Perhaps you’ve seen other bloggers write about these junkets, where they are flown somewhere cool, wined and dined, and have a fabulous time. What’s it like to go on one of these trips?
Wonder no more. I snagged an invite, I went, I brought home chocolate sardines. Not chocolate-covered sardines… they’re sardine-shaped chocolates. And I’m playing pass-the-swag, giving them away to one lucky reader along with a copy of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, to get you into that Monterey mood. See below for details on how to enter.
How the invite happens
An email arrives in your inbox.
To be clear, emails start arriving in your inbox about six months into food blogging, especially if you’ve attended a food blogging conference. You start meeting PR people who work with food brands, they look at your blog, they decide if they like your hook, and then emails start arriving. Some of the emails begin, “Dear blogger.” Those you learn to delete, since they haven’t actually read your blog, and are usually offering products that have nothing to do with your lifestyle:
Grilling tips! Cheese! Italian pasta!
Some ask you to review a new product and write about it. Some are offering to send you food and create a recipe using it. Sometimes you say yes, more often you politely decline. I had participated in Dole’s Healthy Banana Split Challenge, so they knew and liked my blog.
If you are consistently putting out good content, one day you get an invitation to attend an event. In this case, it was the Dole Salad’tude Summit in Monterey, home of John Steinbeck, Cannery Row, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
I had wondered what it would be like to attend one of these junkets. Since most of them are focused on things I don’t eat—like the pork summit in Napa or the Louisiana shrimp tour—I decided this might be one of my only chances. A salad summit in one of my favorite towns? Where I can meet some bloggers I admire? And talk face to face with a huge food producer while representing the gluten-free and vegan community? I said yes.
But first I asked what the expectations were. Did we have to write about the event? No. Did we have to say nice things about Dole? “Dole understands that they’re opening themselves up to questions/possible criticism when they bring bloggers to these events. While the majority of our bloggers have had a positive experience, we respect that you’ll have your own opinions and that is totally OK.” I felt like the experience would be interesting to share, I was curious to see what I could learn, and I haven’t been to Monterey in years, so I worked out my schedule so I could go.The pluses…
A very nice hotel, featuring this welcoming little otter mum and pup on the bed ($19.99 if you want to take it home). Really nice meals. An afternoon on my own at the Aquarium, where I met up with their Director of Guest Experience. A great group of passionate foodies, including some like-minded healthy food bloggers. Really nice people at the Dole company, on the farm, and at the PR agency. They worked hard to feed us “special needs” diners and, by and large, did really well. A special kudos to the staff at La Bicyclette restaurant in Carmel, who were so outstanding they get their own post.
You do feel beholden. I’m not sure anyone can honestly say they are truly impartial when someone has given you a nice trip like this. If I wrote a scathing post about Dole, would I be invited on another trip? Probably not. Would that agency keep me on their list for future perks? I doubt it. Would I feel like a heel? Yes.
It’s a bit odd, this relationship, especially as traditional journalism is hanging by a thread, no one knows the rules anymore, and brands are working hard to figure out how this endless stream of pesky bloggers fit into their marketing plans.About those ice swans…
The aforementioned ice swans held a miniature scoop of palate-cleansing sorbet in between courses at our welcome dinner. We did wonder how big their freezer is, to hold all these ice swans, and how much energy the restaurant uses every day to make them. How do you store ice swan molds? One person described it as “old school;” it felt like Frank and Dino and Sammy, or Don Draper, might be at the next table. And to finish the meal…
Our parting gifts were these chocolate sardines from one of our gracious hosts, The Sardine Factory, plus a copy of Cannery Row by local hero John Steinbeck. Since nothing is more annoying than reading about someone else’s free trip, and I couldn’t take all of you with me, I’m giving away the swag. 🙂
By leaving a comment below you are agreeing to the Official Rules, outlined here.
- NO PURCHASE NECESSARY
- Only U.S. residents over the age of 18 are eligible to enter.
- Duration: Friday June 1 through Thursday June 7, 2012 at 5 PM Pacific Daylight Time. SWEEPSTAKES IS NOW CLOSED.
- Leave a comment answering the question to enter. You can receive up to 5 additional entries by doing the following and leaving one comment for each additional item.
- Chocolates may contain gluten and are not vegan.
- The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
- Winner(s) will be selected by random number generator within one day of the sweepstakes closing. Winners have 48 hours to respond to their notification email to claim their prize. If they do not respond, another winner will be chosen by random number generator. All prizes will be awarded.
- We are not liable for technical failures or typographical errors, or resolving identity disputes related to the winner.
- We will obtain winners’ name and mailing addresses in the notification email. Once prize(s) have been mailed we will maintain that information for up to one year but will not use it for any other purpose.
- This sweepstakes is sponsored by DGWB, 217 N. Main Street, Santa Ana, CA, 92701. (714) 881-2412.
VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
- Prize description: One copy of Cannery Row plus one box of milk chocolates, retail value of $22.50.