September 18, 2009

Swagapalooza is the Next Big Thing in PR: An Audience of Dozens With an Audience of Millions

I just got back from Alex Krupp’s inaugural Swagapalooza. Swagapalooza is a little like the movie theater, or the compact car: it’s what you get when a recession forces people to be creative about what they don’t do.

Here’s what Swagapalooza didn’t do:

  • It didn’t fly in speakers and pay them massive fees.
  • It didn’t charge a four-figure price tag with lots of secret discounts.
  • It didn’t try to create a veneer of academic disinterest.
  • It didn’t try to swank up the location or pay up for expensive cocktails and snacks.

But here’s what Swagapalooza did do:

  • Got a group of interesting people together in a single location, where they could discuss their sites, ideas, and predictions.
  • Gave those people something for their time.
  • Gave entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their ideas to an audience of dozens—who have an audience of millions.

Swagapalooza strips a conference down to its most essential elements. Some people are there to present. They should be giving stuff away to attendees, and they should be paying the conference organizer a hefty amount for making it happen. Attendees should have influence; it should be worth someone’s time to tell them why a new product is worth buying.

And everyone should fully disclose what they’re giving and what they’re getting out of it.

From what I could tell, Swagapalooza worked as planned. Some of the presenters:

Peter Shankman gave the keynote (he also introduced me to some strangers, by reading everyone’s nametags—”We all know each other, right? Sarah, this is, uh, Byrne. Byrne, this is Sarah.”) Shankman’s speech focused on the power of free stuff to make people give you publicity, and the power of publicity to make people give you free stuff. He footnoted this with a discussion of ethics.

Shankman didn’t give away any loot, but since I’ve gotten a lot of value out of HARO—both as a journalist and as a source—I’ll let it slide.

Switch2Health pitched what is basically the Wii Fit, but for the parts of your life that don’t involve a Wii. It might also be Foursquare, for moving around instead of staying put. It tracks your movement and activity, and lets you “keep score” of how healthy you’re trying to be.

A trio of presenters from New Orleans gave a frankly bizarre little discussion of their startups, which included a bruise-reducing cream (“My wife uses it on her eyes,”).

VoyageTV announced a few giveaways, including (and this was hopefully not a setup), a contest for audience members to win a free trip by tweeting their dream vacation. The winner: “If i take my poor, no income, culinary student husband on his dream trip to spain, i guarantee no divorce evah #swagapalooza,” and then “oh wait, we’re not married yet. You make it happen, we’ll do it there. #swagapalooza”.

Yes, they gave away a free trip for two, to Spain.

IdeaPaint offered their paint-on dry-erase boards. You have to see it to believe it, so take a look.

And Surprise Industries forced a poor, helpless audience member to take a flavor trip and eat a lemon. Surpriseology is a dangerous science.

Look over that list of presenters. They pitched their ideas to bloggers. They got an audience as large as the audience of Seinfeld, and as targeted as the readership of a trade journal. If you sell something that fits into a bag someone could take home, Swagapalooza is simply the best way to spend your PR money. And it’s just getting started.

Full Disclosure: I know some of the folks involved in Swagapalooza, including Alex Krupp of Swagapalooza, and Maya Gilbert of Surprise Industries. Also, every company I mention in this entry either gave me some moderately good free stuff, or a chance to win some amazingly good free stuff.

  • http://www.byrnehobart.com/blog/hugh-macleods-ignore-everybody-how-to-be-more-creative-than-necessary/ Hugh MacLeod’s “Ignore Everybody”: How to Be More Creative Than Necessary | Byrne’s Blog

    [...] Disclosure: I got a free copy of the book at Alex Krupp’s Swagapalooza. If you want it, you’ll probably have to pay for it, which you can do [...]