Examples like these are so misguided and ridiculous that they honestly make me embarassed to be part of the association world. In case you don’t want to click that link, the example to which I’m referring is a letter sent by the Director, Industry Communications for the National Potato Council. Except you would have no way of knowing that it’s a letter from said director because it opens with “Dear Mommy Blogger” and ends with her name followed by “Mom to [kid’s name], age 3, and [other kid’s name], 10 months” and a Yahoo email address. The only nod to the fact that she’s communicating on behalf of the organization is this statement “(and for full disclosure [I] work for our nation’s potato farmers, so I am slightly biased but would feel the same even if I didn’t work for them).”
This is a trade association attempting to build grassroots support for a proposed USDA rule that would limit the serving of potatoes in US schools. This is how they’re representing their members. By pissing off the legion of “mommy bloggers” (GOD I hate that term) by insulting their intelligence, being deceptive about something as simple as disclosing their employer, and just generally doing a crappy job of blogger outreach.
Here’s the thing: this stuff matters. If you’re going to do blogger outreach, at a bare minimum, please do the following:
- Be professional. Who are you and who do you work for? This is information bloggers–just like reporters–deserve to know. Don’t try to play cute or sugar coat it–just be honest.
- Don’t phone it in. “Dear Mommy Blogger”? Please. The whole reason to do blogger outreach is because you are reaching out to people you believe are influential and who can help spread the word about your cause. “People” as in individuals, with names. How about addressing them by name, rather than with the equivalent of “To whom it may concern”? If you don’t, you may as well not bother sending anything at all.
- Don’t use association-speak. Just because you, as an association professional, know you work for your members doesn’t mean those outside the association world even know what an association is. So they have no idea that when you say “I work for our nation’s potato farmers” it actually means “I work for the National Potato Council.” Use your full name, title, and affiliation.
- Think twice. Blogger outreach–especially mom blogger outreach–is not necessarily a fit for every industry, despite what PR agencies may have you believe. Remember the corn sugar fiasco? You may be passionate about your industry, but moms are passionate about their kids. Some mom bloggers are very outspoken–witness the “The National Potato Council Wants Kids to be Fat and Assumes that Moms are Stupid” headline. Mom blogger territory is not for the faint of heart. If your industry is even moderately controversial, you might want to think twice about approaching moms for support, because if they disagree with your position, look out. And chances are if what you’re doing is campaigning to change a negative perception of an issue (like high fructose corn sugar or nutritional value of starch), there’s a decent chance mom bloggers won’t be eager to help you spread the word about your position. And even if they do, if they receive a bunch of flack about it from other mom bloggers–like, again, the corn sugar thing–they may be sorry they did.