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#JoziMeetup: “Working with brands” + hosts share details of planning

#jozimeetup blogger meet up

Nothing beats meeting a person offline, someone said at an informal networking event I went to earlier this year.

It’s true though. You meet so many great people online, you chat weekly or even daily to some. I have met some of my online friends in person, and it’s just great how you can pick their brain.

On Saturday 13 May in Sandton, Johannesburg that’s exactly what happened. A room full of bloggers got together and had the opportunity not only to pick the brains of each other but also of those in the Public Relations industry and some local brands.

[Note: a blogger or bloggers are individuals who own an online journal. For instance, we write about our life experiences and often teach what we have learned on this online journal which is called a blog.]

It’s my second time to attend a #JoziMeetup (an event for bloggers).

Last year I went because I felt I needed to spoil myself as a mother. Buying a ticket was hard – as a mom you always cut yourself short and rather spend money on your children, husband or the household.

Eventually I started a mantra “I have to do this for me” and just went ahead to buy the ticket. This year the guilt was not there and I could easily buy the ticket.

It’s really an investment for you as a blogger – or anyone who wants to grow yourself mentally and emotionally – to attend events like these.

charlene bhana melissa javan blogger
Myself and mommy blogger Charlene Bhana. (Images by Samantha Dube)
samantha dube sandy dube melissa javan blogger
Fitness blogger Samantha Dube (from left) and her sister, Sandy Dube who is a travel blogger, and I.

Anyway…

We had Mike Said of Daddy Blogger tell us how he was not doing well financially, but had his daughter for the December holidays in 2014. He came up with a plan (in August 2014) to approach brands and ask them to be part of his and his daughter’s journey.

The plan was to travel through South Africa and document it on social media.

APPROACHING BRANDS
The 55 year old Mike Said told us a lot of brands responded to his (letter) request. The first brand got him free travelling gear.

One of the things that brands want from you is integrity and authenticity, says Mike.

Being a single father, he made an example: he cannot promote baby stuff on his blog, because if he does, friends would ask him “who did you make pregnant?”

Mike said there was a lot of interest in his trip with his daughter. One of the highlights were that people (followers of his) told him they were inspired to take their children for a drive.

WORKING WITH BRANDS
Nicole Sparrow of the public relations agency Autograph PR told us what brands look for in bloggers. Yoh her talk was an eye opener for me. She said that they actually have a list of things they tick off when they look at a blogger’s work (site and/ or approach).

Things on this list include:
Has this blogger produced the best visual content (this is especially for vloggers)?
Does this blogger write well? Does he/ she write responsibly?
Does this person have a minimum of two or three updates a week?
Is this blogger doing something different?

OTHER
We had Jeanette of Whiskey of the Week tell us what to do at a whiskey tasting. We also learned about the local whiskey brand, Baines.

We also had other brands like Prima Baby and Prima Toys talk to us about their products. Did you know that there’s a glow-in-the-dark blanket for children available?

THE MEETUP HOSTS
Have you ever thought what planning goes into a bloggers meetup event?

Well, if you’re interested in finding out more about who is behind the scene, read on.
Heather Step of SA Mom Blogs and Laura-Kim le Roux started organising the Johannesburg bloggers meeting – known as the #JoziMeetup – since 2014.

This year however, Heather did the #JoziMeetup on her own, because Laura-Kim had too much on her plate.

On Saturday Laura-Kim told us the importance of collaboration (working together as a team) and how she is proud of Heather’s work. Heather on the other hand told us that Laura-Kim’s emotional support helped a lot. Awwwww!

Anyway, here is the Q&A I did with the ladies:

Heather Step

Heather Step blogger
Heather Step

Tell us about your blogging journey.
I started blogging around 2010 to document my infertility struggles. Originally I started writing on “the fertility blogs” as “Survive and Thrive” and then eventually got my own domain and hosting.
Then I got hacked too much so I changed my name to “One Step at a Time”.

SA Mom Blogs started in 2014 as a reaction to the lack of resources for local mom bloggers while there is a lot out there for overseas bloggers.
My latest project is Children’s Kickstart which has a lot of arts and crafts activities, inspired by my teaching job.

Who is Heather of SA Mom Blogs?
Really I’m a normal person, with a husband and a little boy (who is almost 5).
I work in the mornings as a preschool teacher dealing with toddlers and I also spend a good portion of my time with my son and on the computer.

Do you blog full time or part time?
Part time.

What year is this that you are hosting #JoziMeetUp?
The first one was in Feb 2015 which I co-hosted with Laura. It was a #Momblogmeetup.

Why did you want to host a meetup?
Laura approached me to help with the event. But the good thing about a meetup is not only learning about blogging skills or issues relevant to us as moms. It is also about meeting other bloggers.

What MeetUp has been your favourite or had a special highlight you won’t forget?
I think each meetup has had special moments and I think the speakers have always left some kind of impression on me.

For our first #momblogmeetup we had a dietician that spoke and I later went to her for a consult and I still take energizing adaptogens for my adrenal glands when I feel stressed!
I learnt some interesting fashion tips from Nastassja (from Mrs Rogero.com) at another meetup.

[We had] some great Facebook tips from Shaney (of Youbabyandi.com) and some useful stories from Sharon (blessedbarrenness.co.za) at another meetup.
Salome’s photos from that event were brilliant. I still use that as my social media profiles. She also gave us super photographic tips at the next meetup, as did Roxy about our branding.

So there were so many things I took away from the speakers, but it has also been good to meet bloggers in the flesh. It is one thing to read them online, but even better to meet the whole person!

What goes into the planning of your bloggers’ meet up?
The most important thing to do first is to find a decent venue with good food that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
What I like about Café Zing is that they charge per person and not a flat fee for the venue, so that helps when you aren’t sure how many people are coming.

Then it is a case of sourcing some interesting speakers and figuring out a theme.

Then, to start sourcing items for the goody bags, prizes and brands who would like to take part in the event.

Writing a post to publicise the event and putting it on Quicket (which sells the tickets to the bloggers online).

Drawing up an agenda and printing all the name tags.

Lastly, packing the goody bags.

At every blogger meet up, there are brand representatives. How do you go about contacting them and/ or do you have relationships with them already?
As you blog for a longer and longer period of time, there are more and more emails that come in from PR agencies sending press releases, invitations or offers to give products away.

Sometimes all these emails can be overwhelming but at the end of the day they are also an opportunity to build relationships with the PR folk; even to just reply in some way and to mention that there is a meetup taking place if any of their clients are interested.

Often that simple response brings results. I am very happy to be building relationships with these folk over time. There are some really good ones out there working hard at building relationships with bloggers too.

What has the experience of hosting and organising a Bloggers MeetUp taught you?
No matter how much you stress it all works out in the end! So worrying doesn’t help, but good preparation does.

Is every blogger meet up different? Why?
Yes. Definitely. Because each time we focus on a different theme and often a venue adds its own flavour to the occasion.

Why do you think blogger meetups are beneficial?
We all need to connect and learn.

Please share your blog links with us?
SA Mom Blogs: http://samomblogs.co.za
One Step at a Time: http://onestepatatime.co.za
Children’s Kickstart: http://childrenskickstart.com

Laura-Kim le Roux

Laura-Kim le Roux blogger
Laura-Kim le Roux with one of her children.

Tell us about your blogging journey.
I started blogging shortly after I left my first husband and it started as a journal of my experience as a single mom. It has then just evolved into what it is today.

Who is Laura-Kim?
I am a work from home mom to four. I run a Digital Marketing Agency, blog and in between try to get to yoga to find my happy place.

Do you blog full time or part time?
Part time

Why did you want to host a meetup?
It has always been important to me to connect bloggers in real life. These events have evolved from the first one I hosted. They mean a lot to me because they connect people and start friendships.

What MeetUp has been your favourite or had a special highlight you won’t forget?
The first one we had will always be special to me because we had some amazing brands on board and the turn-out was great.

What are the great things about being at a bloggers’ meet ups?
Meeting people in real life and learning new things.

What goes into the planning of your bloggers’ meet up?
Oh gosh, so much. We have to find an affordable venue, sponsors for the goodie bags, a theme, speakers… It is months of work.

How do you choose the speakers/ guests that will be at the event?
Heather and I sit and decide on a topic and then reach out to people who we think will fit. We try to pick topics the bloggers will benefit from.

At every blogger meet up, there are brand representatives. How do you go about contacting them and/ or do you have relationships with them already?
Most of them we have relationships with already and extend the invitation or they often ask if they can come.

What has the experience of hosting and organising a Bloggers MeetUp taught you?
Patience and faith. It can be very stressful but in the end it all works out.

Why do you think blogger meetups are beneficial?
Networking! It allows bloggers to meet one another, build relationships and learn from one another. It also helps bloggers get in front of brands and build meaningful relationships with them.

Please share your blog link with us?
www.harassedmom.co.za

Susann Deysel

Susann Deysel blogger
Susann Deysel

It will be Susann Deysel’s second year to host the KZN Meetup for bloggers.

She attended this year’s #JoziMeetup and shared with us her behind-the-scenes. The KwaZulu-Natal meetup will take place on 26 August 2017 in Umhlanga.
Here’s the Q&A I did about Susann’s experience hosting a meetup.
Tell us about your blogging journey.
I’ve blogged for a few years, but not really with a plan or goal in mind. About a year ago I decided to up my game.

My first blog was about dating (kid you not). It is still roaming the halls like a ghost on a Blogger domain.

Now I maintain two blogs with very different audiences. I write about my wanderlust journeys, infertility, parenting and everything in between.

Who is Susann Deysel?
I like to think of myself as a farm girl from the north that moved to Jozi but that would permanently move to the sea in a heartbeat.

I have traveled the world by dragging my hubby against his will to some pretty amazing places. I still have a list of places I want to explore.

I’m married to an Irishman, have one kid through surrogacy – and two black cats. I also share my story as much as possible to create awareness around infertility and surrogacy.

Do you blog full time or part time?
I’m only blogging part time.

Why did you want to host a KZN meetup?
I live in Joburg mainly but also sometimes in Salt Rock. I love going to the Jozi meetup and soon realised that in KZN it hasn’t been formalised as a yearly event yet.

So late last year I decided that hey, I will be down by the sea for two months on maternity leave – let’s do it!

Tell us about last year’s meetup.
Last year was a very small event with 13 bloggers. We had Margaret Hirsch, Phoebe from Hey Gorgeous and Deon from Find the Stoke as speakers.

We squeezed into an outdoor venue in what was the most humid day in 3 weeks. It was really so nice to meet some of the bloggers of KwaZulu-Natal.

What are the great things about being at a bloggers’ meet ups?
Sometimes as a blogger you really get stuck in your own little world and at these events it’s more than just a selfie-snapping opportunity. It’s a place to swop war stories, learn something, meet a fellow blogger and be introduced to brands.

What goes into the planning of your bloggers’ meet up?
Venue… have you ever tried to find a venue that you like and that would host a group in a holiday province? It’s about hunting and begging for rates and then almost doing a somersault when you find the perfect spot.

Then there are the lists of possible speakers and researching them.

Contacting potential sponsors from your current contacts and finding new contacts.

…and worst of all sitting and waiting for bloggers to fill the seats.

How do you choose the speakers/ guests that will be at the event?
It’s all about choosing a topic and researching speakers that can talk within that. I become a stalker and really research if they are a fit.

This year I have Verushka (Spice Goddess) and a surprise speaker (waiting for final confirmation on his whereabouts on the date) and then it is a go.

Bloggers really have to take that step and say, let me check this out.

I was thinking if I should attend my first one and then missed the whole event – the next year I probably bought the first ticket… I have a real FOMO (fear of missing out) thing going on about these meetups.

You ran a survey for bloggers. Why do that and how does it work?
As a blogger you want to write about what is relevant to your blog and interests. Going to an event and getting five items for babies when you are still single isn’t really all that wonderful.

Getting some stats for sponsors is just a nice touch. They get to make decisions based on the info and don’t just feel that it is a spray and pray approach.

At every blogger meet up, there are brand representatives. How do you go about contacting them and/ or do you have relationships with them already?
Some I do have relationships with, but more often it is a brand spanking new contact. I’m not shy to ask and invite either.

What has the experience of hosting and organising a bloggers meetup taught you?
To not expect KZN time to align to Jozi time. To know that there will always be those that book last minute and that is fine. Take it as it comes.

Why do you think blogger meetups are beneficial?
It gives you as a blogger the opportunity to learn and connect with other bloggers.

Sometimes the speakers you won’t find at a small event, and sometimes what they share just opens a whole different way of looking at things.

Plus you get to go home and try a new product and maybe like it so much that you do a campaign with that brand.

Please share your blog link with us?
Www.goddess.co.za and www.everything4less.co.za

Thank you for reading!

Have you ever been to an event similar to this? If yes, what did you enjoy about it?

11 thoughts on “#JoziMeetup: “Working with brands” + hosts share details of planning

  1. Amazing I wanted to attend but my exams are around the corner had to study. Hope to meet everyone at the next #JoziMeetUp

  2. The Cape Town Meetup is in September this year (or August). I don’t know about 2018 yet. I hope to meet you ladies in the near future 🙂

  3. Lovely post Mel, such a pity I missed this one. Will definitely try to be at the next #jozimeetup

  4. Great post Mel, love the changes on your blog. I learnt a great deal myself.
    Susann is right getting baby gifts in the goodie bag is always weird for me and as Laura mentioned the first Meetup was great possibly the best in terms of the goodie bag, it was packed specifically for me, with my name and all.

  5. Wow that is so nice of Laura to pack you a separate bag. Sam I must admit, this year’s bag was better than last year’s. I gave some of my goodies to my husband, like the toothpaste is his favourite to use.
    Lebo, I think the next Jozi Meetup is August, but I have to ask Heather first.

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