Throw an Unforgettable Influencer Event: Tips from HBO

Amanda Elliott from Windy City Cosmo Talks to HBO about successful influencer events

Anybody can throw a party, but what does it take to throw successful influencer events (like this one, or this one, or oh, yes this party)? Influencer marketing has become explosive in the past few years as brands reach out to essentially digital trendsetters (like me) to drive sales and brand awareness. 92 percent of the marketers who used it in 2017 found influencer marketing to be effective. 

I worked with Zacuto, a production studio in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, to turn my blog into a talk show. For this special segment on successful influencer events, I reached out to two of the organizers behind some of the best influencer events I’ve been to in Chicago.

We talked about what elements make successful influencer events including who to invite, and how to create measurable results from throwing influencer events. The full talk show is at the bottom.

Talk Show Guests:

In the segment, “If It’s Not a Party Did It Even Happen,” I sat down with Courtney Wheeler, HBO Communications Coordinator, who has worked at HBO for 10 years, and found Windy City Cosmo on Instagram. We’ve worked together on four launch parties as I’ve helped connect her with other influencers and shared HBO shows with my audience.

My second guests are some of my favorite Chicago lifestyle bloggers, Once Upon a Dollhouse. Caitlin Jecklin and Danielle Sommerfeld have been documenting their best friend adventures in Chicago and beyond. These digital dolls have worked with several brands to host influencer marketing events. In 2018, one of their biggest clients was Somrus, an Indian liquor. They worked with the brand to create a national campaign to host influencer events in key demographic cities including Austin and more recently, planned an event at Epcot in Orlando, FL.

How To Pick a Venue For Influencer Events:

Courtney Wheeler was part of a team at HBO that put together an epic influencer event in Chicago for Crashing Season 2. She shared her thought process for finding an influencer event venue, “For Crashing – he crashes on a couch. Furniture store. Okay. Yeah, let’s do it.”

The Dolls shared that they like to throw their first party for a brand based on where they come from. So since Somrus is based in Chicago, the dolls brainstormed with the Somrus brand ambassador and then came up with an idea. For one of their parties, the Chicago bloggers threw a pool party on top of The Robey hotel in Wicker Park, which was based off the Mango flavor.

Once Upon a Dollhouse Somrus Influencer Party at The Robey

There Are So Many Bloggers, Who Do You Invite?

This year, I hosted my first successful influencer events. The first was for my blog and the second was an influencer event for a coworking space to announce a partnership with CHANEL. I quickly found that there are so many (good) bloggers to invite. So, I was anxious to hear how other brands go about choosing the guest list for influencer events.

“I’m always on Instagram and I search by region. I search how many followers they have, if they’re engaging – if they take good photos. So, that’s kindof how I came across [Windy City Cosmo],” Courtney Wheeler shared.


Once Upon a Dollhouse takes a different approach because they are influencers and they also represent the brand. On top of inviting bloggers and influencers from their personal network (which is a huge advantage), they also shared, “We also go to other events. So we go to maybe 5 events a week, to be honest. We have fun with them. We get the party started when it needs to.”

Buzz or Buzzed: How Do You Make Sure Bloggers Post:

While it’s great that everyone has a good time at a party – I mean it is a party (not a presentation), sometimes bloggers go to events and don’t post about them. How do you make sure your event gets covered and you generate that ROI? Usually, brands don’t have explicit posting qualifications when inviting bloggers, but they do create Instagrammable moments (hint: the less awkward lighting the better) and hashtags to encourage sharing. HBO and Once Upon a Dollhouse shared their approaches.

“Personally, I’m there so anyone I invite, I make it a point to see them…” Wheeler shared, “I want people to post things before they get drunk.”

The next day, Wheeler sends a follow-up email about the event. A PR firm in Texas, Wellington Group, shared the same sentiments about throwing successful influencer events in this Forbes column about influencer marketing events. 

Once Upon a Dollhouse shared that they have a photobooth, which they create themselves. They take pictures with guests and sometimes run contests.

“It helps that we post a lot and the fun part is we’re going to repost immediately on the brand’s social media as well as Once Upon a Dollhouse. It’s fun for them to tag us and for us to share that with our network as well.”

You can watch the full episode below where we discuss:

How to budget for successful influencer events? (11:00)

You can’t always throw influencer events. How do brands get influencers to engage with their brands in-between events? (13:00)

How do you get invited to influencer events if you aren’t a blogger or press? (16:50)

If someone wanted to plan events for brands, what are some things they need to know? (18:20)

What surprises people the most about your job as an event planner? (20:30)


Amanda Whitfield
Amanda Whitfield

Amanda Whitfield is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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