You might have noticed where I put on my nappy-head and moaned about bloggers being told not to blog/film at the SECC in Glasgow for the Scottish Baby Show.
Now, I should shrug it off, but you know what? I can’t. Not out of any perceived slight to me but when you look at the list of businesses going, some of them are small companies who will have paid good money to go there and get all the exposure (and sales) possible.
But more importantly there’s some potentially life-saving organisations going and by blocking the likes of bloggers and tweeters doing what they like to do (to one of the most active online brigades there is) you are stopping potential avenues for these people getting their message out, saving lives, alleviating pain (like the Scottish Cot Death Trust, Scottish Childminding Association, Pelvic Instability Network and The Meningitis Association of Scotland).
And that makes me sad. And angry.
So for them – and for anyone else ever putting on an event – here’s simple, easy pointers and advice on how you should engage digitally. None of this is tricky or hard. With some planning, it’s easy to do and shouldn’t cost a lot. I hope it helps
- If your event types don’t see the value of bloggers, point out that these are people willing to spread the news of your event for free (there’s better reasons than that for inviting bloggers but it’s the one that normally gets business types going ‘ohh, free. We like free’). And then update your comms plan to include digital online types.
- Don’t think for a moment that you can charge extra for digital stuff to exhibitors. This is the 21st Century, everything here is fairly standard now. Or should be… (look at what they do for events in the US)
- Don’t ever think that what you did last year is as good as it gets or that your competitor’s recent event was all you need to compete with. You owe it to everyone who attends to compete with the very best. Even Superbowls can get better.
- Once you know the event is happening, pre-launch, get your website ready. Work out your strategy for online and offline engagement. Set up blogs (on your main site if possible), Twitter and Facebook accounts if possible/worthwhile. If you want to go a little further, set up a YouTube channel and a podcast (and have it on iTunes). If budget allows, look at apps for the likes of Symbian, Android and the iPhone.
- Make sure the links on your site are all correct and relevant (There’s at least one broken link on the Scottish Baby Show exhibitor list).
- Make sure that at least your media hub online is also known offline. Have it on posters, business cards, adverts and so on. Reach out.
- At launch, use the simple tools like Google and Twitter Search to find people online who are talking in the subject area of your event and treat them not just like the press, but as people who may actually have a passionate interest in what your event is about. Offer them information about the event as it breaks, interviews with people going – either the speakers or attendees. Basically keep them informed like you would the press. But don’t just BCC them on a press release list.
- Also reach out past these people to the high-profile online types in the physical location of the event and see if they want to be involved. Some may, some may not.
- All of this assumes you know what you are doing with the traditional press.
- When looking at your location, see if there’s an area where you can put on free wi-fi for people to upload stuff easier than on 3G. If you want to be swish, set up a blogger area complete with laptops and wifi. (If you have half a brain you’ll try and get a computer company to donate the kit in return for free advertising.)
- Encourage your exhibitors/speakers with backdrops to include their online contact details. That way, people will see online links at a glance.
- Monitor mentions online. If you aren’t getting them, reach out to the community to find out why. (Free market research)
- Get all your exhibitors to supply video for the website. Encourage them to engage. Put on webchats if feeling funky. Again, you want fresh content coming in on a regular basis.
- Ask for free banner ads to be placed on sites. Offer something free in return – free entry, exclusive access.
- Engage. Engage. Engage. And keep your sites up to date and relevant. Don’t set up Twitter, Facebook, blogs and not do anything with them. BETTER TO HAVE ONE ONLINE CHANNEL OF COMMS AND DIRECT EVERYONE THERE THAN TO HAVE FOUR THAT ARE RARELY POPULATED.
- If you have a blog, make an effort. http://www.thebabyshowscotland.com/blog/ is terrible. Not only does the image at the top not act as a clickthrough to anything, look at the links to the side. That shows this was thrown up with minimum thought – it’s the basic set of links you get with a WordPress account.
- Have a page as part of your site that mentions all the online buzz. Use a RSS feed for it if you don’t want to do it manually (though that may also run your negative coverage, which may or may not bother you).
- If there’s a press day, invite the bloggers. Make sure your exhibitors/event types know that bloggers will be there and not to be dismissive of them. Point out that journalists may expect goody bags (and are generally dismissive of them), most bloggers are more polite and are genuinely happy to get wee treats.
- Check the wi-fi works.
- Check what’s said, engage online as soon as you can – don’t wait until after event.
- Don’t ignore the bloggers. Having said that, you don’t need to take them out to dinner (unless you have time and budget) the odds are they know you have a million things to do and they are quite happy to just take their time looking about.
- Don’t have photography and video bans in place. D’UH. Unless you have a very good reason. I can only think of two off the top of my head.
- Work hard, have fun, be nice.
- Keep your site updated. If it’s over a few days, share the fun with pics and video and blogs.
- If you haven’t grasped the main mechanics by this point, there’s no hope for you, so I’m saying nothing.
Minor shameless plug. If you need normal event advice, call either Catriona Tytler or Linda Forrest. Some people might wonder why I’m bigging them up as I don’t work for their companies any more, but I can’t deny that these two are the best event organisers I have ever seen in action. I wish they kept blogs so they could pass on their tips and show off their brilliance.