An open letter to Martha Stewart - Handmade in the Heartland

An open letter to Martha Stewart

Dear Martha Stewart,

Our relationship just got really complicated, and I'm super sad about it. I have always held a special place in my life for you. When you came out of prison, I was right there waiting and believing you would bounce back. I bought the book you wrote while inside, The Martha Rules, and I cheered you on. When I was in college at Rhode Island School of Design, my friends called me Mary Martha. (Mary because I was a virgin, and Martha because everything I did screamed Martha Stewart.) When you came to speak to our student body, because you recruit heavily from our graduates, I was in the second row hanging on every word. I was even one of the crazy girls who tried to sneak out the back door to meet you in the alley where your car was waiting, but I was too late. A friend of mine even gave me a necklace with your picture on it, which I wore with pride. When I would see interviews or shows where you were live, I would dismiss your somewhat elitist attitude and just think, “She's really nice at heart, I'm sure.”

But here's the thing, Martha you have officially gone too far for me to call myself a devoted fan any longer. Your comments in an interview with Bloomberg TV last week were just too much for me to overlook. Let me quote you: 
Who are these bloggers? They’re not trained editors at Vogue magazine. There are bloggers writing recipes that aren’t tested that aren’t necessarily very good, or are copies of what really good editors have created and done. Bloggers create a kind of a popularity, but they are not the experts. We have to understand that.
Oh Martha, this was such a bad move, such a horrible thing to say. You seriously just pissed off an entire (and very vocal) community of women who are really fabulous creators and makers and mothers and designers doing things that you yourself have encouraged your entire career.

Okay, so I get why you’re cranky. The landscape of creative ideas and the delivery of those ideas are changing drastically, and your company is suffering. I read that last year Martha Stewart Omnimedia lost a substantial amount of revenue and had to lay off 10 percent of its employees. That stinks. I can't say I wouldn't be a little grumpy, too. Maybe you blame bloggers for taking a slice of your marketplace, and you decided to air that opinion in that interview.

But here is the thing that I just can't get over: You are so smart, and yet you are utterly ignoring the huge opportunity to use bloggers to your advantage and to see the incredible worth of the creative blogging community. Think about this: You don't only sell magazines and cookbooks and creative ideas, but you also make products galore. Look at how big retailers like Home Depot and Target are spending some of their marketing funds to send bloggers their products to use and post about. The beauty of this strategy is that it creates genuine relationships with both the bloggers and their followers. What’s more, the bloggers do the actual work of coming up with authentic creative material for the brand. The blogger phenomenon is not going away, and why would we want it to? It's like the world just exploded with amazing, creative minds and we all get to learn from them!

There’s no need to be so salty, Martha, because your name will always be legitimate. There is no question about that. But if you hope to keep the attention of your foundation, the audience that made your brand what it is, you must engage and grow with the world around you. You could have bloggers review one of your cookbooks and post about all the great recipes they made. You could give bloggers your craft supplies, found at any number of retailers, and challenge them to make something. Not only are you missing the boat on this world of opportunity, but your snarky comments only are making it worse for yourself, and it just kills me to watch.

And lastly, Martha, bloggers may not be experts, but that doesn't mean we aren't relevant and valid. I realized a little while ago that even though I have a fancy design school diploma, it doesn't make me a better “maker,” “designer,” or “artist” than someone else. All of our work speaks for itself. I am grateful for my education, but it doesn't mean I’m more talented than someone who didn't go to art school or even college, and it took me some time to get off my high horse and realize that. It looks like you’re still not there. I know now that it's the work that matters, and because of the opportunities the Internet provides, we get to see creative people from all corners of the world who might have never had the chance to share their talents with others. It’s an incredible thing to see, and quite frankly it’s more impressive than a professional putting together predetermined crafts and recipes on a sound stage in a studio.

So get on board, be the smart business woman you are, and embrace the creative minds all across the Internet. Chances are these women were inspired by you at some point, so you should probably stop being mean to them.

With all the best intentions,

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