"Look in the mirror and lead" BlogHer '06 keynote by Arianna Huffington, Caroline Little, Mena Trott and Grace Davis
Pictured from left to right: Arianna Huffington, Molly, Grace Davis' daughter, Grace and Terry Acebo Davis. Photo credit: Mary Tsao.
Last January, when we were preparing to launch the new BlogHer.org site and create today's directory of 4,100+ women bloggers, one of our new editors emailed me to suggest a tagline. "You should call it BlogHer II: The Revenge," wrote Tracey Gaughran-Perez, who blogs Sweetney, referring to the question that inspired the first BlogHer conference.
I was reminded of Tracey's comment Saturday night as 720 of us watched Arianna Huffington, Caroline Little, Mena Trott and Grace Davis answer Moderator Chris Nolan's questions at the closing keynote of BlogHer '06.
In the past year, each of these women has leveraged Web-based technologies to pursue their professional agendas and triumphed -- while experiencing with unrelenting public pressure and excoriating personal criticism. If success is the best revenge, revenge must be sweet indeed for this quartet. For today, each of these women todays enjoys kudos from their readers/users (even critics), while at the same time being able to point to cold, hard facts such as Web traffic and revenue that demonstrate their ideas were worth pursuing.
How'd they do it? Nolan's skillful interviews Saturday evening revealed four very different women whose core message was remarkably the same: Look in the mirror and lead.
"Instead of waiting for the white knight to come and save us, we need to find the leader in the mirror and act on those skills fearlessly." - Arianna Huffington "I've always had my pilot light on. Sometimes I don't pay attention to it but it's there. In responding to Katrina, I didn't even think about the obstacles. I just thought that I should be there helping somehow." - Grace Davis "You either fly with it (change) or you don't ever get on the boat. And I think you get on the boat." - Caroline Little "I've followed my gut and my passion...I 've seen so many people driven by title. As soon as you know someone cares more about title than the product, it really shows." - Mena Trott
What do I mean by blistering criticism
Last year at this time, the press was joyfully dissing two-month-old Huffington Post and founder Arianna from Redmond to the Beltway. Washington Post|Newsweek Interactive, led by Caroline Little, was struggling along with the rest of the newspaper industry to please both Wall Street and its Web users, while taking risks and making mistakes. Mena Trott's company, Six Apart, was still working through the cultural upheaval of buying Live Journal, and she'd publicly had it with trolls. And Grace Davis had no idea that Hurricane Katrina would devastate the Gulf Coast, FEMA wouldn't find its proverbial ass with either hand, and that she would end up on CNN for getting diapers and ice to Mississippi before the U.S. government. Instead, she was still calling her blog "Dr. Laura's Worst Nightmare," and receiving hate mail from anyone who thought a mommy blogger shouldn't use the f-bomb or write about politics.
Success is the best revenge
Now for the revenge part. Today, The Huffington Post's most excoriating critic is writing for Huffington and publicly avows the site's quality. As panic continues to spread in the boardrooms of traditional news companies, Little's boss recently voiced his support for her leadership and reported that revenues in her division were up 34 percent over last year. Trott's company has changed-up the blog-hosting game by introducing Typepad widgets and released a new product, Vox. As for Grace Davis, well, in addition to that ice-to-Mississippi-thing, she now gets paid to blog for SFGate.com and ClubMom, and received the largest audience applause when the quartet was introduced Saturday night.
I'll upload some more quotes tonight, after I write one zillion thank you notes. And we'll upload the podcast as soon as we can.
Do you agree with me? Disagree? I'd love to know your opinion of this discussion. And please - if you blogged this -- add links to your blogs below. Thanks.