Hey all! I’m not gonna lie, this post was supposed to be written Sunday night, then Monday morning, then Monday night … and now here we are, Tuesday afternoon. I am WIPED OUT, and that’s the sign of a successful blogging conference!
I have been a member of the Entertainment New Media Network for several months now, and I’m really enjoying this group of influencers (not bloggers, but influencers … more about that later). When the inaugural Entertainment New Media Network Conference near Anaheim, CA was announced, I was bummed because I had already blown my conference budget for 2014 on Alt Summit. I was super thrilled when I applied to be a volunteer and was selected!
Entertainment New Media Network (ENMN) is an influencer group for bloggers and other media members. Members of ENMN are offered campaigns (some paid, some for perks) and other opportunities to help grow our reach. The idea behind it is simple: By myself I am but one small voice, but collectively our network makes a big impact. I appreciate the networks that see the value in smaller bloggers like me. I’m just really grateful I found this group of lovely people!
I want to make sure I give a special mention to the staff of ENMN:
Erica Pena-Vest – The founder and ringleader. She did a great job putting everything together, as well as managing her own work and also at times balancing family matters. She rocks!
Jessica Ballard – Aside from a bunch of behind the scenes stuff I couldn’t possibly imagine, she single handedly ran the webcasts all three days. Holy smokes.
Margaret Salmond – Erica’s executive assistant and all around helper, hard worker, and sweetheart. Shared many a laugh with this girl right here.
Signing up to be a volunteer for ENMN Conference was a no-brainer. It was being held a mile from Disneyland! The conference location was the Hyatt Regency in Garden Grove, CA, located on Harbor Blvd. It’s about a 5-10 minute drive to Disneyland (and it’s a Good Neighbor Hotel). I can’t say enough good things about the Hyatt! The hotel lobby area is beautiful, the staff was above-and-beyond friendly, and they have an on-site Starbucks. Also, their social media team is on top of things, which is highly noticed and respected by a bunch of influencers.
Another example: My roommate Jaime shared a picture of the flavored water on Instagram and requested pineapple and strawberries … and the next day, guess what? We had pineapple strawberry water!
I also loved being a local and familiar with Disneyland, so I could drive some of my new friends back and forth to the Resort!
This conference, by far, had the best caliber of session topics and speakers I have experienced at a blogging conference! Lots of REAL information and useful takeaways we can implement right away. Sean Astin spoke with us on the last day and, while I’m not a huge fan or follower, I was struck by his passion for all his personal projects and his family, something we can all relate to. Oh, and the Creative Director of Twitter was there. #amazing I’ll do my Top 5 Takeaways like I always do, but I wanted to do a quick run down of the sessions and speakers.
Your Staring Role: The Role of New Media in Hollywood – Erica Pena-Vest – Erica spoke about our influence as a group (as I touched on above) and also how sites like Twitter give us unprecedented access to celebrities and spokespersons. Want to connect with a brand? Tweet them! Also, online influence is becoming much more important than sheer numbers and brands are starting to take notice.
The Value of Your Voice – Andrea Schroder – Andrea spoke about finding your own voice, a topic she knows a lot about being known as “Ricky Schroder’s wife.” She talked about the importance of writing and communicating in your own unique way, instead of thinking, “What would my husband/partner want me to say? What would my parents expect me to say?” She gave us all 10 questions to answer as an exercise in finding our own voice, such as knowing what your favorite color is and knowing your goals. Andrea also has a line of candles and the Peach Gardenia one is CRAZY AMAZING.
Stay True to Yourself in Writing and in Business – Jessica Cribbs – Jessica produces a stage show called Expressing Motherhood and spoke about priorities – family first, maintain your integrity and values, worry about yourself instead of what’s happening around you.
Show Me the Money: 10 Tips to Monetize Your Blog – Morgan Miller and Tiffany Tse from Share A Sale – Morgan and Tiffany, aside from being totally adorable, gave expert advice on how to make the most of your affiliate connections. Tips include keeping ads relevant to your content, include ad links on social media and email newsletters, and assessing your monetization strategies on popular posts (if a post goes viral, what can you do to capitalize on all that traffic?).
Mentoring Q&A – Lisa Robertson, Pilar Clark, Carolyn West – These three talented women spoke about their own experiences with building their blog and growing their business, then opened the floor to questions. Topics discussed included reliability (setting a schedule so readers know what to expect), and knowing it’s okay to start small to avoid overwhelm.
Blogging Guru Q&A – Dan Morris – Dan is a monetization genius and gave great advice on monetization optimization, how to capture your niche, and using webinars to reach your audience.
Blogging for Love … and Press Trips – Peggy Bendel – Peggy is a PR pro and gave a lot of great advice on what to do and what NOT to do when you’re working with the travel industry. Advice for going on press trips included DO remember you’re not on vacation, and DON’T be a diva or a bully.
Twitter Rules! Or, Ruling Twitter – Doug Bowman – Doug is a Creative Director for Twitter so as you can imagine he was VERY popular. His presentation was cut a little short due to time which was sad for all of us. He gave out some basic advice (make sure your bio is filled out, include an actual picture for your profile image [oops], put a “.” before an @name if you want everyone to see it) and also told us the best time to tweet (when your readers are awake … makes sense). He showed a graph example of when the hashtag #hungry trends … it spikes three times a day. The lesson is to watch the trends for your topic and tweet accordingly. And experimenting with times and hashtags is key!
Introduction to Destination Marketing – Dan Quandt, Elaine Cali, Wendy Haase – These three speakers all work in the travel and vacation industry and they all work with bloggers for press/promotional trips. Tips for working with travel pros include: research and know the destination before you pitch, think of unique ways you can make the destination stand out, and keep in contact if something goes wrong (aka don’t go on a free promotional trip and then disappear before promoting it on your channels).
Niche Blogging: Finding Your Topic – Lisa Richardson, Cam Bowman, Colleen Lanin – Unfortunately I didn’t take many notes on this one, I think because I was engrossed with listening. I do remember Cam making a point to say “It’s okay if you don’t know your niche yet, it will come to you.” and Lisa’s advice was “Choose your blog name carefully, because it will be with you for a while. And people will yell it at you.” (You can perhaps imagine the type of mistaken identity search queries and emails she gets for her blog titled “Babes in Disneyland.”)
Brand High School: How to be Popular – Marcy Massura. You guys … I have the biggest blogging crush on Marcy Massura. She is just flat out amazing … smart, sassy, savvy. I want to be Marcy when I grow up. She used her PR background to speak about how to be popular with brands. Some basics: Make sure your email is easy to find on your blog (NOT a contact form, your actual email), have an easy-to-find search function on your blog, and don’t publicly badmouth brands because then other brands won’t want to work with you. Relationships are key, and again, brands are looking for your influence and not just high numbers.
Q&A with Sean Astin – Sean was our special guest on the last morning and while I don’t consider myself a huge fan of his work (aside from “Lord of the Rings” and his RunDisney campaigns I really don’t know much about him), I was impressed with his candor, friendliness (he patiently spoke with and posed for pictures with all 100 of us), and passion for his projects. If you particpate in RunDisney then you have probably heard of Run 3rd, which was started by Sean. And he also has a podcast called Vox Populi (Voice of the People) which is – in my terms, not his – politics for dummies. It was a real treat having him at our conference and hearing him speak.
Working with Entertainment Publicists – AJ Feuerman, Mandy Rodgers, Rebecca Levin – These three lovely PR professionals spoke about what they are searching for when they work with bloggers. The overall consensus was timeliness, responsiveness, understanding of social media, and thinking outside the box when promoting (one panelist gave an example of having followers create an Instagram photo as a giveaway entry). One huge, huge item I took away from this panel is a greater understanding and empathy towards those (sometimes awful) PR pitch emails bloggers receive. AJ explained that sometimes they are given just a few hours notice for an event/opportunity and the email that subsequently goes out to bloggers is less than perfect. She explained they have their own deadlines and challenges on their end. It was interesting to hear their perspective and I certainly have a new respect for the PR industry.
How to Effectively Cover Hollywood – Yolanda Machado – Yolanda is a well known entertainment blogger and gave awesome advice about writing movie reviews and covering press events. Such as: Be honest with your reviews or else your readers won’t trust you, don’t ask celebrities personal or uncomfortable questions (Bode Miller, anyone?), and use the official hashtags presented by the studios and publicists. Even if you’re not at an event, use the official hashtags (appropriately) and you will get noticed.
Ready for my Close-up: Interview Techniques for YOU – Ana Lydia Monaco and Daisy Teh – This session was all about being in front of the camera! If your blog and business become popular enough, media outlets WILL want to speak with you! They spoke about having confidence in your brand, being quick on your feet, and practicing with your webcam.
Pitches, Media Kits, and Me – Erica Pena-Vest and Pilar Clark – Erica and Pilar gave some advice on what to include on your media kit. Basically: impressive stats first, synopsis of your blog/business, and demographics. Also, a media kit is different from a rate sheet … your rates go on a separate rate sheet.
Whew – now do you understand why I’m so wiped out? Three days of non-stop learning and excitement!
I want to take a moment to thank the sponsors, because it takes a lot of trust and guts to sponsor an inaugural event.
Anaheim and Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau
Share A Sale
Anaheim Resort RV Park
Moo (affiliate link)
Back in Style
Fairy Tales Hair Care
Bare Body Collection
(My apologies if I inadvertently left someone out)
The best part of any conference is the new friends and connections you make. For the first time, I was going to a conference without knowing anybody in real life. Of course you connect on social media but it’s still a little scary going somewhere alone. I didn’t have to worry! First of all, my roommates were wonderful … I couldn’t have asked for better roomies!
I got to finally meet some of the awesome bloggers I’ve been following for years, like Lisa of Babes In Disneyland, Jindy of Flowers Croon, and Patty of Margarita, Miles, and the Mouse. I also made new friends and discovered their blogs, like Alisha of Coily Locks, Jamie from Minnesota Girl in the World, Wendy from Over The Top Mommy, and many, many more wonderful people.
Overall the first ENMN Conference was a wonderful experience and I would highly recommend it to any blogger, especially if your focus is entertainment or travel. Was everything perfect and did everything run smoothly? No, of course not. Like any big event, especially for the first one, there are going to be some bumps in the road. But Erica and her team did a phenomenal job in putting everything together and making sure the attendees had a wonderful time. Thank you for a great event!