Over the past 2 weeks I’ve received 3 invitations to technology and arts-related events. I appreciate the attention, but would like to pass on some feedback to public relations teams:
Send invitations in advance, not at the last minute
Two of the invitations were for an event that would occur the day after. Given the busy recruitment fair going on every evening at INSEAD, and the heavy homework load, it is unlikely that I will change all my plans, skip studying and spend a night out.
Also, as I’ve been given advance notice of other events I’ve attended before, I felt like I was an afterthought. One rep did mention he was shorthanded thus invitations were sent out late, and I appreciate the sincerity.
A personal message is worth it
Two of the messages indicated interest in my blog and myself, even mentioning how they were aware that I was currently doing my Masters and might be busy. This made me feel that they didn’t see me as just another faceless blogger on a long invitation list.
In both cases, the representatives noted one thing in common that I had with them – a school or religious affiliation. Hopefully this isn’t a formulaic approach. I will deduce that if several more invitations arrive written in the same format! For now, this makes the communication tone more open and friendly, and so I am more inclined to attend the next event they invite me to.
Let me know if my friends are going, too
If I’m undecided about going to an event, one way to sway me in favour would be to tell me who else is going. The last thing I want is to turn up and nobody knows me or bothers to show me around, and I have to introduce myself to everyone, as though I invited myself.
This hasn’t exactly happened yet but at other events there have been gaps in the welcoming process. If I don’t feel comfortable the first time, that might prompt me to decline the next invitation.
Make it worth my while!
This last point may apply more to myself. My lessons start at 8.30am and sometimes end at 7pm. This month our evenings are filled with career talks and networking events.
Therefore, my opportunity cost to attend a blogger event is the price of NOT meeting potential employers from top consulting, industry, finance etc positions and learning more about their companies so I can be better prepared if I get called for interviews. No hard feelings if I cannot make it – we’re all looking for a better future, in difficult times 😉
The other thing is, we technology bloggers have become a dime a dozen at events. The same people (i.e. us) show up at every event. Then you then see the same product information perpetuated over the local Blogosphere, which makes me feel redundant. I know there are studies that indicate that the more a prospective shopper reads good reviews from various sources, the more likely he will purchase the product. However, the last thing I wish to become is a postbox or Xerox machine.
So I want to take a different perspective on things. To make your job easier, I am more likely to attend events and blog about them, if:
1. There are opportunities to meet not just the PR agency reps designated to handle bloggers, but the management, the evangelists and designers behind the product that’s being launched. As a student in a leading business school, I would like to meet the people who make this company tick, and learn where the company is headed. In fact I would be very interested to invite key execs as speakers to our business events. You can reach out to future business leaders from various industries from all over the world, while we can learn from an experienced industry leader. This is clearly a win-win situation for both sides.
2. It’s isn’t just a sales pitch where we have to listen to awkward speeches about how excellent your products are. Instead, show us how you stand out and where you draw your inspiration from! As a former designer and technologist, I appreciate innovation and design and want to write something more meaningful than a copy-and-paste specs sheet, or an egocentric post with snapshots of myself with gadgets and random blogger-friends.
3. I already have some affinity to your product. Maybe I’ve used it before – liked it, then hated it, then grew to understand it (e.g. Dell). Or maybe I already worship it (i.e. Apple). Other brands whose products I’ve used and respect: Nokia (phones), Canon (cameras), HP (printers, handhelds), Panasonic (cameras), Sony (TV, 20-yr-old hifi that’s still working, Walkman, Discman)…
4. Your product doesn’t capture my interest. I can’t blog about something I don’t appreciate, because it isn’t sincere. And I’m not just interested in gadgets, though I suspect the PR agencies have classified me as such. I don’t attend the hardcore gaming / processor events because I don’t play such games. However, invite me to a business book launch or a Web 2.0/entrepreneurship event and I’ll do my best to make it.
5. Society will benefit from better publicity. I still have ties to my last workplace and will support social and health causes such as HIV/AIDS.
Note also that I will give a balanced review and not just say good things about it, because I don’t want to compromise my integrity, and besides, readers are smart and can see through these things.
I have no intention to sound bossy. This is to save everyone’s time and also to clarify my position as a blogger.
If you’re fine with all of these, then by all means [contact me](http://vantan.org/about/contact.php).
[Update: Thanks to Cowboy Caleb for the [linklove](http://cowboycaleb.liquidblade.com/index.php/archives/2008/09/08/feedback-to-singapore-pr-teams-from-a-local-bloggers-perspective/)!
Update #2: Thanks also to [Daryl](http://uniquefrequency.com/2008/09/07/more-feedback-to-pr-teams-an-addon-to-van-tans-post/) and [Claudia](http://claudia.sg/2008/09/claud-talks-on-blogger-outreach/) for expanding on this post!
Update #3: Additional insight from [Ben](http://eok.net/2008/09/12/you-dont-have-to-wait-for-the-pr-invite/) and [Tym](http://www.toomanythoughts.org/blog/2008/09/do-not-make-me-uglify-my-blog.html) as well. Wow!]