It happens every year (and several times a year.) In the months leading up to a major conference -- think BlogHer or BlogWorld Expo -- bloggers and writers start buzzing about how they're pumped to go to the next big conference and how they will pay for it -- or not. Within the 2 weeks before the event, they start to get frantic. Tweets go out asking for sponsorships. Posts go up on blogs announcing that "You, too, can sponsor ME to attend this conference." Advice is given via blog posts on how to pose the delicate question of "will you pay for my trip?" to big corporations (who seemingly have tons of money to spend on that sort of thing.) But is it all a good idea?
We often hear stories of ladies being forced to hand out tongue-staining mints, harvest email addresses for mailing lists, or some other PR stunt. It's not quite the humiliation of wearing a sandwich board out in front of a cell phone store, but it's close. How can anyone develop their brand and their business, when they are working so hard to do it for someone else? Here is a quick and dirty run-down of both sides of the sponsorship argument. See if you agree:
- No money out of pocket means more money to spend on your business in other ways. If Big Diaper Brand wants to do that, great! (Mama needs a new laptop!)
- Sponsored guests often have access to "exclusive" events. While ideally it would be nice to be able to go without any requirement (Tide provided rides from the airport for several bloggers at a past conference and required NOTHING in return, for example), this is not very common. If you can meet a celebrity or eat lunch at the top of a tall building, I guess it helps to feel less like a bought and paid for spokesperson. I think.
- When someone else pays your way, it's easy to get lazy. You don't work the circuit as hard. You don't push your brand as well.
- If you're comped 100%, it's hard to say "no." And how ridiculous is it to try to go to every single conference out there? If you have a family and thriving business, taking 3-5 days out of your schedule to fly to conferences can kill you.
- Some companies are NOT good people to work for. Unless you're ready to hand over a check to bail out of a commitment, be ready to go places with people that you wouldn't otherwise associate with. Some people just do icky business.
And if you're one of the "lucky people" who have airfare and hotel paid for by a Fortune 500, then have fun, work hard, and don't forget about "your" business. Because that's the business that really matters.
(I have had several conferences, including FinCon12, partially paid for by Walmart as part of the Walmart Moms program. I obviously feel that it's a fair trade, and I LOVE working with Walmart. Understand your agreement carefully before you commit to a sponsorship.)
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