On Wednesdays, TBWA\TORONTO hosts an all-staff professional development meeting to which speakers are invited to talk about the cool and interesting things they do that can help us with our client work. Today’s featured presenter was Jen Maier, founder of UrbanMoms.
Jen is a veteran marketer who five years ago quit her job and started a blog to spend more time with her children and to ideally build her business. Fast forward and her blog has grown into a significant community of influential women, and a couple men, with a big following.
Her presentation was interesting on many levels but one point that resonated is the challenge of balancing the needs and expectations of her vast community with the goals of her marketing clients and their brands. Jen knows that transparency and sharing worthwhile information with her audience is critical to her credibility and is also the essence of social media.
However as big brands engage online communities and given that everyone, including UrbanMoms, is at times in uncharted territory, the fine line between editorial content and advertising needs to be carefully considered. This challenge isn’t new of course since mainstream, old school media have historically needed to ensure that journalists can report freely without being influenced by advertisers.
Some might argue that print and broadcast media outlets are indeed influenced by advertisers, especially these days due to declining revenue. Regardless of your point of view, online communities are particularly sensitive to shills and flacks, as they should be.
Jen also adds that very few bloggers know marketing and there is a major risk if both sides do not understand each other and their ultimate goals.
Which is why Jen’s presentation and the lengthy Q&A that followed was insightful. Communications is at an inflection point and the rules are still being written. Some people think bloggers and their communities should stay away from marketers. Others think brands and social media can and will be a match made in digital heaven.
Arguably there’s room for both POVs, especially if transparency and the sharing of relevant content are the guiding principles.