5 Tips on Making an Event for Bloggers

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

As more and more businesses make use of buzz marketing to promote their products and services and try to get good word-of-mouth, we get to see all kinds of gimmicks and come-ons.

Some fail dismally in this task- as more educated consumers see right through the more obvious efforts to put pearls on swine. Others cross the ethical borderline, striving to gain positive exposure no matter the cost. And then there are some companies you just can't help but support, solely for the reason that their corporate values naturally align with your own.

Having been a media person for 14 years, and now as a denizen of the local blogosphere, I can say that I've seen all kinds of companies employ all kinds of marketing tactics to get a good review or two out there. Some good, some completely forgettable, and some just downright wrong.

Of course, if your company chooses to make use of new media- blogs, podcasts, social networks, viral videos, etc- as a means to promote your latest line of products and services, you want to be remembered the right way.

I was in a bloggers' event last week, and it made me think about writing the post you're now reading. Let me share with you a few insights I had with that experience.

The Kawayan Cove Experience

Just a few days ago, several bloggers (myself included), headed off for Kawayan Cove in Nasugbu, Batangas. Kawayan Cove is a 68-hectare exclusive seaside residential community, located in Nasugbu, Batangas, a town 2 hours south of Metro Manila famous for its white-sand beaches and resorts. Edge Properties invited some bloggers to come check it out, and you can read the details of our visit on this other post of mine on another blog, The Life & Times of The Renzie Man.

Whether I like it or not, the side of me that's all media-and-marketing can't help but pay attention to how promotional activities- like this particular event for bloggers- unfold and run its course. I've managed a number of similar events in the not-too-distant past, so I have a few observations myself.

Here are some things we learned from our Kawayan Cove visit:

1. Set the expectations straight. Naturally, when we were given the invitation to event, I already had some preconceived notions in my head: is it going to be a sales pitch? Those real estate open house events are usually boring! Wait- blogging about real estate IS boring!

But the invitation explained it all: it's a workshop for bloggers into digital photography. Just so happens it's set in Kawayan Cove. Bring your camera- you'll want to take lots of pictures. Bring extra clothes- you might want to hang by the beach.

The organizers did a pretty good job in setting the expectations straight, and sticking to it. It was pretty much everything they said it was going to be, then they surpassed themselves by executing their plans very well.

2. Preparation is key. In any given event, even your best-laid plans can go awry. In this case, who would've known it would be raining half the day? Nevertheless, there was a Plan B in place- the venue for the talk was moved to a more suitable location (from the ampitheater to the pavillion by Bamboo Beach), there were vehicles on hand to shuttle us from place to place, even sandals for those who didn't bring any.

You have to admire the kind of preparation any company makes to ensure the success of any event. It's all about covering all your bases. And allowing yourself to be flexible when the situation calls for it.

3. Play the part of the gracious host. It's all about creating new connections and encouraging long-term relationships. Make your guests comfortable, encourage mingling with other guests, make yourself available for Q&A's.

In the case of Kawayan Cove, the Puyat family were all there to show us around, share stories and tell us what we needed to know about the property. I'm sure they've done this dozens, maybe hundreds of times, yet there they were, taking time to have a chat with each and every one of us.

The staff of Kawayan Cove was on hand to make sure we were well-attended to. From the welcome drinks, to the hearty lunch prepared for the group, even those nice little moist towels we got after the tour.

All that thoughtfulness and hospitality can only create a positive image of you and your company. For me, it shows how genuinely warm and welcoming the Puyat family is, and also how well Edge Properties trained their personnel. That's always a good thing in my book.

4. Provide lots of venues for interactivity. There were specially prepared food and drink arrangements, just for pictorial purposes, with Anton Diaz (of Our Awesome Planet) going around giving tips and pointers to all the bloggers, and the Puyat family sharing anecdotes about Kawayan Cove's history.

There was more than enough time to take pictures, work on a blog, do a podcast, or even shoot a viral video. Also lots of opportunities to walk around with fellow bloggers to compare notes and get to know them some more.

You want the interactivity because you want to give your bloggers a chance to soak up and appreciate the experience- in every way possible. It's good that they have a good experience about your products and services, and even better that you allow them to process all that information, and consider all aspects of whatever it is your promoting.

5. Content is still king. What makes your event so compellingly different from everybody else's? A promotional event like this gives your company an opportunity to create content relevant to your market. It doesn't have to be forced, nor does it have to be overly elaborate. It only has to be relevant and timely.

With all of Anton's experience as a photographer- he only stuck to what we wanted to hear: Travel and Food Photography for Bloggers. In fact, he only had ten or so slides, yet we already learned so much.

More importantly, we had the chance to put all his tips to practice for the rest of the afternoon as we toured the property. Two birds with one stone: not only do we get to appreciate the majesty of the natural beauty of Kawayan Cove, we also had a newfound appreciation for digital photography.

Bottom line: Make your event a memorable experience. For businesses who wish to tap blogs and bloggers as a means to promote their products, events, ideas or services, what they're really trying to accomplish is to get good online buzz- the kind of word-of-mouth that inspires the bloggers to tell their readers about their experiences, and share something unique about the activity.

As a blogger, The Kawayan Cove event was probably one of the best I've ever been to. I've learned a lot from it, made some new connections, and it gave me a fresh perspective on things (particularly on the topic of real estate, for me!).

As a media-and-marketing person, the activity was well-planned and equally well-executed. Businesses who plan on making use of blogs and bloggers would do well to learn from this exercise.

Cheers, everyone.

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