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What Women Want: Top Bloggers Talk PR, Ethics & the Business of Blogging with 360i

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More than 16 million.

That’s the number of moms who actively participate in the blogosphere each week as either content providers or readers, according to a recent MediaPost Engage:Moms article. And with 67 percent of moms online looking for help in making purchasing decisions, it’s no wonder that marketers and PR professionals are paying more and more attention to this influential community.

At 360i, we believe what links bloggers and brands can (and should) be a transparent and reciprocal value exchange that benefits blogger, marketer and reader. Our team of digital publicists abides to its own Code of Ethics for Blogger & Online Relations, which you can read here (PDF).

But for some of today’s online writers, the lines between blogger and journalist are blurring. The tension regarding this topic has reached fever pitch, with the Federal Trade Commission taking steps to compose a new set of guidelines that seek to make sense of what should count as advertising in the blogosphere. Compound that with the army of bloggers declaring their recent state of “bloggy burnout,” and you’ve got yourself a certifiable hot-button issue.

In light of last week’s PR Blackout, 360i interviewed four influential bloggers to hear their thoughts on the somewhat muddled relationship that can exist between mommy and marketer.

The Rookie Moms – Heather & Whitney – are each mothers of two and co-founders of RookieMoms.com, a site that “attempts to answer the question of what to do with a new baby (and what to do with your self) every day.” RookieMoms covers a range of topics – from activities to get new moms out of the house to DIY projects for parents.

Sarah-Jean Ballard is editor-in-chief  of TheFashionableHouswife.com, a blog that subscribes to the motto that “moms should look good too.” Sarah-Jean is a mother, housewife and self-dubbed fashionista who uses her blog to share advice and review products that can help moms stay fabulous.

Kristin Ruiz is the editor of OurOrdinaryLife.com, a blog about being a full-time college student and mother, and “living and growing as a family.” Our Ordinary Life chronicles everything from milestones in her two children’s lives to product reviews of top brands.

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1. What are some misconceptions people have about mommy bloggers?

[The Rookie Moms] The biggest misconception is that we’re all the same. We are not all product review bloggers. Some of us blog about postpartum depression, some about traveling with kids and some simply write slice of life pieces to share with others. We started RookieMoms.com to share ideas about how to spend one’s maternity leave (whether it was 6 weeks or 6 years long). Our mission is to help moms have more fun. Everyone’s mission is different, and it’s probably a small subset of blogs whose mission it is to provide product reviews on a wide spectrum of products and services.

[Kristin Ruiz] That we all do reviews. Someone told me yesterday (keep in mind this person has her own site and [participates in] Web sites for bloggers) “…But I don’t do reviews. I can’t go to BlogHer next year.” I was shocked. Like this is what outsiders really think? In order to go to BlogHer you have to be a review blogger? I’m starting to think reviews are going to take over the world. The blogosphere is so trashed because of them.

[Sarah-Jean Ballard] I think that most people have the misconception that Mommy Bloggers are trashy stay-at-home moms that have nothing better to do than sit on the computer and blog about their kids first step, when in fact this is totally not true. Most mommy bloggers, from my own experience, are hard working SAHM who have more than just one child and gather support and independence from blogging, not to mention being able to interact with other adults as well as share their opinion on important products that we all use. I think the mommy blogger community is the most important thing on the internet today – at least for women.

2. What are your thoughts on the new FTC regulations for bloggers?

[RM] Like most bloggers, we are not professional journalists and we’ve been thinking that we can write whatever we like on our blog. This dialogue has been eye-opening in making us aware that, whether we wanted it or not, we now carry a responsibility. Readers trust us. We are confident that we are trustworthy, and that we don’t write anything we don’t mean. We don’t do paid reviews. We disclose any relevant information if a product we mention was given to us for free. We feel that paid reviews are a betrayal of the trust between readers and bloggers. We think that some regulation is a good thing, if just to inform all the bloggers of their responsibility to transparency.

3. What is your best advice for digital publicists looking to work with mom bloggers? Are there tried-and-true do’s and don’ts?

[KR] Be personal. Read my blog and reach out to me one on one. I’m pretty close with a few of the reps I work with. Taking that much extra time means the world to me. It shows a real valued relationship.

[SJB] I like personal emails from someone working at the PR company who takes the time to form a relationship with me and find out what subjects I’m interested in blogging about. I’m much more likely to post a press release for a “friend” who happens to work at a PR company than some ‘Jo Shmoe’ sending me another stupid email.

[RM] Here are some dos:

Get to know the blogger first. As bloggers, we are a hybrid of “journalist” and “consumer” who are not bound by the traditional rules of PR outreach. You can do your homework to read a few posts (more than just the home page please), the about page and a few similar product reviews before reaching out.

For example, we are not generic “parents” or “moms” interested in everything to do with children. Our oldest child is nearly five (not yet interested in an online tutoring service, PG-rated animated movies or controlling our children’s text messaging). We care about certain things (not weight loss products). Whereas a parenting magazine may cast a wide net, we are two moms with specific interests. We created a review policy to help.

When you write an outreach email, please be respectful and friendly. We realize that it is time-consuming to write individual emails customized to each blogger, but we really appreciate an on-target and respectful message rather than a generic blast email. This approach helps to foster an ongoing, mutual relationship. Also, bear in mind that we write our own content and we are (usually) less interested in your “story ideas” than a magazine might be.

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What do you think? What are the misconceptions about mom bloggers? How can marketers and publicists better engage these bloggers? As always, we encourage you to continue this conversation by leaving a comment below. You can also send us a note on Twitter @360i.