I’ve run a good few blogger events (apart from the Blog Awards and Web Awards) including Collision Course, the Bord Gais meets the bloggers event, Show and Tell and a few others where bloggers meet companies. A few more events are on the way.
Some personal experiences, your mileage may vary:
Invite interested bloggers, not bloggers who have “readerships”
The numbers game is poison. If you are inviting people because they are read by x hundred people instead of them writing well informed blog posts then you might get an uninformed message out to x hundred people. Go for quality, not quantity. Quality travels further. Invite bloggers or Twitterers who you think would be interested in what you are doing and have people who read or follow them that would like to be informed about what you are doing. This means you have to do research and find out who writes about what. Ask other bloggers to help you with this if you don’t know. Also, open the event up to those not on your list if you have spaces. Meet people you don’t know anything about. Saying that, I’ve seen some bloggers who have come along to an event and professed they have zero interest in the event, despite them approaching me or the company to come along.
Personally invite bloggers
Don’t send a mass email with everyone BCCd in. If you think bloggers will find value in the event, start as you mean to go on. Know something about them already, isn’t this why they are being invited? Send an email to each one and for the love of god don’t do a mailshot or copy and paste the same email to each of them. Bloggers and Twitterers are also on IM to each other and ask each other if “so and so PR company” emailed them about an event. You know what’s really nice these days? Personally written notes or cards. Not enough do that. Despite the digital world, many bloggers treasure the analog items.
Give them something of value, as in content
Freebies, yeah, great. Not a lot you can blog about if you get something for free. Give bloggers something they can give to their readers. New, interesting content. An interview, a video of a new drinks cocktail, facts about the company’s new product about to be released. The CEO asked questions that were sent in via their readers.
Give them more control than you’re comfortable with
Don’t suggest a hashtag for the event, let them suggest it. If you are going to run a competition with bloggers or Twitters, get them to use their creativity. They know their audience more than you. They’ll know what will work best in terms of quizzes or the like. Even ask bloggers privately about the way to structure their event. Collaboration works best.
Give more then was expected
Steve Jobs does his one more thing. Do the same. Bill 4/5ths of what will happen at the event. Something not known is nice when presented. A staffer they were not expecting, news before anyone else, test kit for a new product.
Don’t ask when they will blog about this
This is probably obvious but you now and then get “I’m sorry to ask this but my boss wants to know when you’ll be doing a blog post on this” from someone. I once got asked when writing for the Sunday Tribune could I let them know the word count of an article I’d be writing after coming to their event. If bloggers don’t find it interesting they won’t blog it. If you push someone to write then you’re commissioning an advertorial and you’ll get some half-assed job too.
Meet more people for each event, not the same people
They’ll get sick of you, you’ll get sick of them, they’ll get sick of each other. There are plenty of bloggers, invite new ones to your next event. The circuit is starting to happen where the “usuals” are at every event. Spice it up.
It only starts after the event
This is all about relationships being built. It’s not a marketing thing in the traditional form nor is it traditional PR. It also has customer relations thrown in. Use each event to learn more about those coming along. See can you use your contacts to help them out. Know a friend in another company that can get them access to a musician, have you got a sports star you use for events that they’d love to interview? Just even add them to Facebook, Twitter or leave genuine encouraging comments on their blog. See what they come back to you with as well and accept their feedback and suggestions, which leads us to…
Listen and act
You’re get some good feedback at your event and suggestions about things you might want to try. If you can, act on them. You’re bringing people together who are good at expressing opinions. See what you can do to show the bloggers that you are doing more than listening.