Influencer Isn't A Dirty Word
So sorry for the unexpected hiatus, but as you’ll learn in this post the last several months have been consumed with a lot of work. This is a long one, so be prepared to take a few minutes to get through it. And at the end of it all, I hope you’ll share your thoughts or questions with me. Thanks for reading!
Back in late 2018, my friend Whitney Gonzalez approached me about the idea of hosting Brittany Hennessy, author of the book Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media, as a featured author at the library where I work.
Me being me, I was part super into the idea and excited, but also part skeptical about how we could pull off an event of this size and style. The library, while certainly a home to authors, had never hosted an author with a niche audience like Brittany before, and the logistics of planning an after-hours event with a goal of 100 people in attendance and a bar with alcohol were not going to be simple. We were headed into 2019 and there were just a few short months before everyone in the library sphere became willingly—or unwillingly—consumed by the massive beast that is our Summer Reading Program. Which has currently taken over my life as I write this post, by the way!
Whitney being Whitney, however, managed to charm her fellow Friends of the Library board members into fronting the money needed to secure Brittany for a date to be determined in the spring. And just like that, I didn’t have time to be skeptical or nervous anymore.
Initially, there was not a dedicated project manager for the event, so I volunteered myself for the job, hoping that my insights as a social media professional, amateur event planner, and also as a seasoned library employee could steer this ship in the right direction. I was probably a little naïve looking back on things to think I really had the time to do it all, but like any hustler you find and make the time for the things that matter. So even though the date that was chosen for the event fell during the week of my wedding anniversary and the day after my husband’s birthday, I made it all work.
Planning started out slowly with monthly meetings where we talked through major logistics, such as reviewing and signing off on Brittany’s contract, setting dates for ticket sales and pricing structure (to be sure we could at least break even on the event), and establishing sponsorship levels. As the months passed on, we met to discuss other tasks, such as securing media sponsorships from local media outlets and determining what our ad budget and marketing strategy would be.
Whitney and I talked about the event CONSTANTLY. You can ask anyone who frequents Write Night how often the topic came up. One of my favorite experiences in the planning process was early-on when Whitney and I met at her office to have a conference call with Brittany. I couldn’t tell you for certain, but I’m pretty sure we had huge grins on our faces the whole time, talking to an author who truly had influenced both of us by that point. Brittany was just as down-to-earth and easy to talk to as she sounded in her audiobook recording of Influencer. We chatted through her potential flight itineraries, our plans for her accommodations and transportation, and the format of her talk.
After starting those external conversations with Brittany and outside partners, the next phase of planning internal logistics began. We had to talk through everything from inventorying the necessary AV equipment to scheduling breaks and lunches throughout the day for staff.
Behind the scenes: One of the funniest experiences I had in the planning process was having to literally draw up the floor plan for the event. For some bizarre reason, the template document and my laptop did not place nicely together, so I grabbed my color-coded Papermate Inkjoy pens and got to work. Photo included below for posterity.
Before Whitney and I knew it, the end of April was approaching and early bird ticket sales were nearly over. We scheduled an Instagram Live with Brittany to happen just a few days beforehand to capture the energy of last-minute savings. I staged a humble, makeshift set in my office against the backdrop of our mock photo studio and we ended up with more than 350 viewers on our broadcast. The Instagram Live coinciding with the final days of early bird ticket sales was a great strategy in driving momentum. By the time early bird ended, we were more than halfway to our attendance/ticket sales goals.
Behind the scenes: After the event was over, my friend Ashley Cisneros introduced me to her friend Marielou, whom she had attended school with years prior in Orlando. Marielou follows Brittany and happened to catch her Instagram Live with the library. Realizing the event was coming up and she had airline miles to cash-in, she flew across the country from California to visit family AND attend our event. She was definitively the farthest traveler for the event and her doing so gave me the satisfaction I needed to feel like we did something amazing.
In the last three weeks before the event, we kept hustling to make those sales goals. We reached out to local influencers and bloggers directly and spent a lot of energy on Instagram promoting the heck out of the event. We were fortunate to have a strong built-in network of supporters, who helped us spread the word by talking it up, but the two of us would not rest until we met our goal. Additionally, I spent a lot of long hours at work doing final tasks such as alphabetizing books for our VIP guests, checking in with sponsors to determine logistical needs, writing remarks for our speakers, finalizing the event timeline, and creating a PowerPoint recognizing our event sponsors. I was really grateful to my husband and son for their support and patience in those last few days leading up to the event.
On the morning of May 10, I woke up anxious but confident that the event would be a success. I listened to Brittany’s audiobook again while getting ready for work and driving around completing my errands beforehand.
Behind the scenes: I loaned Brittany my extra car seat while she was in town, so she wouldn’t have to lug one through airport security. We were fortunate to receive sponsorship of the event from Ford, which included a loaner vehicle for Brittany and her family while they were in Orlando.
I got to work that day and it actually started fairly quietly. I finished designing an email campaign for one of our branches and then it seemed like everything went so incredibly fast after that brief moment (I would compare it to how my wedding day felt). We put up the super gorgeous “Squeeze the Day” photo op (pictured above and below) that was hand-drawn and designed by my coworker, Kelly Williams. We played around with and tested the stage lighting to make sure Brittany’s complexion was captured nicely on camera and that her book cover could stand out against the curtains. We ate pizza to fuel our bodies and make things easy when it came time to take breaks. And then it was suddenly 5 o’clock and Whitney was arriving with a much-appreciated iced coffee for me and Brittany literally walked in right behind her!
Behind the scenes: We had a mini crisis that night with Brittany’s books not arriving from Amazon on time (so much for Prime shipping), so we had to move to a Plan B for our book signing portion. Thankfully by the time the evening was over it turned out to be less of an issue than expected.
Prior to the event start, I sat with Whitney and Brittany in one of our meeting rooms that was transformed into a green room for her. Brittany signed books for our VIP guests as part of their ticket purchase/event experience. And, y’all, I have to tell you that Brittany personalized literally every copy. She used different color pens and everything! She might be an unrealized planner girl. :)
One of the best parts of the experience was that time before the event started where Whitney and I got to chat with someone we both deeply admire and have learned a lot from. We talked about Game of Thrones (except Whitney didn’t because she’s not fan), traveling, shoewear and more. While the event itself was phenomenal and turned out better than I could have hoped for, the best part for me was that half hour or so alone just chatting.
After the event was over, we walked Brittany back to her green room and she signed a copy of her book for me. She wrote the sweetest message inside and whenever I am feeling down on myself I try to remember to read it and remind myself I am capable of amazing things. Imposter syndrome is a bitch and to be completely honest it plagued me a lot during the planning process of the event. I really give my coworkers and husband a lot of credit for talking me off the ledge, so to speak, several times throughout the planning process. Planning an event this large with so many hands involved meant many things could’ve gone wrong, but sticking to my instincts and working hard really paid off. Literally everyone I spoke to post-event had a blast. We received so many mentions and tags on the library’s social media. And my boss and our library director were both so pleased with the turnout and overall experience. Not to mention, we managed to raise a respectable amount of money for our nonprofit Friends of the Library.
Planning Library After Hours with my best friend was an unforgettable experience and I’m so grateful to have met Brittany in-person. It intimidated me to take on a project like this, but I’m so grateful to Whitney for the push and my job for the opportunity. It really helped me grow and demonstrate what I’m capable of doing. If you’re dreaming of becoming an influencer one day I truly encourage you to read Brittany’s book and challenge yourself to see what you’re capable of accomplishing. I have a feeling you’ll surprise yourself!