How to Kick off a Blogger Day Right, via WhitePages.com

I’m writing this from Seattle, where I’ve just arrived to spend all of about 24 hours in one of my favorite cities. My official capacity here is as a blogger, which unofficially will help build relationships for my agency day job and any other hats I wind up wearing.

I’m the guest of WhitePages, invited via their public relations agency Edelman, and all travel is being comped (without that, I’ll admit, I wouldn’t have made it from New York). Lunch will be comped too (I would have sprung for lunch though). I flew economy class (on Delta, which is my favorite among the old stalwarts for its more comfortable seats, the TVs for every seat – even though they didn’t work this time, and the shrimp caeser and fried chicken sandwiches for sale) (aside two: when you get the fried chicken, try mixing the barbecue and ranch sauces together – it’s a surprisingly zesty, tasty combo).

The day hasn’t started yet. As I write this, it’s 10pm Pacific. While I plan to cover the extended Lunch 2.0 and presentations tomorrow from 11:30-4 PST, I’ll also use this as an opportunity to review this case study on blogger relations. I’ve talked about this before on the blog, at events, and in numerous personal conversations, and digital word of mouth marketing is also a service of my agency, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever covered it on the receiving end.

By the way, the fact that I’m covering blogger relations from the receiving end is precisely what makes blogger relations or blog outreach so daunting. If Edelman or WhitePages.com screws up, they run the risk of me writing about it ad nauseum here, on Twitter, on Facebook, and anywhere else I participate. I could turn it into a presentation on Slideshare. ‘ve done a bit of it myself and it’s humbling, and while I still will call out any fouls in the process in the interest of furthering best practices, I have tremendous respect for those who engage in it – my colleagues especially (when a bunch of us went out for drinks the other night, I told one colleague how her job is probably the hardest of anyone at the agency, which maybe is why colleagues are not supposed to discuss work over drinks, and why I’m not always invited out).

SO… what are Edelman and WhitePages doing well so far? Here are a few starting points, intended especially for anyone who is thinking of putting together blogger events of their own:

  1. The event itself combines Lunch 2.0 – a relatively new networking concept where a company generally puts together a panel and networking event for people largely involved with the social media space – and an event for bloggers with a WhitePages dog and pony show. One of the reasons I’m excited to be here is to meet a bunch of people from the Seattle digital scene, and then getting to meet the other bloggers who will be here will be another plus. I’ll admit that I’m not here to hear about WhitePages.com, but I should be a captive audience.
  2. The "shuttle" they reserved for me was a limo. I wish I got the driver’s name, but the driver from Shuttle Express, a Hawaiian native who came to Seattle after 15 years in Las Vegas, was hospitable, engaging, and a good driver (I think – I was faced the other way in the limo as I sipped a glass of California Chardonnay).
  3. The hotel has instantly become one of my favorite hotels, and I haven’t been here an hour. It’s Hotel 1000, a luxury boutique spot a couple blocks from Pike Place Market (and a couple blocks from WhitePages Headquarters). There was some great live music playing, every last fixture and detail screams modern elegance, and it’s the kind of place I knew just from walking in – and especially when walking into my room – I could stay a week. One strange thing I hadn’t seen: an open bathtub by the full-length windows (hopefully you can only see out) with no discernable faucet. I hesitantly turned the knob on the wall, and the water started pouring out of the ceiling (rather loudly at that; photo below).
  4. On the desk there was a gift basket (photo below)
    with a WhitePages laptop bag, water, chocolates, a locally made salmon rub, a water bottle (very eco-friendly), a fold-out map, and an overview of the events ahead. [Updated: I forgot the $10 Starbucks gift card – remember, it’s Seattle, and I’m staying a couple blocks from the first Starbucks.]
  5. Here’s the most important part of it all. The text in the intro letter reads, "WhitePages is excited to have you join our conversation and pleased to be able to cover your travel to Seattle. WhitePages and Edelman do request that in any post about WhitePages you disclose this financial arrangement. This, as you know, is standard practice among bloggers and being fully transparent insulates all parties from concerns about bias. Please let us know if you have any questions about this."

Copy and paste that if you ever need such a disclosure letter. I’m sure Edelman and WhitePages won’t mind, even if you don’t give them credit it for it.

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6 thoughts on “How to Kick off a Blogger Day Right, via WhitePages.com

  1. Yeah, we’re experimenting with a bunch of things. Have to say that I’d probably take a different approach next time around…call it influence of the big bucks agency (which we no longer have on retainer). Good experiment, learned a ton, and fortunately, didn’t spend too much. Look forward to connecting this year!

  2. The primary objective of this campaign was to develop relationships with bloggers. We honestly didn’t expect much coverage as we weren’t announcing anything…other than our move to define the ‘Connectory’ category. We’ve done a pretty poor job of ‘blogger relations’ in the past and this was our first foray…with the help of Edelman. It was all fully disclosed and as David mentions, lots of risk and bloggers could choose to go either way.
    I can assure you the costs weren’t even remotely close to $50K. They were closer to $3k. We flew three bloggers out and put them up in a hotel (One of them, Michael Arrington, hosted a Lunch 2.0 ‘iPhone’ app event that we held in our offices). I have ‘connections’ at the swank hotel where the bloggers stayed and was able to obtain the rooms at a very reasonable rate. While we’re certainly a profitable company, we still measure things on an ROI basis….with this particular initiative based on future potential ROI of developing relationships with industry influentials.
    All that being said, I’d probably opt for a simple phone call, social media outreach or 1:1 introduction at an industry event to develop these kinds of relationships. It was more the organization and execution of the event vs. the hard dollar cost.
    John
    VP, Marketing
    WhitePages, Inc.

  3. I was just doing research on Edelman projects in this space. I read the Whitepages recount of how the day went- and was amused that they found out not to pitch bloggers using Powerpoint.
    It seems like the WP “connectory” buzz campaign wasn’t too successful, I only spotted five mentions of it in Technorati and Google Blogs. I am sure there is a little ripple there, but not much of one.
    As far as comp packages for bloggers, disclosing the arrangement is good overall- but I wonder what the total cost of all the comp was for a room full of bloggers ($50k?) and having only 5 mentions. Ouch.

  4. My personal rule of thumb is that it’s fine with full disclosure. Traditional media has more rigorous policies in place, but I’m also not providing similar coverage as traditional media. In this case, the potential for good coverage is worth the cost for them, or even if I’m not impressed this time, then they’re spending a good chunk of time engaging me, and a couple hours of it will be all about WhitePages.com.
    I meant to add here that if readers do have issues with my own policies for accepting any gifts of sorts as a blogger, I always welcome reader feedback.
    For me at least, the access I now have to what’s happening today in Seattle, as unfettered as I can offer it, should be worth it for anyone who’s taking the time to read this. But if some think it dilutes the quality of the blog, by all means speak up.

  5. Interesting. I didn’t realize that companies provided comp travel for such a meeting. I always thought it was a no-no. Do you believe this is different because you’re role as a “blogger” vs. “traditional media?”

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