How to make bloggers your BFF for event promotion

publication date: Nov 14, 2012
author/source: Janet Gadeski
When SickKids Foundation hired Amy Milne as a special events director, they asked her to turn an under-appreciated annual fundraiser, Scrubs in the City, into a high-impact signature event. Her marketing budget and Toronto's competitive event scene ruled out heavy coverage in traditional media. But she found a whole new platform online in the world of bloggers.

"Sometimes bloggers reach more people than a reporter from traditional media," she observes. 

Yet they're seldom treated like journalists. Milne thinks that attitude is a mistake. Her successful courting and engagement of bloggers who were right for her cause reads almost like a handbook for engaging journalists from any other media. 

Choosing carefully 

She began by defining her criteria. She wanted bloggers who were updating frequently - at least a few times a week - and reached a fairly large audience. She wanted a focus on topics relevant to SickKids' cause or the event itself: fashion, children's health, parenting, or Toronto events. With those needs in mind, she worked Google and the Cision media database to find her targets. 

"We didn't have a large marketing budget, so the bloggers became a great opportunity for us," she explains. "We looked at what the event was, and where we wanted to take it. It's a fashion-forward event, so it's a great opportunity for mom bloggers and fashion bloggers. We also wanted a target group with an interest in children's health." 

Milne ended up with eight positive, connected bloggers. "You need to know what types of things they write about and who their audience is," she explains. "Once we had that, we could reference some of their posts and ask for something similar." 

Offering respect 

She wasn't the first to reach out to them for help in promoting an event. But she was the first to treat the bloggers like serious reporters. 

"We treated them like media," she continues. "They were [event] guests just like other journalists. We gave them the same back-door access to key people that regular media had. One immediately posted how fantastic the invitation was. That started the conversation early." 

Milne offered other incentives too, creating win-wins that built the bloggers' own readership as well as boosting coverage of her event. She offered tickets to be given away on the blogs in exchange for promotion. She encouraged them to take photos and arranged interviews with high-profile volunteers and celebrities involved in the event. 

Maintaining engagement 

"The bloggers were enthusiastic," she recalls. "We've created an audience that will work with us again. One even toured the hospital. Later he won $3,000 in an unrelated contest and he donated it to us!" 

After thanking each blogger with a personal acknowledgement, Milne is staying in touch with them. She continues to read their blogs and comment on their posts. She's also feeding them firsthand news about Scrubs in the City 2013. And she plans to invite them again. 

"It's an online age. Look beyond traditional media," she urges. "You have no idea who might be reading those blogs." 

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