When representatives of Nestle Family first contacted me about attending a blogging event in California, "to visit and share ideas about family," my first thoughts (like, most days) were about my children.
Stuff like, getting them to and from school, soccer, field hockey and the dozens of other little details entrusted to me, in raising 4 kids, 2 cats, 1 sock-eating chocolate lab, that help keep the fabric of our family life from, you know, unraveling.
So, I cashed in a couple of favors (times when all those hours spent in car pool lanes really do come in handy) wrote out a 4 day schedule for my husband, using 4 different colored pens (1 color, for each child) and put family members on notice -- if anyone needs me, I'll only be 2,451 miles away, don't be afraid to call.
It's not the first time. I've been blogging for 6 years now and, through my blogs, my family and I have been exposed to many wonderful opportunities and experiences that, otherwise, would never been afforded to us and, more importantly, working closely with the internet, my children and I have gained a whole new perspective of the world, outside the fishbowl-like existence associated with living in the suburbs of New Jersey.
Still, some people still don't get it. Why would people (like Nestle) want a person (like me) to go to a blogging event (like this) and, I feel it safe to say, after this trip, my thoughts have changed, as I watched the advent of social media on the family blogging community crash and burn on Twitter.
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking on an audio conference (along with fellow Nestle attendees, Renee and Christine) and I shared my thoughts about best pr practices and strategies when pitching to mommy bloggers.
You see, blogging has changed quite a bit (since I started back in 2003) for better, or for worse, I still enjoy writing and sharing stuff that perhaps has made our family's life a little easier.
The opportunity to work closely with companies (like Kraft Foods and General Mills) and share information about new products and services, is a privilege I take very seriously and, as a mom of 4, who happens to break things (a lot) I appreciate a company's interest in getting our family's feedback.
It is also the manufacturer's responsibility to market their items in a fair manner.
As a mother, I've learned to not take everything at face value; as a consumer, I've learned to read labels and learn a little bit more about the things that feed, cloth and keep my family safe; as a blogger, I've learned to share and find positive ways in which to give back to my community.
Still, judging by the post I wrote, the first day, at 4 in the morning, I was SO NOT ready for what went down at Nestle.
Long story, short (you're welcome) I signed onto my Twitter account, added #nestlefamily to my Tweetdeck and watched, in absolute horror, as my ethics and my humanity (or, lack thereof) were being decided (for me) and, somehow, I unwillingly became a casualty of a war that I was SO NOT ready to fight.
In my opinion, the Nestle folks realized this a little too late. I honestly do believe, from the "Holy Hannah Montana" look on all of their faces, they were SO NOT ready for the backlash, either.
Also, Scott Remy, the SVP Communications at Nestle USA, genuinely looked flustered (face all ready and tie all askew) running back and forth in between meetings and admitting (out loud) that he personally was naive about "getting into this whole social media thing."
Nestle apologized, I accepted.
Still, I can't help but wonder -- does it really matter?
The issue(s) was with Nestle, not me.
On the other hand, was my accepting their invitation an indication of my indifference to what is happening in the world, outside of my control?
On the contrary, my goal was to find ways in which Nestle is giving back to the community (which, I will document in another post, because it is something that I am truly passionate about) and bring brand awareness back to Jersey.
Would it have made a difference, if I thought those more knowledgeable about Nestle trade practices, or blog regularly about breast-feeding issues would have re-considered attending?
Yes; wish you were there! I don't profess to know everything (never did) and I bottle-fed all 4 of my kids, but I am still very sensitive to women's issues, am always willing to learn and absolutely love babies.
Was it worth the trip?
I still think so.
Besides the fact that blog events are one of the few times that I get to meet, network and hang out with women, even though sometimes we don't always agree, but who I've also come to respect and love, very much -- that community thing, again -- I think that Nestle has an awesome opportunity ahead of them and really do hope that they take advantage of being one of the very few companies, brave enough, to enter the world of social media and do something good, for a change:
- Don't avoid Twitter: Use it and get to know what consumers are talking about -- rather than advertise, engage in the conversation.
- Don't rely solely on what you read on Twitter: Go and read the blogs that are talking about your brand and, better yet, take the time to comment and share information directly with our readers.
- Be ready to answer questions: Read through the #nestlefamily stream and follow up on questions from the event -- if you just don't know the answer, don't be afraid to say so and find someone who does.
Bottom Line: This event turned out to be a lot bigger than I ever imagined and, well, I confess at not being able to bring much more to the table, at this point, other than trying to help the Nestle representatives, I personally got the chance to sit and meet with, understand that the power of the blogging world should not be dismissed.
I still believe in our community and truly hope that we can ALL learn to understand one another, a little better, without the drama of Twitter.
[DISCLOSURE: NESTLE ARRANGED FOR TRAVEL, HOTEL AND FOOD. NO PAYMENT, OR REQUEST FOR A SUBSEQUENT FEATURE, OR ADVERTISING, WAS RECEIVED FOR THIS BLOG POST.]
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