Saturday, July 5, 2014

SDCC 2014: Diva Offers Useful Tips For Newbie Accredited Press Bloggers

The epic weekend in Nerdvana - that massive, sweaty, busy San Diego Comic-Con - is creeping up faster than you think!

For several months leading up to the mega-con, there have been many blogs and websites providing SDCC first-timers with various practical tips on what to expect, what to pack, how to dress and even, how to get fit for the convention! 

Other than just newbie convention attendees, there are also newbie accredited press members who will be working during that weekend.

Since 2011, Red Dot Diva has been accredited as press for many events held locally as well as overseas. These include SDCC (this year will be her third year as press), New York Comic Con, the Singapore Toy Games and Comic Convention, and various local red carpets premieres and screenings.

There seems to be a few first-time press accredited bloggers at this year's SDCC, so Red Dot Diva thought an article on how to prepare to navigate the misty fields of the media landscape may be useful, especially for those who are managing their own blogs or websites.

I have my accredited press badge. Now what?
In large conventions like SDCC and NYCC, the organizers do not have a dedicated PR firm to manage and connect the two gamut of companies and media folk attending. So what happens when you are keen to score some interviews on-site?

Here's a brief run-down:
1. It is important to note that having a press badge does not mean you are allowed to be first in line to attend panels at SDCC. You would have to line-up like everyone else!

2. When you are accredited, your name and outlet name will be put on the organizer's list.

3. This list is made available by the organizers to interested PR firms, who would decide if your outlet would be suitable to their client's needs. (Clients would include production companies, publishers, artists, actors, channels, etc.)

4. Once the PR firms have you on their own lists, press releases, short notification emails about upcoming events (like date and time of panels) and invites for press opportunities, will be emailed to you. The names and emails of PR team involved will be noted on these documents.

That's when the fun *really* begins.

Roundtable at STGCC 2013, with David Mack

How do I get an "in"to these press interviews?
Depending on what your blog and website covers or your level of interest, you could then reply to the PR firms to request to be included in more upcoming news or possible press opportunities. Then, patiently wait for an answer.

Here's the hard truth - you might or might not get your desired outcome, if you even get a reply at all!

Red Dot Diva has faced many snubs and rejections regarding her press requests throughout the years, but take heart. This should not stop you from re-directing your energies or expanding your blogging adventures in other directions. You can always try to get other press opportunities even if they are further down in priority on your list. Here's why:

1. You might learn something that may end up to be unexpectedly popular or interesting.
2. You might get to know a new friend or acquaintance from the experience (maybe the thankful publicity person who has been trying to get attention for the client, or a fellow blogger attending the round table).
3. You may end up having cool and rather unique material that not many people have on their blogs/ websites. (This was how actually Red Dot Diva managed to meet Stan Lee - twice!)

What if I never got email notifications from the companies that I want to connect with?
More often than not, your name may not be on a PR company's ready-to-send list. After all, with the limited resources available, especially at SDCC, they do tend to prioritize giving opportunities to the TV/ streaming outlets or hugely popular websites.

In these instances, it's time to roll up your sleeves and do some hard work.

Through social media or mining official press releases and websites, you would have to search for the names and emails of the publicity persons involved. Once you have these, email them directly with your interview request.

Before you do that, and since you are not sure if they may have seen your name on the organizer's accredited press list before, prepare and draft out a brief email summary to introduce yourself and your outlet - e.g. what the blog focuses on and what other events you may have covered in your website. Be polite yet personable in your reply.

Again, you may or may not get a favourable response.

Press time with Alodia Gosiengfiao, ICDS 2013

I have received a confirmation to attend a press event. What should I do next?
Fabulous! Besides squeeing and jumping up and down, here are a few things to take note.

For bloggers, this will most probably be in the form of a roundtable. A roundtable is when press people sit together in the few tables set up in the room and the talent will take turns to switch and go round each table to field questions. Usually, each round is about 10 minutes.

Or you could be invited for a more formal press conference. These are usually bigger and attended by a lot more media industry folks, so the amount of attention you might get is lower.

Practical Tips:
1. Do your research about the show/ book/ talent in advance.

2. Think about the angle you might want to take in your upcoming article.

3. Prepare a list of questions! Try to think of interesting, unusual ones. (Note: by unusual, Red Dot Diva doesn't mean rude or obnoxious.)

4. Prepare and check your digital babies (camera, smartphone, voice recorder) before the press event. This is crucial. Ensure they are all properly charged-up for use.

5. Plan your schedule! This is important. The distance and time required for you to get from one location to another needs to be factored in.

6. Arrive at least 15 minutes earlier to the press venue, if it is a roundtable. For larger events like red carpet premieres, the PR film will usually give you a specific registration time. Do not be late.

7. Be professional and keep the fangirling/ fanboying in-check. Or at least, dial it down several notches. If you are keen to pursue more press opportunities in the future, you do want to be taken seriously.

Co-founder of local website GeekCrusade and freelance journalist, Nicholas Yong (@incoherentboy) has more practical tips for you:
1. Pick and choose the most important media events: Prioritise!
2. Don't try and do it alone - at bare minimum it's a two-man job. (Note: Red Dot Diva has almost always done press alone. It's do-able but you have to be very skilled at multi-tasking! ;) )
3. Bring power packs, spare SD cards & tripod, if you are doing video
4. Don't always listen to PR/ minders saying about not allowing to film or take pictures in their invites. Do it anyway. (Note: Red Dot Diva says you could attempt to do so. But do stop if you are asked specifically in person to not do something.)

There are many more tips for accredited press as this is a very organic kind of activity. Once you are immersed in the convention atmosphere, you will understand why!

If you have any more questions as a first-timer, please post them in the comment box below.

Good luck in your press adventures!

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