Last week I heard about a press event going wrong before it has happened. Like driving into a ditch wrong. What is most disturbing is a few tweaks to the planning and the wrong turn could have been avoided.
Guess what? This was not an isolated case of one jilted blogger. I personally know of several who have a bad impression of how the brand is handling this event. I wonder if the brand knows how it is being represented.
Yes, bloggers talk to each other. Just like public relations and media colleagues do. We all share the highs and lows of working with each other on campaigns, projects and individual promotions. We form lists of whom we’d love to work with and whom to steer way clear of and why.
Which list would you rather be on for yourself or your client or brand?
Public relations firms plan press tours, familiarity tours, blogging events, VIP events and I’m sure there are other names floating about – all with the intent to introduce the working press, and thus their readers, followers, viewers – to their products, mission and/or destinations and amenities. These events are often comped, or greatly reduced in price or offer added benefits.
A win for everyone. You invite people who are often your target audience to try what you have to offer and give feedback in the form of a blog post, news story, photo spread, social media sharing.
I’ve planned such events and now because I am a blogger, I’ve been invited to them.
These blogging friends, owners of well-respected blogs and brands with impressive social influence, shared their dismay at how poorly a resort blogging event is being planned. At my request, one friend shared specifics.
UNINVITED? What did she do to have her Evite revoked the next day?
Let’s see. She replied to the email invitation with a positive RSVP within seven minutes of receiving it. The deadline for a reply lists a date two weeks from now. To the brand’s credit, it is clearly stated in the invite, space is limited.
This is a big brand. One you would instantly recognize, where you have likely enjoyed the perks of what they offer guests on a vacation or a business trip.
She received a generic copy and paste reply within a day of the original invitation stating the trip was no longer available to her. AFTER she had replied yes and had begun to make arrangements, including telling her young son they were going to have a mommy/son trip.
How do I know the reply was a copy and paste job? Because others say their reply is the same. No personalization.
Here are my suggestions for covering the basics of planning a press tour or blogging outreach event. Most compiled simply from how the brand has mishandled this invite:
1. Do your homework. Know the statistics and niche of the blogger, journalist, VIP and what they can offer you (if that is important) prior to the invite.
2. Clearly state if space is an issue and simple directions for confirmation and offer a reasonable time to reply. If you need to know in five days, give the full five days before opting for plan B. Always have a Plan B.
3. Invite just slightly more than your goal number of attendees. If you only have the space and budget for 12, invite no more than 15. This differs from other party invitations. If in a rare circumstance all give a positive RSVP, you make accommodations for the additional three attendees OR if that is simply not possible, offer something comparable, such as a private preview, an invite to another similar event or in this case, a tour of another similar property.
4. DO NOT uninvite ANYONE prior to the stated deadline. EVER. If they RSVP past deadline, that is not on you.
5. IF you copy and paste the Evite, DO personalize it and triple check that you’ve done so properly prior to hitting SEND.
1. Offer a media kit so the invited guest can share a preview with their audience of what they will experience, should they choose to do so. This also gives attendees a chance to formulate a plan and questions.
2. Schedule advance interviews via phone or email and/or on-site interviews for during the event.
3. Invite the guest to follow you on all your social channels.
4. Build excitement. Offer a hashtag to assist all invited in getting to know each other and tell them what they have to look forward to prior to the event. Make the hashtag brief, preferably less than 12 characters.
5. Pay attention to the social sharing in advance of those invited guests.
Blogger and journalist outreach is a critical component to any public relations strategy. Don’t blow a perfectly good opportunity to tell your story by botching your first impression. If plans change or you do make a misstep, apologize and do what you can to make it right.
I’ll write about what to do during a press event and also how to orchestrate the follow-up post event. I’d love to hear your best and worst experiences on a press tour or at a brand event.