How to Create a Theme for an Event

In my last post, I wrote about my top tips for planning a successful event for bloggers.  One of which is to create a strong theme that flows throughout your event from your very first contact with a blogger until your last follow up email.
Creating a theme for your event is very important when planning a blogging event, particularly if it is a new product launch or a brand showcase, as it really enables the brand to put their stamp on the occasion.  It delivers an environment where the key messages can be delivered, reinforced and hammered home.  With so many brands competing for exposure on social media and blogs, it is super important that the event is memorable and having a clear theme is the quickest way to achieving that.
A strong theme starts at the planning stages, before you’ve booked your venue, printed press materials and contacted bloggers.  You need to think about the purpose of the event, the message you’re trying to get a cross, who you’re inviting and the timing of the event.  
The contrast between the time of year that you’re in now and the time of year that your product is aimed at is very important and its your job to get your creative thinking caps on to conjure up some imagery in the minds of the bloggers at your event.  Jo Malone recently put on a cracking press day for bloggers and press alike where they created an indoor winter wonderland complete with mini ice rink to showcase their Christmas products.  You can see a clip of the event in the video below which is a vlog from ViviannaDoesMakeup, skip to 2:20 for the Jo Malone part.
When you’re ready to invite those on your list of bloggers, ensure the invite is eye catching.  With so many event invites being sent to bloggers, you need yours to stand out and grab their attention, in just the same way that you wouldn’t send a bland, rambling press release to a journalist, you wouldn’t send a few sentences to a blogger.  Get some colour on there and imagery that has the theme of your event or brand evident on it from first glance.  Also include sneak previews of things they’ll be able to do at the event, like having their nails done etc.  This can also be a good way to incorporate other brands on your portfolio and gain them some exposure too.  For example, if you’re working at a fashion event for the launch of a Christmas collection where tartan and dogtooth prints are going to heavily featured, you could get a nail brand on board to paint bloggers nails, inspired by the designs of the clothing collection, at the event.
Create a hash tag for the event and encourage the bloggers to use it.  It could be included in the invite to get the bloggers to create a buzz about the event and to find others attending the event and what they’re saying about it if the hash tag is searched.  While at the event, hash tags can be used alongside tweets and photographs of the event on Twitter and Instagram and in status updates on Facebook.  You could run a competition throughout the event to win something from the brand.  This works particularly well if it is a clothing event as you can simply ask bloggers to snap a picture of themselves with their favourite piece from the collection to post to Twitter using the hash tag and @ mentioning the brand a tweet.  The hash tag can also be used when the bloggers write up their posts from the event, whether it is a review of the event itself or of the product the event was about, for example.  This will help you to keep a check of the reviews as they’re tweeted so that you can retweet them from the brand’s account.
During the event, make sure your theme is evident.  This could be in the way you’ve decorated the room, the drinks and canapés that are served (French food for a French skincare brand perhaps?) or the activities to do at the event.  I once went to a holiday themed event for a swimwear brand and they had a mini beach set up with a beach ball and deck chair to have photos taken against and a competition to drop a pin on a world map with your name on and if the country you picked is chosen then you would win an item from the collection and the opportunity to blog for the brand.  That worked so well and got everyone involved.  Perhaps I’ll write more about some events I’ve been to in another post.
At the end of the event, ensure that each blogger takes home a detailed press pack that has all of the information and key messages that they need to blog about what was intended from the event.  The press pack should also include the details of any preferred stockists and contact details of who to get in touch with with the link to their review or if they have any further questions, need official images etc.  Make sure that the press pack continues the theme of the event whether it is through the use of imagery, hash tag suggestions or the text.
Finally, if you’re going to give away a goodie bag at the end of the event then make sure it is relevant to the brand and along the same theme as the event.  If the event was a product launch for a new skincare item then you could give away samples in a bag for each blogger as this is something that is easy to prepare before the event whereas if your event was for the launch of a swimwear line then the chances are, you wouldn’t be able to supply each blogger with a sample on the night as you wouldn’t know which style and size they’d like.  Organise to send their sample out to them and instead give a goodie bag with your logo printed on, again, keep it relevant, like a beach towel or bag, and products related to the brand such as sun cream, bronzer and waterproof mascara.  In the swimwear case, at a beach holiday themed event, this would reinforce the message that each item is something you could use on holiday along with a swimsuit from the new line.
I must also note that the theme doesn’t have to be something creative, it could simply be the brand’s key messages and ethos.  Perhaps you’re working the PR for a brand who pride themselves on delivering excellent customer service, professionalism and high performing products.  Make sure that your event reflects that.  I’ve talked about the fun side to planning events here but it can be as plain and simple as creating a very clean, white, scientific environment in which to showcase the latest discovery in a skincare ingredient.  The choice is yours!
Let me know in the comments about some of the events you’ve planned or been to and if they had a theme, what was great about it?
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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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