The biggest mistake I regularly see from brands is hosting a blogger event with no clear strategy. They simply and just throw open the doors and step aside. I am still surprised by the number of big fashion, tech and accessory brands that hand me products and/or money and simply expect me to bring bloggers to the event to enjoy themselves, with absolutely no discussion of expectations or post-event follow-up except for a ‘brief event recap and some photos.’ These same companies would never pay for TV or print ads without a clear understanding of the corresponding impressions, metrics and a way to track sales, but for some reason blogger events seem to fly under the radar. Not tracking how blogger events and outreach impact brand reputation and sales is a missed opportunity. A recent study found that blogs influence 31% of online purchases. Whether blogger relations falls under public relations, marketing or some department collaboration, companies should have a plan in place to track their return. When it comes to throwing a blogger events, brands and PR companies should:
Identify event expectations and ideal outcomes
Brainstorm before the event and establish specific goals about what success will look like. Are you most interesting in driving traffic to the website, increasing referral links through product mentions, generating campaign buzz through images and hash tags across social media? Different goals call for different plans of action and can affect how you execute the event itself and how you communicate expectations to the blogger or blogger organization you are working with. Without goals, it's impossible to set up bloggers for success, or to determining later if the event met expectations.
Ensure you can track results
While there is the obvious need to track who was invited, who RSVP'd, who actually showed up, an event is an opportunity to track offline to online activity. Set up alerts to track post-event coverage, consider providing bloggers with unique tracking links or embed codes to product or campaign images in order to track referral traffic through your analytics program. Decide ahead of time how you will measure reach - will you have bloggers self-report unique monthly visitors, how will you factor in social shares? I always recommend that brands assign a specific hashtag to be used across platforms to make it easy to track specific event mentions. Consider asking the bloggers or your followers for three words that best describe your product and include the most popular, or the one that invites the most curiosity into the hashtag.
Create an email list for pre and post event communication
Communicate about event details, expectations, opportunities and special requests through ongoing communicating using an ESP. Work with your event hosts, vendors and attendees to make sure bloggers feel involved. If this is your first event, a survey asking bloggers what they’ll need from you and what they’d like to see at your event can be a great way to begin collaboration. As RSVPs come in, respond with additional event details including campaign images, teaser tweets, any unique, original images you have created for the blogger, as well as the event schedule, parking information, etc. After the event, follow up with details about gift bag contents, images from the event, and another survey to get feedback on the event. Continue to reach out to this segment occasionally, always thanking them for their coverage of your earlier event, and providing new story ideas or event opportunities.
Have reasonable deadlines around coverage
Respect the fact that the majority of bloggers utilitze an editorial calendar of their own, plan weeks ahead, and have limited ad space on their site. Don’t give short-notice to bloggers when you’d like them to attend an event, or mention your product. Be respectful of the bloggers and considerate of their time. This means checking back in 6-8 weeks to see if they’ve mentioned your product, not writing them off if you didn’t notice anything on their site within 48 hours.
The impact of blogging on sales has taken many companies by surprise. Jump to the front of the pack by recognizing their influence in commerce today, and tracking their market weight with the same diligence as any other communication strategy.
Heidi Nazarudin is the Founder and President of BloggerBabes.com , an association with more than 500+ active bloggers. She has hosted blogging events for Saks Fifth Avenue, Armani Cosmetics and JustFab.com to name but a few. Heidi blogs full-time at TheSuccessfulStyle.com