At this point, I've attended hundreds of blogger events. Marcy and I have hosted many of them through our blogging group, SoCal BlogCrush. Nearly every month for the last two years we've organized get togethers--big and small--for our fellow bloggers at area restaurants and local venues.
Five years ago when I started blogging it was a much different environment for bloggers. We weren't invited to much of anything. Then slowly bloggers came on to PR professionals' radar as companies realized our value and the invites started to trickle in. But even then, there were times when I felt like my presence at media events was an afterthought--PR professionals not knowing exactly what to do with a blogger.
Note: Disney is the one and only shining example of a company that embraced bloggers from the beginning, read about my experience here.
Fast forward to this past summer. I couldn't keep up with the events--all calling out for bloggers to come eat, play and learn about things ranging from cars to cupcakes. And though I'm thrilled that blogging has taken a solid place within the media, the learning curve is still playing out--for both bloggers and PR folks.
When OC StyleWeek came to town a few weeks ago, BlogCrush partnered with Jane Gillespie, who is a PR professional for the Irvine Company. Jane knows how to make bloggers feel welcome and gave us what we needed during the event to then go home and post on our blogs. Marcy and I could even say: Jane Gillespie hosted a practically perfect blogger event.
If you're a PR professional looking for tips on how to get bloggers to not only attend your event, but to write about it, Marcy and I noted these things Jane did that worked:
Media Passes: When the bloggers arrived, we checked in at the media center and we were given media access passes. We like that. It's a good idea to give bloggers the same access as traditional media. This takes some vetting on the PR professionals part, but it's worth the effort.
Designated Blogger Area: Giving bloggers a place to do our thing is important. Jane offered us our own Blogger Lounge. We had a table to spread out our equipment, we had access to free WiFi and lots of space to work. Bloggers are usually versed in many different media--photography, video, writing, live reporting--we need some elbow room to reload and get our material out. Remember bloggers often start getting their message out in real time, during an event.
Quality Time with Major Players: Allowing bloggers access to interview and chat with key people in the company will help bloggers put together a complete story. We often ask PR professionals to scope out the blogs before the event and help tailor the blogger's experience with the right interviews, photos ops and video opportunities.
Social Media Information Easily Seen: This sounds so simple, but it gets missed almost every time.
Twitter Wall!: No one loves a Twitter Wall more than me. The first event I attended that had our collective Tweets projected on a wall, held together by a short, simple hashtag, I fell deeply in love. Me and the Twitter Wall are planning a June wedding.
Feed The Bloggers: It's just good manners. At our StyleWeek event Jane had set up adorable boxes, provided by Nordstrom Cafe, packed with water, chocolate cake and probably the best roast beef sandwich I've ever tasted. In this case, the dinner in a box provided lots of chatter for Nordstrom Cafe on our social media channels (and here).
Photo Ops: Though some will cringe when they hear this (I know my journalism professor would), but bloggers are usually part of their stories. Think about it: it's usually our voice, our personality and our views that have made our blogs popular. It's taken a while for PR folks to realize that bloggers would like a photo of themselves experiencing whatever it is they are writing about. It's one of the biggest differences to note when working with bloggers rather than traditional media professionals.
Other ideas for a great blogger event...
Follow Up with Photos in Accessible Formats: Marcy and I usually create Flickr sets for all bloggers to easily access the photos they would like to use. Here are ours from StyleWeek. Some PR people will send us home with jump drives or logins to FTP sites to download photos.
Video Options: If you would like bloggers to make and post videos about your product or even, read my post: "Top 10 Tips for PR Professionals: How to Get Bloggers to Make Videos About Your Product or Event." Clever title, no?
Keep inviting bloggers to events! If you need help choosing the right blogger for your event, contact us at BlogCrush. We will help you put together the right blogger for you.