MWW and Nikon: BlogHer Lessons Learned

July 28th, 2009
Author: Althea Haigh

Nikon’s recent participation in BlogHer illustrates the power, speed and influence of the blogging community. Nikon, a conference sponsor, also hosted an invitation-only event Friday night, designed to engage a variety of women, including style, design, food, technology and parenting bloggers. Their common bond was a shared enthusiasm for photography.

The buzz was incredible; the event a major triumph; the response from the attendees overwhelmingly positive. To everyone on-site in Chicago, the event was a smashing success.

Yet to the outside world, a slightly different story was being told, one which adversely comments on both the Nikon and MWW brands. Because misinformation is being communicated, we wanted to share the facts of the event and more importantly, the outcome.

As many of the women who attended the BlogHer conference came with their families, two women wanted to attend the Nikon Night Out event with their young children.  While we politely informed them that they could not bring their babies to the cocktail event, one woman, in what she thought was a joke, tweeted #nikonhatesbabies from her Twitter account. This resulted in a storm of tweets and some misinformed blog posts from women who did not attend the event nor knew the full account of what happened. This is really unfortunate as the anticipation and excitement leading up to the event by those invited was tremendous.

These are the facts:

  • Due to the time of the event, the noise level, the availability of alcohol and the proximity to water, we determined that from a safety perspective, children should not attend.
  • During the event on Friday night, two people tweeted about not being able to get into the event with their babies.
  • On Saturday morning, MWW and Nikon planned to contact the two women about the prior evening’s events, and the #nikonhatesbabies chatter made that even more timely. We contacted both original bloggers and asked them to stop by the Nikon booth to discuss the situation.  The woman who first tweeted said it was a joke and that she did not mean any harm to Nikon.  She said that her tweet had been taken out of context as a bad joke (indeed). The second expressed her dismay and embarrassment that the situation had become so inflated.
  • A few marketing bloggers – who did not attend the event – started blogging about best practices while blaming Nikon and MWW for not understanding the audience.
  • Following conversations with MWW and Nikon, the two women tweeted about their discussion and apologized for their impact.
  • Once the corrected tweets appeared and began to circulate, other bloggers, fans and event patrons posted similar stories with the facts, and complimented Nikon on the personal response and engagement.

1. http://bit.ly/V8z7W2
2. http://tinyurl.com/msr7qn
3. http://twitpic.com/blxiu

Clearly, some people, who did not attend either the conference or the party, used the incident to elevate themselves and their marketing expertise without bothering to confirm the facts.

We felt strongly that these two women deserved a face-to-face, personal discussion. We could have simply taken our version online and debated in public, but in doing so, would have focused on the people this DIDN’T affect, rather than the ones it did. We had great conversations with both women, walking away hopeful we had just formed a future valuable relationship with two great bloggers. There are a few interesting lessons here, including:

  1. Know your audience: We invited people who were interested in Nikon, cameras or photography, not exclusively moms or women with kids. Had we planned an event for only mom bloggers, the location and other logistics would have been different altogether.
  2. Relationships: We hosted this event to extend and continue those engaging relationships we have with blog communities. The vast majority of the online and in-person feedback about a well-received event has been positive and gracious. Knowing we built stronger ties with the bloggers because of the event, we’ll continue to do so in years to come.
  3. One-on-One: We learned that talking with people, hearing what they have to say, learning the facts, and questions they may have about Nikon products is one of the best ways to grow as a company. We also learned that there are many people out there who don’t listen and will jump-to-conclusions without the facts to spread misinformation.

What now? Should this scare big brands away from the increasingly real-time digital world? Not at all. In fact, this should encourage it. There was learning on both sides of the fence. Real-time opinion is just that – real-time. And it’s important to tell the whole story when all the facts are available.

In one post, a mommyblogger suggested this year’s conference had the theme of “not all bloggers are like that.” We agree and believe that the Mom in question isn’t either. We had multiple conversations with Liz Gumbinner of Blog with Integrity, and support the badge that she’s encouraging all bloggers to consider. In a real example of the blogger community policing itself, #nikonlovesbabies popped up with photos and statements as well.

Will this deter MWW or Nikon from continuing to engage and conduct open, honest and transparent dialogue with the blogger community? Of course not. We achieved our original goal to have meaningful conversation and personal interaction with bloggers and will continue to do so.

We recognize this BlogHer conference was a tipping point for corporations and bloggers to slowly come together on the same playing field. Together we should commit to letting the facts surface and put accusations on the back burner. Together, we can learn from one another and appreciate the influence and voice each of us has.

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  • It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks ..

  • Wow. As someone who is constantly writing about Nikon and posting photos I've taken with my D60, I sure would have liked an invitation. Nikon -- can you hear us now? The women at the Nikon booth were very nice, but were unable to answer my question about one problem I've been having with my D60.

    Nikon, next time?

  • Thanks for for the comment! We'd love to get your issue with the Nikon D60 figured out. Please e-mail me at ahaigh@mww.com.

    -Althea

  • Ah, the wonderful non-attending marketing bloggers, who will always find an opportunity to talk about how they "get it" and others don't. Of course, MWW and Nikon has a history of working with bloggers, etc and knowing what they are doing within social media.

    Those same marketing bloggers, though, are really just selling themselves and have no real world experience beyond self promotion. Glad you wrote this post, and I had a great time talking to the Nikon people and MWW while at BlogHer (my fourth).

    As for the controversy, nicely handled.

  • I thought the event was fantastic, and I had a great time. That said, the way everyone at Nikon and MWW (and Esther too) responded to the misguided and misplaced non-drama is even more impressive than the event was that evening (and again, it was lovely). As a result, I'm now a big fan. Well done, all around.

  • Althea - good explanation of a good recovery by Nikon/MWW for a situation that would have been difficult to anticipate. Those things happen. What's most discouraging, but not surprising, is the pickup and amplification by people without any knowledge of the situation. jrb

  • I was very impressed with the MWW organizer the night of the Nikon party, and found her to be a very sincere practitioner of her craft. I found it unfortunate that someone who worked so hard and so long on such an amazing event got crushed by third party information spread. I hear the argument of "There should have been advance notice", but REALLY. Imagine what this would have blown up into if moms had a week's notice to talk via social media about "No Babies for Nikon" or some similar overblown statement.

    I absolutely hear the original two women involved on not meaning to start this ruckus- I've jokingly used hashtags before, such as "#suckitcancer", that I meant as a one-off to characterize a certain moment. I'm sorry that they got hijacked, but really impressed with how they, the brand, and the PR company handled it- talking together, directly, like grownups. And the women didn't even demand a new pair of shoes! Kudos to all.

  • Crazedmommy

    I was a guest at the Nikon event, and this as well as a party thrown by the MamaPop team are two of my favorite moments at BlogHer this year. So thank you for that.

    We all have a lot to learn in regards to Social Media. Hopefully the lessons learned from this will help all of us in future endeavors.

    The Nikon and MWW teams should be very proud of their work on the event and beyond. Well done.

  • mamanistadebbie

    I had a wonderful time at the Nikon event. Thanks for sponsoring the party and for posting about the #nikonhatesbabies controversy. I've worked with the MWW team as a marketer (in a past job MWW was my PR resource) and as a blogger. In both roles, I appreciated the team's professionalism.

  • I'd like to thank Nikon for having me at such an awesome event. I feel, personally, that it was a beautiful and appropriate venue for a Friday night party. I know some people think everything should be baby friendly or that they should get to decide what is safe/appropriate, but I think we all have to recognize that the lines in the sand are different for everyone. Maybe Nikon should have said specifically in the invites babies were not welcome, and maybe anyone who wants to take a baby to a private party should check with the host first.

    For my part, I'm glad it was an "adult" party, and I thought the entire event was incredible. I don't think Nikon should have been obligated to open up the party to anyone who wanted to RSVP and I am glad that the particular women involved have been engaged personally. Way to go!

  • I have a question as someone who was not at BlogHer (and also as someone who doesn't use Nikon products). Did Nikon and its' representatives specify that children and/or infants were not allowed? While I realize that not every blogger present was a "mommy-blogger", from what I understand of the conference as a whole it seems very baby friendly. If someone was not from the Chicago area, they may not have known that the location was not child-friendly and I know many people who see no problem taking their children everywhere with them. If I, on the other hand, don't know if someplace is child-friendly, my kids stay home. I don't believe either way is wrong. It seems to me that a lot of this hoopla could have been avoided with a simple written statement on the invitation that addressed children. It would have fit neatly right underneath the dress code (I'm joking, I did not see the invite so I have no clue if the dress code was even mentioned.)

  • phdinparenting

    While I can appreciate the gestures that were made to apologize to the women that were involved, I do still think that Nikon made a mistake in planning the event.

    I agree with the sentiment behind the "know your audience" point in your post, but not the actual text behind it. I think knowing your audience means that if you are talking to women bloggers, attending BlogHer, an event that welcomes babies, you need to be very clear from the start about choosing a venue that accommodates babies (ideally) or at least being courteous enough to explain in advance if there will be any restrictions (e.g. no babies).

    I also take exception to you deciding what is okay or not okay for someone else's child. You said: "Due to the time of the event, the noise level, the availability of alcohol and the proximity to water, we determined that from a safety perspective, children should not attend." Personally, I have taken my baby anywhere and everywhere with me and take appropriate steps to ensure her safety. I wear her in a sling, I don't get drunk, and if I feel the noise level is inappropriate then I would leave.

    One way or another, I think more open communications and consideration in advance of the event was called for.

  • The event was great. I was shocked to hear there had been drama, since I didn't see any at the time. We were treated professionally and I had a great time.

  • This incident just goes to show how powerful and damaging social media can be. I got on Twitter early Saturday morning and saw the tweets and blog post from a blogger who I have been following for years. I thought she was at the event and it happened to her. I trusted her and then retweeted it to over 10,000 of my followers.

    I think this is a good lesson for everyone. As social media users, we need to check the facts first before we spread the word, no matter what it is.

  • MomSpark

    I'm so glad you wrote this post. I attended the party, and it was, by far, my favorite party of the 10 I went to at BlogHer. I agree that it was not a safe set-up for children, so good call.

    I spoke to one of the two moms who were turned away, and she was not at all offended, but would have liked a warning in the invitation, which I think is fair.

    Great job on that party, it was a fabulous one!

  • Bravo, MWW and Nikon, for understanding the people, the situation, and the tools everyone was using. Thank you for a brilliant model well discussed here.

  • dineanddish

    I was one of the moms involved and agree that Nikon treated this with utmost professionalism.
    Having never gone to a BlogHer conference and not knowing what kind of establishment the restaurant was, I did not think anything about bringing my baby since she was welcome at the other BlogHer events. It honestly did not even cross my mind to ask, which was my fault. Although my infant will not be going with me to BlogHer again, I now know to make sure that whatever I would be doing with her is approved beforehand. Lesson learned. I did not attend the other parties at BlogHer (and do not under normal circumstances take my baby to "bars") but having never been to the establishment, again, didn't even think about the fact that it might be an issue.

    The Nikon reps at the booth, the party and those I have communicated with since have been nothing but professional and apologetic. I was disappointed that I didn't have the opportunity to experience the party, but do understand that it was not possible under the conditions. I agree that this whole thing got way out of hand and blown out of proportion. Lessons have been learned by all of us.

    Thank you, Nikon, for the in person apology and personal communication since BlogHer and for setting the facts straight. I have been and always will be an advocate for Nikon products!

  • It sounds like MWW and Nikon handled the whole thing extremely well. I've been reading many posts about BlogHer '09 and enjoying them - a few are negative stories, but definitely the overall feeling is positive for the bloggers and the companies. I wasn't able to attend in '09 but I am thrilled to already have a ticket for BlogHer '10 and I know that issues like these will only make the next conference even better than what this one was.

  • Danielle Smith

    I had a fabulous time at the party - it was easily one of the highlights of my weekend. You did an anamzing job of treating us to a spectacular time while showcasing Nikon.

    I talked to one of the moms involved the next day and truly believe she did not intend for this situation to develop as it did.

    That said, I think the fact that you (Nikon) reached out to the moms - and they responded in kind is just what was needed. You are right - you could have responded via social media - and that would have served only to increase the level of drama and perpetuate any misinformation.

    Thank you again.

  • dineanddish

    I was one of the moms involved and agree that Nikon treated this with utmost professionalism.
    Having never gone to a BlogHer conference and not knowing what kind of establishment the restaurant was, I did not think anything about bringing my baby since she was welcome at the other BlogHer events. It honestly did not even cross my mind to ask, which was my fault. Although my infant will not be going with me to BlogHer again, I now know to make sure that whatever I would be doing with her is approved beforehand. Lesson learned. I did not attend the other parties at BlogHer (and do not under normal circumstances take my baby to "bars") but having never been to the establishment, again, didn't even think about the fact that it might be an issue.

    The Nikon reps at the booth, the party and those I have communicated with since have been nothing but professional and apologetic. I was disappointed that I didn't have the opportunity to experience the party, but do understand that it was not possible under the conditions. I agree that this whole thing got way out of hand and blown out of proportion. Lessons have been learned by all of us.

    Thank you, Nikon, for the in person apology and personal communication since BlogHer and for setting the facts straight. I have been and always will be an advocate for Nikon products!

  • While I did not attend the Nikon Party at BlogHer, I heard nothing but good things about it from those who did attend. Kudos to Nikon for maintaining a professional countenance throughout the convention!

  • I have to say that the Nikon event was my favorite event of the weekend! I enjoyed the conversations both at the party and your booth - as well as learning about your cameras. This response is wonderful!

  • I had a good time at the Nikon party, the location was gorgeous and I enjoyed talking with the Nikon representatives and watching the makeovers.
    It was a fun and classy event and this is a great explanation/response to it all.
    I was a bit more subdued than normal due to a migraine, but I loved the limo ride, the finger foods and the ice cold waters that I drank ;-)
    Thanks for inviting me, hosting the event and the follow up.

  • Bravo. I attended the Nikon Night Out party, and I thought it was a smashing success. It was a classy event held in a gorgeous location. I thought the Nikon party was the best one of the weekend, partly because it was a small, sophisticated gathering that was more like a dinner party with friends than a frat party (not that there's anything wrong with either one, just drawing a comparison). That you reached out to clear the air with the women involved shows why.

  • muddslide

    This is a constructive explanation of events which no doubt (given a few extra days perspective) describes what happened from the Nikon (event organizer) perspective.

    Before I present another side, I'd say traffic at the Nikon booth at the tradeshow was light (every time I was there) - this situation had an impact.

    From inside the "Blogher09" world - people (women bloggers) - some of whom were not there (restricted guest list after all) did indeed lift "moms with babies denied entrance" into quite a buzz.

    Isn't it imbalanced to assign too much responsibility to 2 women and say "it was only a joke by 2 women who misunderstood the clear directive they'd been given".

    1) Those vetting the venue might have given a tad more thought to venue + not chosen one where this issue would arise.

    2) Choice of venue was part of a broader choice the organizers made re: "exclusivity". I believe Nikon (and the event organizers) brought some of this ire on themselves (and this perceived slight to moms w/ babies just provided a chance to vent it) by making this event rather exclusive (not public) at a democratic conference like Blogher.

    What do I mean?

    Someone like myself, a first time attendee who purchased a Blogher 09 pass last March 2009 and kept up with events on blogher.com had no advance notice of event, thus near zero chance to "get on the guest list". In contrast, I received invites in advance (via Evite) to several other events. In the couple days leading up to Blogher09, there was lots of traffic on Twitter between "insiders" (those on the Nikon guest list) who had the "secret location" or some similar insider info - resulting in making other women feel excluded. This made an odd impression on me (about Nikon) days before the buzz about "no babies".

    Bottom line - when I buy my next camera, it will be based on a comparison of features but of course these events will linger. For me, Nikon made a gaffe - or was targeting - what? the wealthy or the upwardly mobile at Blogher? Meh....

    I had an excellent experience at Blogher and of course will look favorably on brands that both have excellent products and who include me.

    Regards,
    Muddslide

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