Blogging and Brands: Five Takeaways from BlogHer 2014

Jul 31, 2014 Samantha McGarry

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Over the last ten years, blogging and social media have provided women with a platform for communication, self-expression, activism, community and revenue. During this time, blogging platforms evolved, smartphones became ubiquitous, social media became second nature and brands, businesses and even politicians realized the influence of women and blogging.

This year, the BlogHer conference celebrated its tenth anniversary. What started out as a gathering of a few “mommy” bloggers has grown into a powerful enterprise that attracts a passionate gathering of more than 3,000 bloggers, the crème de la crème of keynote speakers and a who’s who of consumer brand sponsors. Attendees were entertained, educated and awed not only by powerhouse speakers/household names like Arianna Huffington and Kerry Washington but also by Twitter’s VP of brands Melissa Barnes (interviewed by “the most feared and well-liked journalist in Silicon Valley,” Kara Swisher), eBay’s CMO Richelle Parham and comedian Tig Notaro. We heard from some of the “original” bloggers from ten years ago and learned how the act of blogging for a decade has transformed their lives – both personally and professionally – as well as impacting society. And we were moved by the eloquence, courage, wit and insight of many individual bloggers who narrated their most powerful and personal stories during the Voices of the Year session. (Worth a read, believe me.)

There were many themes that resonated throughout BlogHer14. What struck me most – and which PR professionals and brand marketers should pay attention to – was that despite the quest for SEO, page views, traffic, monetization and buzz, the following five fundamentals still matter the most:

  1. Storytelling: Even if monetization is the goal, storytelling remains the essence of blogging. Stories matter, words matter, passion matters – these themes echoed. “Words make the world,” said blogging veteran, @schmutzie. Personal blogger @addyeB, who eschews SEO, described her approach: “Words burn hot and I need to get them out there.”  To build a connection with bloggers, PR and brand marketers must find a way to mesh their goals with the stories that bloggers want to tell. This is different from pitching reporters, according to @BusyDadBlog who commented: “Media is driven by information; bloggers are driven by passion and storytelling.”
  2. Authenticity: Having a voice and being true to it is something bloggers care about and are not willing to compromise for the sake of a brand. “Every sponsored post is a shot at your credibility,” explained successful blogger @kristenhowerton. She provided the example of a brand that pitched her to write about granola bars. She didn’t want to write about granola bars. But she did want to write about the benefits of unstructured play for kids and was able to weave granola bars into her story which made it all the more authentic, relatable and ultimately, more successful for both Kristen’s blog and the brand.
  3. Community: “Finding your tribe” was another consistent theme of BlogHer. The power of blogging to connect people with a common cause or passion. A vibrant community can amplify a message, propel activism and build strong connections and allies. But the conversations between members of a community may take place in many places – on social, in blog comments, forums and so on. For PR and brands, figuring out how and where to engage these communities can be very powerful.
  4. Dealing with negative comments: Blogging and social media gives people a platform to tell stories and speak their minds but they also give negativity a channel. There was a lot of discussion among the bloggers at the conference about how to deal with such negative content with options raising from block-and-delete and fighting back tactics to taking the high road and even learning from the trolls. @kristenhowerton explained her rationale: “When people like your stuff, they share it. When they don't, they comment.” @Djazzo advised us to “Lean into the discomfort of negative comments. They inform the gravitas of your writing.” Equally, brands and business people are often subject to negative comments and, like bloggers, should use them to acknowledge and understand what motivates or annoys their audiences. You can find some good tips here.
  5. Influence: Bloggers and their communities wield enormous influence, especially when it comes to women, the ultimate target demographic for many brands. @BusyDadBlog acknowledged, “Bloggers have the power to change conversations and to make or break brands.” He commented that, with influence, comes the responsibility to be fair. eBay’s CMO Richelle Parham told the audience that eBay actively seeks out “passionate experts” to deliver “micro-endorsements” for brands selling through the platform. What makes a good influencer? “Someone who has a point of view, passion, a distinct voice and something unique and special to say,” she explained.

The chief takeaway for PR and brands: don’t overlook the fundamental motivations of bloggers and blogging communities. Find ways to help them tell the stories that matter to them. (You can find other practical tips for pitching mommy bloggers here.)

BlogHer14 drove thousands of tweets during its three days and after – here’s a handy dandy synopsis as told through 140 characters and images.

Topics: Blogging, InkHouse, Media Relations, Twitter, Writing, Social Media, Storytelling, Thought Leadership
Samantha McGarry

Samantha is a Senior Vice President at InkHouse. Her curiosity for business and technology - combined with her love of semantics and communication - has translated into a 20+ year career in PR.

Read more from Samantha McGarry

To subscribe to the InkHouse Inklings blog, and for other thought leadership content just add your email address:

ARCHIVES

TOPICS

InkHouse has been recognized by:
  • TPTW_2019_grey
  • BPTW_SF
  • inc-bwp-2019-standard-logo
  • women-led-business-logo-1
  • PRNews_TopPlaces