BlogHer and the Private Party Myth

There is a lot of talk this year about BlogHer and the private parties. People who aren’t invited seem to either take it as a personal slight or as proof that BlogHer is only for the “cool kids.” It isn’t either one.

Myth #1 – I’m not cool enough. Brand parties/events at BlogHer are a chance for brands to connect with bloggers in the demographic that interests them. They are typically smaller gatherings, often a dinner or a special activity. And if it seems mysterious as to who gets the invite, it is. Each brand has their own goals. Some might be looking to strengthen relationships with bloggers who are already fans. Some might want a chance to sway those who prefer a different brand, are on the fence or are indifferent. Perhaps they want families with young kids, political bloggers, bloggers with huge followings, bloggers who write about crafts, those who write particularly well, those who do product reviews. There is no one right answer. If you didn’t get an invite, it’s not a reflection on you as a person. Take another look at your blog to make sure you’re presenting an image that will draw the brand relationships that interest you and read my tips below.

Myth #2 – I won’t have fun if I don’t get private party invites. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is SO much going on at BlogHer, that you’ll have a hard time not keeping busy. There will always be people around doing something, even if it’s just hanging out in the lobby and playing games. Sure, it may feel like you’re missing out on something great when you see a bunch of bloggers heading out together to a party, but that’s all part of our natural inclination to want to be included. Some brand events really aren’t that much fun, anyway.

Myth #3 – I’ll miss my chance to connect with brands. BlogHer is crawling with brand reps. You can’t spit without hitting one (I don’t recommend the spitting part). You’ll find them easily accessible in the Expo Hall. You’ll find them in quieter spaces in the brand lounges. And you’ll probably find them by taking time to meet new people in sessions, at meals and in the hallways.

Myth #4 – I’m going to miss the swag! Hah. Check out my blog post on the danger of too much swag. I went to two private parties last year (one I coordinated and one I co-hosted), but the bulk (and, in fact, the most valuable) of the swag came from official BlogHer parties and the Expo Hall.

Myth #5 – Private parties are “better.” Some are, some aren’t. It all depends on what you’re hoping to get out of your experience and what the brands are hoping to get out of it. I met some fantastic people are the official BlogHer parties, including a few who opened important doors for me later in the year. Relationship-building happens throughout BlogHer and you never know who you’ll meet who will 1) become a great friend and 2) become a great contact. If you only focus on brand events, you could miss your chance to connect with a diverse group of amazing folks. Not only that, but official parties tend to have no agenda other than to have fun!

So, if you’re still hoping for private party invites in the future, I’ve got a few tips to help the process along. The basic idea is to present yourself as a professional with value to offer brands.

1. Keep doing what you’re doing, and do it well. Write well, write often, but don’t just focus on the “stuff.” If you look at the people getting the bulk of the invites, you’ll find bloggers with strong voices, and a persona beyond that of Review Queen.

2. Network all year long. There are plenty of review groups out there and opportunities to connect with brands. If you want brands to reach out to you, you have to make it clear on your site that you’re open to their advances. And remember, every person you connect with is a potential resource. Sure, a PR person may be reaching out with a product that doesn’t match your needs, but they may be representing something that does a few months down the line. Don’t burn bridges.

3. Don’t beg and plead for invites. Not only does it seem desperate, but it puts the event planners in a difficult spot. Would you do that with a wedding or birthday party? Hopefully not, because it’s incredibly rude. Typically, they have enough space for a certain number of people and you can assume that they invited enough people to fill those spots. Begging to be included means that they have to be the “bad guy” and turn you down. No one enjoys that. If there is a brand that you are particularly interested in working with and you feel like you can really bring something to their campaign (note: it’s not all about you!), you might consider a note to say that you’re available at that time for last-minute cancellations. And let them know that you’d be interested in working with them in the future. There is no pressure for them to respond and you’ve politely and professionally expressed an interest in the brand. That will leave you in a positive light for future opportunities.

4. Don’t badmouth PR reps and brands publicly. If you attend a brand event and do nothing but complain, other brands will notice. Remember, things you say and do in public reflect on your own personal brand.

4. Participate in the community. Join groups, comment on other blogs and be present on Twitter. The best way to get your name out there is to have meaningful engagement with other bloggers and brands.

5. Be patient. I’m always shocked that bloggers who have been around for 6-12 months expect that they’ll get all the best event invites. There are thousands of us and some of us have been doing this for a really long time. Sometimes, you just have to pay your dues…

22 Responses to BlogHer and the Private Party Myth

  1. Great post! And so true! Don’t loose sight of what’s really important, to connect with others, enjoy the experience, and OMG…enjoy NYC or where ever the next major conference is. And yes, SWAGS ARE OVER RATED!

  2. Very thoughtful post C. Seeing people get all crazed about this topic (I recently advised a fellow blogger to stop asking for party invites) makes me squeamish. IMHO, the whole point of blogging conferences is to connect in real life with your community.

  3. I did get all swagged up, but you are right, the sweetest swag didn’t come from the private parties. Actually the private parties were fun but not swagalicious. So if that is your motivation, camp out on the expo floor. :)

  4. Really sound advice (seriously, best pre-BlogHer post I’ve read in a long time) also, a great reminder for EVERYONE to take a minute to breath, relax and just enjoy each moment for what it is — a chance to connect, share your passion(s) and maybe even learn a thing, or two, with other folks, like you — it goes really, really fast!

  5. Fantastic post!

    I am a BlogHer virgin, but have been blogging for several years now. I couldn’t agree more with the comment about new bloggers expecting to be at the top so soon. There is definitely some necessary dues paying first! :)

    Thanks for such solid info & tips!

    Silly Mom Thoughts

  6. I’ll admit. I was starting to feel a little left out. HELLO…I really only starting blogging in February and only bought my BlogHer ticket 2 months ago. I needed a reality check so thank you. Great post.

  7. Really good post. I would add that folks who don’t work with brands and who blog for nothing but pleasure and community need not waiver. Just because a friend is trying to monetize her blog doesn’t mean you should go that route. I hope that a commitment to supporting good writing is able to shine through at BlogHer this year. (Even though the banner from Nestle may overshadow it.)

  8. Excellent post! I’ve been blogging for a year and I’m a Blogher newbie. I am attending some private parties that I’m really excited about, but I also turned down some that sounded fun just because it doesn’t fit with my blog. I’m looking to make meaningful connections and just learn as much as I can.

  9. Thank you so much for speaking up and telling it how it is. We are going to be in New York City for goodness sake. Last year in Chicago, one of my most memorable nights was leaving a party and enjoying a quite dinner at a restaurant with 2 blogging friends. Another was taking a photo tour around the city with a couple of others.

  10. How refreshing it is to read a post that gives advice in a manner that is not condescending nor rude. It was funny that I was thinking I got invites to all the parties I would have wanted to go to. Then I read on someone’s blog about one I hadn’t heard of, much less received an invite to. Deflated my big ‘ole head.
    You’d think that as you age you might not feel the need to be one of the popular or cool kids. I guess I’ve got some growing up to do still… though the gray hairs beg to differ.

  11. Well done! Thank you for reminding me that while it is great to be included, at the end of the day I really prefer to be in smaller groups where I can actually build relationships and bond with new friends.

    Great post!

  12. So true. I didn’t get any party invites, but thats not my goal. the whole point is to help me further my blog and connect with brands and bloggers. I’m so tired of hearing of I want to go to this because of the swag.

  13. Thank you for putting this out there! So many people seem to be upset about the party situation…but to me, they’re just the sprinkles on the icing on the cake. I got invited to a couple (though I have no idea why), but I don’t much care. That’s not why I’m going!

  14. So im totally late to the party (aka your post) but I just happened upon it.

    I completely agree with everything you said and how you said it. You have a terrific way with words.

    On another note, i’ve not yet been to BlogHer but will be attending next year (2012). It’s a year away but i’m giddy as all get out! Several of my blogging buddies have been and they keep saying how amazing it is.

    I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in person, networking, and having a good time. <3

  15. Great post!!!! The most beneficial connections I really made last year were through other bloggers. Chill with the peeps and all will go well!!!

  16. Great posts. One of the worst Blogher parties I ever went to was a private party in which too many people were invited and place was so cramped I left within 10 minutes. Be careful what you wish for.

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