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…