How to Best Work With Bloggers and Toy Industry Experts at Toy Fair

Fourth in a series of posts on preparing for the annual trade event.

by Julie Livingston, director, business development and accounts, Child’s Play Communications

In addition to the hoards of journalists from traditional media channels covering Toy Fair, exhibitors should also consider outreach to bloggers (specifically, mom bloggers who write product reviews) and toy industry experts who cover the annual event.  Both influential in their own right, the clout these individuals carry can be particularly valuable to small and mid-sized toy companies, driving brand awareness, social media prominence, and, ultimately, sales.

Getting your toy featured on the right product review blog is a marvelous way to generate grassroots buzz for your product. According to a recent study conducted by Child’s Play Communications and the NPD Group, 79 percent of all American moms with children under the age of 18 are active in social media. Of that number, about one in four have made purchasing decisions as a result of a social media recommendation; more than half (55 percent) said they made their purchase because of a recommendation from a personal review blog

To reach moms where they “live,” it is essential that toy and youth entertainment companies have a strong presence among mom bloggers. To clarify, a mom blogger is a mother, generally with young preschool-aged children, who blogs on a regular basis. Many of the mom bloggers we work with at Child’s Play turned to blogging as an outlet following earlier careers as journalists, writers, and marketers. Some were involved in other aspects of business, and many are moms looking to express themselves while connecting with other moms to share experiences and life lessons. These women are smart, dedicated, and energetic.

If you don’t already have a mom blogger list, I suggest doing a blog search, looking for blogs written by moms (or dads) that feature product reviews. Look for regularity of posts, writing quality, professionalism, and relationship to your product. For example, a mom blogger who reviews toys for older tweens may be inappropriate for your preschool toy line. Their honest accounts of individual products address real moms’ concerns about quality and play value. In fact, many of my colleagues who work for toy companies often say they learn more about how kids use their products by reading mom blogs. Simply put, moms have a unique perspective.

Although it was reported that there were issues preventing some bloggers from gaining access to the 2011 American International Toy Fair in New York City, this year the credentialing process should be easier and more expeditious. The good news is that many toy companies have begun to see the light and are aggressively courting bloggers as they would the mainstream press. In fact, recently one of my Child’s Play colleagues saw a Twitter post that said, “Seems like this year there are a lot more booths interested in making appts w/bloggers. Maybe they finally caught on? #TF12.”

If you and your toy company want to reach out to mom bloggers, I offer the following tips:

Devise a mom blogger social media strategy. Identify your Toy Fair goals and objectives, including the total audience you wish to reach (in terms of unique visitors) and number of product reviews you hope to garner through your efforts.

Check the metrics of each blog you intend to target. Once you have the semblance of a mom blogger list, look on www.compete.com to get an estimate of each blogs’ audience and reach. Search on other social media platforms as well for the number of Twitter followers and Facebook fans. Also, evaluate the writing quality, toy product photos (if they are taken by the blogger), level of detail, as well as regularity of posts.

Get into the conversation. Search on Twitter to find those bloggers who intend to cover Toy Fair by using the #TF12 hashtag. You can see which bloggers are making exhibit booth appointments. Then tweet back (publicly) something like, “If you are interested in seeing ABC toys, DM (direct message) me.” If you hear back, send them a link to your website or JPEG photos to give them a preview of what they can expect.

Make a date. Schedule an in-person appointment, making sure to provide your exhibit booth number or showroom address. Also, exchange mobile phone numbers in case you need to reach one another. For many mom bloggers, the 2012 Toy Fair may be their first time in attendance. This can result in an overbooked schedule, so try to be flexible and understanding if someone arrives late or doesn’t show up. It doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t interested.

Practice your pitch. Prior to the show, make notes about each blog and why your product will fit in. If a blog’s focus is value and price, then explain how your product is a good fit. If a blog’s focus is fun and fitness, explain how your toy gets kids up, moving, and engaged in active play.

Use proper etiquette. Importantly, make sure there is a designated staffer to work with bloggers, someone who is personable and knowledgeable about new products. At the 2011 Toy Fair, I heard that some bloggers were turned away at exhibit booths where staffers didn’t quite know what a blog was or because the blogger arrived late for an appointment.

Provide reference materials. At some point during your Toy Fair meeting, provide the blogger with printed information, or even better, a press kit on a handy USB drive. Include JPEG photos, important links, and contact information.

Follow up. After the show, send a thank you note and a product sample, if possible. Mom bloggers appreciate or may even require a sample in order to review or to give away to their followers. Many will not want to lug samples around at Toy Fair, but would appreciate any samples sent by mail after the show is over. If they do write a product review of your toy, they will include a disclaimer statement that indicates they were given a free sample. Check for the product review to appear, but if it doesn’t, send a friendly reminder. Under no circumstances should you pressure the blogger to post.

In addition to mom bloggers, there are a handful of toy industry experts who major media outlets call on for Toy Fair news. These individuals include Laurie Schacht, co-publisher of The Toy Insider; Reyne Rice, a toy industry veteran who has worked at The NPD Group and Toy Industry Association; and Adrienne Appell of the Toy Industry Association. By doing a Google search, you can find other experts and direct contact information.

Special thanks to Debbie Bookstaber, blogger behind Mamanista.com, for her contributions.

Coming next week: Tips for optimizing exposure for your toy, in real time, at Toy Fair.

About Julie Livingston

A strategic communications expert, Julie Livingston has spent the past decade immersed in the toy and youth entertainment sectors. Before joining Child’s Play Communications, specialists in reaching moms, she was senior director of public relations for the Toy Industry Association, and earlier served as director, corporate communications for Scholastic, Inc, the global children’s publishing, education, and media company.

To read Tip 1, click here.

To read Tip 2, click here.

To read Tip 3, click here.

This post was originally written by Julie Livingston and published by ToyBook.com. For more news, visit www.toybook.com, follow The Toy Book on Twitter, and like The Toy Book on Facebook. The Toy Book is a bimonthly trade magazine covering the toy industry, published by Adventure Publishing Group.

    Comments

    1. These tips could have been useful for the Toy Fair or even for another upcoming event. Thank you for sharing your insights.