Brands, Swag and My BlogHer Experience

This was my 2nd BlogHer, 6th blogging conference and who knows what number conference as a whole. It is, however, the only one that seems to be all about the swag. I know it wasn’t their intent. I had the immense pleasure of joining Elisa Camahort Paige, co-founder of BlogHer, on Red Plum’s Viva la Value radio show.

She spoke of the conference origins, their desire to connect brands with women bloggers and where she sees it all going. I distinctly remember the “Where are all the women bloggers?” conversation that apparently kick started BlogHer. In fact, I’m pretty sure I blogged about it, but that post is long gone. The conversation was primarily about politics and it didn’t take me long to realize I don’t want to be a political blogger.

I also don’t want to be a product review blogger, but that seems to be the only way brands want to work with bloggers. I spent a lot of time in the Expo hall and brand suites, asking PR and brand reps what they hoped to get out of the conference—how they wanted to work with bloggers in the future. Those we spoke to in quiet settings or one on one at parties were so great about answering our questions, and we brainstormed great ideas about how to work together.

But, from my experience in the Expo hall, we were mostly right. Many of the brands just wanted to get their free stuff into our hands, in hopes that we’d write about it later. There just has to be a better way for brands & bloggers to make intelligent connections. Not that I’m anti-swag—I am very excited about the Yummie Tummie headed to my mailbox, and I’ve eaten more of the 1-800Flowers popcorn balls than you’ll ever get me to admit—but it needs to happen in a way that makes sense.

Rather than write a review of Yummie Tummie, I talked about how it helped with my 40×40 list. Instead of writing a review of the Traverse that carpooled me to BlogHer, I’m sharing fuel efficiency tips from Chevrolet on Inexpensively. It is important for me to find ways to connect the brands I love with my readers, in a way that is relevant for the site.

As a result, I visited less exhibits and spent a lot more time talking with each company. I may have less swag. I may have attended less parties. I may have missed out on some pretty cool freebies. But, I came home with solid contacts, specific ideas and great additions to my editorial calendar.