Dear famous PR company and big high street brand,
I'm aware that this may come across as ungrateful, but let's not fall into any of the common misconceptions about brand activations. Bloggers are not invited to events because brands want them to enjoy a free cupcake. It's a transaction; a trade that should benefit all parties involved.
I get it, events are often done on a budget, without a creative lead, and with crazy expectations and demands from head office. However, what is being passed out as influencer events just isn't good enough. And I refuse to feel ungrateful for thinking so.
I was recently invited to your event, and I decided that sure, it sounded interesting enough for me to get back out into the world of influencer events. I turned up, got a coffee and waited for the talk to begin. It was a small room, and I'm pretty sure I was one of maybe 2 or 3 'guests' in a room with maybe 10 staff (a mix perhaps of PR, brand and event staff). No one asked my name, no one tried to chat to me, or welcome me. Or thank me for coming, in a room with a lot of empty seats. No one offered me a WIFI password either, despite being in a basement with no signal.
I stayed for the talk, where a very cool person had been asked to include a few tacky lines about your product in her presentation. Not cool of you. Someone should have told the brand that too. The talk only lasted about 15 minutes, so I had 45 minutes to wait before I was meant to have a booked session. I stood up, and got chatting to some of the other people there. I presume they were staff. It was awkward, and there was nothing to really do. Some instagram worthy food, but that's it. Still no one really spoke to me as a 'guest', as someone who had made the effort to show up, which considering only 1 or two other people had felt a little odd.
As I waited, I just decided I didn't want to. This transaction didn't feel fair or worth it. Bloggers are invited to attend an event, to give up their time, with the hope that the brand will gain some social exposure. But this is only half of the transaction. What a lot of event organisers seem to forget is that the guest needs to receive something in the transaction too. Bloggers do not just need to be grateful enough for a branded cupcake that they don't need to expect to recieve something in the trade too.
The trade can comprise of a variety of things, from direct cash, to a goody bag with things that feel worth having, to a really awesome event experience. But it's a trade. The brand wants to buy reach, exposure, credibility, and that shouldn't be (and isn't) free.
So today, I'm sorry but I walked out of your event, as my time (and online publishing potential) is worth more to me than an exchange of a couple of hours of my time for a cupcake. Your event sadly just wasn't worth a trip, and that's a shame, but it wasn't. I don't need a free coffee so much that I'll write about your product for you.
This may sound harsh, but I'm sorry, this is a trade, and too often influencers/bloggers/publishers are treated as if they hold very little value. Yet the invites keep proving otherwise.
A good event doesn't necessarily need to cost more money, the money just needs to be spent in more creative ways. Ask the question, "Why would people come?" more during planning meetings, and map guests' user-experiences with more thought. What would make a trade for online exposure feel more beneficial for those you're inviting? What would make a room full of strangers less awkward and more awesome? The answers are rarely complicated, just creative.