When you have successfully identified the relevant people you would like to invite and would like to invest time in – assuming you’re doing this some months / weeks in advance – then engage with those people. When someone from a PR agency calls me up “just like that”, asking me to “please come for our event” when I don’t know who that person on the phone is, who the PR agency is and if I don’t know anyone employed at the brand, then I am likely to say “Sorry, not available.” I like engaging with brands and prefer to meet people I might have interacted with earlier. I also like to be recognized / remembered / recalled. Not just “Oh! Our client needs some publicity, we know you have a photo blog, so we won’t explicitly ask you to bring your camera but please come.”
I have covered events in the past where I didn’t ask to be paid – I write, shoot, edit and blog and it’s a considerable time-investment for me. I always disclose whether a blog post is sponsored / paid for or otherwise. Transparency is important for my readers and for me. It’s a long term strategy. These events were for brands I’ve been associated with in the past – for example Nikon & Adobe. I don’t care if I know someone who works at these companies [ I do know many now and I prefer it ] and whether they have made efforts to engage with me, their user, earlier. I’m already a fan and more often than not, I already follow their Twitter accounts, Like them on Facebook and even comment on their blogs.
But for most other brands, my attending their event and covering it is something the brands needs. I don’t need that blog post on my blog to drive traffic. And considering how badly managed most events are, attending such events brings no value to me. And please don’t say “But we provided a pick up and drop, we gave free drinks and free dinner and you got to stare at so-and-so Bollywood celebrity! Oh and we gave you a moisturizer and a deodorant.”
If your brand / PR company is using that excuse to not create stronger engagement models, then you’re wasting your time, your money and hurting your reputation instead of enhancing it.
Brands need to do more – and not for the collective good of the bloggers but for the good of the brand. How do you throw a party where when someone who wasn’t at the party hears about it, they WANT to be there? Now apply that to your events. It doesn’t have to be a party but it has to be engaging. When I go to an event and I see other people attending the event and I know these other people are relevant to the brand, I feel good to be there.
But when I see old ladies in animal print boob tubes with dyed hair, with young daughters in tow and old gentlemen who don’t follow the “No Smoking” sign, then I know that the brand has money to burn & has not done its research. And that the PR company for that brand has taken the easiest way out : inviting people who want to be there. Not the ones who the brands needs to be there.[ More observations in subsequent posts coming up. If you manage a brand or handle their PR and and have a question, leave a comment or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org ]