With bloggers getting more and more invitations to brand based events, information sessions, and retreats, the competition to bag a well known blogger has become somewhat fierce. Certain brands, and certain PR firms are well known for throwing great events, just like certain friends are known for their great parties. What makes a great PR/Blogger event? The answers are simple, subtle, and sometimes, surprising. Here’s a list of things to consider when planning any brand/blogger event.
1. The guest list
This should be obvious. Get a group of friends together and your gig is going to be fantastic. Get a group of rivals together, and you get a recipe for tension. So how can you avoid tension and awkwardness? Start with your key players and ask for their recommendations. Just like you wouldn’t seat two arch rivals next to each other at your dinner table, don’t invite them to the same event.
2. The invitation
Last minute invites are occasionally unavoidable, but in general you should allow a minimum of two weeks notice for local events and four for events where you will be asking attendees to travel. Avoid an invitation with multiple attachments and a complicated rsvp format. Evites, Pingg or another online form of invite such as Eventbrite (that allows all pertinent info to be retrieved online, remotely) are always a good idea. Be sure to include all pertinent info about location, parking, dress code and what will be provided for children in terms of facilities, refreshment and entertainment, if children are included
3. The purpose
Why are you hosting this get-together? Is it a product launch? An information session? Sneak peek? Public Service Announcement? Charitable function? Cause marketing is currently in vogue and so many events have a charitable component, however, it can get confusing when too much gets heaped on a single event. A Ginsu knife demo benefiting the local amputees club to celebrate the opening of a new Benihana? Too many purposes. Pick a maximum of two purposes for the event and make your message simple and clear.
4. The location
Location, location, location. Is your event someplace that people want to go to? Is it a little exclusive, beautiful, or famous? Will attendees get a rare behind the scenes look at something? Or is the location familiar and comfortable to attendees? How difficult is it for them to get to? Will you make special arrangements for anyone who has trouble getting there? What’s the parking situation? A good host always arranges for convenient (free) parking for their guests.
5. The time
Is your event scheduled right around the same time that kids get out of school? Does it conflict with a blogger’s full time work schedule? Schedule your daytime event between 10 am and 1pm for the best attendance by bloggers with school aged children to attend without their kids. Afternoons and weekends are better hours for events where children are invited to attend with parents. Evenings and cocktail hour are a good time for adults only events. If you are inviting bloggers with young children, and allowing them to bring children to the event, consider offering childcare and/or providing accommodations where they are likely to be comfortable with kids in tow. It goes without saying that holiday weekends are not generally a great time to throw an event. If traffic is an issue in your area, that should also factor into your planning.
6. The activities
Just because something is a fun activity, doesn’t mean it is a good idea for your event. For example, learning how to create spa treatments with common ingredients found around the home is a fun activity. But not necessarily a great activity for a spa visit, when you are there to learn about the products and services offered by the facility. All of your main event activities should specifically highlight the thing you are trying to promote. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. In fact…
7. The Fun
What’s a party/get together, without fun? One of the hallmarks of a great PR/Blogger event is that nobody notices they are being marketed to. They are too busy having a great time. Getting participants to engage with the product, service or mission is the key. Whether this is accomplished via a hands on cooking demonstration, a friendly game console competition, a test drive or a combination of all of the above, it’s vitally important. In the Spa example above, bloggers might: pull straws to test one of several possible spa treatments, vote on their favorite massage oil scent (to be taken home in a gift package), take a quiz about the different forms of massage (for a gift card prize), and/or merely be left to enjoy what the spa has to offer without being overtly directed and marketed to.
8. The information
Of course you want your guest bloggers to leave your PR gathering with a great deal of knowledge about your product or service. How else will they spread the word to their readers? Make sure that there is a representative at the event who is qualified, knowledgeable and able to answer questions about the thing you are trying to promote. The last thing you want to do is weigh down your bloggers with too much information or irrelevant info. Keep your literature bite sized and succinct and be sure to make everything available and easy to access online or via a memory stick in electronic form.
9. The “Thank You”
Sometimes the thank you for taking the time and trouble to listen to the pitch, is a “gift” given at the time of the event. Something along the lines of free admission to a theme park, show or museum, a wonderful meal at an exclusive restaurant. But many companies also offer a follow up perk such as a return pass, product sample or complimentary service. It is important to note that these perks are generally not perceived as payment for attending. They need not be expensive or of great value, however they should show some thought and consideration. Tip: Under no circumstances should excess trade show materials (pens, caps, corporate tees) be passed off as “swag” to bloggers. A handwritten note with a couple of decent chocolates would be preferable.
10. The follow up
It’s appropriate to follow up with the blogger after a couple of days. If they have not posted within a week, a brief note to offer materials, and inquire on their story is also appropriate. Offer support materials and assistance. Do not nag. Remember that bloggers are not obligated to post, but it is your job to assist and encourage them. Hopefully you have made such a positive impression with your awesome event, that you won’t need to follow up more than once!
A final note about competition: It’s never a good idea to pit your guests against each other on their blogs following an event. Contests like “whoever gets the most comments on their post wins x prize…” may foster short term buzz, but with possible negative long term associations that won’t benefit your brand. You want authentic traffic and a positive sense of community amongst your brand enthusiasts. So keep the competition, if any, low key and fun loving at the event and not on the blogs.