The last election was dubbed "The Mumsnet Election" and, as we approach our next public vote in May, the parenting powerhouse arguably holds more political sway than ever before. Its recent 15th birthday celebrations, for instance, were graced by the likes of London mayor Boris Johnson, Labour politician and economist Rachel Reeves and Ed Miliband's wife, the barrister Justine Thornton, as well as a clutch of opinion-influencing celebs.
However, it's not just the politicians and celebs that member Mumsnetters mingle with that influence public opinion. The fact that chats between a few "ordinary" women on the site can become front page news underlines the strength of the brand (politicians' biscuits, anyone?!)
In essence, Mumsnet is everything a brand, political or otherwise, wants in an advocate. Its Mumsnetters are credible, highly engaged and active users of social media, who will happily take your idea and run with it. Indeed, they've instigated political change and been a formidable force for good doing just this, like with the site's Let Girls Be Girls campaign which led to the removal of "lads mags" in children's view on the shelf instore. Another campaign saw Mumsnetters successfully call on local authorities to provide better respite care for families with disabled children, showing their great empathy for fellow Mumsnetters when it comes to deeply personal, human issues.
So, as a political partner Mumsnet is a no-brainer, right? You can almost see the political spindoctors salivating at the PR potential. But the key word here is potential. "Targeting Mumsnet" or "getting Mumsnet on side" is much easier said in a brainstorm than done in reality, as many brands and celebrities have found to their detriment. It's true that users are incredibly trustworthy and loyal and - if they like you - they will have your back. Problem is, if they don't, they will gleefully stab you in it.
Similarly, it's absolutely true to say that Mumsnet has political clout and can effect change, they just may not be the changes you were hoping for. No matter how well-honed and thought-through your PR strategy is, this in no way guarantees a predetermined outcome. Perhaps one reason for the media savvy culture is that the site is the brainchild of Justine Roberts, a former sports journalist, and Carrie Longton, a former TV producer, who met during antenatal classes.
And, while the Mumsnetters are most definitely generally a well-educated, reflective melee of mums, they are not afraid of a bit of a gossip. In fact, they often relish this. Reams, for instance, have been written in the forums on subjects such as PM David Cameron flicking his hair during interview, then-PM Gordon Brown's request for his favourite biscuit mid-chat and which politicians would make the best lovers.
I certainly do not want to appear as if I am judging any other mum but - should Cameron or Milliband ever bend my ear for advice on how to position their "personal brands" to Mumsnet - I would probably warn them about what others have said about this (erm, how shall I put it?) "lively" bunch of ladies. I would probably advise them to remember their boy scout training and never arrive at Mumsnet Towers unprepared, bearing in mind you can never predict where the unquestionable creativity of the mums may go (once it was channelled into writing Haikus about Gary Lace's manhood, the adman blamed for the "Career Women Make Bad Mothers" outdoor campaign). Which brings me neatly on to my next piece of advice, which is to get your beside manner sorted as they love a bit of sexy talk, as you've probably gathered by now. Some of the salaciousness posted on Mumsnet would even make Celebrity Juice presenter Keith Lemon blush.
However, when it comes to Mumsnet, there are definitely no shades of grey: people tend to love it, or hate it. One mum has described it as like having a thousand extra supportive sisters, while another has said it's like being surrounded by a monstrous, cliquey, elitist bunch of witches. Whichever camp you fall into, no one can deny the power of Mumsnet and you can't avoid or ignore it.
To me, trying to get Mumsnet onside is like playing the lottery. You've got to be in it, to win it. And, you never know, if you politely chomp on the biscuits they offer you and don't fiddle too much with your hair, you might be lucky.Suggest a correction