Thursday, July 23, 2009

Don't be THAT PR person at BlogHer (Or Any Event)

It is BlogHer (the conference) time once again. A time to be part of a huge event – 1500 + attendees this year of female bloggers talking about what they write about, learning from each other, and being part of the bigger BlogHer community.

Well, let's be honest – it's likely 1200+ attendees and 300+ public relations people. And that's not counting the BlogHer attendees that are being sponsored to attend, and who will likely be pushing products or services while also attending.

As I have noted before on this blog, I am a big, big supporter of BlogHer and its community. This will be the fourth year that I am attending – second time for BlogHer Business – and I have built great relationships across the board because I listen, I engage and I don't push or pitch. Heck, I'm like a BlogHer male mascot, welcomed to attend because I go to learn, and can turn it off and not just be a pitch machine.

As I was speaking about this post tonight to a few of my friends that are here already, they noted that I am welcomed by the Mommy blogging community because of my involvement and attendance, and also noted that I am not here to pitch, but have become a part of the community by listening, discussing, and being myself. That at the end of the day, I understand about relationships and when is the appropriate time to pitch. And, when I do have something appropriate, I reach out to them and let them know.

Kids and Media BOF
Originally uploaded by
hyku.

Follow these rules, and have a better BlogHer experience. These observations and opinions are based on my attending multiple BlogHer conferences, as well as the IMs and email conversations I have with Mommy bloggers and others.
1. BlogHer is not just about mommy bloggers. It's a huge group of various bloggers and social media people who write on topics that include motherhood, cooking, scrapbooking, politics, car repair and service, consumer electronics, and more. To characterize BlogHer as just Mommy blogging is to ignore the people and their full spectrum of interests. If you just want to consider them Mommy bloggers, you're missing the bigger picture.

2. Turn it off and listen. Yes, we're always supposed to be on - but turn it off, and be a person instead of a pitch machine. We're in public relations, and we are supposed to be experts in coversations. Public relations is supposed to be the leaders in social media because we understand that it is more than just pushing messaging. Public relations is more than just messaging points, but actual dialogue with key stakeholders. If you cannot understand this, you certainly should not be pitching bloggers nor attending events. For example, a top parenting site asked me why an intern and an Assistant Account Executive at a large firm would pitch a widget and not listen to the feedback: if the client wants a widget on their site, buy ad space. Nor did they really want to engage in any discussion beyond the script that they were handed. The parenting blogger felt that the firm neither understood nor respected their work.

3. Don't lie and don't name drop. Don't say “oh, your blog is the top in my Google Reader!” It's insulting because it rings hollow. Same thing is when you're at BlogHer, listen and have conversations, but no need to say “Oh, I read you and you and you.” Because you know what, while that's great, you're missing “her and her and her” that are likely just as interesting and worthy of reading.

4. It's give and take. It's not about you, but your clients. Yes, you are at BlogHer for your agency and your clients, but learn the soft-sell and pitch. It's a give and take relationship, where you are at an event to learn and network. You can (and should) follow-up with people post-BlogHer. Talk, have conversations, and follow-up later. The attendee's have paid good money to come to Chicago. Let them hang out with their friends, make new friends and have a good time. Meet them, have conversations that aren't pitches, find common interests and just be a person. And follow-up with them after the conference on your pitches and clients when it is more appropriate to discuss the clients' products, in a more relaxed setting.

5. There are panels and sessions. Go to them and listen and learn. That means not talking, which is hard for a lot of PR people, but actually learning from others and finding out what they want. Like that picture of me at the second BlogHer, where I participated, listened and learned: the things I wanted out of BlogHer.
There are other issues at play right now – such as the FTC investigation into blogs and paid-for-posts. These are extremely important issues and certain Mommy bloggers seem to be at the forefront of these discussions. But the reality is that the market will shake out – as it always does – and these sites will be less important because people will not trust them. If anyone asks to be paid for reviews or to look at your product, you just look at it as a non-starter and walk away. I know that BlogHer has looked into these issues as well, and is doing its part to keep its community on the up-and-up.

But as PR people, if you cannot turn it off, do not go to BlogHer. Yes, that seems a little harsh, but the reality is that you are not going to listen or engage, but just be that PR person. You know, THAT PR person. So, stay home – and stay out of the way for people that want to have a conversation and learn from bloggers, and build relationships. Which, as the media is flattening, is the most important thing: real relationships that are built on trust, honesty and mutual respect.