I spent this past Saturday in a room full of food bloggers, learning about branding, SEO, working with other media outlets, and more. My head is swimming with all the new knowledge we came away with. I feel very lucky that Babette Pepaj of Bakespace and Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen decided to do this one-day workshop during SXSW, and have it be a separate event so us non-badgeholders could attend.
It was a very fun event, and we were all surprised that so much information was packed into such a short amount of time! It was great to see so many of my fellow Austin bloggers and put faces to a few people I’ve only known through Twitter or other platforms. For those who couldn’t be there, I’m going to try to cover as much as what was talked about as possible!
There was a lot of information presented, so I’m going to break my recap into parts. This post will cover the panels Connecting the Who With the What, How to Leverage Traditional Media, and Creating Personal Buzz.
Connecting the Who With the What
Our first speaker was Cathy Brooks, media consultant and producer/host of Social Media Hour. Cathy explained that even though bloggers are using a virtual platform, that’s no reason to not connect on a human level. Static, impersonal posts are boring. We all know this, and often look for ways to jazz up our writing. But substance matters – who are you really? Why does what you’re blogging about matter to you?
Cathy says to think of it as “method acting for business.” You know method acting. It’s forever being parodied in sketch comedies, movies, and breakrooms. “What’s my motivation?” It works for blogging too. Deconstruct your motivation and really think about why someone is going to be interested in what you have to say.
Don’t forget about the rest of social media as well. Blogs are just one piece to the giant conversation bubble. Every platform you’re on, from Twitter to Facebook to flickr, is part of your personal narrative and helps to explain who you are. You should be fully aware of all the angles of yourself that you’re presenting to the rest of the world. Your level of participation is what you feel comfortable with – but don’t forget that everything is searchable.
How to Leverage Traditional Media
Next up was Addie Broyles, food writer for the Austin-American Statesman, Anna Gonzalez, web editor for News8 Austin, and Eric Deutsch, principal of ExcelPR Group, who moderated.
Addie said something right away that many of us in the room completely agreed with – “The Austin food scene is better because we all know and support each other.” The Austin food blogger scene is huge, and not only do we support one another’s endeavors, but we also are passionate about supporting our local restaurants, farmers, and food artisans. I highly recommend getting to know the other bloggers in your town, and the people behind the restaurants as well.
One of the main topics discussed in this section was how to get the attention of the traditional media outlets. As bloggers it’s easy for us to feel like the little guy. But the media is always on the lookout for new content. Put yourself out there. One tip is to create a professional press release to send out to the (appropriate) local media. Provide information about yourself, what your expertise is in, and what you want to do.
If you want to pitch stories to your local newspaper, magazine, or community television station, you need to take the time to understand who you are pitching to. You should not only be keeping track of what they’ve been writing about, but keep an eye forward to what is coming up. Newspapers have about a 6 week lead time for feature articles, and magazines are even longer. Holidays are planned out even more in advance. To you August might not seem the time to be pitching your brilliant new take on Thanksgiving dinner, but that could be the right time for your chosen media connection.
Even if you’re just going to stick with blogging, it’s important to make food stories visual. Enhance the experience for your reader with your how-to posts; bring them closer to your point of view by showing them where your ingredients come from.
Developing your sense of news judgement is also key. Location, uniqueness, timeliness, and audience impact are all factors that need to be considered when crafting a new story. If you know your audience enjoys tacos, just writing about Ortega isn’t going to cut it. Look beyond the obvious and be bold – but keep your sense of self in check.
Creating Personal Buzz
Jaden was next, and she began by telling us about her personal story in building her brand. It was inspiring to hear how she started with an idea and just went with it, being persistent in her goals and achieving them all (except the Angelina Jolie one, she says).
One of her greatest tools is her vision board. After she had decided to start Steamy Kitchen as a business, she sat down and wrote a business plan detailing what she wanted to do. “And it was BORING!” Jaden told us, laughing. Instead of a bunch of words that didn’t mean much more than New Year’s Resolutions, Jaden sat down with a stack of magazines. She cut out images and random words that fit with her goals and created the vision board. She framed it and hung it in her office, so every time she would go in to work, she would see it. It helped keep her focused, and now that she has accomplished her goals, it’s a great reminder of how hard she worked to get where she is.
Jaden says that the more touchpoints you have, the better. Taking small steps with small markets can lead to bigger things later on. Even if submitting recipes for the weekly free paper pays nothing, it gets your name and content out there, and when you feel ready to move on you can point to your past experiences.
Something I found interesting was that Jaden views her cookbook as PR for her website, not as something to make money. The cookbook gets her name into people’s hands, but the website is where she is her own editor. She can write about whatever she wants and doesn’t have to worry about deadlines. “It’s so important to own your own content,” Jaden says.
Finally, Jaden gave us her equation for success:
Expertise + authentic passion + diversity of revenue streams + generosity and community
1) Expertise – Have good content!
2) Authentic passion – We all know when someone truly cares about what they’re pitching
3) Diversity of revenue streams – Don’t put all your eggs in one basket; always be on the lookout for something new
4) Generosity and community – Giving back is key! You’re only as successful as what you give out.
Whew! And this is only a sliver of what was discussed. Look for Part 2 of my recap to be up in the next few days!