At the BlogHer 2008 conference last week, the sold-out conference hosted not only female bloggers (and not all of them moms) but a fair amount of public relations professionals (myself included) and company representatives.

I’ve been to a business blogging conference and a public relations blogging conference, but this was my first time as a BlogHer attendee.

Wow, what a difference. From my perspective, I noticed two distinct and separate agendas at play:

Women were there to connect and meet the friends they’ve made online and to form new friendships. Businesses were there to find out who these women are, what makes them so influential, and how to reach them on a nontraditional level.

Brand name sponsors such as Microsoft, Macy’s, Chevrolet and Nintendo were at the conference, along with many, many others by sponsoring the conference directly, hosting ancillary functions or sponsoring blogger attendance.

(Disclosure: I attended with our client, Syneron, makers of the VelaShape body contouring device.)

“Mommyblogging” has grown to a true market force. Notably, one that knows companies are looking at them out of recognition of the fact that these Mommybloggers make the majority of household buying decisions. How influential are they? Rita Arens from the blog Surrender, Dorothy, recently wrote at BlogHer:

“I’ve had people tell me they’ve bought books, spaghetti sauce and even jewelry based on mommyblog product reviews.  I don’t think it’s a passing fancy.”

Not coincidentally, BlogHer, the conference and community for women bloggers, has grown at the same time, most recently announcing a $5 million funding round and advertising partnership with NBC Universal.

So what does this mean for companies — and public relation practitioners that counsel them? They should be listening to and communicating with consumers as the main audience. Consumers are the ones out there, making decisions for themselves and their families, researching products they hear about and reviewing services they receive.

As a “hybrid” (a mom, a public relations professional, active in online networks and with a background in print journalism), I’m thrilled to see these worlds colliding. Although some early adopters have been pontificating the emergence of the connected consumer, the world at large finally is coming to grips with the era of consumer control.

I hope to be involved with future BlogHer conferences and continue to learn from these amazing people.

— Tonja Deegan

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