Heading to a conference in a different city always feels exciting, but in reality, I often don’t have the time/energy to go out and explore. So, when I first heard that BlogHer 10 would take place in New York City, I was thrilled (it’s a home-away-from-home for me), but realistic. I wasn’t going to expect very much tourist time. In stepped Liberty Mutual with a pre-conference blogger tour of Ellis Island and my conference experience was complete.
Liberty Mutual invited a few dozen bloggers on a private tour and lunch at Ellis Island to talk about their Responsibility Project and give us a chance to connect with their brand. And paired up with Ketchum, they did things just right. The day started at 11am, giving me plenty of time to get a rare sleep-in and start my conference experience fully rested. We met outside the hotel to board our bus to Battery Park.
During the bus ride, we were given gift bags with fun goodies like cookies and an autographed copy of The Ellis Island Immigrant Cookbook, which was written by our fabulous tour guide, Tom Bernardin. But the bags were practictal as well, holding a couple of bottles of bottled water and sunscreen. It was a thoughtful way to kick us off for a hot summer’s day of sightseeing.
The team from Ketchum and Liberty Mutual welcomed us and said a few words before showing us a video about the Responsibilty Project and how it all got started. And then they turned things over to Tom, who talked about the history of the city and Battery Park, the different neighborhoods in downtown Manhattan and some facts about the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
We arrived at Battery Park and walked past the long ticket line, and the even longer security line. We got VIP treatment! We then boarded the ferry for the hot, but beautiful ride to the Statue of Liberty and then Ellis Island. I have been there before, but it was just as inspirational to ride by the Statue and pull up on the shores of Ellis Island. My great-grandmother, great-grandfather and two great-uncles passed through Ellis Island from Russia and I kept them in my mind as we toured the grounds.
Tom led us through the museum to a private, air-conditioned room for lunch. We had a few more remarks from the Liberty Mutual team, as well as Peg Zitko, the VP of Public Affairs at The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. We were then treated to another Reponsibility Project video directed by and starring Danny Glover. You can watch Second Line on the Responsibility Project website. And then they gave away some cute jars of old-fashioned candy to one person at each table. I won ours!
After lunch, Tom took us on a quick, but informative tour around the Ellis Island museum and the grounds, before heading back to Battery Park. On the bus ride back, he shared a bit more info before we dropped him off near his home in the Village.
The Liberty Mutual/Responsibility Project Ellis Island tour was one of the big highlights of my BlogHer weekend. The ability to spend time with so many other amazing women, get in some sightseeing and reconnect with my own ancestry was priceless. But in terms of brand connection, the team did a fantastic job. We got the message they were trying to convey, but we also felt like we were given a special gift as well. I hope other brands and PR firms take note… there are ways to work with with bloggers where you get what you need, while still respecting us as individuals. Trapping us in a room while you parade your entire team in front of us in presentation after presentation isn’t engaging, isn’t fun and isn’t the best use of your time.
In addition to hosting this tour, Liberty Mutual hosted a Responsibility Project booth in the expo hall where they hosted a number of round table discussions on personal responsibility. You can read also the transcripts from those discussions on the Responsibility Project website.