What's the ultimate sign that you've "made it"? Signing with a talent agent, of course.
It's not quite Ari Emanuel, but mommy bloggers can now get guidance and representation -- albeit with fewer F-bombs -- through a venture launched by Edelman digital alum Danielle Wiley. Sway Group, essentially a talent agency representing mommy bloggers, assists PR agencies in customizing programs that match them with appropriate bloggers for their clients' campaigns.
PR agencies have long identified and worked with mommy bloggers -- Ms. Wiley, during her time at Edelman, was one of the pioneers. But now that she's launched Sway, Ms. Wiley is counting on agencies buying into her help for a few reasons. First off, it's free. Rather than charging the agencies a fee, Ms. Wiley negotiates blogger fees and then takes a commission from the dollars she brings her blogger clients. But secondly, and more importantly, her pitch is that she'll be booking gigs in line with their brands and watching their backs in a newly scrutinized, FTC-regulated era.
MOMS ON BOARD
Some bloggers who have signed on with the agency:Amy Storch, AMALAH
Jyl Johnson Pattee, MOMITFORWARD
Liz Gumbinner, MOM 101
Kristen Chase, MOTHERHOOD UNCENSORED
Gabrielle Blair, DESIGN MOM
Isabel Kallman, ALPHA MOM
Alice Bradley, FINSLIPPY
Eden Marriott Kennedy, FUSSY
Rebecca Woolf, GIRLS GONE CHILD
Roxanna Sarmiento, EVERYDAY TREATS
Chris Jordan, NOTES FROM THE TRENCHES
Sarah James, WHOORL
Tracey Gaughran-Perez, SWEETNEY
Katie Allison Granju, MAMA PUNDIT
Karen Walrond, CHOOKOOLOONKS
Lindsay Ferrier, SUBURBAN TURMOIL
Catherine Connors, HER BAD MOTHER
Heather Spohr, THE SPOHRS ARE MULTIPLYING
Linda Sharps, ALL & SUNDRY
Laura Mayes, THE QUESO
Ellen Seidman, LOVE THAT MAX
Susan Wagner, WORKING CLOSET
Monica Bielanko, THE GIRL WHO
Meagan Francis, THE HAPPIEST MOM
Jessica Ashley, SASSAFRASS
Marketers are going beyond sponsored posts to leverage bloggers as spokespeople, using satellite media tours, blogger coverage and campaign participation (with full disclosure, of course), among other tactics. They're simultaneously blurring the lines between earned and paid media, which has led to an increase in the number of programs that are "borderline unethical and not in line with their brands," said Ms. Wiley.
"When a person they're paying happens to be a journalist, it can be an uncomfortable situation for agencies. Neither side ends up thrilled with the programs," she said. "There seemed to be a need for someone in the middle to create programs everyone feels good about."
She reached out to a target list of 30 women bloggers in April and, within a week, had verbal agreements from almost all of them, as well as reception from PR agencies such as Interpublic Group of Cos.' DeVries and her alma mater Edelman. She decided to move her expected launch up from August to June, a move that she says speaks to the increasing relevance of influential bloggers' roles in branded editorial content.
She estimates that the firm will earn $1 million in revenue in its first year, much of which will ultimately belong to the bloggers. And she's not stopping with Sway. She's partnering with Allison Talamantez, a former account director at Fishbone, to launch Sway Events, a sibling company that has secured sponsorship contracts with seven social-media conferences.
At some point, she'll also consider expanding Sway Group services to other types of marketing agencies and bloggers -- there's already interest from dad, food and design bloggers, she said. "PR firms have been doing such a good job working with social-media influencers, but as paid programs become more and more prevalent, our model is a really nice one for ad agencies to use."
Edelman Digital Exec VP David Armano said that the agency will likely tap into Ms. Wiley's services, "depending on the client need."
"To be connected to the right people is key," he said, adding that Sway could also help in a situation that has the potential to absorb many agency resources. He used the hypothetical example of coordinating global blogger events as part of a larger influencer campaign for a client. "It becomes another tool in our toolbox." Or, put another way, she's another set of hands.
"I have not seen anything like this before," said DeVries President Stephanie Smirnov. "We'll start to see more brand and product integration into content. It's the way of the future for brands working with bloggers. Danielle is tapping into that ."