Bloggers, Conferences and Sponsorships: Think Outside the Box

Friday, January 8, 2010

I think conferences are going to be really big again this year, possibly bigger than last year, both for attendees and sponsors (even with the new FTC guidelines). It seems many bloggers and companies started to see the value of learning and interacting in addition to the parties and fun. Conference season goes into full swing with Chicks Who Click in a few weeks and Blissdom and Mom 2.0 next month. There seem to be new conferences debuting this year, too (Mom It Forward has a good list compiled of almost all the conferences for 2010)

Last year, especially after BlogHer, there was a lot of "discussion" on the BlogHer site about sponsorships, what bloggers were doing to get them and how they were to fulfill their obligations once at the event.

Conference organizers have taken note of the attendees' concerns and changed or added to guidelines on sponsored bloggers and how they need to comport themselves while at a conference. I hope companies are paying attention and ready to start thinking outside the box in terms of how to sponsor a blogger, what they are going to require of the blogger and what types of things bloggers are going to offer in their sponsorship packages.

Last year, a company decided to sponsor a blogger and held a contest: write a post about why going to (insert conference) is important to you, link back to us and get people to vote on your post. That seemed to be the standard MO. Which, wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I was a finalist in the same type of contest and am thankful I had the opportunity. But, how many of those types of posts can one person write? When does it go from being authentic to copy and paste?

After I didn't win the sponsorship I was reluctant to enter any more contests.  I was afraid to turn off my readers who had zero interest in the conferences and afraid to seem so hard up to go that I would sell myself to the highest bidder (even though I was). Plus, it took a lot of time asking for votes and keeping up with my progress. Looking back, I can only remember three companies who offered to sponsor bloggers and I'm sure there had to be at least 10. I didn't buy their products either so really, how effective could that tactic have been?

If a company has the conference(es) in mind where they'd like to establish a presence, now is the time to start planning. I have a feeling there will be many more bloggers looking for such opportunities this year. Someone is going to be a good fit for the brand. Send out a query to your current contact list just to get an idea of who's interested. Start following the hashtags on Twitter, check to see if there are fan pages on Facebook, Mom Bloggers Club or Twitter Moms. The interest is there, and it could pay off really big for a company not afraid to do a little homework.

I also hope more bloggers take a pro-active approach this year and go after sponsorships on their own. I was terrified to pitch to Foot Petals, TJ Maxx/Marshalls and Nimli* but it totally paid off. I got to work with brands I was excited about and had great new clothes, shoes and custom jewelry to wear. Think of businesses you frequent, products you already use or companies you admire and ask the question. Your passion for them will be your biggest asset. Think of what you have to offer and create a proposal. The worst that can do is the company says no! 

How do you forsee companies and bloggers approaching conference sponsorships this year? What do the FTC guidelines mean for those who are sponsored? 
*Those were my sponsors for BlogHer last year who provided products for me and for me to give away. I am going to Blissdom courtesy of the Tastemakers and US Potato Board. I'm speaking at Blissdom as well. We're attending Disney's Social Media Moms but it's on our dime.


  1. Well done, thanks for this. I think it's all on everyone's minds lately.

  2. Thanks so much for the shout out! I'm excited for the variety and amount of conferences in 2010 and hope I can make more than less of them and hope to see you there! :)

  3. Great post! If I can make any of these, it would be my first one Sounds like fun!

  4. Personally, I think that more bloggers who consider blogging their profession will treat conferences like every other industry does - as business expenses (and pay for it themselves). I also think that bloggers who are doing well because of blogging will sponsor other bloggers (who need the financial help) with little to no strings attached.

    I just got a bad taste in my mouth regarding conference sponsorships last year. All of the hoops that companies were asking bloggers to go through/ companies canceling their sponsorship of bloggers at the last moment leaving them high and dry/etc. No thanks! If I really want to go, I'll just save up and pay for myself. Any (naturally fitting) sponsorships will just be the "gravy"!

  5. Very well written, and I enjoyed your opinion on this!
    I think the comments might prove to be just as interesting... well, not mine :-)

  6. thank you so much for this post, I'm hoping to attend blogher this year and intersted in their bloghership which is they pay your registration fee for vollunteering at the event. I've already been in contact with a woman that helps with it and have high hopes that I will be accepted

  7. @Jyl- You're welcome. I hope to get a chance to see you too.

    @Suzette- BlogHer was fun and informative, best of both worlds. Hope you get to attend.

    @Kimberley- I agree. If someone has the funds, seeking a sponsorship seems unfair. It feels like a catch 22 to me: be a professional and attend a conference so everyone knows you're serious about your site. But, if your site isn't bringing in enough revenue to save up for the conference, how else are you going to get there?

    @Rachel- Thanks!

    @Angel- I was approved for one last year but ended up not needing it (we paid most of the fees ourselves). Good luck!

  8. This is a great post. I really want to go to a conference this year.

    I agree with this part:
    **if your site isn't bringing in enough revenue to save up for the conference, how else are you going to get there?**

  9. I've written and deleted three comments here. I have strong and unpopular opinions on the subject of sponsored bloggerships. However, I really like the point that you're making, that an organic sponsorship, one with a company or product that you are truly vested in, can be a win for everyone. I only hope that in the future, more bloggers and companies will see this.

    Have fun at Blissdom, yo!

  10. @Mr Lady- Did something happen to make you feel that way? There are so many good points on both sides.

  11. Melanie & Tanyetta,

    My response wasn't for all bloggers. It was for those who COULD pay/help others to pay. I simply hate seeing bloggers at the mercy of companies.

    I realize that many bloggers are not making enough revenue to pay for themselves yet. That's where I think that mutually beneficial relationships (i.e. ads/consulting/etc.) in exchange for a set rate from the companies is the way to go. That way the brands can't bail last minute, because they have a mutually binding business agreement. I just know that I would be HEATED if someone bailed on me last minute...

  12. Great post! We (The BlogRollers) are planning our conference tour now and are definitely keeping these things in mind.

    Winks & Smiles,


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