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The Blogger-Brand Experience at BlogHer12

by Fadra Nally on August 16, 2012

It’s been over a week since I returned from NYC, home of this year’s BlogHer conference. I pondered over the experience from a personal blogging standpoint. I wrote about it three time over (see my BlogHer12 posts on my personal blog). I loved it. I hated it. But I shall return next year for the conference in Chicago. But not before I have my say from a professional standpoint.

With an audience of close to 5000 women, brands had a unique opportunity to connect with social media influencers and household influencers alike. The conference was the largest it’s ever been but the attendee list was a bit different this year. It seemed to be riddled with women who, frankly, think blogging is a neat idea but haven’t even started one of their own. Others blatantly asked questions in sessions about how long it takes to become popular and earns lots of money at blogging. (By the way, if anyone know the answer, please let me know).

With the extremely wide range of experience in blogging and social media represented by the attendees, brands certainly had their work cut out for them. As I personally interacted with brands, I was looking out for a couple of things:

  • Who was representing the brand (brand personnel vs. agency staffing)
  • How the brand was interacting with bloggers
  • How the brand answered the question, “How do you work with bloggers?”
  • The lasting impression the brand had as a result of their participation in the conference

As expected, many of the larger brands were represented by reps from PR agencies or “experiential marketing” agencies. I didn’t mind but I did try to put them to the test. I asked questions to make sure they understood the brand and the product. And surprisingly, most of them passed. Compared to last year, I found the big brands reps to be more approachable and more engaging in conversation.

 A few of my brand experiences at BlogHer12

My personal favorites, however, are still the smaller brands. Not only do they have an enthusiasm for their brands but they are usually personally vested in the success of the company. And I love that they are still wide-eyed at the sheer numbers of bloggers out there. During my post-conference recaps, I’m more inclined to give these companies a shout out because I know how appreciative they are.

What I mostly got out of the brand experience part of this conference was this:

Brands still don’t get it. Not all of them, mind you. But many of them had one of two approaches:

1. You can do a review/giveaway for us!

Admittedly, these were the smaller companies that seem to only understand working with bloggers in this capacity. Although, I was told by a colleague that she found brands that weren’t interested in bloggers if they said they do reviews and giveaways.

I was asked many times if I do reviews and giveaways on my blog. So what’s the right answer?

I’d like to see brands AND bloggers move away from this solely as a model of blogger outreach. Brands need to be looking at the ROI and realizing that brand awareness and word of mouth marketing can come from many avenues.

When I answered the question, I simply told them that I occasionally review products on my blog if it’s a good fit but that I generally write stories about my experience.

 2. If we show you, you will blog about us!

Whether it’s giving away free product (like Lysol Power & Free) or simply displaying product (like Samsung), the message was loud and clear:

We’re showing you these products so that you will be so excited that you will blog about it!

It doesn’t work like that for most of us. I don’t generally blog about cleaning products simply for the fun of it. I’m not free PR for your company. The gift of content is something most of us aren’t looking for. We’re looking for relationships.

I asked the question over and over again: “How do you work with bloggers?” And I was usually met with silence.

Not to pick on Samsung, but I’m a huge personal brand advocate of theirs. I moved recently and bought a new Samsung washer and dryer, a new Samsung refrigerator, and a new Samsung microwave. I own two Samsung TVs and have reviewed a Samsung phone.

When I mentioned all of this to a Samsung, while raving about the washer and dryer to another blogger, I was met with a blank stare. I then asked, “So how does Samsung work with bloggers?” And he replied, “I’m here to talk about the appliances.”

Missed opportunity.

Advice for next year?

It’s pretty much the same as last year. Know why you’re there. Understand your brand and product inside and out. Be able to answer the question “How do you work with bloggers?”

And by the way, it’s okay if you don’t have the answer to that question and you’re using the conference as an exploratory exercise. Tell us that! We’ll be glad to share some of our favorite ways to work with brands. Consider it a focus group of sorts.

Finally, I’d like to end on a positive note. While I didn’t visit every single brand in the Expo Hall and I met many brands offsite, there were some that impressed me with their enthusiasm, engagement, and overall experience. They at least left me wanting to know more. Here’s a quick shout out to those that got it right…

Chuck E. Cheese
Diet Pepsi
Hillshire Farm
Love with Food
Michael Angelo’s
Minute Clinic
Room key
Smith Bros.

If you’re a blogger, tell me where your favorite brand experiences came from. And if you’re a brand, tell me what you really thought about the blogger scene (trust me, we’ve heard the horror stories too!)

  • Jessica

    Excellent points. I found a range of brand experiences, too. Perhaps the low point was at the very popular Trojan booth where I asked them perhaps the most basic questions about a vibrator (What are the materials? How do you clean it?) and the PR rep there couldn’t answer my questions. 

    • FadraN

      I have to admit that I stayed far away from the Trojan booth as the brand itself was really relevant to me but mostly because I didn’t want to get trampled on by all the women raiding the vibrators!

    • Kia S.

      The funny thing about that Jessica is i used to sell sex toys and i got a bunch of that question from people who said Trojan was just passing and having people walk away. Apparently Edens Fantasy talked to people more but it was about working for them not the vibrator they gave out. 

  • Kia S.

    I had such a wide array of experiences during blogher. There were companies that some felt were amazing that i felt didn’t want to remotely talk to me, and the reverse some who were great to me and off-putting to others. Some i looked at them purely from a consumer standpoint which lets be honest that’s what some were there and others i asked questions related to my blogging. And the off-site parties equally interesting. 

  • Julie

    Honestly, the only “official” BlogHer Sponsor that WOW’d me was AboutOne. I’m sure that there could have been others, but after talking to a number of PR people who didn’t really care about working with Bloggers – I was disheartened and left the expo area after a short time. 

    I did go to the Getting Gorgeous Event and was very impressed by a number of their sponsors (as it appears you were as well.) 

    I’m hopeful that I’ll be going to BlogHer next year again – but it completely depends on where I end up if moving. However I will say… if BlogHer goes back to the Hilton in NYC, not sure I’m going to follow.

  • The Dose of Reality

    This is such an excellent post Fadra. Honestly, I have to say one of my best brand experiences has been with Zone bars, and I think it is because I am genuinely enthusiastic about their product. They, in turn, are genuinely happy to give me a shot at helping them. To me that is a brand/blogger win. :)

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