After having a couple of days to think about the BlogHer Business social media outreach session on which I was invited to be a panelist (live blog link), I have come to the conclusion that there is still more to talk about when it comes to pitching to bloggers of color. We started a conversation at BlogHer07 and while my panel session continued the conversation, it was just the tip of the iceberg.
As I was sitting at the gate waiting to board my plane to New York, the question suddenly hit me: "As a multicultural person, what do I want from PR people?" After all, as Susan Getgood says, I am their customer and PR firms need to be asking themselves, "What can we do for bloggers?" I realized that I didn't really have a good answer.
Knowing that a fair amount of PR people follow me on Twitter, I quickly sent out a query: Have thoughts on pitching to bloggers of color? DM me. Immediately, my inbox was flooded with responses. One person said, "I don't think about it, I pitch to everyone equally." Another said, "I don't think my firm makes a conscious effort one way or another." Bloggers of color also responded with some version of "please let me know what the PR people say."
As I boarded the plane, I had a lot to think about.
A quick background for those of you who aren't familiar with this issue: at last year's blogger in the mommy blog session, I asked the PR people there, "why don't you pitch to bloggers of color?" At the time, I was receiving plenty of pitches a day for CityMama and none for Kimchi Mamas. Despite being one of the first members of the BlogHer ad network, despite having contributors with highly successful personal blogs, despite its popularity among the Korean mom community, not one PR firm had ever pitched us.
"We just don't know what to do with you," was the response, and thus, a BlogHer Business panel was born.
I won't go into the details here of what was said during the panel. The link above includes a liveblog (thank you, Rita!), but there were things about the session that you need to know that aren't in the liveblog.
The first is that the audience was very hesitant to comment or ask questions. I know it's because this is a touchy subject and no one wanted to say "the wrong thing." So no one said anything. I expected that to some extent, but I didn't expect that there would be such limited interaction with the audience. Jory Des Jardins did an excellent job of moderating and keeping the questions (her questions) and conversation flowing. She was trying, we were trying, but there was a feeling that the audience was hesitant to speak up.
The lack of audience participation, to me, indicates the depth of the problem. If we can't talk about this issue in an open forum at a business conference, when can we talk about it? Does this mean that the issue isn't being talked about at all?
The second thing I wanted to highlight from the session are all the missed opportunities. Bloggers of color are being overlooked for whatever reason and it's really a stoopid loss. As I pointed out, it's not as if Korean babies never poop. We need diapers, too. And Koreans (Asians in general) are so family-focused (reaching out into extended families) that it's a shame to miss that market. My fellow panelists also pointed out their missed opportunies: Kimberly Coleman pointed out that African-Americans trend towards being brand conscious. She sees just as many Bugaboos and Maclarens and Skip*Hop diaper bags in Harlem as in anywhere in New York. Laura Martinez says marketers are completely missing the Latina mom market. I find this all completely puzzling.
Note: Special props to the March of Dimes for not only having a Latino blog and making efforts to reach those markets. The representatives I talked to seemed very interested in trying to engage bloggers and participating in social media to extend their brand. Go, March of Dimes!
Lastly, while I saw many PR folks I knew in the room, many of those people are already successful at reaching out to bloggers. It would have been nice to see more PR firms and companies there that could have benefited from our panel (and the other sessions). One audience member asked why the three of us didn't band together to try to foment change and I have to admit, at that moment, looking at the smart and passionate women sitting with me, I wondered, "Yeah, why don't we?"
For me personally, I am trying to take all of this in stride. I don't want to be pandered to by marketers. I don't really need more pitches filling up my inbox, but it would be nice to be included in the conversation. I have more questions than answers, but one thing is for sure, I'm not ready to give up on this issue. Let's keep the conversation going.
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To read more BlogHer Biz liveblogs, click here.