#BBSummit12 Weekend

The 2012 Brands and Bloggers Summit was held in the Fender ballroom of the Hard Rock Hotel – Chicago this past Saturday.  This was another conference that I had been anticipating since the purchase of my early-bird tickets in February!  There were 150 people in attendance to hear from the experts about how to take your blog to the next level, what some of the legal issues surrounding blogs, how traditional journalism and social media can work together, and how to brand yourself.

The first panel discussion was entitled “Taking It To The Next Level”.  Moderated by social media guru, Liz Strauss (@LizStrauss), the panel included Stacey H. Weckstein (@EvolvingStacey), Fred Goodall (@MochaDad), Niri Jaganath (@MommyNiri), Liz Thompson (@ThisFullHouse), Mary Couzin from Chicago ToyNGame (@ChicagoToyNGame), and Connie Burke from GMC (@ConnieBurke).  Some of the highlights of this 90 minute discussion were:

Photo Credit:  lahleyoo.com  Used with permission.
  • Brand ambassadors:  be very careful about becoming one for a company.  Make sure that your core values align with the company’s and the product that you are representing.  Don’t cold call a brand – build an authentic relationship with a brand that is naturally a good fit with you and your life, as well as for them.  BE AUTHENTIC!  A brand can tell who is just looking for free stuff versus who is looking to work as a partnership.  Be realistic in your expectations when working with a brand – and make sure they are doing the same for you.  Do not be overly demanding of a brand – set appropriate boundaries that fit the level of your relationship with the brand.  BE PASSIONATE!  But also understand that it is okay to reject a brand because it doesn’t fit with what you blog about,  Always keep the relationship door open for the next opportunity with them – never burn the bridge.
  • Paying bloggers:  There are a lot of discussion in this area.  Some of the attendees have seen a new trend in bidding out projects to bloggers.  The panel felt that either a brand wanted to work with you and pay you or they don’t.  There shouldn’t be the “money game” going on.  Again, this is where goals come in to play and the ability to know how much your time is worth and what direction you are headed in so you can make sound financial and time management arrangements with brands.  There are also opportunities to be Community Managers – people who connect Brands with Brand Ambassadors.   Make sure that you are communicating openly with your followers if you are being paid by a brand.  Intertwine you real-life stories with the brand.  Make sure that there is complete transparency when participating in a brand giveaway.
  • How do you know that you are doing a good job with your blog:   Do you receive positive feedback on your posts?  Ask yourself how it makes you FEEL when you are writing it.  Make sure that you are bringing something different to the table with  your blog – YOU!  What are your goals?  Make sure that you have a defined set of goals because if you don’t, you won’t know what to say NO to!  Make sure you know how much  your time is worth!  Find your passion because there is only one you!
  • Twitter, Blogging and Brands:  Make sure you know why you are on Twitter.  It’s more important to listen and authentically engage.  People can tell that if you are just in it to drive your numbers up or if you genuinely want relationships.  Connie Burke had some great quotable advice – numbers don’t define you, experience does not necessarily define skill.  Charisma counts for a TON.  Numbers don’t matter if you can’t engage your audience.  And you’d rather have 5 people with deep relationships than 100 that are just surface.  Stay off Twitter when you have concerns about your brand or if you are at an Brand Event when attendees are having issues.  Do NOT put yourself in the middle of damage control for a brand.  
  • Media Kits:  Always a great idea if you are serious about wanting to work with brands.  They should include your point of view, a summary of your abilities, what you’d like to do, some sample posts, and EASY CONTACT INFO (this was stressed several times).  
  • Blogger versus WordPress:  Admittedly, this is a confusing topic for me.  It gets in to an area and a language that I term “Blog Speak” that might as well be Greek for all I understand it.  However, what I was able to gather is that WordPress has more security functions and is generally considered the more “professional” choice, whereas Blogger is considered the more “recreational” choice for bloggers.  All of the panelists (as well as several attendees) agreed that you should purchase your domain name and your own personal names from a site such as GoDaddy or BlueHost for 2 years or more.  They say it is a couple of hundred dollar commitment, but will be worth it in the long run if you decide to take the next step with your blog and cannot secure the ENTERYOURBLOGNAMEHER.com address.  Anyone who has information, or knows of a resource that lays out the step by steps of doing this, please let me know and I will gladly post it for everyone!  It’s not as simple and typing your name in and paying – most host sites ask questions that I don’t know the answers to. 

The next topic was Social Media Law and it was covered by Liza Barry-Kessler (@LizaWasHere).  There was a TON of information that was covered, so i am just going to highlight a few that really caught my attention:

Photo Credit:  JustJen
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that any material relationship between bloggers and brands be disclosed as it relates to free products for review, affiliate links, advertisements or sponsorships.  No legalese; use clear wording, at the top (not bottom) of your post, or hover text next to an affiliate link.  Placing disclosure information on a separate page is not good enough, but it’s always safe t have a blog policies page. It needs to be in your voice . brand language.
  • Giveaways, Lotteries and Contest:  Make sure that you check with your local and state laws regarding the requirements.  Be clear about the rules and make sure  you what you say you are going to do.  Most blog giveaways are random entry – “leave a comment and  you could win such-and-such a prize”.  This is considered a sweepstakes and is governed by State and Federal agencies..  
  • Intellectual Property and Trademarks:  When you write a blog post, it’s automatically covered by federal copyright law.  Same with original video, podcast, music and photography.  Recipes are NOT copyrightable.  Make sure that you know who owns the copyright to your work if you work in a group blog / editorial site.  It’s ok to have a contract that spells out that information.   If you find your work on another site without permission, you can send their web host a take down notice. A detailed example that was given can be found at http://foodblogalliance.com/a/how-to-deal-with-copyright-theft/ 
For the third session, a fantastic discussion was had regarding “Bridging the Gap” between traditional media and social media.  Moderated by Barbara Rozgonyi (@wiredPRworks), panelists included WGN reporter Nancy Loo (@NancyLoo), Chicago Tribune social media consultant Scott Kleinberg (@scottkleinberg), and University of Missouri professor, journalist and social media guru Jen Lee Reeves (@jenleereeves).  A lot of topics were covered during this 90 minutes.  Here’s what I took away from it:
Photo Credit:  Just Jen
  • What is “news”?:  We discussed the recent events in the news, which was the shooting in Colorado, and determined what the definition of “news” is.  Anything that impacts for improves your life is considered news.  There is such a thing as the “right” news – just because it’s on twitter doesn’t make it real.  Are you someone who has information on dealing with children and tragedy?  Cultivate relationships with local news and radio sources prior to crisis situations happening,  Then when they do, you can forward your expert information on to them for their use.  Always have a crisis communication plan.
  • Journalists and Social Media:  The two are intertwined, whether they want to be or not.  Jen Reeves is teacher her journalism students to blog because she feels it will make them better journalists in the long run.  Blogging is a skill!  There is a perception that journalists are accurate and bloggers are first.  What do YOU think about that??  Remember to blog with your passion.  Write every day events from a journalistic perspective to engage the reader and allow them to feel as they were actually PRESENT.  
  • Do the same rules apply to journalists and bloggers?  Most journalists, such as Nancy Loo work under a professional services contract which prevents them from accepting freebies and perks that bloggers can.  There are a lot of bloggers that can make more money than traditional journalists.  Loyola has a digital ethics site with lots of information – here’s the link: http://digitalethics.org/
  • Both groups need to learn from each other.  Jen Reeves said that integrity is built on respect and trust.  It’s worth our time to connect with each other – and this applies to both social media and traditional journalists.  All panelists agreed that it’s ok to pitch a story – make it good, tweet it not email it, and be noticed!
  • There were many “sins” to avoid.  Don’t “Like” or “Share” things on Facebook with an expectation of something in return. Don’t type for the sake of typing – have a purpose.  Don’t start following people on Twitter until you are established – have a profile picture is a MUST!  
  • The best thing I learned during this session is the “Rule of Thirds” from Scott Kleinberg.  1/3 of what you tweet/facebook should be blog specific.  1/3 should be related to it but not your own.  And the last 1/3 should just be you being yourself!  Also, Barbara Rozgonyi reminded us that social media is an investment in yourself.  Make sure you are getting as much mileage from your work as possible.
Photo Credit:  JustJen
Last, but certainly not least, was Andrea Metcalf (@AndreaMetcalf) discussing how to amplify our brands.  Andrea is a woman-of-all-trades; a health and fitness expert for almost 30 years, best selling author of “Naked Fitness”, made almost 1,000 television appearances, and been a trust blogger for sites like Oprah.com and TheHuffingtonPost.com.  In her spare time, she mentors college students, gives of her time to many charitable organizations, and has even climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro to spread the word regarding ovarian cancer.  Currently, Andrea is in training to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon as a member of Team Bright Pink and is trying to raise $52,000 – $1.00 for each step that she will need to take to complete the marathon.  Is there anything this dynamo can’t do??  Here are the highlights:
  • We need to accept and own that WE ARE A BRAND.
  • Know what your mission is – even if it is something as small as being happy.  Write it down.
  • What is your vision?  It should be bigger than your mission – think as big as your imagination will take you.
  • Who is your target audience?  Make sure you know where your “sweet spot” is.
  • Be a frugal marketer.  What can you do for free?  Guest bloggers?  Use your own time?  What about a charity fundraiser where the prizes are one hour blocks of time with powerful or influential people within your brand.  Make it fun!  Don’t be afraid to ask people for help.  Remember to utilize your local resources too – don’t forget about the Chamber of Commerce!  And remember that you may need to reinvent your brand every 3-5 years depending on how your mission and vision change.  Keep this in mind with your marketing.
  • Cold Calling – how can you influence these people?  Know WHO you want to work with.  And who you need to call.  Don’t always rely on the phone or emails – twitter is a great way to contact people too but make sure it’s done authentically.
  • Partnerships are the greatest win-win.  Don’t think of other people that do the same thing as competition – think of them as collaborators!
  • When making partnerships or alliances, remember that you need to find the win for them as well.  Sell and OVER deliver.  Realize your value.  Own your relationships, and be willing to do the work to maintain them and help them flourish. Don’t tell people everything you can do – surprise them.
  • Believe what you are really worth and try to price accordingly.  Have someone that really understands your brand help you with fees and pricing.  And outside source that is objective and unemotional makes a big difference.
  • Have a production schedule, seasons marketing plan with time lines and goals, track your results and make sure that you review and redirect when needed.  Remember that Twitter only keeps information for 5-7 days.  Use things like Google Analytics.  Ask your clients what they think or your blog.  Ask your family and friends.  Be open to input.
  • Monetize what you are good at.  Can you make money while you are sleeping?  Use your blogs effectively – if you build it the brands will come.
  • Always make sure that you have a plan B.
  • You have to LOVE what you do to make it work.
JustJen, @SellBuyDana, @NancyLoo, @MommaCuisine
Photo Credit:  lahleyoo.com Used with Permission

Andrea’s presentation was a great way to end a day filled with lots of information and great ideas.  The weekend was very successful for me – I met some amazing women and connected with “Twitter Friends” that I had never met in person.  I learned a TON about blogging and social media, and realized how much I still have yet to learn.  But I left feeling energized and excited, which for me is what it is really all about.   Much thanks to MJ Tam (@MJTam), Melisa Wells (@Melisalw) and Dwana De La Cerna (@JustDwana) for hosting a great conference and making sure that everyone felt welcome and important.  I can’t wait for #BBSummit13!

Please follow the amazing people mentioned in this article on Twitter (their addresses are after their names).  If you are interested in making a donation to Andrea Metcalf and Team BrightPink, please visit their page at http://www.stayclassy.org/fundraise?fcid=204467

CORRECTION – PLEASE NOTE:  In the paragraph entitled “Twitter, Blogging and Brands”, I incorrectly attributed a quote to Liz Thompson, when it should have been noted from Connie Burke.  They are both fabulous women, so it was easy to confuse them!  The text has been corrected as of 7/27/2012 7:15am, and I apologize for an confusion this may have caused.


  1. WAHOO! You did a great job summarizing it all up! Thanks for the kind words and sharing some of the things I talked about. ((hugs)) I’m so glad we got to hang out.

  2. Great recap!! (no mention of Twizzlers though. Surprised. 😉 )
    Thanks, and you’ll be linked up in the attendee email: yay!

  3. I’m so glad we got the chance to meet and hang out. Looking forward to getting to know you and hoping our paths cross again IRL soon. In the meantime, you’ve got a new fan 🙂

    • Liz – Thank you for the kind words. It was great to hang out with you too and I can’t wait until we get to do it again!

  4. Interesting learnings. Thanks so much for sharing.