Best of Conversations With Coca-Cola Blogging Conference #CCLP

Last week I was invited as a guest of Coca-Cola to attend one of their regional blogging conferences, at their headquarters in Atlanta, GA.  They cut us Western U.S. bloggers  some slack by starting at 9:30 a.m. on the first day (time zone!).  But after that, it was full steam ahead with a packed schedule over the next two days.

Conversations With Coca-Cola Northwest Blogger Attendees

Conversations With Coca-Cola Blogger Attendees, Northwest Region

This is the first expenses-paid blogging event that I have been invited to, so other than a fun little mom getaway I wasn’t sure what I’d be taking away from the experience.  It ended up being as beneficial as it was enjoyable, so I wanted to share with you the best of what I learned.

Coke Swag Hotel

Fun Coca-Cola Swag left for us in our hotel room.

Coke Swag in Hotel

What I Learned – How You Get Invited to a Blogging Conference

When I received my email invite to attend the Conversations With Coca-Cola blogging conference, I already knew a good deal about the event.  I’d caught wind of the #CCLP hashtag on Twitter during a previous conference, watched some of my attending friends tweets, and shook my head in awe, pondering, “How in the heck do they get invited to something like that?”

Coke Products on Ice

A life-long personal dream realized: Having 24-7 access to free, iced Diet Coke

I’ve been blogging for just under one year, consider myself a small blog, and was shocked when I saw that invite from Coke in my inbox.   So I asked the Coca-Cola contact, “How did you find me?  Am I allowed to ask that?”

She told me that it was by using Sysomos, something used by many PR firms to identify bloggers.  It’s a Social Media Monitoring Tool which gives them an  indicator of your readership, engagement of your readers, social influence, etc.  To my knowledge, there’s nothing in particular YOU can do to increase your Sysomos grade … which frankly, I almost found refreshing.  (Am I the only one who tires of constantly trying to build Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest numbers?)

Coca-Cola has been hosting these conferences regionally.  They were all held in Atlanta at their headquarters.  But they limited the events to a small sized group, and then invited bloggers from a certain geographic area of the country to each conference.  Incidentally, this appears to correspond to how their marketing is also structured (we had the Coca-Cola NW Region’s PR staff attending with us).  And as for my odds, I think this worked in my favor… proportionately, there are simply fewer of us bloggers out here in the Wild West!

Conversations with Coca-Cola Blogger Vision Board

A few of my favorite things – the vision board I created, for one of our activities.

The World of Mom Blogging is still new, but is currently growing by leaps and bounds, and is truly changing the face of media.  In 2006, it was estimated that there were approximately 8,000 mom blogs.  By 2010, that estimate had grown to 4 million.

Mom blogs tell the real truth.  They have the ability to resonate, by use of authentic story telling – more than any polished, sanitized parenting magazine ever could.  Hence their power, and subsequent exploding success.  (If you have doubts about this theory, just look at Disney purchasing Babble.com in 2010.) They are the wave of the future.

I guess my point is, if it’s what you want to do – I believe the opportunity for a blogger to be a part of that action is very real for each of us.   Your voice is truly powerful, and it brings along with it a world of opportunities.

 Conversations with Coca-Cola Blogging Conference Lunch Spread

Typical lunch spread during the Conversations with Coca-Cola Blogging Conference. Excellent food… they treated us well.

Most of the women attending had been blogging an average of 4-6 years.  So if you are new, like myself, but enjoying it – don’t be discouraged by the lack of brand invites up to this point, and stick with it.  I truly believe if it’s your passion, it is only a matter of time before it starts to pay off, maybe even in ways you didn’t envision or expect.

Conversations With Coca-Cola Meeting Room

The meeting room at Coca-Cola headquarters, where most of the Bloggy Magic happened.

What I Learned About Coca-Cola

A lot.  Again, I’m new to arrive at this party, but I’m pretty sure that was the point of the Conversations With Coca-Cola Blogging Conference.

Here are some highlights:

*  Why is Coca-Cola interested in bloggers?  “People look for opinions grounded in reality of how we live.”

*  Coca-Cola CEO has spearheaded a program called “5 by 20, for the purpose of economically empowering 5 million women entrepreneurs by the year 2020.  I like it.  I like it a lot.

Target held a kitchen demo, featuring their signature brands of Market Pantry (their value priced option) and Archer Farms (their premium brand) – now found in all Target stores.  They stressed the benefits of having kids cook with you in the kitchen, my favorite of which was teaching them to be self-sufficient… starting in that age range around 5-10 years old, kids should be able to fix themselves their own snack, and not always need mom to wait on them.  Love that.

Target Kid Treats Apple Pie Shake

Kid friendly treats we sampled from Target: Apple Pie Shake and Candy Corn Jumble (Click each title to see the yummy recipe!)

*  Target also talked about how to create some layered food gift jars, either for soups or a dessert treat.  Teach your kids to be thankful, and show gratitude to a teacher, neighbor, or friend with a food gift jar.  Such a great idea!

Target Food Gift Jars

Food gift jars, demonstrated by Target – create one for cookies, or even soups

*  Coke owns Odwalla, the makers of some tasty and high quality juices, fruit smoothies, and bars.  Although Odwalla’s Superfood juice looks disconcerting, with a mossy green color – it is delicious!  And this from a non-juice drinker.  Superfood fruit smoothie blend is their #1 seller (it gets its dark green pallor from high nutrient algae) and is best described: “Looks green.  Tastes red.”  It’s basically a fruit juice with an extra nutrient boost.  My husband’s been a fan of Superfood for years, but I plan to start purchasing it now, too.

*   According to the commentaries we heard from women on the Coke Executive Panel, Coca-Cola is an understanding and flexible company to work for, as a professional woman and mother.  They focus on women because they understand the need to reflect what their consumer base is.

 

Coca-Cola Women Executives Panel

Coca-Cola Women Executives Panel. An impressive group!

*  Coke’s Live Positively campaign is wide ranging, and includes programs and giving back in the following areas:  marketplace, community, workplace, and environment.  I was probably most impressed with their environmental initiatives and concerns, specifically continued innovations and use of recycled packaging (30% of Dasani are PET, plant based bottles; 100% of Odwalla’s are PET), and water stewardship partnerships to try and return to communities and nature the same amount of water that they use.

*  Perhaps I’m naive, but I bought into it.  Coca-Cola has been around for many years for a reason, and I came away with a good feeling inside and a sense that they are a class act company.

What I Learned From Networking with Mom Bloggers

We all arrived to Atlanta on varying schedules throughout the day on Tuesday.  Coke had made us aware of the other attendees, which was helpful.  It was apparent by watching the Twitter #cclp hashtag that many of these girls knew each other already, which again, as a newbie I found a little daunting.

Hotel W Downtown Atlanta Room

My gorgeous room at the Hotel W Downtown Atlanta

Hotel W Downtown Atlanta Room

But between the fun agenda, great food (which makes everything better in life, under any circumstance), exciting anticipation in the air, warm and inviting details put in place by Coke, and a nicely sized group of 21 bloggers – it didn’t take long for these friendly, engaging moms to start connecting.

Here are some of the lessons I learned:

* First, in a really swanky, expensive, urban hotel – when you get in the elevator, you aren’t going anywhere until you figure out that you need to insert your room key, for security permission to go to your corresponding floor.  And only your floor.  Who knew?  (To some of you, I may have just sounded like I fell off the turnip truck with that admission.  But there it is.  Actually, I do think I’ve seen this a few years ago, I just have a terrible memory.)

* (One more on the Hotel W…) If you are not accustomed to this style of accommodations, you may find the sterile, grey tiled entry to your room a bit cold and un-homey, and the see-through shower with no door, a bit unnerving.  But by Day 2, while watching the Today Show from said glass shower (which is wedged between the bathroom and bedroom) you’ll get over it, and think to yourself, “Aaahh.  So this is how the other side lives.”

See through shower at Hotel W Downtown Atlanta

You’re standing in the bathroom, looking into/through the shower…see the bed on the other side? Such craziness.

*  Even successful, established bloggers struggle with challenges like how to re-brand themselves once their circumstances begin to morph over time (ex:  homeschooling blog with almost grown kids, close to leaving home).  If you are just starting out, keep this concept in mind when naming your blog.

*  Southern cooking at White Oak Kitchen is as tasty as the restaurant is beautiful.  My first fried green tomato encounter, long awaited chance to try ratatouille, and the melted mushroom grits experience were all worth writing home (that’s you) about.

White Oak Kitchen Atlanta

White Oak Kitchen Restaurant, in Downtown Atlanta

*  You can look fabulous and still go on dates with your husband when you are a mom of 7 children.  Unbelievable, but true, story.  (Check out the lovely Christine at From Dates to Diapers).

*  You may be writing along on Babble.com, and suddenly be invited (as in, hired) to start writing for Disney Baby.  A thrilling prospect, and good to know – is it not?  (Success story from my new writing mentor and hero Amy, at Using Our Words.)

Writing a blog is just skimming the surface of what you can do in the social media world.  I found that most of the moms I talked to had branched into other related activities:  as speakers or radio hosts (Angie, Mom of Many Hats), writers, web and graphic designers, media consulting, running blog outreach programs for businesses (even corporations), and having their own social media businesses.  Oh, the places you’ll go!

*  At the risk of sounding cliche, there are some amazing, strong, outstandingly talented moms out there … running their households and managing their blogging world with skill and savvy.  It was humbling and impressive to meet a cross section of them.

Coke treats at Conversations with Coca-Cola

I’ve never been so well hydrated at a business conference. I’m gonna miss this royal treatment!

And probably most important:  You don’t have to feel ingratiated to write a cheesy, glowingly positive review of a product or brand just because they sent you a sample worth $29.99.

I was continually impressed with the intelligent, hard hitting questions these women lobbed out to the Coke Executives – and I’d have to say it has changed my perspective of what a mom blogger’s job truly is.

Yes, Coke had just shelled out thousands of dollars for us to come learn-and-play in style, in Atlanta.  But these women wanted the straight scoop on specifics, before they would even consider passing a Coca-Cola endorsement on to their readers.

“You say aspartame is safe – why were none of those studies conducted in the US?”

“You say you want to be environmentally conscious and replenish the earth’s water supply – if it takes an average of 2.5 liters of water to make 1 liter of Coke…are you putting back the  2.5, or 1 liter of water?”

“In remote parts of Africa, there is no access to clean drinking water whatsoever, but I can purchase a Coke – do you feel any obligation to balance that situation?”  (Excellent, thought provoking question, and my personal favorite – asked by Jamie, of I Am Not The Babysitter)

Wow.  And THAT, is why mom blogger’s voices are so powerful!

(I should mention that Coke responded to all of the above questions, and wanted to send us further additional supporting information for each.)

Conversations With Coca-Cola

This has blossomed into a too-long post, but it was such a full and enriching experience that it’s hard to gloss over the details.

Oh, and our visit to World of Coke was disappointingly much too short, but exciting and really fun!  I’ve covered that in a separate post – a fun photo tour, for any interested in this Atlanta attraction!

Meeting the Coke Polar Bear

I’m not ashamed to say, I really love the Coke Polar Bear

Thank you, Coca-Cola… it was a great trip, and a very worthwhile experience.

 

My trip to the Conversations with Coca-Cola conference was paid for by Coca-Cola, and included travel, accommodations, food, and expenses.  I was not asked for anything in return for my participation, nor was I asked to blog about this event.

*o*     *o*     *o*

I reviewed some great travel gear during this trip.  Watch for my upcoming Travel Week Extravaganza next week, where I’ll cover some great travel topics, feature my favorite travel bloggers, and do daily travel gear reviews and giveaways!

 

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About COMtnMom

Hi, I'm Tami! Writer, Influencer, and mom of two who loves travel, the outdoors, staying active, photography, reading books, and eating desserts. We are pretty much always planning our next trip to Disney World.

Comments

  1. Was really nice to meet you! Great recap!

    • Yes, you too Aimee. Sorry to subject you to my disturbingly blurry, mediocre pictures … I know you are a skilled photographer! 😉

      Keep holding things down on the Front Range, and I hope to cross paths with you again.

  2. It sounds like a great conference. How exciting to have been invited to attend! Totally agree that us mom bloggers voices are pretty powerful!

    • Hi Joanie – yes, it was very exciting, and still seems a bit surreal. And I agree – I feel like I understand the “mom bloggers voice are powerful” thing now more than ever before!

      Thanks for your comment, and for stopping by.

  3. Wow, I don’t think you missed a beat. This is awesome! I really and truly enjoyed spending time getting to know you. I admire your energy, positive attitude, and hunger for knowledge. You were out there asking great questions, making new friends, and finding ways to improve yourself. I’m so grateful you were there and that I have a new friend in Colorado!

    • Are you trying to make me cry? Cause you almost made me cry! ;-D (Nicest. Comment. Ever.)

      Hey, hey… let’s hear it for the Old School Girls, kickin’ it with their pen and paper note-taking – ha ha! Loved finding you Amy, you are a true gem.

  4. Hey – you were just around the corner from me! I told Jamie too that I wish y’all had more time for visiting 🙂

    • Hey Katrina, would have loved to have seen you! 🙁 Crazy that you also know Jamie? I didn’t figure out “who she was” until I got back home and was reading her blog. Really wishing I had known about her experiences (Ethiopia & otherwise!), and had more time to get to visit with her in Atlanta – such an interesting, strong woman.

      It went waaaay too fast! I think you and I will probably stand a better chance of crossing paths at Disney World someday 🙂

  5. Erin Sforza says:

    This looks like it was great fun, and really educational to boot! I’ve been drinking coke products forever, and really never given much thought to their initiatives as a company, so this was really great. Looking forward to hearing more! 🙂

    • It was supa’ fun. I’ve never interacted with such a huge, global brand before. I found it really interesting to hear about their different social programs and campaigns… Nice to see that they use their power for good – ha! 🙂

      Thanks for your comment and stopping by, Erin!

  6. This looks like it was a really cool event. I’m a little jealous that I haven’t been invited to one.
    It’s also pretty cool that they used our Sysomos software to find you and invite you. (ps. the correct spelling Sysomos, but I’ll give you a pass this time 😉 ) They do awesome stuff all the time and we’re super happy to be working with Coke.

    Cheers,
    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos & Marketwire

    • Hey Sheldon,

      Well, color me equal parts flattered (that you dropped by) and embarrassed (that I spelled your company’s name wrong) – oopsey daiseys! Thanks for the pass, you’re too kind. 😉 I appreciate you pointing that out – I’ve since corrected it. The post is definitely generating some interest in Sysomos.

      I did get the impression from the Coke conference rooms we were hosted in – with hot, fresh & tasty meals being prepared and served right there on sight – that yes… they are quite experienced at hosting guests frequently, and in style!

      Thanks for your comment. I’m a programmer, so I’m intrigued by your software. Sounds like you guys have a great thing going.

  7. Awesome recap! It was such a lovely time, great to meet all of the ladies and hold great conversations. You totally got everything covered! Also, love your vision board 🙂

    2013 reunion?

    • Looking at the pictures the Coca-Cola photographer took and posted for us in that online album definitely makes me want to go back for a reunion. So many fun activities, and such a great bunch of women. (And I don’t think I got a chance to tell you that your hair is stunning!) ;-D

      It was great meeting you in Atlanta. Thanks for stopping by, Deanna!

  8. As a newbie blogger I will admit that it is tiring trying to build a following (Facebook Fans, Pinterest followers and Twitter followers) and I’m constantly wondering if my writing is resonating with people – or anyone for that matter.

    I’m glad there isn’t much I can do to improve my Sysomos grade so maybe I can quit stressing out about those things. Easier said than done 🙂

    Great recap post. My eldest turns 5 next year and I’m looking forward to her making her own snacks!

    • Just looking at this post again today, Cheryl, and realized I missed your comment before now. Sorry!

      And thanks for the reminder – I need to start picking up the slack and having my daughter make her own snacks! I don’t know about you, but there are some pretty spoiled kids around our house… 😉

      Thanks for stopping by (a few weeks ago…. lol)

  9. This is such a great story! Thanks for sharing how they found you too…that’s neat to hear for a blogger. Looks like it was a great event!

    • It was a lot of fun. They really balanced promoting brand recognition nicely with making sure we had a good time.

      (I’ve resurrected this post this week, daydreaming of getting to attend the invite-only #DisneySMMoms conference… which is actually my personal blogging dream!)

      Thanks for swinging by, Amy 🙂

  10. This is such a great post! Thank you for walking us through your experience! I had the pleasure of visiting the Coca Cola building in Atlanta and it was quite the experience. I love how it is very hands on and of course who doesn’t love the polar bear!

    • Thank you, Arelis! It was a very cool experience – I’ve never done anything quite like it, before or since!

      I appreciate your kind words… and I agree, I was quite taken with the flirty Coca-Cola bear. He’s a definite charmer! 🙂

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