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John Pacini - Dad 2.0 Summit

John Pacini

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John Pacini ventured into uncharted territory when he launched Dad2.0—“Mr. Mom” is dead and Pacini was right that there is a market to support such a venture. Bernadette Verzosa interviews a co-founder of Dad 2.0, an annual conference to connect blogging dads and marketers with the changing voice of modern fatherhood. It’s all about men defying stereotypes, shifting the perceptions and redefining what it means to be an involved parent.

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Bernadette: Hello. I'm Bernadette Verzosa, founder of Parents and this is the Businessmakers Show heard on the radio and seen online at the Joining me today is John Pacini, co-founder of the Dad 2.0 Summit. Welcome to the Businessmakers Show, John.

John: Bernadette, thanks for having me.

Bernadette: So let's start with the nuts and bolts. Tell me all about Dad 2.0.

John: So the Dad 2.0 Summit is an outcropping of the Mom 2.0 Summit, which we created about five years ago and is one of the leading mom blogging conferences in the country. At the time there really wasn't a widespread dad blogging community and since then that's changed. There's a really large number of dad bloggers in the country who are very active and have established a great voice and also in the last several years we've seen a number of things that have impacted that space. One has been the fact that these men are blogging more. They are finding their voice or utilizing the platforms that they have in technology. They've seen what moms have been able to do in terms of developing that community and being able to use their voice on the internet, but we're also seeing that brands and companies are paying attention to dads and they're starting to want to get it right and not advertise to dads in a way that portrays them as another kid in the family frankly or kind of hapless, helpless idiots, but for the involvement of mom the whole house would burn down under their care. So these guys are using that platform and that voice to try and not only talk about being a better father and being a more engaged father than maybe their father or grandfather was, but also being able to share that image and help change that paradigm with not only the public, but also with the media.

Bernadette: Tell me who attends Dad 2.0. Do you have to be a blogger to attend?

John: No, you don't. I would say the core audience attendees and speaker group are online content creators. So bloggers, people that create online video content. Some of the stuff is just fantastic and very funny and very touching. So that's really the heart of the conference is that community, as I was talking about earlier, but no, there are people that obviously the brands and agencies that come that wanna be able to connect with them and build a relationship with them. As Harvey McKay says, it's digging your well before you're thirsty. A lot of these brands wanna build these relationships with these bloggers and online content creators that they can call on later when they have a client that may have a relevant product that they may want to promote through their channels and they wanna have that relationship. But we have the dad bloggers, we have mom bloggers and mom content creators, a number of those that support us, the brands and agencies, as I mentioned and then we also have a smaller number of people who come who are just interested in media and what's next and how voices like these and conversations like these are shaping media and marketing and advertising and brand communications. So I think there's some people that are there that are interested in that and that's a passion of theirs and they wanna be a part of that conversation or be a fly on the wall, but for the most part, the tag line is it's a conversation between dads and marketers and that's really what it is and that's the core audience.

Bernadette: You've entered into unchartered territory when you created Dad 2.0. It was a sellout the first year. It's a sellout this second year. What made you say to yourself, "I'm gonna make this happen"?

John: Well, it was a little bit of the entrepreneur's disease in the sense that we felt confident in it and we leaped off the edge and had the confidence that the water would be deep enough when we got there. I think what was good about it was, despite that sort of telling of it, we measured a little bit before we did this. We looked at the community. We looked at the bloggers that we felt would comprise the community and support this. We had a track actually at the 2010 Mom 2.0 Summit. It was the Dad 2.0 track and it actually was very, very popular. It was a big draw. It was standing room only in the room. People were really interested to hear what these dad bloggers had to say. So that gave us the idea that there's really something here and these guys have a voice that is cohesive as a community, it has the potential to really support an annual national event like this. So, Doug French, my partner in the business, he and I kinda' jumped right into it and put it together and it's turned out to be a really interesting platform and a very successful platform for these men who wanna share their story, talk about what it means to be a dad today. Dads and particularly stay-at-home dads, they're not Mister Mom. They're dad. They really wanna tell that story not only to other dads, but as well as moms, but also again to the marketing infrastructure so they know how to get it right and they know how to communicate and advertise to them.

Bernadette: Now I spoke to some of the dads attending and I sensed a sort of camaraderie, I sensed a sort of pioneering spirit that's emerging from Dad 2.0. Now did you build this nurturing energy in when you were designing the summit?

John: No, not at all. The nurturing energy and nurturing, I don't know if that's the right word, but it's definitely energy. It is mutually supportive and it's definitely energy and I think it's a little bit of community support and of people to give encouragement and advice and continue to boost people to stand taller in growing their blog and their voice, but the guys have great personalities and there's a little bit of a pirate ship mentality, too. These are the people that are building this community and are really making it exciting. So when I think of the Dad 2.0 community and I think of what it is, it is this tapestry of personalities that you couldn't mimic somewhere else. You couldn't fabricate this and say I want it to be a certain way. You say here's the lattice work and just let these amazing personalities, amazing talents, great voices, just let them grow and cover it in their own way.

Bernadette: Now one of the dads I spoke to, he's flying in from Portugal. So you have people flying in from overseas. Where do you see Dad 2.0 in 5 years?

John: The easy answer would be to say I see it where Mom 2.0 is today. Where it has a pretty well established platform. The people that are there, the attendees are at a pretty advanced stage in terms of growing their little media empires in many cases, with their blogs and being published authors and TV presences and commercials and what not, but I don't know that that's the case because, A, we don't know where this is going in terms of the online media in general. So I think we'll have a different playing field then than we do today, but I also think that men are gonna chart their own course in the way that they're seeing this be defined. I would like to think that it'll be at an equal level of success that moms have seen over the last five years and I think that's absolutely possible, but I think that what it will look like, again, because the community isn't anything that we or sponsors of our events or anybody else is creating. It's created by the people, the voices that comprise it. I think it's gonna have its own unique characteristics. That's probably one of the things as an entrepreneur or somebody who's done this a number of different times and for the last seven years in the parenting online space, that's what makes it exciting for me. That's what just really excites me is the idea that ya' know what? I don't know what this is gonna look like in five years, but I know it's gonna be great and I know it's gonna be exciting and I know it's gonna be comprised of some of the best people that I know.

Bernadette: This space is so driven by the internet and driven by technology. So what do you think will be the future of this space?

John: I don't wanna predict the future of technology. I'll fail in that, but I think that what's happening is and it's almost a cliché term at this point, but the democratization of media. That's something that is happening in a way that is changing paradigms and it is changing how big businesses are reaching out to markets like dads. Our title sponsor this year is Dove Men Plus Care and they've been wonderful in terms of recognizing the marketplace and saying, "Ya' know what? Men and the personal journey that they go on is an important process. It's important to them and we wanna be able to let them know that we get that, we understand that, that these guys are more complex and there's more to them than just beer and bikinis and a lot of the marketing trends that you see on TV right now. So, we're gonna tap a little bit deeper and they get that. Brands like Kimberly Clark, which last year with their Huggies brand, they had a situation where they put an ad out that was kind of tongue-in-cheek, but making fun of dads a little bit and how they care for their children and there was kind of an uproar over it in the dad blogger community. Utilizing that platform was something that hadn't happened before. Not on a national scale like this. So in the end, Kimberly Clark, they did the right thing. They did a great thing. They came to the Dad 2.0 Summit last year. Their brand people for Huggies talked to the bloggers. Talked to them about what mattered, what they wanted to see, then they reshot the ad in the national campaign.

Bernadette: So in your opinion, modern dads are inaccurately portrayed in the mainstream media?

John: Oh yeah. No, I think you can't argue that most of the commercials that you see right now, so much of it just panders to the mom or to women in the sense that the dad is just the clueless guy. He's like another kid. He opens up a power drill on Christmas morning and squeals in delight. It's like just having an extra kid in the family. Are you serious? You can't believe that you see some of that. Obviously we don't want to take all of the joy out of being dad and the difference between being dad and being mom and our relationships with our children. Those things, there are gender differences and we're not trying to erase that. It's just saying listen, today's dad for the most part is much more connected to his children, he's much more engaged in family decisions and family involvement in his children's life and involvement in the whole structure of the family and those dynamics have shifted up. One of the other things that really impacted this whole movement was the fact that in the recession, in the great recession of the last five years there were so many more men that were disproportionately downsized in their household. So more than ever you had the wife in the house who was now the significant bread winner and the men decided ya' know what? It does make more sense for me to stay home and take care of the children. So what was something that was worthy of making a movie about in the 80s with Mister Mom and then was kind of a curiosity in the 90s and was something that was starting to be recognized, you knew people that did it. Most people knew a stay-at-home dad in the early 2000s, is now incredibly common. I think most people know at least one stay-at home dad. It's becoming more common. There's less of a stigma with it. It's just something that these men are saying, "Listen, I may not be able to bear the children, I may not be able to nurse the children, but after that I can do most of it just like you can."

Bernadette: And there's so many national organizations now, the Stay-at-Home Dads, the Fatherhood Initiative.

John: Absolutely. Yeah. The NFI, National Fatherhood Initiative is a wonderful organization, as you're aware of. It looks at just getting men more involved in their family, particularly in disadvantaged areas and they focus on that. That's something that's great about Dad 2.0 is that it's a very, very diverse crowd, community. Our speaker line up this year at all of our content really reflects that.

Bernadette: Thanks for joining us today, John.

John: Thanks. It's been my pleasure.

Bernadette: Well that wraps up our discussion with John Pacini, co-founder of Dad 2.0. This is the Businessmakers Show heard on the radio and seen online at the I'm Bernadette Verzosa, founder of Parents

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