Blogher 2009 Recap: Michael Schott Interview Exclusive.

This morning I turned on my computer and saw this video. It’s worth watching. I was one of the 1,400 women at BlogHer, and I always find an outsider’s view interesting.

I immediately sent an email off to him and it was followed up by a phone call. Michael Schott is a writer in Chicago and he was kind enough to allow me to ask five follow up questions. I’m going to publish without editorial. He’s clearly a bright man, and I’d like you to hear his voice, both on video and in print.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/v/RLLh-PC4ZuU&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0]

1. Your You Tube Video talks about the quality of the food at BlogHer. Do you stand behind that?

I don’t eat a lot of Pepsico/Frito-lay/Quaker oats products, but I

don’t remember all of it tasting so bad. I suspect Pepsico is

tightening its dozens of belts, like everyone else, and cutting back

on quality with cheaper processing and additives, along with newly

designed packaging of course. Everyone has their own definition of

quality food, but to me that stuff is garbage. A girl I was working

with was literally hording all the free samples she could into

shopping bags, backpacks, pockets, whatever she could find. She was

planning to throw a party and feed it to her friends. I figured she

must not think too highly of her friends. The buffet was okay,

though- most of the food was really rich and loaded with fat, but

that’s the kind of food you eat at a conference- It’s all part of the

celebratory atmosphere, and I’m all for it.

2. When did you find out what the job was? A day before, an hour before?

We had an hour training session the day before, where we were all

assigned our sections- and given packets of “key messaging,” full of

incomplete sentences, typos and phrases that would have made anyone

sound like a mis-programmed robot: “Did you know that smart food is a

good source of calcium AND”

3. Do you have regrets and/or remorse about the video?

I think that will probably be my first and last video. It was a mix

of getting bit by the blogging bug while working the conference,

always wanting to have tried it out and finally feeling like I had

something to blog about. A lot of that hostility was simply from

being on my feet for 12 hours a day, wearing a fake smile and having

neurotic managers to answer to. I don’t regret making the video, but

I feel kind of misunderstood. I get it that that corporate

sponsorship pays for most of these things, but I was just wishing out

loud that there could be some other way. I didn’t know much about

Blogher going in, but I was hoping that it would be more a community

of women devoted to social causes, artistic pursuits and

environmental responsibility than a court of pure consumerism and

self-gratification from corporations acting like jesters, vying for

the favor of upper class American females.

4. Really? Did all those bottles need to go into the landfill? I’m so sad… say it ain’t so.

There is some hope. I didn’t see any bottles go into the landfill.

When we were cleaning up at the end, we were told to stack all the

recycling boxes with the bags of trash going to the dumpster. There

certainly weren’t any Pepsico reps there to make sure things were

recycled. For me, the verdict is out, and the burden of proof still

lies with Pepsico.

5. There must have been an endearing moment you caught, tell me about it.

The only real work I did was the last half-hour when a guy from the Chicago Food Depository came with huge, empty containers to fill with all the product that we didn’t manage to shove into people’s faces. It was a heartening moment to fill all of those boxes with a truckloads of food and drinks, even if it was junk.

[This post was written by Jessica Gottlieb.]

Comments

  1. Great follow up, Jessica. I agree with his overall points about the food being unhealthy and that this was an opportunity for women to really come together to address bigger issues, but the video came off a little hypocritical as he accepted a pay check, making him part of the problem, therefore undercutting his argument. The follow up helped clarify things.

    I was disgusted by the lack of recycling even before I saw the video this morning.

  2. Quite cool. Wasn’t certain initially who was asking the questions, and who was answering. Are you two related, or just have similar sarcastic styles? ;-) Thanks for the view from the outside. Perhaps next year I will be on the inside. I’ll be the one hoarding the snacks.

  3. Thanks, Michael. Thanks, Jessica. Economic empowerment at BlogHer has turned into something else. Appealing to our baser natures, the ‘gimmee’ in all of us. This was my fourth BlogHer, so I was prepared for all the schlock shit swag. The best swag I ever got was at BlogHer07: a really cool, useful briefcase/laptop carrier from AOL–and I didn’t even have to be a mommy to get it.

  4. Hi Jessica, and Michael too-
    Jessica, I’m so glad that you reached out to follow up, and that Michael you were willing. The perspective Michael shared is an important one– we need to recognize what’s going on commercially, organizationally, socially, personally, with all of the sponsorship and ‘producting’. I do think that the swagging distorted the conference experience for many of us– thankfully not for all of us. WOuld love your thoughts on this if you want to opine at AuthenticOrganizations.com

    One last question for Michael- how did you like wearing the white gloves? Did you feel more like Jeeves or Jackson (M.)?

    thanks-
    cvh

  5. Wow.
    I personally have never been to a blogging conference (I have my sights set on the Type A Mom conference this September) but, this random guy has figured out something I wish EVERY blogger would embrace. Specifically speaking to those women who host giveaways or review products–don’t just accept whatever a company shoves at you, simply because its free. Free does NOT equal RECOMMENDABLE PRODUCT. It doesn’t equal something you should want to influence hundreds, possibly thousands of consumers to purchase. Let us all embrace the power we have via social media to promote companies with VALUES. Who support charity, health, the environment, and the family unit. Let us not be bought with cheap plastic and a heavy handed dosing of MSG.
    We CAN change how parent consumers view the product market–but we have to change how we ourselves view our own “corner of the market”. We have a responsibility to our children to reach out to, and help “the good guys”.
    Not Joe-Blo CEO and his powdered synthetic cheese garbage.
    No matter how much of it he is willing to give us
    for free.

    <3 sarasophia

  6. Jessica – Thank you for following up with him. I wish too that there could be more activism, social consciousness, etc. But I also think he missed those aspects at the conference. Plus, it seems to have been overlooked that the Sheraton facility has back end recycling – so you do put the recyclables with the trash for sorting.

  7. Thank you for the follow-up. The discussion raises a fundamental question that needs more examining: is a conference of this size sustainable? Can it be sustained in a non-polluting, energy-efficient, environmentally-sensitive way? My observation would be that the current model needs some serious retooling. Get rid of the schwag, bring in sponsors who represent a greener vision for our world, and…if participation drops off because someone’s not getting a free bag of Fritos, so be it.

  8. Jessica, what a great follow-up.

    I think the questions he raised about recycling need to be answered by the hotel and by Pepsi. As Jennifer mentioned, we were told that there was back-end recycling. But if that’s the case, why did Pepsi expend all that carbon and natural resources to ship the recycling containers? Were they really needed? All of this needs to be answered by BlogHer, the Sheraton, and Pepsi. I’ve reached out to BlogHer and Pepsi to try to get answers, hopefully they’ll respond here or elsewhere.

    And I agree with Diane – we need to seriously retool the conference. The atmosphere did not match the spirit of the keynotes and the basic message of blogging and women’s empowerment.

    Lynn

  9. I was on the Blogher green team this year, and I feel sad that our efforts were dwarfed by the rampant consumerism.

    To address the issue of the recycling bins — the Green Team was told that the Sheraton has back-end recycling and that all garbage is sorted before it goes to landfill or recycling center. The Pepsi recycling bins were simply Pepsi’s way of shaping attendee perceptions that recycling was taking place. On one hand, they have a point. We do want attendees to realize that recycling is important to the Blogher organizers and Green Team. On the other hand, could we not have posted signs on the garbage bins letting women know that?

    The members of the green team worked hard and had a phone conference with Pepsi to urge the company not to bring bottled water. We didn’t realize the hotel would end up providing plastic cups at each of the water stations. And we’re not thrilled that Pepsi brought its flavored waters and Frito snack crap.

    That said, our efforts seem like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic compared to the rampant commercialism of the conference which I’ll be writing about today at http://www.fakeplasticfish.com.

    Mainly I want to know why so many of us, with such power, don’t know who we are and don’t use our power to make a better world instead of whoring for companies like Pepsi and Walmart & P&G.

    Why?

  10. Jessica, wish I’d had a chance to properly meet you at Blogher outside the crazy loud People’s Party or whatever party it was.

    Here’s my take on Blogher swag/consumerism:

    http://www.fakeplasticfish.com/2009/07/blogher-09-and-story-of-stuff.html

    Beth

  11. Yup, yup, yup. I was one of the first bloggers who had that BlogHer banner thing on my blog (back in 2007, I believe), only to realize a few weeks later where it was headed (corporate). I emailed the BlogHer rep and told her I was taking it down and asked to have my account deleted. They were very new then and she didn’t pretend to hide her shock that I wouldn’t want to be a part of it, emailing me several times after to ask me to reconsider.

    It hasn’t gone back up and I plan to keep it that way until they decide to actually promote healthy, wholesome ideas and items for families and children.

    Also.. I still have yet to accept any free item that I’ve been offered to try and review. It’s all been complete and utter crapola. Now.. if Happy Baby or anything from Dr. Sears or Ergo or any ecologically responsible company comes to me, I will consider accepting a free item to review. Until then? I’d much rather have no income from my blog than have it be a billboard for crap I don’t believe in.

  12. It saddens me that no matter where I look, the first thing that any blogger or media outlet lays in on about BlogHer is the amount of swag and the insane party party atmosphere. I was hesitant to go because I wondered if any real learning went on in the conference sessions? Fortunately it did but you had to look for it. There was a leadership and social activism track that was very inspiring. The keynotes were very good. The eco panel was great and I’m very honored to call all of the women on the panel my friends. Sadly we, including myself, are more included to focus on the shiney objects of rampant consumerism than the real reason we were there – blogging.

  13. He’s a writer in Chicago. What does he write? Where? How did he come to work at the Pepsico booth at BlogHer09? Did you see him there? Did anyone? It could be coincidence, but did you know that a Michael Schott was a Pepsico / Quaker / Snapple executive?

  14. Becky-

    I’m glad you mentioned that. Wouldn’t it be twisted if Michael Schott the ex-Snapple CEO was on a renegade mission to subvert the organization from the inside?

    When I was 12 and my dad pointed out to me that I had the same name as the Snapple guy, I wrote him a letter pointing to this fact. He had his secretary send me an XL Snapple shirt. Needless to say, I was let down. Is he really still there?

    As for my writing- why don’t you ask me yourself what I write? Anyways, I’m a person. Talk to Jessica if you want my contact.

    -The Real Michael Schott

Trackbacks

  1. […] out this damning video by a Chicago writer who worked at the Pepsico booth for a few days. Read Jessica Gottlieb’s followup interview with him. Another blogger asks, “BlogHer ‘09: Does Swag Pervert the Purpose?” and […]

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