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A Case Study in the Making

March 18, 2008

At SXSW, I had the good fortune to connect with a lot of people.  One of them was Wendy Piersall, aka eMom.  She made a point of telling me that she’s been spreading the word about Wiley.  How we understand how bloggers operate and really seem to want to exist in a Web 2.0 world.  I was really proud to hear that, because her positive experiences seem to have come not from me or others in the tech group, but from our PR and marketing teams on our parenting books.  It makes you as a marketer realize that we have this great resource out there in bloggers, who can certainly help spread the word about your products and services if you take the time to understand how they operate and how they want to be conversed with.

Now, from Twitter, I learn of the flip side of it.  How when you screw with bloggers and don’t understand the blogosphere, odds are you’re going to pay the price.  And take it from me, hell hath no fury like a mommy blogger scorned. 

Here’s some first person conversation about this situation, but take this as the Cliffs Notes version.  Basically, Johnson & Johnson decides to reach out to Mommy Bloggers.  They offer them a weekend away at something called “Camp Baby.”  A way to relax, hang out with other techno moms, and be pampered.  I believe massages and “hair braiding” were on the agenda.  Of course, they’re going to expose you to some of their products, but you’d expect that, no?

First problem here – some bloggers are invited, others are not.  When the bloggers who are in start talking about it, you’re bound to get some hard feelings from those who didn’t make the cut.  Unavoidable, but you should have a strategy for this.  Rule #1 – Bloggers talk.  Be prepared.  No, you can’t invite everyone, but be able to articulate why some people got in and some didn’t. 

Second, seeing as it is Camp Baby, you’d think childcare would be a possibility, even at a cost.  Maybe you have a baby baby, and need to nurse.  Nothing doing.  No kids are permitted at Camp Baby, and people who are invited are finding out about this NOW and being disinvited because they want to bring their kids. 

Seems obvious to me, but if you’re doing something called “Camp Baby”, and you’re planning on attracting new moms, THEY’RE NOT OFTEN ABLE TO ATTEND WITHOUT THEIR BABIES!  Nursing or not, moms with little ones often do not want to be, and even cannot be separated from them, no matter how fun the “hair braiding” may be.  Where is the surprise in this Johnson & Johnson, a company that makes baby products and is supposed to know this audience better than anyone?

Really bad PR move here, and I fear we’re going to be hearing about this as a case study of how not to reach out to bloggers in the days to come.  A bunch of women speaking at BlogHer Business have already been working to get the full story to discuss it in their panels at the conference.   I’ve read some comments about how J&J blew it, while companies like Graco have made the effort to understand bloggers and earned great marks for their PR activities.  Just goes to show that buzz is great, but buzz can also come back to bite you in the behind.  

The moral of the story?  Same message that good PR folks have preached forever.  Understand how your target wants to be conversed and interacted with and abide by it. 

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2008 10:15 pm

    Thanks for the mention Ellen 🙂

    I hope the J&J incident doesn’t blow too out of proportion – I would hate to dissuade other large corporations from trying to engage in conversation with their customers. J&J might not have gone about it the right way, but at least they TRIED. Many large businesses won’t go there, so I give them kudos for making steps in the right direction.

    Also can’t wait to hear about your “In Celebration of Writers” dinner!

  2. March 19, 2008 11:55 am

    What annoys me most about what J&J has created here is their seeming unwillingness to listen to the “audience” and change. That is just part of it – listen and respond. Mothers often need daycare…so too bad if you didn’t think of this beforehand, just adapt to it! They were probably thinking of their event as a weekend getaway for a mother, but then name it “Camp MOM.”

  3. March 19, 2008 3:29 pm

    J&J have made a huge effort to hear from the mommy blogger community, and strive to make future events more feasible for all of us desiring to attend. I hope that other big corporation can learn from them and their mistakes!

  4. March 19, 2008 3:40 pm

    Christine, Jen, Wendy,

    I read in Marayam Scoble’s blog how she has talked directly to the J&J PR person and she was impressed how she owned up to the mistakes made and was making every effort to connect with the bloggers and in effect make amends. Lesson learned for her, I suppose. Hopefully, lesson learned for the rest of us too and J&J will get some good buzz out of the Camp next month.

  5. March 19, 2008 3:58 pm


    Well said! Well said!

    The J&J event was extended to my mother, sister and me… we run a blog together – Pinks & Blues we got the email from them inviting our TEAM. So we registered immediately… got in under capacity… then go to find out only one of us was officially entered. Even though we had written back and forth with a woman before the capacity hit and everything that we all intended to go… then – BAM! The hit.
    Only one of us could go. By the time we all got our official emails, they had hit capacity!

    I will say… I did speak with Lori via email today and she was very nice and very open to listening to what happened. Didn’t help in getting the two of us registered (even though we said we would share a room)… but I was glad to have had someone reach out.

    But loved your post.


    Pinks & Blues

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