’t go in my blog but on their site directly (and I’m paid). My blogging and limited PR interaction has made a dream of mine come true…writing for enjoyment, for a bit of fun and for a small bit of reward. I’m getting some things for our family that we couldn’t have in this economy and I’m not selling myself out for just anything. I think the blogging world is a bit too competitive anyway…everyone trying to get the most hits, visitors, stats, whathaveyou…it’s a bit like school again. I’m definitely not the most popular but that’s not my goal. I enjoy the limited PR work I have gotten and it’s all because of BMB so I say thank you and vow that I will not sell myself out. I too have a Product Reviews page on my site but I tend to blog first about something if I’m quite passionate about it. Those reviews are a lot different than the “paid” ones. I don’t think I have to worry like some site authors do and in the meantime, I’m quite enjoying the writing and rewards that are coming my way. πŸ™‚ So, thank you!

  24. 15/07/2009 / 11:02

    It’s a tough one. I honestly don’t know how the blogs that only run comps, giveways, etc survive (I’m not talking about the occasional one, but the blogs that are littered with them). But if they can sustain a readership … why not? It takes all kinds.

  25. 15/07/2009 / 10:53

    Aye aye aye, I think that’s a really tough one.
    I am inundated with PR pitches at the moment (I don’t honestly know what I’ve done to get so many) – everything from books for teens (I have two children under 7), hairdressers in London (I live in the Midlands), music CDs (have I ever blogged about music?) and now I even just get sent general press releases. It’s like I never left the newsroom I worked in all those years!
    I can totally understand the PR blackout idea. It does get very irritating when
    a. You get offered something every other British blogger seems to be offered, so diluting yours and their effectiveness
    b. when you do return an email to say yes you’re interested, you never hear from them again.
    c. you do something for them (write a post, submit a proposal etc), using up your precious time, and you never hear from them again because they’ve moved onto another account or they aren’t dealing with that client any more.
    Very Very Very irritating.
    I’ve thought about writing something on this myself, but in the end I can’t be bothered!
    it’s the lack of respect that annoys me the most. And do you know what? These PRs were just the same when I worked on newspapers as they are now. And it was just as irritating then.
    Which is very difficult for me to say as I have now set myself up as a PR! (I don’t behave like this I hasten to add).
    I really don’t know what the answer is. Personally I’ve set up a ‘reviews’ section on my blog in which to include personal reviews of stuff I have used or seen anyway and stuff I am sent which I can then make clear has been sent through a PR company.
    Personally, my guage has always been, if I’m not interested in it then I won’t write about. I launched this blog for me. The fact that I have visitors and people comment is absolutely great, but I’m not writing to keep them coming back, I’m writing it for myself.
    Until PR companies realise that they need to actually engage with parenting bloggers and ASK what is expected and what is not (I have done this sort of consulting a couple of times myself and the difference is amazing) things will not change.
    And you and I will still be ranting and raving over the latest pitch which reads: “I think your readers will really love to read about our wonderful new product.” Bleurgh!
    And relax . . . .