Since I’m a cutting-edge PR pro, you know I spend a lot of time on a little something called the “world wide interweb” (a reference to the hapless PR guy in the film, FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haXHOPns3Mw)! Seriously though, I do spend time on assorted social media platforms, including Facebook, where I recently learned that a writer colleague of mine, Norine Dworkin-McDaniel, recently landed a spot on “Editors Hour” on Martha (Stewart) Live on Sirius Radio XM (106). Pretty nice gig! So I decided to ask her how she did it, and how it all went, as I was sure there were important PR lessons to be learned…
Norine: First, tell our readers a little about yourself, your work as a freelance writer, the 25-words-or-more bio?
Delighted to. About 14 months ago, I created Science of Parenthood, an illustrated humor blog that uses faux math and snarky science to “explain” baffling parenting situations. I created it with my partner Jessica Ziegler, and together we post new content — illustrations and blog posts — on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (when we’re syndicated on Bonbon Break) and archival material on Sundays. Jessica creates all of our illustrations and manages the overall look and functionality of our website and blog. We call her the CEO of Scribbles. While she’s doing that, I work as the blog’s editorial director aka Chief of Scientific Snarkiness. Jessica is the “look” of the blog; I am largely the “voice.”
Prior to starting Science of Parenthood, I worked primarily as a freelance magazine and web writer/editor. I’ve edited special publications for Woman’s Day and Hachette Filipachi’s custom-publication division. I’ve written about health, relationships and parenting for More, Parents, American Baby, Health, iVillage, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal, Woman’s Day, Prevention, Shape, Marie Claire and All You. In addition, I am the Parent Talk blogger for Lifescript and with Jessica, I write the Truth About Parenting blog every month for parenting.com.
My humor writing has been featured on Scary Mommy, Lost In Suburbia and Bonbon Break and in the anthologies Have Milk, Will Travel: Adventures in Breastfeeding; Not Your Mother’s Book ... On Being A Parent; and the forthcoming How Can You Laugh At A Time Like This? Bookwise, I’m the co-author of You Know He’s A Keeper . . . You Know He’s A Loser: Happy Endings And Horror Stories From Real-Life Relationships (Perigee) and a contributor to Food Cures: Breakthrough Nutritional Prescriptions For Everything From Colds To Cancer (Readers Digest Health Publishing).
You recently appeared on Martha Stewart’s new radio show for working moms on Sirius. How did this come about and why did you see it as an opportunity?
Honestly, I think this situation was, like many things, part hard work and part serendipity. The “hard work” part is that I’ve spent the last year transforming myself from a well-known health writer into a parenting blogger and humorist. (I’ve always written humor essays, but it’s not what I’ve been primarily known for.) As Science of Parenthood was coming up on its first year anniversary, I saw that as an opportunity to boost our brand and our visibility by making a big deal out of our “birthday.” I enlisted a longtime friend, Claudia Shaum, who does PR for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, to bounce publicity ideas of off and to vet the press releases I was preparing to send out. Claudia has a son about the same age as mine, so she relates to a lot of what we do on Science of Parenthood and really loves our content. Fast forward a few weeks, and when she was given an opportunity to co-host Martha Stewart’s new radio show for working moms, she called me up to be the very first guest. What a gift! That was a fantastic opportunity to get Science of Parenthood’s name out to Martha Stewart’s listeners, many of whom are likely in our demographic and would get a kick out of our illustrations and blog posts.
I understand you spoke about “sleep, picky eating and mastering your kids’ homework.” Why are these issues of importance to you, and tell us about your site, Science of Parenthood?
I’m chuckling at this question, because together with the three Ps — pee, poop and puke — those are some of the issues that bedevil most parents. And those are the topics that we get a ton of humor mileage out of at Science of Parenthood precisely because they’re universal. Every parent deals with babies, toddlers, children who won’t sleep through the night; won’t sleep in their own beds; won’t eat what everyone else is eating; whose favorite foods are suddenly their least favorite foods; and whose homework completely baffles them even though they have college or graduate degrees.
So our MO at Science of Parenthood is to use real math and science concepts, like geometry theorems, Einstein’s theory of relativity, Newton’s laws of force and motion, to “explain” the kinds of situations that have parents wondering, What the *%$# is going on here?!?
One of my favorites is Sleep Geometry Theorem: A child will always sleep perpendicular to any adults sleeping next to him. Another one is E = MC2, or as we’ve written it: Energy = Mom x Caffeine 2. We have a series called Things My Kid Taught Me About Geometry, and our definition of Congruence just tickles me: If three sides of one piece of pizza are equal to three sides of another piece of pizza, the pieces are congruent … and no child has the larger slice.
We’ve also riffed on tantrums with our illustrations Toddler Event Horizon and Coefficient of Friction. And we’ve got whole Pinterest boards devoted to the noxious substances that emanate from children as well as the frustrations we go through in “helping” our kids with their homework.
Our main goal is to make moms and dads laugh … because finding humor in those icky, sticky, impossible, hair-pulling situations is the only way to get through them. For us, the highest compliment is when readers tell us, Yes! Exactly! It’s like you’re living in my house!
Like many writers and authors, you undoubtedly have to do a lot of self-promotion. What steps, what strategy do you use to promote yourself?
I’m a devoted user of social media, something that I’ve learned (and am still learning) a lot more about as I work on Science of Parenthood. When I was primarily a freelance writer, I mainly relied on the publication to promote my writing. I might have put a link on Facebook but that was about it. With Science of Parenthood, we are active on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Linked In. I post our latest illustrations and/or blog post links on the Science of Parenthood Facebook page, my personal page and in several Facebook groups I’m in. I’ll also use HootSuite to schedule our posts to go out on Twitter a few times during the day. I post on our Pinterest boards and the appropriate group boards we pin to. And I also post on our Science of Parenthood Google+ page and my personal page, as well as Google+ groups we follow.
The other thing I do, and it’s been incredibly important for Science of Parenthood and me personally, is I’ve developed relationships with key writers and bloggers in our niche by commenting on their blog posts, interacting with them in Facebook groups, guest posting on their blogs, sharing their content and featuring them on our blog.
Although our main mission is to take math and science concepts and use them to explain parenting situations, we’ve branched out into the author interview. Generosity is the key currency in the blogosphere, and as our parenting humorist friends have published books, we’ve help support them by featuring them on our blog. We’ve done interviews with Nicole Knepper of Moms Who Drink and Swear; Karen Alpert of I Heart My Little A-Holes; Amber Dusick of Parenting: Illustrated With Crappy Pictures; Bunmi Laditan of Honest Toddler and A Child’s Guide To Parenthood. Coming up, we’ve got Peyton Price author of Suburban Haiku, out this month; Robin O’Bryant author of Ketchup Is A Vegetable and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves, being re-released next month; and Jason Good’s This is Ridiculous, This Is Amazing, out in May. It’s win-win. We offer good publicity about these writers’ books, and then their readers seek us out to read our interview with their favorite author. It’s a nice way to put ourselves on their radar while also highlighting some really incredible reads.
You’re a frequent user of services like PROFNET. Why do you like using this service? Has it helped you create relationships with PR professionals?
As a journalist, I’ve used Profnet, probably since the late ‘80s when another reporter pointed me toward it as a great outlet for finding good, knowledgeable sources for my articles. And through Profnet and the newer HARO (HelpAReporterOut), I’ve developed long-lasting relationships with many physicians and the PR professionals who represent them and their medical facilities. Some of these relationships go back decades. And often, when I’ve found a PR person that I trust, who I enjoy working with and with whom I have good rapport, when I have an article I know they can help with, I’ll go to them first, to see who’s in their stable before I post a query on Profnet.
Are your major interests as a freelancer on parenting and children issues alone or do you seek experts/interviews on other topics, and if so, what topics are of interest to you?
When I primarily worked as a freelancer, my “beats” if you will, were women’s and children’s health, sexual/reproductive health, pregnancy, parenting, weight loss, nutrition, fitness and relationships. But my work has really run the gamut. In my earliest days, I wrote about theatre, dance and performance art. I’ve written about dining and food. I’ve even written about beauty. But right now, my main focus is Science of Parenthood, so I am mainly writing humor about the mysteries of parenting an 8-year-old boy.
What do you like most about working with PR people? The least?
The PR people I keep coming back to work with again and again are those who can quickly produce appropriate, well-spoken experts who can supply the information I’m looking. I’ll often do mini pre-interviews with the PR professional, just to make sure that the expert they’re suggesting is the one who fits the topic best. There’s no sense in spending time doing an interview that will never make it into the story, either for me or for the expert.
What do I like least? I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to work with great PR people. But from the less-than-fabulous files, I’d say I’m not a fan of off-topic pitches or pitches for inappropriate sources. The people who read my Profnet request and open their own pitch to me with I know you said you didn’t want these kinds of people, but … and then proceed to explain why their source who meets none of my criteria should be included in the story. Those pitches are immediately discarded. That’s not to say I wouldn’t work with that PR professional again, but it’s not the way to get your expert into the story.
What’s next for you?
The grand plan is for Science of Parenthood’s illustrations and essays to become so popular that people will buy the books we’re developing and purchase the products — mugs, magnets, T-shirts — that we have in our online store and that we will become so profitable I can send my child to my alma mater without financial aid. So we’ll see. We’re in our second year of publishing, and we’re still in growth mode. Our goal is to continue to create great, funny content; attract more readers to our site to enjoy it; and encourage them to spread the word.