Guest post by Frederick Hawkins
I live in New York. I am the father of a beautiful, charming, witty and sharp two and a half year old boy (I’m not just saying that!), the husband of a beautiful, charming, sometimes nagging (she denies it…), sophisticated Italian wife. I myself am a bit of a mutt – American father and Italian mother. Perfectly bi-lingual and often travelling between my beloved New York and Rome.
What inspired me to start New York Dad’s Blog?
Actually, my wife. She was on maternity leave from her job as an investment banker and decided she wanted to be closer to home and our son. Also, she felt that there was a demand for more affordable eco-friendly, non-toxic and organic baby and children’s products that was not being met, so with a friend and fellow mompreneur she founded EcoBabyBuys.com which is a flash sale site that features what they call an “eco-buy” a day at 40% or more off retail prices. They wanted to reach out to moms and dads with a forum or blog to hear what kind of products people wanted featured and also to get people thinking about how to make day-to-day safer for kids. Since there was so much work that needed to be done on the business end of things, I volunteered to look into blogs. I had set one up a few years ago using Blogger, but after a few months I just couldn’t keep up. This time I started, naturally, looking at what moms were doing since it was the community my wife wanted to engage in an ongoing discussion. I found such an incredibly diverse group of women all talking about different things, but with the common thread of parenthood. I noticed that there were several dads commenting on posts and as I followed their links I discovered that dads too had their own blogs and discussions going so I thought what better way to help my wife out than to start a blog and see what it was all about. I also started to use Twitter on pretty much a daily basis. This was last January and I can’t stop.
My friends don’t know where I find the time and frankly I don’t either, but usually at night when my son falls asleep and my wife is hard at work I usually get a chance to write. Other than a few friends and family members on Facebook (especially the younger crowd), no one I know is involved in social media – Twitter or otherwise.
In many cases I talk more with the friends I have made amongst my fellow bloggers and on Twitter than with friends I have known forever. Social media seems to adapt itself perfectly to parents. We have little or no time, in general, to actually sit down and grab coffee or a drink. With social media we can interact in those snatches of time that might pop-up during the day between work and time with the kids.
I must confess that social media is not my priority as I am sure it is not for many parents out there, unless it is your job, but we all seem to find solace in knowing that you can put out a tweet or put up a post and use the space as a sounding board and sanity check.
I have met some incredible men and women, dads and moms many of them incredible bloggers and writers. A few I have also been lucky enough to meet in person. The community of dads is a great group of veteran dads and bloggers, some who have been writing prolifically for a decade, and others like myself who have just started putting words into cyberspace. There is really quite a diverse and interesting group out there and as I said before the common thread is parenting which is one of those clubs that you can only truly appreciate once you are a member.
I really have no other goal for New York Dad’s Blog or The Dapper Dad than to write, although one should never say never. I certainly center many of my thoughts around my son and all the fun, maddening and quirky things he does. I also, on occasion, talk about things I encounter in general that may not be related to my son (hence the “Anything and Everything” in my header) because although my son and “daddyhood” define a large part of my life these days, I still feel I have something to say beyond diapers and day care. I like to think that this has attracted the attention of some of the brands I work with and talk about in some of my posts. I do reviews on occasion and have done giveaways although I am not so keen on them. I do not worry too much about the “numbers” although I would guess that all bloggers have a pinch of narcissism in them or they would not put themselves out there on a regular basis. I am certainly not what you would consider a professional blogger. I do wish I had more time to write and I envy those bloggers who do it full time or who have incredibly busy schedules and yet find time to write posts on a daily basis. The hardest thing to do, though, is read all the incredible content that is out there on blogs and not just parents, but other interests that I have and wish could read more about.
Since my priority is family and work I turn down a great deal of product review offers and other PR outreach programs because I do not have the time and it really would be disrespectful to the brands to say yes and then not follow through. I work as a Brand strategist by trade so I know how frustrating it can be if your outreach is stymied by people who over commit. That is not to say that I have not also seen some terrible outreach programs from brands that I would have expected more from them when I enlisted. It goes to show that this is certainly a brave new world for brands and some do their homework and others dive in head first without learning to swim first.
The brands I have worked with are usually the ones that understand the relevance of dads and how they are a different yet equal part of the parenting equation. As a father I am not looking to be treated like a mom, but like a dad. I am not the “norm”, the same that the statistics say does not make the purchasing decisions for my son, that says I am absent from my kid’s life and that says I am irrelevant when it comes to raising kids. Those statistics, though, are based on research done on mom-centric families. I imagine I receive the same amount of consideration from brands as do single parents and SAHDs. They do not fit the stereotype of the average family so they don’t count. I get that, at least from a business stand point, but norms shift and right now the entry barrier for these “overlooked” demographics (of which I am a part) is practically nothing so as a brand why not make that minimal effort to capture the niche at zero cost?
One thing that brands fail to understand about me (and I’m sure it may come as a shock to some) is that much like mom I do not have the luxury of time. Keep that in mind if you are asking to work with me on an outreach, because I may have to postpone meetings or events because my kid is sick or I had to switch up drop off/pick up duty with my wife on top of my work schedule and client meetings popping up unexpectedly. Then again, as I said before, I am not a “professional” blogger. I find quite often (and I assume this is often the case for moms who blog) that the outreach for parents is lead by a young social media maven who has no kids and since they are not part of our little “club”, you don’t really get it – statistics are great, but being a parent is real and not just a questionnaire – I don’t care how many nieces and nephews you have in the immediate family. It’s not their fault either; if you don’t have a kid you just will not understand what really makes parents tick. I am surprised, in fact, that more brands and PR agencies do not tap into parents working in the MarComm industry to teach brands how to communicate with other parents.
You asked me what the differences and similarities are between Dads and Moms online and that is a tough one to answer. The more I read, the more I understand that dads tackle subjects and daily life from a very different angle than moms. Certainly we break along the stereotypical man/woman line and we approach problems that may arise and answer questions in a very gender specific way. What I find in the online dads that may not fit the stereotype we see on TV and read in print is that they are very present in their kid’s life. Granted the online demographic probably does not reflect the reality in this country. Across the board the expectation is that fathers are stuck in the Leave It To Beaver era of working at an office and turning up for casserole and kissing the kids goodnight to then just sit in front of the TV or read the paper while mom dashes about doing chores and making sure the kids don’t bother dad, you know, because it has been a long day for him. That may still play out in many families, but I do not think it is as commonplace these days. Most families need two incomes and with both parents working chores must be divided to keep the household running smoothly (or as smoothly as possible). This means diapers, laundry, cooking, doing dishes, tidying rooms, supermarket runs, bringing the kids to school, to the doctor etc. Even when one parent stays-at-home there is still an expectation that the other parent puts in their time when at home. What I do notice about moms online is that they have managed to seemingly cover every nook and cranny of the diversity scale when it comes to themes, thoughts and writing. Dads are still finding a voice and deciding what to “cover” when they write. I see a lot of moms that have honed in on themes and issues they now specialize in covering whereas a great deal of dads are still using their blogs as a true weblog/diary (which I actually find makes for a much more entertaining read). From a cynical standpoint I would say that the dads are less business savvy at this point in the blogger realm. This does, though, get us into a much larger debate about blogs and what each blogger expects to achieve or get out of writing one (aka business vs pleasure).
To conclude my ramblings I want to reiterate that savvy brands will seek out and find the dads that are willing to connect and speak to their audience on their behalf. As moms have, rightly, earned the compensation they are currently receiving for their brand related content, dads are going to have to play catch up. There is arbitrage for the brands for a while until that learning curve flattens out and dads will ask for more than some freebies. Learn to respect dads as equals in the parenting equation and understand that they are just as busy as mom. Short of female specific products, dads are just as likely to respond to products positively as long as brands show them that a specific product or service is for parents – as in “uni-sex”.
I am having a blast writing and posting. I enjoy hearing from other parents and reading their experiences. The beauty of blogs is how near and dear many of the posts are – written by parents for parents. That is something that the media at large still does not quite grasp.