Tom and Caroline and I started BlogPaws to help people. Pet people. We were being approached by folks who wanted to learn how to do what we were doing – Caroline had Romeo the Cat then and was raising funds for shelters. Tom's and my petblog, Scratching and Snififngs, was being sponsored. And, because a good many pet people were asking us, "Hey how can I raise funds for my shelter?" and, "Hey,how can I get my blog sponsored?" we decided to teach them. By creating a social media marketing conference.
The idea for BlogPaws as a conference where folks could learn solid, call-to-action social media skills, was born at a BlogHer conference in 2009. The BlogPaws you know today, which is the same, but different – has become a media company supporting bloggers from all over the world. It's a community that you are growing – 'you' being the people who join the online groups, who attend the conferences, and who work with us in our ad network (launching soon!), and our blogger outreach programs.
But, today, I want to share what BlogPaws means just to me.
To me, BlogPaws means being able to support shelters and rescuses, everywhere. Because so many people from so many places all over the world join BlogPaws, both online and in person, we are able to Be the Change for Pets – helping bring attention to cruelty or neglect; helping to support members in raising funds; and working with other groups, like Be the Change for Animals, where Kim Clune and many others work with a focused purpose to help animals everywhere.
BlogPaws means learning, to me. It means I get to read blog posts about pit bulls rescuing their Moms or Dads or other family members, because that's what dogs do; it means learning how to expose cruelty and then working to demand action, things I learn from posts on Facebook and Twitter; it means reading about different breeds and how they think and act and accepting that some people want a standard poodle or a German Shepard, and they get one from responsible, loving breeders (they hate puppy mills as much as we do!). I learn so much from the people of this community, it feels like I'm in school every day. In a good way! BOL!
It also means bringing brands and bloggers together to have conversations they might not have, otherwise. Here's the thing, IMBO (in my brazen opinion) – I know we all hate pet food recalls. I know we all hate testing on animals. I know we all want people everywhere to respect animals – and that we expect our brands to feel the same way we do. Here's where the 'conversation' comes in – without open, honest discourse, we and they cannot learn how to make our pets lives better, happier, more healthy. As a good friend of mine says, "More conversation, less accusation." I want to find out the 'backstory' of the brands I buy, but they're not going to share it if all I ever do is shout at them.
I believe the brands need to reach out to us and learn from us. They don't want pet food recalls! They want to create good, healthy food and toys and products that make our pets well. To do that, they need to talk to us. But, will they, if we do nothing but accuse them of … whatever. I want brands to feel comfortable coming to BlogPaws to meet our bloggers (and micro-bloggers), knowing we'll ask the hard questions, but also knowing we are going to listen to the answers and not run off half-cocked to spread rumors. I want brands and bloggers to work together – this has never been a better time for that to happen. Now, when we can learn together – and teach each other.
Maybe it won't always be smooth sailing, but… if we work together, if we learn to listen – with our EARS and our BRAINS, as well as our HEARTS, we'll accomplish that much more. The 'we' I'm talking about is everyone who has anything to do with pets, brands and bloggers, alike.
So, that's what BlogPaws means to me: the opportunity to accomplish great things on behalf of pets and animals everywhere by using a collective voice. Animals need us to speak for them because they cannot speak for themselves. They need us to support them and care for them responsibly – using responsible journalism – citing sources and giving the benefit of the doubt where it is due.
In the end, BlogPaws is not about one person's agenda. It's not about one group's agenda. It's not about "them vs us"… it's about bringing our voices together, working together, acting together – because we all love animals.
Come to BlogPaws 2012 in Salt Lake City and see for yourself – it's a unique and wonderful experience. I hope I'll see you there!