How To Talk To Moms? Listen.

As a mother, a woman, and editor of a magazine for 10 million women and moms like me (and not like me), I find it hard not to be amused by the constant handwringing in the media and advertising worlds about how best to talk to "moms." Because more often than not, they end up talking at us. At times, we feel reduced to a tidy pile of demographics and household statistics that effectively erase all the unique distinction we women are each so proud to possess.

People often ask me who the Redbook reader is. I used to answer, "Which one? There are at least five" - before launching into a breakdown of types: the young professional women balancing work and home in suburban or metropolitan areas; the even younger stay-at-home moms in the exurbs who married out of high school or during college; the aspirational can't-wait-to-marrys all over the country, and so forth.

But as I got better at listening to our audience, and as I got to meet them - on Facebook, through Twitter, through redbookmag.com, through the blogs so many of them keep, in person at mall events and so on - I realized there were millions of different kinds of our readers out there. And, that what made the Harley moms, the stitch-and-bitch moms, the widowed moms, single moms, two-times-married moms, the breast-cancer-survivor moms distinct from each other was a much more vital way of making them feel included in everything we do than what made them the same.

Through my own Facebook page - which I invited our readers to join, as well as the magazine's fan page - I see the daily ups and downs of what we call "grown-up life": the disgruntled posts after a hurry-up morning has gone awry; joyful greetings to friends, who are the lifeboats in busy women's lives; the celebration of small joys, like a sunny day or a cheap pair of shoes, each of these a shout-out to be heard and witnessed before another day jammed to the hilt with "to-dos" flies by.

Yes, we moms want to be witnessed, to spend some time on our "to-be" list, instead of merely living our "to-do" list, to get to be women first sometimes, just for ourselves. We get to be a "mom and" these days, not "just a stay-at-home mom" or a "working mom," but a mom and a yoga teacher, a mom and an entrepreneur, a mom and a community organizer, a mom and a beauty addict, a mom and a church leader, a mom and so much more. And the only way for a marketer to learn the "so much more" is to open your ears (and your email in-box, and your Facebook page, and your whatever else you can imagine) and ask the question: "Hello, who are you?" And then listen.

What I hear back through all these channels - and then publish in the magazine, on the web site, in our mobile phone applications, and everywhere else Redbook is - is the lovely, joyful sound of women finding their way in a complicated world, putting their unique fingerprints on everything they do, and, most inspiring of all, standing by to support other moms and women as they find their own way.

I have learned so much about who this group is by listening in on their individual conversations, and I have been able to make the magazine and all its properties feel more rich and inclusive because of it. But the best part is being included in the conversation: To be a magazine editor and a woman and a mom.

Editor's note: If you'd like to contribute to this newsletter, see our editorial guidelines first and then contact Nina Lentini.

Tags: moms, strategy
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12 comments about "How To Talk To Moms? Listen. ".
  1. Lisbeth Kramer from Identities , July 8, 2009 at 12:51 p.m.

    STACY (if I may)

    LOVED THIS! While I am not a mom, I am a passionate marketer of which marketing to women AND MEN, are prime platforms of ignited engagement...I have shared this with so many women, your insights here...but what I would like to add is, I think what you say rings true for so much regarding brands trying to connect with Women, mom or not..."talking at us..." Above all your secret ingredient, LISTENING....BRAVO!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Jonathan Hall from American Pop , July 8, 2009 at 12:53 p.m.

    Excellent points about brands speaking with Moms. One major learning I've gotten from having executed social media campaigns reaching out to moms is that moms (women in general actually) like to relate their personal experiences in discussions with their peers. Not to say that moms want to just talk about themselves, but that they like to personalize a shared topic of interest and make the discussion very human.

  3. Karie Reynolds from Grand Avenue PR , July 8, 2009 at 1:26 p.m.

    Thank you Stacy, I can't wait to share this with all of our clients. As a marketer I can't agree more with your advice to ask and then truly listen. And as a mom, I immediately connected to your point about the "to be" list. Thank you for explaining this so eloquently.

  4. Heidi Olinger from Pretty Brainy, Inc. , July 8, 2009 at 1:38 p.m.

    Stacy's piece is a great reminder that ---

    1. We need to stop talking and genuinely HEAR what our audiences are saying. And ---

    2. Many of us have multiple audiences with multiple primary concerns and views on the world.

    At Pretty Brainy, our 2 prime female audiences, mothers and girls, can often be at odds with one another, so we endeavor to be skilled at shutting up and closely listening!

  5. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc. , July 8, 2009 at 2:24 p.m.

    Terrific article. Working on a grocery retail client, we spend a lot of time listening to and crafting messages for moms (and non-moms). There is a direct correlation to reflecting the quality of listening to the effectiveness of messaging. Who doesn't want to be heard and responded to?
    http://www.asoy.com

  6. Stacy Morrison from Redbook , July 8, 2009 at 4:02 p.m.

    Thanks for all your feedback, everyone. And feedback is what it is about! It's how we make connections, build brands, and oh, you know, live a life worth living! Cheers, SLM

  7. Vicki Purifoy from PME Communications, LLC , July 8, 2009 at 5:23 p.m.

    Stacy, your words go way beyond delivering a message that we know but need to hear again. Your words reveal a respect and admiration for your readers --and a passion to serve them -- that is not only admirable but downright inspiring. I have printed your article and posted it on my wall. Now I'm going on line to subscribe to your magazine. Thank you!

  8. Dhana Cohen from The Next Big Zing , July 8, 2009 at 5:35 p.m.

    Stacy,

    Its amazing the way in which the world communicates now. I use to be in the newspaper world and it was cut and dry. print, radio or TV...yes I am dating myself. I think as business people we have to move forward and see that these "moms" are trying to capture all the information provided, but in a way they don't feel as if its taking over their lives. We are all so busy...your magazine does provide an ahh to sit and relax. thank you for that!

  9. Minette Riordan from Scissortail Publishing , July 8, 2009 at 6:14 p.m.

    Stacy,

    I so agree with you! I own a parenting magazine in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and am a mom of two young children. All of my staff are moms of school-aged children also. We are constantly amazed at how little our clients understand the value of not just listening to their clients but taking the initiative to ask them what they want, rather than just feeding offers and information to them. I am so impressed with what you have accomplished with Redbook magazine. You are a true inspiration. Thanks for sharing your insights and wisdom and letting all of us know that we are not operating alone.

  10. Tilly Pick from Development Practice 360, LLC. , July 8, 2009 at 8:21 p.m.

    A great reminder and refresher for really caring about and understanding your customers. In this age of internet-driven numbers games, it seems that a lot of companies have lost sight of who makes up the number and why, and as a result struggle with how to provide genuine, meaningful and lasting value. I wonder what Lisa Fortini-Campbell, author of "Hitting the Sweet Spot" (published in the early 90s), would say about this?

  11. Al Haberstroh from MontAd , July 9, 2009 at 11:14 a.m.

    Great points Stacy. I often go to conferences and hear all this discussion about measurement metrics and want to scream, "they're not metrics, they're people." I was at one conference recently and a client was sitting next to me, she leaned over and said "they don't get it, they think marketing is all math". The more we all realize that we are marketing to individuals not demographics the better we be at listening and crafting relevant messages.

  12. Veronica Gilmore , September 26, 2009 at 12:49 a.m.

    New mom on the block here...I am actually a mom representing a major brand in the industry...and I have found it quite tricky to talk to moms about my experiences. I found this article very helpful when talking to other moms - THANKS!
    http://mcdonaldscorrespondents.com/about.php