Flux chairs that I photographed at IDS 2012
I read earlier this week a strong post by Dee Brun of Cocktail Deeva where she told bloggers that they should try to get off guest lists because Dee felt that brands are only using us and that they do not deliver their end of the bargain. I have to side with her.
Over the last 3 years, I became very selective. I only accept invitations when I think that they will deliver something for me: whether it is in form of blog material, get closer to a brand or to mingle with my peers. I raised my concerns before. Last year, I shared 5 tips on how to host a successful blogger event. My tips are still valid today. I have more to say about the question.
More than the event itself, I want to address what PR agencies and brands need to do before and after the event to maximize their chance of coverage. I know that organizing an event requires a lot of work — remember that I’m an entertaining expert. But you must never neglect the before and the after steps of hosting an event. They play a huge part in building good memories.
Before the Event
A lot of time is passed to compiling the guest lists, sending invitations and collecting RSVPs. I am amazed by the fact that the PR world still rely on the inefficient email method to collect the RSVPs. It seems that they never heard of online services that manage RSVPs and that put the event time and location in the attendee’s calendar. Even something as basic as creating a Google form would bring a productivity boost. My favorite tool remains Eventbrite. See why here.
Sadly for you, sending me a pretty (image) invitation is not enough. As a mom, I need to know how long to book my babysitter. This need to know how long the event should last is not just for moms. Everybody wants to know if they can fit your event in their busy schedule. Ideally, attach a detailed agenda or a description of what should I expect from your event. This will show me that you value my time. It will go a long way with building a relationship with bloggers and influencers, even if they decide that your event is not for them.
Include the hashtag of your event in the reminder email that you send me the day before. If you are hosting an event with celebrities or speakers, include their Twitter handles in your email. This way, I can mention them and your hashtag on my way to your event. It may be the only tweet that you will get from me, but at least you can count one for your results.
During the Event
Design your event to provide many angles to story. We don’t want to publish all the same stuff. You need to create a newsworthy event that provides opportunities for unique photo sharing. If you have a demonstration, make sure that the attendees have enough time and space to take their own pictures. Supply props to style our pictures. You will increase our chances to tweet pictures of your event or to create an album on our Facebook page.
If you can afford it, hire a professional photographer and/or cameramen to shoot small videos. I attended the annual Bombay Sapphire Montreal event this month. Each blogger got their own set of photos taken by a profesional photographer. I styled my photos and worked with the photographer to get the feel and look that fits my blog. That alone assured that they got coverage on my stylish living blog. Now, they received coverage on both of my blogs.
Allow time to mingle. A chance to chat with our peers could lure more bloggers to your event. So, make sure to mention in your invite.
After the Event
Most opportunities are lost at the follow-up stage. I stopped counting the number of events where I made a formal request for more details or images and where my requests have been unanswered. During the event, I say them when they wrote down my request. So what happened? From the outside, I feel that the PR people stopped working on that project the minute the event ended.
What is worst for brands is that they not only waste a chance of coverage, but most importantly, they lost me. I feel that I lost my time. Unless you include expensive and desirable items in your gift bag or that my readers are craving to hear from you, chances are that I will decline any new invitations from you.
At other times, my answer is sent one or two weeks after the event. Bloggers are impulsive; for the most part, we care about what is hot today. After a week, your event has lost its appeal. Chances are that my post, if I still go head in writing one, will show less enthusiasm.
My three-fold advice is:
- You need to build and keep the excitement level before, during and after the event for bloggers and influencers to stay excited.
- Producing a newsworthy event that can be shared by many bloggers maximizes your chances that we will talk about your event or product. Make sure that are plenty of opportunities for unique pictures and content.
- The next time that you budget how much it costs to organize a media event, don’t forget to account time for these important before and after tasks.