We’ve talked about sponsored content, product reviews and features, running giveaways, and connecting on social media — and they’re all key ways to garner some online clout, but what if you really — I mean, really — want to get bloggers raving about your brand? In fact, you want those bloggers to love your brand… If you’re really determined to get bloggers on board with promoting your business online, then it’s time to start thinking outside your inbox and get to know bloggers offline.
In this blog:
- Know What You Want to Get Out Of It
- Partnering with Other Businesses
- Who’s Your Crowd? Choosing Which Bloggers to Invite
- Planning an Absolutely Ninja Blogger Event
- Following Up with Bloggers
- Blogger Event Case Studies
We had an awesome little boutique hotel business in Bath come to us saying they wanted to step up their blogger game. They’d had a couple of bloggers come in for review stays, but the cost of hosting just one blogger each time wasn’t working out that well for them financially (because their rooms would usually end up booked on weekends anyway). Still, they loved the gorgeous blog posts and photos taken by bloggers and wanted more of those features — so we put on a blogger event.
The budget was small at just under £400, but that didn’t put us off! The hotel would be the event venue, already saving us a significant amount, but in order to make the event as awesome as possible we got on the phone to local businesses and high street brands that the hotel owners loved. High street brand Lush and a local independent chocolatier in Bath agreed to come on board with the event as well. Lush provided complimentary facial treatments and some goodies for the blogger gift bags. The chocolate maker supplied some chocolate tasting boxes for the event itself.
We set a weekend date in late February, which is low season for the hotel, and set a theme we thought bloggers would like. We invited local lifestyle and travel bloggers to the event — especially looking for bloggers who enjoyed producing quirky, boutique style content. In exchange for attending the event, bloggers were asked to credit the hotel, Lush, and the chocolate maker in their blog posts about the event, as well as sending out some social media updates tagging the businesses.
It was a roaring success. The event day was filled with spa treatments, tasty chocolates, champagne, hot tub time, a tour of the hotel, and a talk from the hotel owner about boutique design. Bloggers networked and took a gazillion photos of all the quirkiest elements of the hotel and of all the delicious nibbles on offer. After the event, the blog posts came streaming in, and over 13 blog posts with stylish, targeted content and backlinks went up within 3 weeks.
Want to know our ninja secrets to organising incredible blogger events without breaking a small business’ budget? Of course you do. Here’s how we go about it.
Know What You Want to Get Out Of It
Blogger events are all about creating a buzz around your brand, but what are your key goals for your event? Do you want to smash it on social? Are you looking for backlinks to gain authority? Do you want to connect with local bloggers and other local businesses? Running a blogger event is one thing, but there’s no point running one if you’re not reaping the rewards at the end of it. Before you embark on a big event planning mission, write a list of specific goals outlining what you want to get out of this event. Leave vague phrases like “lots of exposure” and “some blog posts” out of the equation and get some concrete stuff down (read our digital PR goal setting for guidelines on writing solid goals). Here are some examples of what your blogger event goals might look like:
Blog Posts and Backlinks from Bloggers
- Gain a blog post including a backlink to our company website from every blogger attending the event, posted within two weeks of the event.
- Get a 2 minute vlog from each of the vloggers to go up on YouTube, uploaded within two weeks of the event.
- Have all bloggers Tweeting about the event throughout the day using a brand specific hashtag.
- Involve each blogger in the photo shoot so that they have 8+ gorgeous photos to share on their Instagram feed this season.
- Have goody bag products featured on social media by bloggers and the relevant companies tagged.
Networking with Bloggers
- Network with local bloggers and form relationships in order to partner on brand work in the future.
- Gain insights into specific blogging niches in order to run successful blogger campaigns online.
- Communicate your brand and its USP to bloggers.
In-House Promotional Activity
- Collect amazing photos from the event for social media updates.
- Collect awesome content for a blog post on the company’s website.
- Raise awareness about a charity or cause.
Partnering with Other Businesses
Many small businesses who are considering running blogger events — and especially those on tight budgets — will often look to partner up with other local businesses. These local businesses will rarely be expected to contribute a budget, however they may offer a venue space, service, products or talk on a specialist topic in exchange for publicity from the bloggers as well.
Partnering with other businesses is a strategy which works very well for local businesses who have friends and connections in the area. Independent business owners are often keen to support one another in raising their profile. Use your contacts and reach out to business owners to see if they want to come on board with your event.
If you are looking for businesses to provide products for goodie bags, you can also send out a request on Response Source, an enquiry service which is often used by journalists, bloggers and PR people, to see if there are any businesses who would be interested in sending out sample products in exchange for coverage from bloggers attending your event.
Planning an Absolutely Ninja Blogger Event
Running an awesome event takes time, creativity, and drive. If you’ve got all those things, then even if your budget is tight you can get a great blogger event off the ground and gain exposure for your business and brand. Here are the steps you need to plan a totally ninja event:
1. Time Frames
Make an outline with time frames, a date, and a structure for the event. How long will the event last? Be aware of when bloggers are most likely to be free — many bloggers also have day jobs so won’t be available during the Monday – Friday work week. Plan your event at a convenient time, such as the evening after standard working hours or on a weekend if you are requiring bloggers to travel in order to attend. Depending on the style of the event and the location, bloggers may decide to drop-in instead of spending the whole time there, so make this simple and flexible for them.
2. Your Budget
You can’t get much done without a little bit of dollar behind you, but you can run a blogger event on just a small budget, especially if you are able to supply the venue yourself. Set a max budget for the event and make a spreadsheet of all the expected expenses, including decoration, equipment, activities, food, and goodie bags.
3. The Location
Where are you going to put all these bloggers? That’s a big question — or a small one depending on how many bloggers you’re inviting! Having sufficient space is only part of it though; you want a venue that really reflects your brand and the bloggers you invite.
If your business already operates as a venue of some kind, be it a hotel, bar, restaurant, or wedding venue, then your location is already sorted and being on your own turf gives you lots of opportunity for direct brand promotion. If you need to rent a space, go for somewhere that’s a blank canvas so that you can put your own stamp on it to represent your brand and your event’s theme. You want to have a space that encourages networking and involvement.
4. The Theme
The theme is an important part of making an event enticing for bloggers. You want to select a theme that represents your business and look at a number of variations before deciding on a final theme. The best way to approach the theme is to write down as many relevant themes as you can think of and then narrow it down to the best three.
Let’s say you run a traditional wedding dress shop in Cambridge. You’re going to be inviting wedding bloggers to your blogger event where you’ll be showing off your new dress collection. You partner up with a local wedding venue to host the event. You may choose a theme like “white weddings,” “summer weddings,” or even “quintessentially British weddings.”
Once you’ve narrowed down your themes to the final three, create a mood board which includes photos and ideas about how each of the event themes would look. Your mood boards can be as creative as you like and should include ideas for activities, decorations, canapes etc. See which theme looks to be the most relevant and appealing but also realistic for your budget.
Here are some of the moodboards our event planning ninjas have made in the past:
5. The Activities
What’s going to happen during your event to give the bloggers some incredible writing and photography material? You don’t need to hire someone to put on event activities — instead look at your own skillset and your business’ unique selling point. How can you get bloggers engaged with your business and hooked on your USP? There are a whole bunch of different things you can do, but here are some of the most common:
- Masterclasses / Workshops / Live Demos
Masterclasses and workshops are where bloggers learn to do something exciting by getting hands on from the professionals. This could be absolutely anything, be that cocktail making, coffee brewing, knitting socks, practising photography, chocolate making, cooking class, yoga session, silent disco dancing and so on.
- VIP Treatments
Do you run a beauty salon, hairdresser, spa or similar business in the service industry? Offering bloggers a complimentary facial, manicure, hair styling session, massage, or any other spa treatment is the perfect way to get them to blog about exactly what it is you’re selling.
Give bloggers a story. You want the bloggers to have plenty to write about and giving a talk is the perfect way to communicate this information. Remember that you don’t want to just be blurting out facts about your business, but instead package information that’s relevant to your business in a way that will spark their interest.
If you own a boutique hotel, talk about what “boutique style” is, where you sourced your boutique style inspiration from and how you got into the boutique hotel market. If you run a community-based tourism tour company, talk about how your travel organisation is making life better for the people in the communities, giving real life examples.
- Q&A Sessions
Following a talk, some of the bloggers may have questions that they would like to ask the speaker. Set aside some time for this so that bloggers will be able to quote you directly on their blog if they have a specific question. This is also a great opportunity for the speaker to promote their company. Record your talks and Q&A sessions so that you can upload them to your YouTube channel as well — it’s not only good press for you, but it’s also useful for bloggers who may want to reference them.
Some bloggers may prefer to have private interviews with industry specialists and guest speakers. Interviews mean that bloggers are able to create exclusive content for their blog as the answers to their questions haven’t been shared publicly with everyone at the event. This is particularly of importance to very niche bloggers who may have more specific questions about your business, work, or the industry in general.
If the venue for your event is one which you want bloggers to write about on their blog or showcase on their social media, then give a tour of your venue with plenty of opportunities for bloggers to take photos.
Our boutique hotel would show bloggers around the guestrooms and main spaces, highlighting boutique design elements and discussing art which they are particularly proud of. If the event is based at a wedding venue, take bloggers on a walking tour of the grounds and give them all the information that you would give brides-to-be who are thinking about having their wedding there.
If you run a specialist business where you make your products on-site, such as a craft brewery or a high-end restaurant, give bloggers a “behind the scenes tour” where they can see the masters at work in test kitchens and learn about the development process from start to finish.
6. The Snacks
You can bet that after all these activities (unless you’re running a cooking class that is!) everyone will be getting a bit peckish. Some simple canapes and a drink are a fab way to break the ice and get people chatting and networking together. If your food and drink can reflect your event theme, the more so the better. Food ideas may range from more sophisticated restaurant style starters, savoury snacks, or even sushi, to sweet treats, afternoon tea, or decorated cupcakes.
7. The Goodies
At the end of your event, you don’t want bloggers to go home and forget all about it. Pack them off with a goody bag that includes a few product samples, discount vouchers for service based businesses, business cards from all of the companies involved in the event, and a “thank you” card that reminds them that you’re looking forward to reading their blog post about the event.
8. The Invites
When the plan is in place, it’s time to send some invites. Choosing influencers to invite to your event works in the same way as deciding who to send out products to or host giveaways with, except that location is now an even more important deciding factor. This means looking for bloggers already based in your area or within easy reach of the venue.
Bloggers tend to work in circles with other bloggers in a similar niche to themselves. When you have successfully reached out to a few bloggers, work together with them and invite their friends as well. Look for blogger groups in your local area to see if there are already a group of relevant bloggers who would be keen to attend.
- Make a List
Next, decide how many bloggers your event will be able to accommodate. You can expect some bloggers to turn down the invite, so make a list larger than the initial number of bloggers that you can accommodate.
- Connect on Social Media
As with blogger outreach, you want to connect with your invite list on social media before sending out an official invitation.
- Design an Invitation
When you have set a date and know the outline of the event, it’s time to design an invitation. The invitation should be enticing and reflect the theme of your event. Include all relevant details including date, time, and location, as well as the planned activities and the companies who will be involved.
- Send Out Invite Emails
You should send out personalised emails to each blogger. Be sure to state who you are and highlight what they’ll get out of the event. Also mention what activities will be happening and what you require from them in exchange. Include an RSVP from Google calendar or invite the bloggers to a Facebook event page so you can confirm attendees.
- Promote the Event
If you want bloggers to come to you, then it’s a good idea to promote your event on your website’s blog and social media channels. This can simply be writing a blog post about the upcoming event, creating a Facebook event, and posting some social media updates. You may also decide to promote your event on a blogger network.
9. Follow Up
After the event, send out an email or Tweet to all the bloggers to thank them for coming once again. You will want to stay in touch with the bloggers who you have invited as what they write about your brand is now in their hands. After a week, chase them up by email to ask them how their blog post, photos, social media updates, or any other coverage they’ve agreed to is coming along. There’s no harm in a friendly reminder and many bloggers will happily let you know their progress to date. Be sure to ask the bloggers to email over their links afterwards so that you can share them on your company’s social media profiles too.
Blogger Event Case Studies from Big Name Brands
Awesome blogger events come in all different shapes and sizes. While we’ve mainly focused on how small businesses can use blogger events to harness some blogger power, there’s a lot to be learned from household name businesses who have run blogger events. Let’s take a look at what they did right and what they didn’t:
Case Study #1: Pizza Hut’s stuffed crust pizza
In 2013, Pizza Hut released a new 3 cheese stuffed crust pizza. Instead of just running a bunch of expensive TV ads or sending bloggers a voucher for a free pizza, Pizza Hut surprisingly invited bloggers on a “FAM” or familiarisation trip — we usually see travel and tour companies running these kinds of trips to promote locations, but consumer brands have used them effectively in the past as well. Pizza Hut wanted to give bloggers a brand experience and an in-depth insight into how developing a new product works, so they flew them out to Austin Texas, took them on a tour of a Pizza Hut restaurant with their executive chef, took them to a BBQ dinner (huh?), and took them to a party hosted by MTV. Bloggers got to sample the new stuffed crust pizza as well, of course.
This event was both hit and miss. Some of the bloggers loved the whole experience — they were wined and dined and had plenty to write about. Let’s face it, there’s not all that much to write about if they’d just given the bloggers a free pizza. But was the experience relevant enough to Pizza Hut’s brand? Foodbeast publisher Elie Ayrouth didn’t think so. She criticised the event for not being “situated in a photo-friendly area” say it’d have been better to be in “a test kitchen or a well-lit room — where tastemakers and influencers can taste the new product, take photos or video, ask questions and interact.”
Case Study #2: Laura Ashley’s Crafting Afternoon
Home and clothing brand Laura Ashley hosted a craft workshop event in Spring 2015. They invited craft bloggers based in the city for an afternoon of crafting with new floral fabrics and wallpapers from their seasonal range. They partnered up with Crafty Hen, a local craft workshop business in Bristol, who led the event and showed bloggers how to use the materials to design their own DIY notebook covers and fun accessories. At the end of the event, bloggers received a Laura Ashley goody bag to take home. This is an example of a successful local event. Laura Ashley targeted specific niche of craft and design bloggers who were engaged with the event’s workshop. The bloggers produced blog posts complete with beautiful photographs of how they’d used Laura Ashley’s new fabric ranges and Laura Ashley themselves reciprocated by putting up their own blog post on the event.
Case Study #3: Sisterhood Camp
Sisterhood camp is a bit different from other blogger events, as this one was organised by the bloggers themselves. At the helm is Lou, the blogger behind Little Green Shed Blog. During the summer of 2015, her and a group of bloggers organised a blogger based event in partnership with local businesses in Cornwall. The bloggers stayed at Loveland Farm, a glamping site near Bude. The bloggers received products from local fashion and crafts businesses. These products were used for photography shoots and during craft activities that featured in blog posts after the event. The workshops and activities included tye-dying clothes, learning to make head garlands from wildflowers, and eating a supper prepared by a homemade food events business.
All of these businesses received coverage and links from the 20+ bloggers who attended the event. Because the bloggers organised the event themselves, the businesses had far less to do, but it also meant that the bloggers were really engaged as they had chosen to come together for the event off their own backs.
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