Guilt-Free Blogging, or Why I’d Never Make a Good Critic

I’ve always felt a little on the outside of the whole “mommy blogging” arena, even though I’m a mom, who blogs, and who even blogs about being a mom (over on This Mommy Gig). 

Mommy Blogging PanelNever was it more evident than when I sat on a panel discussion about women bloggers during SXSWi last year. Even though each of the moms on that panel had different types of blogs and different views on blogging there seemed to be some bond between them I didn’t share. Maybe it was because they were all “Walmart Moms” and I wasn’t.

What’s a Walmart Mom? In this case, it’s not just mothers who shop at Walmart. I’ve been known to do that from time-to-time. And it’s not a political demographic term coined by a pollster. Or an oddly dressed lady we laugh at on the People of Walmart site. 

No, here I’m using the term to refer to a group of mommy bloggers called the Elevenmoms. These bloggers were selected by Walmart to help them build “a connected money saving community.” They write guest posts on Walmart’s web site, make videos for their YouTube brand channel, and in general enjoy the benefits of big brand association (free products, trips, etc) in exchange for talking about said brand.

It’s the sort of thing that began to make the FTC nervous enough that they created new guidelnes for disclosure in blogs – much stricter guidelines I might add than exist today for mainstream media where reporters often enjoy free products and trips, too.

Well, yesterday, over on This Mommy Gig, I posted my first blog that required disclosure under the new rules. It wasn’t my first blog reviewing something that I got for free (it was my second), but neither of them were really all that great.  In the first one I got a free meal-planning service that I never used. So, I wrote about it when it began, but never got around to writing about how it ended.

I definitely found myself feeling what Sheila Scarborough put so well in regards to free trips for travel bloggers:

“I personally have a harder time with the vaunted objectivity goal, because while it’s easy to write superlatives when you have nice experiences, it is much harder to be critical when your experience is lacking.  What ends up happening is that most writers simply don’t write about ‘the bad stuff,’ out of understandable concern and respect for their kind and generous hosts.”

So, this time, I was not going to do that. I went ahead and wrote “the bad stuff” I felt about a book I was sent a free copy of for review. I was at least relieved to find while surfing around that I was not the only one who had written a bad review of it. But, I still feel a bit anxious about reaction when the author or the PR person working for RIM that sent me the book read it.

And, that’s why I think I’ll never be the mommy blogger that so many marketers now clamor to get to know. It feels good that all the reviews of kids virtual worlds my girl and I did were done without any prompting from the companies behind them. Some did involve interaction with them, but it was all prompted by me, not their PR teams.

I won’t say that I’ll never again try blogging about something based on a freebie. I’ve learned never to say never. And, hey, if someone offers me my dream trip to Greece there’d be no way to resist. But, don’t expect me to do a lot of PR-department-prompted product reviews any time soon.

That means no worries about saying bad things and no-guilt mommy blogging — because I already have enough other things to give me mommy guilt. (like do I let my girl watch too much TV or spend too much time in those virtual worlds?)