Top 5 Tips for a Successful Blogging Event

So you’re working in fashion and beauty PR and you’ve been set the task of planning an event for fashion or beauty bloggers.  Where do you begin?

There are a million and one things to consider but today, I thought I’d start you off by sharing my top five tips for a successful blogging event.  Are you ready?  Ok let’s go…

Image by Anirudh Koul- Source

Image by Anirudh Koul- Source

1. Location, location, location

The location of the event is very important as it can make it or break it.  Consider WHO you want to invite, paying particular attention to what I call your key influencers– those bloggers with the most influence over your target audience, and WHO the event is for; if you’re organising an event for a cruelty free make up brand don’t pick a venue that’s next door to a butchers and if you know that some of your bloggers have mobility issues then make sure its a venue that is easy to access.

While the capital, London is not always the best location to hold an event purely aimed at bloggers as they don’t all live in London, many have a small budget and some have a family, studies or a full-time job to work around.  All of these factors can often limit their attendance at London events as it can be very costly and time-consuming to travel to and from the capital.  That being said, some of the most popular bloggers live in and around London and some of them do blog on a full-time basis, so it really depends on who you’re hoping will attend.  Also, if you’re wanting to attract the press too then London is ideal.

Hiring a venue and everything that goes with it in London is going to be a lot more costly than hiring a venue outside of the capital however this can work to your advantage.  If you’re a high-end brand and want to attract the attention of a select number of bloggers with a huge fan base, many of which generally live in London, holding a small brunch event in the capital can work particularly well, especially if you’re able to have a spokesperson from the brand there to talk the bloggers through the brands new release.  It’s a personal touch that enables two-way communication with the bloggers and helps the brand to be able to gauge understanding and encourage coverage of their product as the event is deemed to be more exclusive.

Image taken by Ryan Johnson- Source

Image taken by Ryan Johnson- Source

2. Timing is KEY

Another make it or break it event pointer to consider is the time that it will take place.  This is particularly important if your event is in central London and you’re inviting A LOT of bloggers as not everyone will be able to travel into the capital for a 9AM start.  In such cases, keep the event to the afternoon or early evening.  That way you give everyone as much opportunity as possible to avoid rush hour and out of towners can work travel to the event around their day job, studies or family life.

Make sure you check to see if any similar events are being held on the same day that you’re holding yours.  It is not necessarily a bad thing if your event is on the same day but it can be if it is at the same time as many bloggers are invited to similar events and you don’t want half of your guests leaving half way through the event to go to another brands showcase a short tube ride away.  Many brands, particularly while doing their previews of the next seasons line, will have press days or showcases.  Having your event on the same day and time, if it is a drop in session throughout the day, or if it is the same day but at a different time, can actually boost attendance at your event as many bloggers will be encouraged to travel to the events because they’ll be able to go to both.  It’s the killing two birds with one stone mentality.

3. Know your guest list

I cannot stress this enough; know who you are inviting.  A personal greeting when they arrive to tailoring gifted products to that individual can really help to encourage a blogger to write about the event and your brand.  Don’t simply invite bloggers to make up the numbers.  Choose your guests wisely and look to those with the platform to represent your brand in the best, credible light, i.e. avoid inviting a blogger to a book launch if their spelling is atrocious and you might want to give those bloggers who write a review of a product in a few sentences without clear photographs and swatches a miss as well.

I was once invited to an event for a fashion brand that produced clothes that stopped at a size 12, they offered to pay my expenses, give me a selection of items to review and provide a great goodie bag.  In effect, the brand, or the PR agency that had their contract, were throwing money away.  As a plus sized blogger who writes about plus sized fashion, the event and the brand were completely irrelevant to me and my readers!  It is better to have a smaller event with fewer people there who represent what your brand is about and have the right target audience than to blow your budget on a huge turn out where you’re unlikely to gain any worthwhile coverage that’ll make an impact from it.

4. Create a strong theme

Create a theme that will run through the event from the first invite to follow-up emails.  Granted that some bloggers will turn up to the opening of a packet of crisps, some bloggers are a little more savvy when it comes to event invites and a strong, clear theme can really build excitement and encourage attendance.   The theme should influence the décor at the venue, the press pack, gifted items and the social media buzz around the event.  It should also be very fitting for the time of year that the event is intended for.  Creating a strong theme helps to make the event memorable and it reinforces the brands message.  I’ll talk more about how to create a theme in my next post.

5. Expenses vs Involvement

My final tip will no doubt be a controversial one in the office but it is to weigh up the benefit of paying expenses against getting the blogger involved in your campaign.  If it will benefit your brand to have a blogger in attendance at the event, perhaps for photographs and filming, then set aside some of your budget to offer reasonable expenses (i.e. train or petrol travel, assuming the event has been planned at a decent time to allow the blogger to travel there and back in the same day) to those bloggers that will benefit the brand the most and who have the most influence over your target audience, without jeopardising the event as a whole.  I say this because it is important to remember that bloggers aren’t journalists, generally they’re not getting paid, many make very little money from their blogs if at all and travelling to your event will be coming out of their own pocket.  Some bloggers are willing and able to pay to travel to events but some may decline your invite on the basis of not being able to afford to attend, particularly if the event is in London where travel is very costly or if the event is far away from where they live; again, knowing your guest list helps with this.

I wouldn’t necessarily offer expenses straight away, I’d wait until the blogger asks and then assess the request on a case by case basis although be very careful with this as a lot of bloggers know one another and may discuss who has and who hasn’t had their travel covered.  Here you should be looking for the bloggers who are loyal to you and who have written honest, credible coverage for your brand in the past and those who are going to get your message out there to the most people, i.e. those who have a large following on social media, high number of readers in your particular niche, lots of interaction etc.  Depending on the event, budget and campaign, you could either invite a small number of influential bloggers to your event and pay all of their expenses or invite a large number of bloggers and if the more influential bloggers ask for a contribution towards their expenses then pay those out.

Essentially, it’s all about weighing up the benefit of the attendance at the event and coverage achieved from that blogger attending vs. the cost of their travel and generally speaking the benefit of their coverage is worth the cost of their travel if there’s a specific reason as to why their appearance at the event will benefit the brand.  Some will bloggers will not go to the event if their expenses aren’t covered and I have to say that I am generally one of them.  This is because blogging and freelance writing is my full-time job so for me to take a full working day to travel to London costing £80-£100 in return train travel to attend an event to then spend another day writing up a post for a company where I may only make a small commission through affiliate links is not worth it to me as I could sit at home and write a post that would earn me the same in commission and benefit my readers in exactly the same way.  With that in mind, I would consider whether attendance at the event is necessary at all as you could forego paying expenses to bloggers and instead provide them with a detailed press pack and the product to review, for example.  This would keep your costs down and achieve the same outcome.  A lot of the time, if I’m unable to spare the time to travel to an event for a new product launch, I’ll politely decline the invitation but if I think that this is something that would work for my readers then I offer to review the product for the brand and this usually is very advantageous for both me, the brand and the PR.

Let me know in the comments if you have any experience of planning an event for bloggers and what your top tips are!

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Is Beauty Blogging Losing Its Credibility?

Next month, my blog will turn four years old.  It sounds a bit pathetic giving my blog a birthday and celebrating it as though it were a small child but in essence, it is something that I have dedicated a large proportion of my life to over the last four years and at twenty-five, that’s a large chunk of my adult life.  I’ve nurtured my blog and watched it develop into something I’m really proud of but it didn’t happen overnight.

I started my blog as a creative outlet. I didn’t have a clue about PR, marketing or advertising, aside from the adverts in between an episode of Corrie that I skipped as soon as my Sky box would allow me, and really I didn’t have a clue about how to blog.  I think that was the beauty about blogging back then, there were no rules.

I had just graduated from university when I started my blog and I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  I studied Criminology and then the Graduate Diploma in Law and as my degree progressed I knew that although I was fascinated by what I was studying, I didn’t want to work in that field.  I’ve never been a particularly creative person, always an academic however I did have a passion for make up, skin care and fashion.  After years of my friends asking me how I achieved a particular make up look or where I bought my handbag from, I decided it was about time that I shared my passion with like-minded people online.

I’d been watching beauty gurus on Youtube for about a year before I started blogging, I can even remember the first video from Imogen of Foxy Locks Extensions, where she vlogged from her messy bedroom in her parents house before she made her fortune with her hair extensions business.  The same goes for reading blogs like Zoe Sugg’s.  Yep I was there from the beginning of Zoella.  Writing online seemed like a very logical outlet for me to spill my thoughts on all things beauty and fashion related.  My friends and family weren’t as interested in the topic as I was but there was lots of girls online who were and joining the blogging community really gave me a sense of belonging.

Blogging has majorly evolved since I started out.  Granted, it has been around a lot longer than the last four or five years but it has really taken off in the last couple of years, especially in the fashion and beauty category.  Now it seems as though EVERYONE is doing it.  What once was something I shied away from telling my friends about because they ‘wouldn’t understand’ is now something to shout about.  But why are so many girls writing about lipstick now?  Is it because of a genuine passion for make up above and beyond the average girl or is it because of the jiffy bag arriving in the post from a PR agency?  I’m increasingly beginning to believe that it is the latter and I can’t help but think that the true essence of what blogging is about has been lost.

In the early days, I loved to read about the latest products and what my favourite bloggers thought about them.  I was becoming increasingly savvy to the retouching and the total manipulation of images in the media and I was tired of wasting what little money I had on products that didn’t work, all because of a TV advertisement; I guess you could say that I began to lose faith in brands.  However if a girl like me was sat at a computer using a product and loving it and I could see how well it worked for her then that would encourage me more than anything to give it a try for myself.  It’s the girl next door effect and I’ve seen more and more PRs brands catch on to the power of blogging in recent years and rightly so- it would be foolish not to as bloggers can really add credibility to a campaign.

Studying a master’s degree in PR alongside blogging has really given me a unique view of how blogging has evolved and how public relations has adapted to utilise bloggers through providing products to review, event invites and press releases.  However what I have also seen is a shift in the credibility of beauty blogging which I really think is starting to have a negative impact on PR.

Alongside the number of brands recognising bloggers, the number of bloggers has dramatically increased as well.  Undoubtedly there are thousands of bloggers out there who write beauty blogs for the love of it but there are so many who start writing with the aim of gaining freebies which is something that poses a great threat to PR practitioners as many are giving out free samples with the aim of securing a review but never actually gaining any coverage.  Many bloggers don’t understand how PR works and there is so much chat on Twitter about how they feel as though they should be paid to write posts which not only goes against everything that PR is about, it also throws its credibility out of the window.

While I can understand that payment should be exchanged in a marketing or advertising campaign, it is very different for public relations and this is often difficult for some bloggers to understand as they’re unaware that PR is a credible, earned media.  Something that I also think is jeopardising the credibility of PR is that more and more people are beginning to not trust the opinion of bloggers, particularly bloggers not trusting other bloggers, if the talk on Twitter is anything to go by.  Sometimes it is because the big bloggers are always gifted the same products but also paid to Instagram, Tweet and blog about the products and sometimes it’s because it can seem as though a blogger doesn’t want to give a brand a negative review because they’re concerned they’ll not get the opportunity to work with them again.  The trouble is that for every person who has been gifted an item for free there are hundreds out there who have bought the product themselves so if a blogger bends the truth and raves about a product when it isn’t actually all that great, their credibility as a reviewer is under jeopardy.  So many bloggers are sent the same products at the same time, which would make sense when there is a new launch for example, however a lot of the reviews are very similar to one another and a lot of readers really start to mistrust what is being said.

The same goes for YouTube.  I can remember the days when I would watch a YouTube video about how a particular blogger achieved their super volumised hair style and I would hang from their every word.  You could tell that they were really loving the products that they were talking about and that they had clearly took a lot of time to find out what works for them.  Fast forward a few years and I’m watching a similar video where a blogger who is a lover of high-end products is talking about their hair care routine.  Sounds like a great video from the outset, until they move onto the products they use and the first is Head and Shoulders, a super budget brand.  What they’re saying sounds as though it has come directly from a press release, as though they’re ticking off the boxes of the points they need to make and it is all falling on deaf ears.  A quick click into the description box and I can see the dreaded words ‘Disclaimer: Thanks for working with me on this video Head and Shoulders!’  So in other words, they’ve been paid to create the video and talk about the brand in it.  Whether they like the products or not doesn’t matter to me at this point because they’ve been paid to make the video and talk about them.  They’re not going to make a video telling you not to use these products because they’re rubbish so the credibility of that review goes out of the window to me and it is the mixing of marketing and PR techniques and the exchange of money that brings down the credibility of beauty blogging and vlogging in today’s world.  To me, it’s just the same as Cheryl Cole on a L’Oreal advert… but is it worth it?

What are your thoughts?

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