In the last couple of years, blogging has become an interesting business -- and I use that term in the commercial sense. It's weird, because when I started this blog (back in 2003 - I know, it's mind boggling to me, too), I never expected anyone but my friends and family to read it.
Obviously I -- and the blogosphere -- have come a long way. Especially since we showed up on the radar of corporate America.
This post is not going to be about the political/social aspect of partnering with marketers. This is a topic that has been covered thoughtfully and forcefully by others, and is better suited for my main blog, SoCal Mom (where I hope to talk about the phenomenon after I've had some time to evaluate this event, but in a broader sense).
But I did want to talk a little about the wonder I feel every time I get an email promising an opportunity that is going to be FUN -- like the one that began my relationship with Nintendo... and the invitation I received last year to meet General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz. Or my very positive association with the Walt Disney Company, which paid me last year to be a consultant for Family.com.
These are things that NEVER would have happened to me without my little blog. They make logging on to my computer each day a little bit like Christmas. You never know what you are going to find in that email you are about to open.
So I was a tad giddy back in February, when I got an unexpected invitation to attend Johnson & Johnson's Baby Camp. A retreat with mom bloggers, like a mini-BlogHer? Only all expenses paid? On the East Coast (in New Jersey -- home of my beautiful blogging buddy, Lizzie Thompson)?
Did they know that I am in my 50's and not likely to have much contact with babies until I become a grandmother (hopefully, not for another 10 or 20 years)?
I RSVP'd immediately, in case they came to their senses.
Since then, there's been a lot of chatter in the blogosphere about this event and others. As I said above, I will deal with that in another post, after the event is over, and probably at my other blog, SoCal Mom.
This post is about the event itself.
Everything has been first class -- including my airplane ticket to New Jersey (not all participants got that perk. I think mine was due to how promptly I was able to RSVP). The Heldrich Hotel, where the conference is being held, is a quality, four-star facility. The food served at the dinner buffet was surprisingly good (I tend to expect less from food that's sitting out in a chafing dish). I didn't even have to drive myself to the airport -- Johnson & Johnson arranged for a towncar to transport me to LAX and back.
We have each received a goodie bag filled with Neutrogena products, like anti-wrinkle cream (AHA! Maybe they actually do know how old I am). There's also some partner mark eting going on here: the shuttle from Newark to New Brunswick was a hybrid Tahoe, courtesy of General Motors (a company that really does understand marketing through blogs), and the vintages we sampled at Queer Eye and Top Chef host Ted Allen's wine pairing seminar were provided by the parent company of Robert Mondavi.
Ted Allen, by the way, was wonderful: informative, funny and highly entertaining (just as he is on television -- only he seemed a lot looser. Or maybe we were the ones who were loose. A number of us went straight up to dinner after a chat session in the hotel bar. Anyone who has ever been to a party filled with mommy bloggers -- or even a PTA convention -- knows what that's all about).
I live-tweeted the Ted Allen event, which seemed to unnerve our hosts, one of whom asked another attendee what I was doing by texting on my phone through the whole thing. I guess they had not yet learned about Twitter (we were telling Ted about it, too -- he writes a couple of blogs of his own, and ended his presentation by asking US for pointers. Which, of course, we were more than happy to provide).
Tomorrow's agenda is chock-full of events, from 7:30 a.m. until midnight -- with nary a break inbetween. I expect to learn a few things here. But I think Johnson & Johnson is going to learn just as much -- or more -- from us.
And that's probably the point of this entire exercise.
In the meantime -- getting to reconnect with old blogging friends, live and in person -- is an experience I am savoring.
More tomorrow -- and with a little luck, I will be a lot more coherent than I am tonight.