A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post at the BlogWorld blog about why you’re not going to land a conference sponsorship from Twitter.Today I’d like to take it a step further and encourage bloggers to stop begging for sponsorships on their blogs and social networks. It’s unprofessional, it’s whiney, and sponsors aren’t trolling the blogosphere to look for bloggers to send to conferences. In fact, half of them don’t even care if they send bloggers to conferences. However, if they are going to send a blogger to a conference, it’ll be someone who takes the time to research them and their brand to ensure they’re a good fit.
Brands Want Professionals to Represent Them at Conferences
Brands want to sponsor someone who takes the the time to contact their people and present a media kit, stats and other important details. They don’t want the person who can yell the loudest, they want the person who will go on and beyond for them. It’s like a job interview. Businesses aren’t trolling blogs to look for people to hire, they want candidates to contact them with their resumes and cover letters. Also, sponsors want to be made to feel as if you believe in them and they’re a hand-selected pick for your blog. Opening sponsorships to everyone makes them feel not so special, it also will cause them to wonder how many people are sponsoring you and if your time will be divided wearing several different shirts and promoting more than one sponsor. If they’re going to send you to represent them at a conference, the last thing they want is for you to pimp someone else’s brand.
Yes, it’s expensive to attend a conference.
A few years ago I explored sponsorship for conferences. I could only afford to go to one per year and I felt like I was missing out on some big events. However, going through the process of finding a sponsor and doing all the work to become their “evangelist” was more than the cost of the event. Plus it was taking me from my paying gigs.
And then it hit me…
I realize this line of thinking doesn’t work out for everyone, but truthfully, most of the conferences I attended were paid for on my dime. Instead of spending my time trying to find sponsors, I spend my time trying to find work. I earn enough money to buy my ticket, hotel and airfare like most other attendees. I sought speaking engagements to help defray costs and I looked for airline and hotel discounts to help with my incidentals.
There were clients who paid for my attendance, just as businesses send representatives to learn, but for the most part it was on me. And it felt good. I learned that by not accepting a sponsorship I:
- Was seen as being more professional and not someone looking for a handout
- Could promote myself and my own stuff without having to worry about a conflict of interest
- Was considered for more speaking opportunities
- Didn’t have to wear someone else’s shirt
- Didn’t feel guilty about passing out my own business cards and talking about what I do
- Wasn’t beholden to anyone.
- Was earning money, not only for conferences, but for life.
Again, this isn’t an affordable option for everyone and I understand it.
Something else to consider is that most conferences are a tax write off, so while you’re putting the money out now, you may be getting it back in the long run as it’s a business expense.
Still Want to Go the Sponsor Route? Here Are a Few Tips for Going About it the Right Way
OK, so you want to attend a conference but would rather not or can’t find work to pay for it yourself and can’t dip into the family bank account. Understandable. If you’re going to reach out to sponsors to help defray the cost of conference sponsorship, here are a few tips for doing it right:
- Research potential sponsors to find the right fit for your and your blog community. If you’re a car blogger, it doesn’t make sense to reach out to a pasta brand because your community won’t be interested. The sponsor wants a return on his investment. You can’t sell spaghetti at a place where people are looking to learn about Toyotas.
- Create a media kit. List all your stats and assets. Show potential sponsors that you’re not a desperate conference attending wannabe – instead prove you’re a strong business person.
- Make a list: What will you give in exchange for your sponsorship. Some bloggers give away advertising for several months, wear a sponsors T-shirt and even do some sponsored posts. A few bloggers even post for free on the company blog in exchange for a ticket.
- This isn’t about you, it’s about your sponsor. While you’ll want to list the reasons it’s important for you to attend, you mostly want to explain how the sponsor will benefit.
- Don’t sell your soul. The last thing you want is a year of indentured servitude. If you’re being covered for $1500 worth of expenses, that’s the amount of advertising and promotion your sponsor should receive. It’s better not to attend a conference than do more work than you were paid for.
Are Conference Sponsorships Evil?
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with seeking out sponsors to help defray costs. I do worry about the mistakes being made in seeking sponsorship and how that will affect the blogger’s reputation and credibility in the long run. By all means, take the time to find a mutually beneficial sponsor. I can tell you from experience that having an excellent relationship with a sponsor can lead to some very good things.
Relying too much on sponsorships can backfire. It might cause others NOT to see you as a professional because you’re always trading services for tickets. Businesses and brands might realize they don’t have to pay you any money because they can get more out of you in exchange for a conference pass – and if they’re a sponsor for the conference, it may not cost them anything at all in the long run, which means they’re getting lots of free labor. Also? If you’re going from conference to conference on your sponsor’s dime, when do you have time to earn any money? Is it better to spend all your time working off a free trip, or finding out ways to grow your blog into a business, earn money and handle your own travel arrangements.
If you’re going to go the sponsor route, do take care to make sure you’re making a good, professional presentation. Blasting to the masses that you’re looking for someone to foot your bill won’t get you too many takers.