“Calmer waters” in the blogosphere for the PM – Anna Spargo-Ryan

“Calmer waters” in the blogosphere for the PM

“Calmer waters” in the blogosphere for the PM

An interesting thing happened in Twitterland last week. At short notice, influential social media users and bloggers – all women – began to murmur about how they had been invited to have morning tea with the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. “Cool!” we said. “What’s it for?”

It would be fair to say that there wasn’t a flurry of responses to that question, but the ones that did come back were a variation on the “to have a chat” theme. Considering Gillard is one of the busiest people in the country, the notion that she simply wanted to have a chat with a group of women she’d never met – all of whom are well connected with and influence many other women – seemed unlikely. But with no clear statement from Kirribilli House or really any additional information, those not invited along waited until afterward, when surely everything would become clearer.

“What was it about!” we cried, looking for juicy details.

“She just wanted to chat!” they said.

And then, as we might have predicted, they took to their blogs to talk about what a wonderful time they had had at morning tea with the PM, and their many and varied female audience members – remembering that women are also the key influencers in their households – read about how excellent it all was. So far, all fine.

Obviously it wasn’t just for a chat, and was a carefully constructed exercise in PR by a very clever team that has its finger on the pulse. Mummy bloggers make headlines because of their influence –> mummy bloggers spread Gillard’s likeableness via their great influence.

I think that’s neat. It’s clever, it’s contemporary, it’s creative. Someone has tapped into an audience that most people are too scared to touch and generated publicity gold. I don’t have a beef with any of this. I think it shows a degree of savviness not often seen in Australian (or any) politics. Iced Vovos all round!


Fairfax ran a piece about it this morning.

IT IS an old saying in politics that complaining about the media is like a sailor complaining about the sea. But these days, if conditions get too choppy, you can switch to calmer waters by bypassing the mainstream media and heading straight to the blogosphere.

Let’s break that down.

It’s safe for the PM to invite and address a bunch of female social media influencers, because as far as the general public is concerned (and I’m obviously not saying I agree with this) they are not real media influencers with real ideas or real opinions or real political leanings. They are apparently not perceived to be a group of people who will get involved in something and then speak in a contrary way about policies they disagree with. 

Don’t worry, Prime Minister, you can invite these people along because chances are, they are too nice to say bad things about you and they don’t have real opinions anyway.

I don’t think that’s true – I think the “blogosphere” comprises a large number of motivated, interested people who think critically about issues in their lives. But because they are not (always) representatives from mainstream media, sometimes they may lack the objectivity and forthrightness that is necessary to report accurately on things like “visiting the PM and talking about her policies”. What therefore comes out of these visits is a series of blog posts that speak to the “femaleness” of Gillard – her warmth, her empathy, her passion. All of which I believe to be true, but which also has very little to do with her politics.

Therefore, says the SMH, they offer an excellent low-risk method of organic communication to other women like them – ones who are politically malleable and who feel comfortable about investing in a woman who is warm, empathetic and passionate.

We shall see.

  • Veronica

    June 18, 2012 at 10:17 am Reply

    I agree, I think it was incredibly clever PR to invite along women influencers to have coffee and cake with the PM.

    That said, if the SMH thinks that mummybloggers are a “safe” medium, and that they’re likely to be too nice to engage unfavourably, then they’ve obviously never watched a Mummyblogger PR storm. “Motrim Moms” campaign anyone?

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      June 18, 2012 at 10:21 am Reply

      I completely agree Veronica – some mummy bloggers are the most ferocious, fierce women I’ve ever known! Being a “mummy” obviously just puts you into the “soft” camp, as far as the general public is concerned (or at least the SMH).

      • Veronica

        June 18, 2012 at 10:27 am Reply

        I think maybe that’s how SMH has to position itself in order to not see women online as a threat. Mums can and will harness a huge amount of discussion about topics, enough to get entire ad campaigns pulled.

        Probably why it was good for the PM and her team to get them “on board” earlier, rather than later. Clever PR and I would have liked to have been there too.

        • Jayne

          June 18, 2012 at 11:39 am Reply

          The term ‘mummy bloggers’ in and of itself is loaded with derision in many quarters-it’s all about mums gossiping about nappies and breast v formula apparently. Never mind that there are so many blogs written by women passionate about politics, social issues, feminism, causes etc. Being termed a ‘mummy blogger’ is a double edged sword really because while it’s nice to ‘reclaim’ the term and proudly state that it’s not all fluff and PR and brands, that’s the way much of the blogosphere perceives them :(

          Meanwhile I am totes jealous of the bloggers who got to go to the PMtea. I would give my right arm to go. Maybe Tony Abbott will hold one for ‘less prominent bloggers like myself. Oh that would be ‘interesting’ *evil grin*

  • Kelly Exeter

    June 18, 2012 at 11:44 am Reply

    Haha I like that the SMH thinks that engaging with mummy bloggers is a safe medium! Bloggers call it as they see it. From what I can see, no promises were made other than the chance to have tea with the PM. No promises made mean no promises can be broken which means there is nothing to report on than a delightful morning tea with a delightful person.

    Most of the invective in the media against JG has the goal of dehumanising her. This was a brilliant PR exercise to counter this.

  • Carli

    June 18, 2012 at 11:46 am Reply

    I agree, incredibly clever PR but I do wish that hip flask of gin was consumed ;)

  • Debyl1

    June 18, 2012 at 12:17 pm Reply

    I agree it was very clever PR .
    It was also a wonderful opportunity for all of the Bloggers but if anyone thinks they can pull the wool over those amazing womens eyes (because they are so called ‘Mummy Bloggers’) and think they wont write it as they see it….. they are kidding themselves.

  • Robyne Young

    June 18, 2012 at 3:33 pm Reply

    After today’s announcement by Fairfax Jacqueline Maley may well be looking for a job :) I found the article in the SMH incredibly patronising. Getting the ‘influencers’ in for morning tea was a great idea. Ms Maley should have done her homework about the women who were there, but then it’s so much easier to be able to give a group an homogenous label and use the one that is fashionable.
    It’s also offensive to suggest women can be swayed with a cup of tea – perhaps they should have a Bex and a good lie down as well :)

  • Workingwomenaus

    June 18, 2012 at 10:55 pm Reply

    I don’t think there was ever any question that it was a PR exercise – a brilliant one at that! Look at the favorable publicity she received as a result of some tea and croissants. Very clever.

    For the SMH to suggest that bloggers are ‘safe’ just shows how little the author of that piece engages with bloggers!

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      June 18, 2012 at 10:56 pm Reply

      Yes it does! Or more accurately, the falsehoods being perpetuated by mainstream media.

  • Deb @ Bright and Precious

    June 18, 2012 at 11:00 pm Reply

    There is no doubt that there was an agenda. Savvy yes. But they should underestimate the intelligence and honesty of a ‘mummy blogger’.

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      June 18, 2012 at 11:05 pm Reply

      And recognise that in new media, these are actually GOOD things. Another post on the importance of building genuine relationships in a bit.

  • Caz Makepeace

    June 18, 2012 at 11:02 pm Reply

    In other words, journalists are negative, well oiled machines designed to instill fear in us all and remind us what a fucked up world we live in and continue to stoke every fire for every topic known to man, and bloggers are kind and thoughtful and first look at the personal story of those they encounter before judging and trying to tear things to shreds with cynical outlooks.. Because bloggers know that underneath everyone’s labels and hats lie a person who deserves respect and to be honoured just for the mere fact that they are breathing.
    Which group of people are going to help make the world a better place?
    I’m sticking with blogging, traditonal media have too much to answer for.
    Yes a brilliant PR move and I like it.

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      June 18, 2012 at 11:04 pm Reply

      Agreed Caz! It astounds me that the media think that someone who forms a polite – but informed – opinion about someone or something is therefore feeble. Or worse, less intelligent. Or even worse, a journalist ;)

  • Wanderlust

    June 19, 2012 at 4:17 pm Reply

    I think the PM and her team were very savvy to do this. I think the SMH is passive-aggressively fixated on mummy bloggers, the way a kid might whisper jokes about the new smart girl in class who keeps getting the answers right. And I’d like the Obama’s to know I’ll clear my schedule if they’d like to do tea. Anytime.

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      June 22, 2012 at 12:27 pm Reply

      I completely agree! I’ll let the Obamas know next time we Skype ;)

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