When a brand decides to host a blogger event, there’s usually a lot of PR motivation behind it. It may be a way to introduce you to a new brand or a brand you’ve not worked with before. It may be a way to introduce a new product for a brand and create some buzz. It may even be a focus group in disguise (oh yes, PR, we’re onto you!)
When an event goes well, you’ll hear about it. You’ll see hashtags all over Twitter. You’ll see happy, smiling faces all over Facebook. You’ll read posts about how fabulous everything was. You’ll get bloggers saying, “How do I get to be involved in that?” or even better, “That [product, hotel, service] looks fantastic! I need to go buy one!”
When an event doesn’t go well, you’ll hear all about it too. This is NOT the kind of PR most brands want (as was proven by the recent ConAgra hosted dinner). So why are some events so successful and some a complete and dismal failure?
Sometimes the stars just don’t align or a good idea was poorly executed. But sometimes, brands aren’t thinking like a blogger.
Here are a couple of fail safe suggestions to make everyone at your Blogger Event happy.
1. Make it worth our time.
Think of bloggers as independent contractors or freelancers. Unless we have a full time job outside of blogging, we don’t get paid vacations or health insurance. Our time is valuable.
If we’re aren’t writing to build our audience, or consulting with local businesses, or working on sponsored deals, we’re probably managing a household and even taking care of children. Often we have to arrange childcare to be able to attend your event.
Bloggers with full-time jobs may have to take time off of work or even use a vacation day to attend an event.
That’s time and money out of our pocket. Make it worthwhile.
2. Always provide food and drink.
I once knew a Real Estate Manager that had vendors present at her office meetings on a weekly basis. However, they all had to pay the cost of admission: bring breakfast for all of the agents. Real estate agents work on 100% commission so if you are taking up some of their valuable time to promote yourself, you need to make it enjoyable.
I know a blogger who was invited to a tweetup at a hotel. And you know what they offered? The hotel. No food, no drink. It was a disappointment to the blogger and a missed opportunity by the hotel to create a memorable experience.
Another blogger attended an event that include lunch. Only the lunch was actually a platter of fruit. And no drinks were served. Not even water.
3. Vary the days and times of your events.
You’ll never be able to accommodate everyone’s schedules but keep a few things in mind.
Bloggers that have full-time jobs will often not be able to attend weekday events. Weeknight and weekend events (while often more expensive) may be better received and/or attended. Bloggers who work primarily from home may also run into childcare issues during the week if they have young children that aren’t in school.
Some events have even gone as far as providing onsite childcare which is a win-win for everyone, if needed.
4. Know what’s going on in town.
I once helped promote a local event. It was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday mornings over a weekend. Breakfast and lunch was provided and the event was very well done. The only problem is that it was the same weekend as the NC State Fair (a big deal in my town) and homecoming football games for some apparently prominent colleges around here (sorry, I don’t bleed red or blue).
The result? Not a terrific turnout. I know it was disappointing for the brand and it was disappointing for me as I had hoped many more people would be able to attend. It helps to have a pulse on the local happenings when planning an event.
5. Consider the location.
If the event is in the city, how easy is it for the bloggers to attend? Is there parking? Is it complimentary? Is public transportation available? How far do people have to travel to attend?
If it’s a more local event, have an idea of location. Know how far are people willing to drive and plan a central location.
And finally, as much as we love to get invitations to swanky events in NYC and LA, most of us don’t live there and probably can’t hop on a plane to be there. Know where we live before inviting us (unless you’ll include transportation).
6. Set the right expectations.
If you plan it, they will come.
That may be true but what do you want to get out of it? Be very careful here. Most bloggers want to hear what you have to say or they wouldn’t attend in the first place. If they have a good time and you impress the heck out of them, they will want to write about the event. You don’t need to ask them.
I always appreciate when a brand gives me some guidelines though. Something to the effect of:
“While we hope you simply enjoy yourself this evening, if you choose to write about your experience, please let your readers know that this was a sponsored evening. If you choose to tweet about the evening, we’d love for you to use the hashtag #brandXYZ.”
Bloggers appreciate a little direction.
7. Have an agenda.
Along the same lines, unless you’re simply having a cocktail party or a meet and greet, let bloggers know what is planned during the event. Let them know if something is planned right at the start time (never really a good idea) so they know how flexible the timing of the even is.
Also, let them know if certain activities are taking place as specific times or throughout the event. It helps them to make the most of your event.
A blogger shared with me that she was invited to preview a new fashion line. Her expectation was that there would be a fashion show. What she got instead was a few brand reps wearing some the new outfits huddled in the back of the room.
8. Facilitate the social aspects of the event.
Contrary to popular belief, not all social media enthusiasts are social by nature. In-person events are sometimes awkward for bloggers who don’t necessarily know other bloggers and don’t necessarily feel comfortable inserting themselves in a social situation. Make sure you have enough staff to engage with the bloggers and help them feel comfortable.
And finally, I offer a personal suggestion but it’s probably the most important. Nobody knows bloggers better than bloggers. It’s a community. And we’ve seen time and time again when PR events fail to consider crucial aspects of bloggers and their business. It trickles through the community like wildfire.
When planning your next blogging event, consider hiring a local blogger to serve as your Blogging Liaison. Not only can they serve as your go-between with local vendors but they can also help you in planning time, dates, location, and invitation list.