Wednesday, 29 May 2013

10 Tips for Companies when Working with Parent Bloggers

The relationship between companies with products or services to sell and bloggers can be a brilliant one, but with so many blogs around now many PR companies seem to take for granted that they will get advertised. Dear companies if you want to work well with bloggers here is my advice.

  • Look at the blog. You don't have to read it all, but you might want to check age of children or if anything traumatic has recently happened to the blogger or their family. Or even if it is the sort of blog you want to be associated with.
  • Get the bloggers name right. My name is Kate, not Katie. It's what I replied to you as in my email and it's in the name of my blog. Otherwise my blog would be something like "what Katie did next"
  • Give some notice. I've lost count of the number of "offers" I've had recently to come to an event in a few days time. I work full time and I normally can't manage time off at that short notice (or childcare for an evening event). People that don't work full time don't spend their days sitting around at home either. Giving a few days notice implies that I'm an afterthought and that you don't think my time is valuable.
  • Don't expect something for nothing. With so many parent bloggers there are thousands of places where your product or service can be promoted. A number of 'professional' bloggers may give you fantastic readership and will host sponsored posts, but every blogger realises when a company basically wants you to stick an advert on their blog for free. If we love your product we are keen to share the news, but you still might want to give us a reason to focus on your product over others. Niceness, offers, competitions, new versions of the product to review all help. Say "Thank you".
  • Don't embarrass me. I've had a couple of people recently (one the actual owner/ inventor of the company) reply to my tweets in a way that all their followers can see. Fine except they have (intentionally or not) misinterpreted what I have said and shared my assumed views with 1000s of people. That's one product I was going to review and now won't.
  • Don't expect me to dig for information. If I am reviewing a product I like to include useful information, like rrp and where it is a available from. If you have offered me the product to review I would like to know more than what is on the packaging.
  • Form a lasting relationship. Someone who likes your products can be a brilliant ongoing advocate for your product/ service. By remembering who you have worked with before and staying in occasional contact about new development they will continue to promote you if they genuinely believe in your product. When I am introduced to something and I love it I will write on my blog how much I love it. If I then see them working with new people with new products and they haven't been in contact with me I feel a bit used. Yes it's about getting your product out to as many people as possible and I don't expect to be sent a load of things for free, but if I have continued to promote you I would like some recognition for my loyalty. Even if it's an occasional thank you or press release about what's happening (I love to know what brands are doing before everyone else).
  • Make your expectations clear. If in return for attending an event, being sent a product, running a competition etc you expect a review, blog post etc say that up front. If you require links to a website or publication within a certain timescale say that. This is a 2 way relationship and I would like to know in advance what you expect so I can choose to get involved or not. 
  • Don't expect a rave review. I will not review something positively if I don't like it. Admittedly a few bloggers do, but their posts have less weight with readers because they can't trust what is being said. Even if I love a product I will point out the bad bits. I would hate for anyone to buy something on my recommendation without knowing the facts. Nothing is perfect, but that doesn't  mean it isn't worth buying.
  • Don't expect me to sell something I disagree with or don't know about. I am surprised with the emails I receive (particularly for sponsored posts) where people want me to post about something I haven't tried, seen or know about eg "please agree to post this video clip for x company, I'm not going to tell you what's in the clip yet as it's top secret." One of these turned out to be for a new range of purées. On my blog I've talked about how we skipped purées with baby led weaning (clearly they skipped my first recommendation). I won't intentionally advocate anything I disagree with or companies that behave in an unethical way eg Nestle.

Bloggers shouldn't expect something for nothing, but companies shouldn't expect us to support them on a personal blog for nothing either.

Hmm maybe I should stick something on my blog saying PR friendly?

Sunday, 12 May 2013

How Amazing are You?

In many parts of the world today is Mother's Day so I thought I would write a post about just how amazing mums are. 

I am constantly amazed at how much other mums achieve while I seem to be just about treading water, and that's on the days my daughter is well and I've had enough sleep to function. Some of the best "mummy bloggers" (excuse the term) blog daily and have multiple children. Just how do they manage that without neglecting their children or having the house trashed while they type up their posts?

The truth is that us mums are all amazing. I'm not really sure what I did before my daughter arrived but now as a full time working mother of a "spirited" child I feel like I spend all my time working, caring for my daughter or sleeping. I generally have an hour in the evening after dinner and, if I'm lucky, nap time at weekends for "me" time. In these 11 hours a week I have a choice of blogging, doing charity work, online shopping or cleaning/ tidying. Should I really be surprised that my house is pretty much in the same condition as when I moved in 2 years ago and that my blog is sadly neglected?

It's all about choices.

I tend to choose having a nap or going to sleep early over blogging.
I usually choose playing with my daughter over cleaning (although now she is older I can sometimes get her to help).
I definitely choose filling a spare 5 minutes with twitter rather than something productive.
I have chosen working full time over spending more time with my daughter.

Other people make different choices, but we all do our best to balance out our needs with those of our family. Although it often doesn't feel like it there is a big difference between what I achieve now and what I achieved each day before I was a mother. Now at the end of the day, when I am lying in bed and thinking back over everything I have done that day I have achieved a lot.

As a quick example this was my Saturday morning:
6am M woke up, I went in to the nursery and we cuddled and nursed for about 45 mins.
We got up, went downstairs and had breakfast.
While M was still eating and afterwards as she played in the kitchen with me I emptied the dishwasher, refilled it and did a load of washing up.
We then took dry clothes off the airer, got I dressed and went to the Post Office and Homebase (no shower yet, oops)
Homebase was surprisingly entertaining for M so we were there for a while.
When we got home we were in the car for about half an hour as M decided she wanted to pretend to drive instead of going into the house.
We played in the house for a while with M's dad and then my mum arrived for a visit.
My mum played in the garden with M while I painted some of the shed.
Lunchtime for M.
More granny playtime for M while I reattached the felt to the shed roof that blew off in a gale this week.
Midday aand naptime for M.  Phew
Small child looking at handles in Homebase
"Playing" in Homebase

Each day there will be a combination of things that I have to do, things that I do to keep me sane (twitter definitely falls into that category) and many things I have chosen to do. By ensuring the right balance of activities I feel happier, calmer and more productive.

I have adapted Stephen Covey's 4 Quadrants for the life of a mum (Covey 1989, The 7 habits of Highly Effective People)
Covey's 4 Quadrants adapted for motherhood

Everything in Quadrant 1 takes priority, but with some planning becomes less stressful (eg planning meals). People tend to spend most of their time in this quadrant, but by spending more time in other areas it helps prevent burn out.
It is recommended that spending more time in Quadrant 2 can make us more productive.  By having a list it means I can plan and prioritise.  Ticking things off the list reminds me I have achieved something.  As an extra benefit my to do list is in a very nice notebook (a black moleskine, *love*).
Time in Quadrant 3 should be avoided. By reviewing which tasks normally fall into this quadrant you can identify what needs to be done, stop it if it's not needed or move it to quadrant 2 through planning.
In Quadrant 4 are the sort of activities that don't need to be done, but they can be used to have a break from everything else and recharge.

By expecting less from myself, planning more and reflecting I have realised that I am one of the amazing mums and I bet you are too.