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Posts tagged blogging

Thank you for blogging say the Cork International Choral Festival

Lovely letter - one of the first letters we’ve gotten about it? - thanking Steph and me for our blogging involvement in the Cork International Choral Festival this year.

Steph and I attended events, took videos, updated Twitter, Facebook and created and updated the YouTube channel and blog - still a lot of work to do, but it was a lot of fun.

It reads:

Dear Darragh & Stephanie,

On behalf of the Executive Board of the Cork International Choral Festival I would like to extend our sincere thanks for being our Festival Bloggers this year. The online updates, videos and photos were superb and play a vital role in being able to promote the festival nationally and internationally. In addition, photos and videos are a very valuable source of archive for us.

2010 marked a high point for Cork International Choral Festival. The 56th Festival was a tremendous success, and between April 28th and May 2nd few corners of Cork were left untouched, as the city and county resonated to the voices of 22 different counties lifted in song.

Choirs and audiences alike, from Mallow to Moscow, flocked to the festival to be a part. Over five days, 85 magical performances and concerts touched the hearts of thousands of people. Even Eyjafjallajokull could not cast a cloud over Cork’s celebrations! The festival’s strength lies in the very many organisations and individuals who contribute so much to the event in so many different ways. Your own involvement as Festival Bloggers played a vital part in ensuring that the 56th Festival was a tremendous success.

We are grateful for your support and very much hope to continue this relationship into the future.

Kind regards

John Fitzpatrick
Festival Director 

Big thanks to John, Lucy and Joya who made the experience interesting and a lot of fun. It’s nice to hear someone say "Thanks, you helped make a difference."

On the invitation to a film press screening…

I’m now starting to see warnings like these…

For daily, weekly and monthly publications in all media, including print, television, radio and online, (including Web Log ‘Blogging’, Forums, Twitter or Online Chats) film reviews are embargoed until week of release, in line with FDA regulations.  

Blogging, blagging, ligging, PR whoring - my disclosure

*Sigh*

Even as I begin to type this, I know it will cause some sort of “controversy” because (a) it’s me, (b) it’s not something I’ve blogged about before, (c) people have a variety of different views and (d) people like a good bitchfest discussion. 

So, to negate all that slightly, I’m putting in the following disclaimer: I’m writing about me and how I do things here. Not recommending it for anyone else, not saying everyone should do it, not putting it as a “rule”, just saying “this is what I do”. I’m also slightly on the defensive because this is quite personal - part of me wants to say “and none of anyone’s business really” but in the interest of transparency, here it is.

Firstly, if you haven’t, please do read this post on “Online PR working with bloggers” on the Mulley Communications blog. It’s a masterclass in it and it’s something I strongly believe in, especially:

Disclosures:
To ensure fair game, strongly encourage bloggers to disclose in any review that they got a device from you, you gave them a review copy of a book etc. In terms of payola, hopefully bloggers in Ireland will not ask you for money to blog or tweet about them. If they charge to write what they and you class as an advertorial then that should be disclosed too. Not doing so will end up with being found out eventually and damaging your rep.

This is also, slightly, a rehash of a post I wrote last October on Culch.ie - In my opinion: Soon, Bloggers Must Give Full Disclosure.

The old “Journalists have been getting this for years, so it’s the blogger’s turn” line

I don’t know if that’s true? Is it?

Adam Maguire recently posted a list of what he’s gotten as a journalist. It’s great that he did that. Conversations on twitter abound about what people get, how and whatever, and I’m more than happy to answer any questions about how I get to do the things I do.  I generally try to do this either when asked, on twitter or in the blog post when I write it, but I’m aware not everyone reads all those places.

I’m not a journalist. I don’t pitch myself as a “blogger” (more on this later). I don’t say "I have x amount of followers on Twitter" to anyone as a “selling” point. I generally don’t go chasing opportunities - they come to me. However, I am a big believer in “You don’t ask, you don’t get”, so I will ask sometimes if I can help. Generally I get a positive reaction. 

I do have a certain profile - as “going-to-the-opening-of-a-paper-bag” as it may be. Why that profile? Well, I go to a lot of events. I talk about them. I talk to a lot of people. I tell incredibly bad jokes that I copy from websites onto twitter and they make people smile. I speak to companies professionally and personally. I ask if I can help. I blogged. I make myself known.

Is that a bad thing? Should I not do this? If not, why not?

What I do and don’t/won’t do

I’ve seen blagging, ligging and all that sort of thing being talked about and really - honestly - I’m not sure where I fit into that any more.

  • Yes, I go to a lot of events
  • Yes, I work with a lot of PR companies
  • Yes, I take opportunities or invitations to try things I haven’t before
  • Yes, I go to the theatre and other places on invitation from press/marketing people
  • Yes, I tweet about things I go to and sometimes blog* about them
  • Yes, I mention them on Facebook and twitter and other places
  • Yes, I’m a PR “whore” (in the nice sense of the word, in that I talk to a number of PR people and companies)

I’d like to think though that whatever I do, I add value to something and I give a return on the investment. I’d also like people to know when I get something for free, I mention it and am very grateful for it. 

I’m actually genuinely interested in marketing, branding, PR and events - this has been part of my working life for the last eleven years. Basically in a variety of roles I’ve always been interested in Customer Service and how companies speak to their customers in whatever format. So I benefit from my experience and the work I put in.

To cover what I don’t do - and I may not be using the correct words or terminology here and leaving holes so wide you can drive a truck through them, but here goes

  • I don’t accept money for blog posts (or get offered it, by the way)
  • I don’t get free “gifts” because I’m a blogger or for “endorsements”
  • I don’t sell or provide lists of bloggers to PR companies. I don’t have any list - I just know a lot of people
  • I don’t sell, claim or offer any expertise in blogging, reach or getting awareness to companies
  • I don’t sell any access to Boards.ie beyond providing an introduction and facilitating a commercial agreement with our sales team

To break those down a bit - especially regarding blogger lists and gifts - I have been asked to help arrange blogger evenings and I have advised both Meteor and Your Country, Your Call on both, but I haven’t “provided a list”. I did recommend (as I would for anyone who’d ask)

  • to put an open call out on Twitter (or wherever) to invite anyone interested
  • not to invite bloggers for the sake of just having “bloggers”. There are people I know who WOULD be interested in things and I do say - give x a shout, but I only do it with their permission and only if they were okay with it
  • to remember who is in the audience - don’t speak down to people or treat them as if they don’t know what they’re talking about. (I’ve seen this happen, it’s not pretty)
  • to have loads of business cards and any press releases, presentations, PDFs, photographs etc on a USB stick to give to people if they want one

but most importantly

  • to explain why they’ve invited the people there - as bloggers - and what they hope to do going forward with them

It’s what I’d want to know and that’s why I recommend it.

I haven’t blogged in ages

I *’d blog up there - because I haven’t been blogging like I used to for ages. My last post on Culch.ie was 22 December 2009. In the last 6 months I published 9 posts on my old blog. Hardly super blogging there.

I do write for the Boards.ie blog when I can and I post to Tumblr also here (more a bookmarking service) but I certainly don’t blog as much as I used to. 

However, when I get invited to an event, I’ll cover it in some way - I may take the Flip and record an interview, a video or something else and I’ll tweet about it and put that video, when done and if okay, properly tagged as much as I can, up onto my YouTube channel.

That’s all I do and promise to do and most people seem happy with that.

Why are they? I honestly couldn’t give you just one answer. I do know the benefit of having something positive about your brand/client/project in Google and I do know that personal experiences are always better to read about than PR spin (no offence, PR people) - but I never offer that.

I like to think I write fairly well, give a good overview of everything that goes on and share my feelings on the event well - as do so many others - and that’s why I get these things. Also helps that I’m approachable (after my morning coffee).

But I always emphasise that this shouldn’t - from the brand/PR companies perspective be because I’m a "blogger" - it should be because I’m interested in what is going on. I have turned down invitations to restaurant openings, wine tastings, shop openings and all sorts from PR companies who should know better because I have no interest, expertise and I’m the wrong person - it should be a food blogger, a tech blogger, a culture blogger - but not darraghdoylefromtheinternet cos, you know, he’s got an audience. It’s rubbish!

That’s why I tend to pitch sites like Boards.ie, Thumped, Movies.ie where there’s a relevant audience, and well, you get where I’m going…

Free gifts/tickets/opportunities etc that I’ve gotten:

I’m trying to think what I need to talk about here, but also trying to sort out in my head what constitutes this.

Are free tickets to a play that I’ve been asked to review a “gift”? What about tickets to a play that I haven’t been asked to review? Also, I get “free” stuff because I work with Boards.ie too, I think. So everything then?

In no particular order, here’s what I can think of:

  1. I got a free Sony Bloggie from UPC at their recent rebranding launch. UPC are a client on Boards.ie.  This helps with my Boards.ie interviews. I also got a free UPC iPhone case and business card holder
  2. I have been invited to the opening of the Special Olympics in Limerick on June 9
  3. I have been invited to the Carlsberg Cat Laughs Festival in Kilkenny next weekend - shows and accommodation paid for
  4. I was invited to the Innocent AGM in London last weekend - Innocent paid for the flights and night’s accommodation. We also got a goodie bag that had drinks and the Innocent Book in it
  5. I was invited to South Africa - Smirnoff paid all the expenses
  6. I am regularly invited to the Abbey Theatre, Peacock Theatre, Gate Theatre and some others for plays. Normally I’ll have run a competition with them as well to help spread awareness.
  7. I was Digital Media at the Arthur’s Day celebrations in the Guinness Storehouse last year
  8. I got tickets to RTE Performing Groups concerts in the National Concert Hall. I work with them on awareness of events.
  9. I got tickets to films from Element Pictures - I work with them on awareness of new releases
  10. I get tickets from LeCool Dublin to write a review for their newsletter
  11. At a recent Meteor PR evening where they announced new data plans and an advertising campaign, I got a free HTC Legend Smartphone, as did all attendees. I was invited in my capacity of my Boards.ie role though - Meteor are a client and I’m working with them, as I did with Eircom, on their online customer service. Previously I had gotten a HTC Hero from their PR team too, as a thank you for advice I’d given.
  12. I’ve gotten gifts of alcohol from DIAGEO to coincide with announcements they make
  13. I got free tickets from the 2010 Cork Choral Festival to cover their events
  14. I got free tickets and accommodation from the Guinness Jazz Festival in Cork last year
  15. I get invited to press launches - like UPC, or the baby tigers in the zoo or Festival launches
  16. I get review CDs from Linda in Good Seed PR - i interviewed a number of her acts
  17. I got a free skydive from CareLocal in a charity initiative last year
  18. I got a free Emergency CD for helping the lads run a competition on Boards.ie
  19. I got a review copy of Shane Hegarty’s book before publication
  20. I got a free copy of Dustin’s DVD when I interviewed him for Boards.ie
  21. I got a sandwich in a metal pail last week as part of a DennysHomeIs/BespokeWithDirection PR campaign
  22. There have been free t-shirts in goodie bags as well

 If there’s more I find/can think of/pointed out, I’ll add them, but generally that’s it.

Is that a lot? Hell yes.

Should, though, I not take it? That’s a bigger discussion. I don’t take things because I’m a blogger; I take them - especially opportunities - because they’re offered and they allow me to do interviews, to give better coverage, to get video footage and to talk better to people about these events. 

It is a lot of stuff. But I work hard. I give advice. I get coverage. I lend my personality and my experience to it. I don’t charge for what I do in financial terms anyway.

And yes, for the trips and stuff, it’s great - and humbling - but I’m not the only one taking or being offered the trips as far as I know. And for everything on the list there - maybe except the free phones - I can point out tweets, videos, blog posts or other coverage where I stated where I’d gotten them, how and thanked the people who gave them. I also have emails thanking me for what I’ve done.

Am I a whore? Yeah - I’d say you could call me that. I’m open to having the accusation that I’m “selling my credibility” (whatever that means) for the sake of seeing a play or interviewing someone or getting footage at a concert or having an experience. But. do you know what? I enjoy it and have a great time.

I’m not robbing anyone. I’m not harming anyone. I’m not bitching or moaning or being controversial for the sake of it. If I enjoy something, I’ll write well about it. If I don’t, I won’t.

Am I a blagger? Yes, I am. If you don’t ask you don’t get. But I repay the blagging with content.

Am I a ligger though? Well, if we take the Urban Dictionary definition:

An individual who attends parties, openings, social gatherings and events with the sole intention of obtaining free food and drink - an arch blagger. Popularised by the NME in the early nineties and possibly with it’s entomological roots in the fishing term for “baited line”.

Then no, no I’m not. I work for what I get. I rarely eat food at these things anyway - I’m too busy tweeting or interviewing or taping and, well, the food is only sometimes good. Again, I try provide value. Do I actually do so? You’d need to ask the companies in question that, but they invite me back, so, I guess so.

Invitations and opportunities

I get a lot of opportunities, sure, but I’m open to them, and people know this. The value of the word YES is vastly underestimated in this country, I find. If something is of interest to me and I want to cover it and I get invited, then I’ll say yes. Is this not something I should do?

I posted recently about the events I work on, but I don’t often talk about the meetings I have with companies, charities and events on how to do social media, how to set up a Facebook page or twitter account, how to communicate with people online, where and who to talk to and so on and I do not charge money for this.

I’ll have a cup of coffee if it’s going but I feel uncomfortable with anything more. Is that payment? Well, yes, in a way it is. Should I disclose it? Well, would you be interested if I did?

It’s not all fun and games

You go to so much, you can’t be interested in everything, you’re just going cos you were invited, you love the attention, you’ve lost your credibiluty, you’re a whore, you’re… etc etc

If I had any skill with graphics I’d put all that in a twitter box, because I get all that levelled at me time and time again. However, while genuine curiousity and asking is fine with me, and, like this post, I’m as honest as I can be, I do want to tell you something here. Actually, let me show you a photo of me.

Photo of me holding a Flip Camera in one hand and a mobile phone in the other at a U2 Concert - I'm not looking at the stage.

That’s me at U2 in Croker last year - I paid for those tickets - and that’s generally me at events. Camera in one hand recording, phone in the other, answering questions, relaying events, recording. Being there but not being there. As I wrote in that Culch post:

… I’m often out of pocket as well after events. I travel to meet people. I spend time I could be doing something else at events. I sacrifice watching something for recording it, for being able to tell you about it better. Yes, completely my choice, but also something I’m proud that I can do, to whatever ability.

I come back from an event and I face into having to blog about it, upload video and photos, convert and edit them, tag them properly etc etc. It’s not a simple matter of just going. It’s really not. It’s hard work and it’s not always fun. Enjoyable, but not always fun.

I’ve never seen the Wire, West Wing, Gossip Girls, the last seasons of LOST, of 24, of Boston Legal. I’ve seen three episodes of GLEE and two of Desperate Housewives - ever! I don’t “sit in” in front of the TV. That’s not what I do - this stuff is. Steph sees my phone as much as she sees me. Niamh the same. I work hard at what I do - or try to.

How can you get some free stuff for you?

There’s no secret to this - no list of people who can, nobody to be “in with”. All I can advise you to do is do what I do:

  • Ask
  • Connect with companies and people
  • Ask if you can help if you’re interested in helping
  • Show them what you can do
  • Write well
  • Tell people about things
  • Be interested and willing and available
  • Be willing to put up with the criticism, the knocking and the righteous, indignant accusations masking good old fashioned jealousy
  • Be open to the opportunity
  • Enjoy it

It’s a lot of work, but it can be fun.

Over to you

What do you think I should disclose in future? Am I doing it properly? Not properly? Do you even care, really? Am I doing something wrong? If so, how?

Genuinely interested in constructive feedback and opinions. The comment box is yours.

Thanks for reading!

Volunteering for events now includes tweeting and blogging

Lanyard for Guinness 250 event with "Approved Digital Media" on it

Those that know me will tell you I like events. Big events, small events, charity events, tourist events and festivals - I’ve volunteered and worked at a number of them.

I have an extensive collection of t-shirts and lanyards from events like the Cat Laughs International Comedy Festival (3 years), the 2010 Cork International Choral Festival, St Patrick’s Festival (7 years), The Street Performance World Championship (3 years), the Dublin Writers Festival (3 years), The Guinness Cork Jazz Festival 2009, Arthur’s Day 2009, the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (2 years), the Carlsberg Comedy Carnival 2009, the Cinemagic Festival (2 years), the Darklight Film Festival (3 years), the Festival of World Cultures (2008), the first Shine Unconference for Social Entrepreneurs in London 2008, the first Irish Discworld Convention 2009 and there’s possibly one or three more.

I enjoy events. I enjoy volunteering, meeting people, helping them with everything and anything from directions to language difficulties. The opportunity to inform, entertain and make someone’s experience of something that bit better has always been something I’ve tried to be good at and continually improve on. I’ve been getting involved since I moved to Dublin in 1997.

More recently, thanks to both the blogging and the twitter addiction, and through no small part in having a content influence on Boards.ie, I’ve expanded my help to “promoting” online - advising on websites, helping get blogs and twitter accounts set up, the admin of Facebook pages right down to just sticking up a blog post or sending a tweet letting people know about events they might be interested in. It’s something I enjoy doing too.

Holding a flip camera in one hand recording the U2 concert in Croke Park and tweeting from a mobile phone in the other

It was at the Chain Reaction event in London in 2008 where I first saw the benefits of covering live - I went, lanyard in hand and Flip Camera in pocket to interview entrepreneurs, business people, media people and more, and then was able to upload and have that content linking from the site and live blog in moments. It’s something I did for the SPWC last year as well and continue to do now.

It’s become a regular feature of my volunteering now - to ask if I can help with online promotion. I’ll stick up a YouTube video, send out a tweet or (when I blogged regularly) blog about it. I assume that it helps events, especially those with little or no budgets, because they tend to invite me back. I take that to mean they were happy with what I’ve done.

Tom Jones drinks a pint of Guinness at the Arthurs Day celebrations in the Guinness Storehouse

Not that I’m saying that throwing up a blog post - or a press release from the PR company - or sending out a tweet can be considered “volunteering” either - there’s far more to it than that. What I won’t do is “charge” for the content I generate but count it as a contribution towards repayment of the experiences I have. You’re as likely to see me with a map showing people where to go as a camera uploading photos to Pix.ie these days. Nor is it the same for every event - what works on one doesn’t always work on another.

I’ve been lucky - the Guinness Jazz Festival invited me down to Cork last year and paid for my accommodation. I’ve gotten many free tickets and invitations to event launches. I’ve been given exclusive access, footage and more. I’ve been offered many of the same perks as journalists have gotten, and often more. I always try to look for an exclusive edge - an interview for YouTube, a competition for the readers (be they blog, twitter or Boards.ie), an experience I can share with others. In my opinion - to be proven correct or not - finding something like that is a bit more interesting than seeing versions of the same press release on a number of sources.

There is a big hesitance in organisations to let “volunteers” become more involved - to give them access to and permission for the sort of “broadcasting” that people like Niamh, Steph and me do, because they don’t understand it. That’s okay - to a point, because I see so many organisations and events spend needless money on Flash websites, Facebook apps, blogger briefings, press photocalls and so on, where they could be putting the money back into getting their event right, getting volunteers more prepared, getting their information better and their focus correct.

Sign from the Street Performance World Championships reading How do you campture an Elephant? Hide in the grass and make elephant noises-

There’s also an unawareness of the benefit of giving people that access can be. Maybe not for that festival per se - not for the crowds it can get to it then and there - but whenever someone searches on Google, on Facebook, on Twitter, on blogs, on Pix.ie - there should be something there - something interesting, positive, engaging. Even the negative comments or experiences are an opportunity for the event or organisation to learn from what went wrong and to not let it happen again. That’s something a hastily filled survey will never discover.

I’d love to see more people volunteer their time and experience with organisations and charities that need the help but more importantly have a willingness to learn. I’m delighted to be involved with Paul Dervan's Help Charities in Ireland project because I can see a huge benefit in doing so - both for me in how to work with people and organisations learning just why a Facebook page can help get the word out.

There’s lots of opportunities there for sharing and for business. Time to make the most of them.