3M Company has come under fire from the female blogging community following accusations by two single mom bloggers that the company’s PR team behaved unethically and took their ideas for a party at the upcoming BlogHer Conference.
The seventh BlogHer Annual Conference, one of the world’s largest conferences for women in social media, will take place August 5-6 in San Diego. BlogHer.com reaches more than 20M people monthly, according to a Nielsen Site Census from March 2010. The conference offers opportunities to network with top brands from corporate giants like PepsiCo, 3M and Procter & Gamble.
3M, owner of Scotch tapes, Post-it notes and Filtrete Water, among other brands, is hosting an Hawaiian-themed party, “Goin’ Coconuts! Luau & Mixer,” at the conference on Aug. 4. Shortly after the party was announced on BlogHer’s website, accusations filled the blogosphere and Twitter that the company had bailed on its commitment to sponsor a competing party, inspiring the hashtag #Suckit3M.
The hosts of the “Kiss Our Sass Party Powered by Match.com”, a party for single moms and friends, Melysa Schmitt and Jamie Wilson, claim that 3M agreed to sponsor their party to the amount of $1,500 and in turn, received tips on how to most effectively promote themselves at the event.
Schmitt and Wilson, who own the blogs “Sex, Lies, and Bacon” and “Single Mom Survives”, respectively, claim that the company then failed to respond to their messages for over a week and ultimately backed out of the event. They believe that 3M used their ideas in the planning of its party, scheduled for the same night and time.
Hunter PR is representing 3M at BlogHer this year. When contacted for comment, a senior A/E at Hunter responded with a prepared statement written jointly by 3M and BlogHer:
“While 3M had inquired about sponsorship of this outside party, 3M signed its sponsorship agreement with BlogHer in May and subsequently notified the two blogger organizers that it was focusing on the details of its own official event and sponsorship.
On Monday morning, July 11th, 3M staff tried to arrange a phone call with these bloggers to hear their concerns. We would have welcomed the chance to speak. However, the bloggers declined 3M’s offer and instead continued to post negative comments.”
Schmitt and Wilson tell a different story. They admit that while 3M failed to sign the final contract, it did commit to sponsoring the party.
“They did not INQUIRE about sponsorship, they COMMITTED in an email after weeks of exchanges. ‘The Scotch team will be COMMITTING to this effort,’” wrote Schmitt in an open letter 3M on her blog. “They signed their sponsorship with BlogHer in May. They contacted us AFTER that and well into JUNE. They did not ‘subsequently’ [notify us].”
Schmitt also wrote that while she and Wilson did decline a telephone conversation with a 3M consumer brands PR manager, they did so in favor of continuing to communicate via email, as they had been for the past two months. “I knew they were going to say we declined to speak with them […] I knew what they were up to and why they would not speak to me further about it in writing.”
BlogHer co-founder and CEO Lisa Stone has described the female blogger as “one of the most powerful communicators in social media today.” Women make 85% of all consumer purchases and control $4.3 trillion in U.S. consumer spending, so it’s no surprise that 3M’s PR team tried to tap this valuable resource by sponsoring the 2011 BlogHer Conference. However the Kiss Our Sass incident has sparked anger in several BlogHer attendees and other influential female bloggers, many of whom have publicly vowed to boycott 3M.
Shortly after the 2010 BlogHer Conference, O’Dwyer’s asked Jason Winocour, social media practice leader of Hunter PR, to comment on why female bloggers were so important to big brands. He said: “Female and ‘mom’ bloggers develop trusting and lasting relationships with their communities, and as a result, brands want to be known to bloggers because of the consumer influence they wield.”
It is not yet clear what effect, if any, this consumer influence will have on 3M’s overall image and sales.