Here’s a list of things to consider for anyone planning an event aimed at attracting bloggers.
1. Always check the signal
It doesn’t matter who it is, from the lowly application developer to the mobile network operator, they all fail at this point.
It’s going to be rather difficult to check out the speed and dexterity if your handset/application/service/dongle if there’s no signal in the venue.
2. Cut out the music
Although you think it makes the place seem as though it’s got attitude and a good ‘vibe’, it simply means we ask the least amount of questions possible because it’s too loud. We can’t go into detail with you, we can’t explore tangents during the conversation. We end up screaming THAAANKKK-YOUUUUU and nodding very enthusiastically before pocketing the press release and hoping it’s got everything we need on it.
Case in point: The best feature of the LG Renoir is apparently the Dolby speaker system. Never heard it. Couldn’t try it. The bar music was loud (and, actually very funky). So we never tried it and we didn’t capture it on film for you to experience either.
3. Pay attention to the food
We’re often ravenous. Think pizza rather than really fancy bits of salmon-on-sticks. Pizza is good because one slice is pretty good, it’s whole — it doesn’t usually fall apart in your hands — and you can munch it down really quickly and get on with the learning & looking.
4. Free drinks isn’t necessarily a draw, nor important.
Free soft drinks is useful as that cuts down the friction of having to arse about with money, coins and the like. The MIR team typically chug on a few diet/regular cokes. Whatley will sometimes have a fancy cocktail if one’s going.
5. USB press packs are good
A press pack on a USB drive is excellent. Any more stuff to carry — unless it’s a decent handset that you’ve given us to trial/use/give-away — is a distraction. If it’s paper stuff, make sure we can fold it to put it in our pockets. Seriously. When you’re carrying cameras, laptops, stuff-from-work and a whole load of other stuff, a simple USB drive with the details is much more efficient. Better still, email it to us on the morning of the event. Or the next day.
Or consider publishing before the event (under NDA if necessary – we’re big boys and can respect them) so we can arrived prepared and able to ask relevant questions. Also, we like to ask our audience to submit questions in advance of product launches.
I am usually good with faces and names, but when it comes to blogging and networking, I’m generally appalling. Often because whenever I’m out meeting people, I can’t actually see them. (Or hear them). Keep it bright, keep it easy to see the product and experience it. Remember we actually care about the products and services. If we’re turning up, we’ve had to PAY to get there and it’s a bit of an arse for us (vs Journalists who turn up because-its-their-job). So we’d like to SEE what you’re showing off. And take good pictures and video of it for our audience.
Speeches are good. Keep’em brief and let us get in front of the technology.
8. Product Samples
A room filled with 50 people with two samples on show isn’t any good. Make sure there’s a shit load to play with.
Never, ever underestimate the draw and the lure of the free handset. Consider that we often bring a team of four to an event (me, Dan Lane, Ben Smith, James Whatley). Each of us is expecting a handset. Because we’re all vocal and influential. We see little, little value in giving a handset to one of us whilst the other three forget about it. That’s almost literally what happens. Let’s be clear: We’re not into getting free stuff for the fun of it. We’ve generally got too many handsets lying around. But our viewers and readers don’t. We like to give them away as competition prizes. Huge, huge draw for the audience.
Consider telling us that we will receive a free handset on the day. So we can plan for this. Plan who’s going to take it apart and play with it, plan who’s going to write the review, plan WHEN we put it into the MIR Show, plan WHEN we give it away as a competition prize.
Do not NOT NOT underestimate the value of providing free handsets if you’re marketing an application. Patrick Smith, formerly of Sonus PR (and now at Joshua PR) called me once and asked if I’d like to check out Good Mobile Messaging. It didn’t work on my Blackberry so I was not inclined to hear what he had to say. I was planning on just doing a write up. “Look, come and have a drink and we’ll give you a Nokia handset to try it on,” he said.
Interesting. Ok. Lo and behold I picked up the device — I wasn’t entirely impressed with the E61 — but the Good Mobile Messaging service, I loved and converted to within days.
If it’s a network operator exclusive handset consider providing an unlocked version even if it’s just on loan – if it’s a handset we’re reviewing we’ll only be able to make a half-decent job of it if we can use our everyday SIMs in it to make and receive calls.
Put your mobile number on all emails. I know it sounds a bit simple this one, but really — I was late for an interview the other day which would have given the company in question exposure out to our quarter-of-a-million audience. I tried to call ahead to reschedule or see if they were still at the meeting point — I scoured my email archive for mobile phone numbers. Curiously there were none at all on the email conversation. AND what’s worse, the PR wasn’t using mobile email. Ergo I couldn’t contact them. Ergo no interview. Ergo I’m a bit frustrated.
Please include us when the launch or announcement is new. Our readers expect news ahead of mainstream media so don’t ask us to wait until they’ve finished with all the review units. We will go out of our way to come to you if access to something is limited.
12. Link to us
If you’ve got a blog for the event, company or product, link to us. Put a note up saying you’re looking forward to seeing us at the event. We’ll get a Google Alert and we’ll see the pingback. It’s good subconscious memory prodding for us. And it’s nice to get a link. Similarly, after the event, knock up a few ‘nice to see you Twitter messages’ and blog posts. When we publish a post about you, knock us over a link again. It make it feel just that little bit more worthwhile for us.
It’s surprising how many people don’t have photos of their products/services ready for us to post. A big surprise for me is how many PRs don’t have screenshots of applications/services they are marketing. Get on to the clients and get some decent quality ones. If it’s on Nokia, Screenshot by Anthony Pranata is a super app. The iPhone’s got it built in now — and most other platforms have some kind of screenshot capability.
We want to talk about the products and it’s great to meet and interview people who are happy and confident to talk not just about the product, but the firm, industry or technology. The best events are often when we can meet product managers to discuss the design of the product.
With so many bloggers it’s tempting to spread the invites around so everyone gets a fair share… no problem, good idea. But if there’s not space for us this time around let us know about the event and send us a press pack anyway. We’ll still mention the launch and maybe even invite another site we respect to contribute as Rafe from All About Symbian does this week (although we were there with him). Just to hear about it afterwards makes us sad…
16. Let us help you
Give us a shout before the launch – we love talking to firms as they plan their products and launches and we’ll try to help as much as we can. If there’s something specific you need we can probably connect you to the right people.
17. This isn’t Paxman
We’re people, you’re people… we get stuff wrong, you’ll forget if it’s the same battery as that unit last year. We’re cool with that… we’re excited about the product or service you’re launching. If we’re chatting it’s OK not to know stuff or even for us to disagree about things (we can’t agree amongst ourselves half the time). You don’t need a PR minder whispering in your ear. The best firms accept criticism as readily as praise.
18. Time of Day
Some of us have other jobs. This means there is absolutely no way we’ll all make the 10am briefing. If it’s bloggers you’re targeting, think about making the event after 5pm at least.
Choose a central London (in this example) location that is easily reachable unless there’s a specific reason. If in doubt, remember the blogger is coming for the product/service launch and not to admire the venue.