I can already hear the sound of gears.
“Blog Festival? What exactly is a blog festival?”
Well, guys, this weekend I spoke at Blogstock, the world’s first blogging festival, and I can tell you it was awesome.
There are many conferences held for bloggers from all walks of life. These are places to meet other bloggers, network with industry professionals, and attend sessions to learn more about blogging. There are usually sessions on everything from writing, photography, SEO, blog growth, social media, and even turning your blog into a business.
These conferences are always great, but they can also be a little stuffy. Blogging is a fun, young, and creative industry, so holding a formal conference in a boring place doesn’t seem right. This is why Blogstock was so great.
Blogstock was very much like a music festival, with different tents set up for different “acts.” There was a large marquee, tipi, discussion tent, fashion gallery tent, and smaller tents for sponsors and to tell the fortunes of travel blogs. See, I told you it was amazing.
I was compiling notes for a lecture on Friday, so I was late and couldn’t attend Friday’s session. Boo boo. We arrived just in time to have some Thai food and drinks and settle into our tents before it started raining. Thankfully, the rain didn’t dampen our spirits and the party continued into the night.
Saturday at Blogstock
The Power of the Niche
The first session I did was “The Power of the Niche” by ReeRee Rockette from Rockalily.com. For years people have been telling me how important niches are in blogging, but during this session it suddenly sank in. The blogging market is saturated, so it’s important to specialize in something that will grab attention.
ReeRee gave lots of examples of how niche bloggers are shaking it up and cited the old quote, “If you stand for everything, you stand for nothing.’
Key takeaway: Having a niche is very important in order to become an expert in a particular field. You can’t be an expert in everything, so stick to one main interest and become good at it.
Tell your Travel Blogging Future
This was a one-on-one with Steve Keenan and Andy Jarosh. It was really kind of fun for them to look at my blog and predict where my blog would go in the future. They expected me to travel less, perhaps more within the UK, and more with my dog. It’s a good time. Oh well, it looks like my next trip will be to Sudan. Hmm. I won’t tell your mom about that!
Key Takeaway: When we asked Steve and Andy how they think you can grow your blog, the clear answer was video stay tuned!
From Blog to Business
This was a session with the wonderful Rosie Slosek of One Man Band Accounting. If anyone is thinking of turning their blog into a business, they should check out this entire website. Rosie talks about accounting like a real person. She doesn’t make it complicated or scary and is 100% honest.
Key takeaway: Track all your expenses. Take a photo of your receipt and save it to Evernote so everything is in one place.
How to work with Fashion PRs
I attended this session with Emma Hart from Push PR to find out how fashion PR and travel PR differ. Simply put, it’s not. Emma seems to receive hundreds of unsolicited emails from bloggers every day, so it can be difficult to get on her radar.
Key takeaway: Push PR for professional, trustworthy, and quality bloggers. They prefer building long-term relationships with bloggers. This will make it easier for everyone involved, because once you prove your worth, you’ll get a good result.
Join the Vlogosphere
This was my favorite session because I wanted to know more about video blogging. Ceara McEvoy is a South African video blogger based in London who creates really fun and unique videos.
She talked about how much work actually goes into her videos (almost 3 days per video). She spends hours planning, filming, and editing hers, and finding the perfect soundtrack can take her all day. She won’t release the video until it’s perfect. You can tell by looking at her YouTube channel.
- If you’re looking for a camera for video blogging, Ceara recommends the Canon G12 because of its quality and flip screen.
- If you have more budget, she recommends the Canon 5D Mark II. <-She passed out. My birthday is in October, could someone please buy it for me? Ceara uses a Canon 7D, but admits that she would use a Canon G12 if she wasn't producing videos professionally because it's heavy and bulky.
- She uses Final Cut Pro X for editing. It’s quite expensive at around £200, but it’s obviously similar to iMovie (but a million times better), so it’s a really good place to start with iMovie before you invest.
- If you want to record audio for your narration, put a jacket or blanket over your head and record using your cell phone. This will stop the annoying echo-like sound. Then use Final Cut Pro to easily sync sound to your video.
- Use Fun Squirrel to download cool fonts and add text to your videos.
- When you have someone photographing you, have them stand in front of the camera and have everything ready. You put your camera on a tripod and your friend is basically there just minding the camera.
Working with Travel Brands and PRs
Thank you so much for chatting with us about @TheTravelHack in @fashgalleries tent on @Blogstock_UK. There was a v.popular session! pic.twitter.com/W4OGMycOjf
— Sarah Betty Andrews (@sarahbettystyle) August 10, 2014
And finally, let’s talk about cooperation with travel brands. This is something I’ve been doing for a few years now, so I felt very comfortable giving the talk and actually had a lot of fun.
I work with brands and PR in a variety of ways. This includes full press information on travel, flights, hotel reviews, product reviews, brand ambassadorships, and more. If you’re not sure, a PR is someone who works in the public relations department. I know this is an oversimplification (sorry!), but PR fundamentally works on a brand’s public reputation. They are trying to get their brand in the public eye and help us see it in a positive light.
My first tip is that if you’re blogging to get “free vacations”, this is the wrong way to go about it. Business travel for journalists is not a free vacation. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a lot of fun and a great opportunity to see new destinations, but it’s not a vacation. If you want to find a way to finance your trip, honestly, you’re better off getting a part-time job at Tesco and using that extra income to fund your holiday.
You can see my Prezi slideshow here: How bloggers can work with Travel Brands and PRs
It probably doesn’t make much sense without me being confused. So here are my top tips:
- Network as much as you can. It’s all about who you know, and most people prefer to meet you in person before working with you so they know you’re someone they can trust and trust.
- Blogging really changed for me when I started attending networking events and going out and meeting brands and PR. Visit Travel Massive, Blogstock, TBU, TBEX and network with brand managers and PR via Twitter.
- Keep your pitch clear and concise, and include blog statistics like monthly unique views and social media followers.
- Just like during a press trip, there will be a lot of work to be done before and after the press trip. Plan your posts before you leave so you can take all the right photos and notes. There’s nothing worse than coming home and realizing you didn’t take an important photo or forgot someone’s name.
- If your blog is new and doesn’t have many readers, try writing for other blogs that qualify for travel and press discounts. It must provide a strong ROI (return on investment) for the brand. This basically means getting your content in front of as many people as possible.
- My talk was held in a fashion gallery tent with the aim of showing fashion bloggers how they can work with travel brands. Here are four examples of fashion and lifestyle bloggers who are shaking up the travel blogging world:
- park and cube
- passport and bikini
- blonde salad
Yes, I coordinated the yellow boots.
We then asked a group of PR and travel brand representatives two questions:
- What do you look for in a blogger?
- What would you like to see in a pitch from a blogger?
Please see my presentation for a more detailed answer. However, the general gist of it is as follows.
- The first thing to remember is that even if the PR really wants to work with you, they still need to convince the client (hotel, airline, etc.) that you’re a great person. Make their job easier by providing an engaging, easy-to-read media pack with case studies and statistics that demonstrate the great results you deliver.
- Most PRs rely on word-of-mouth recommendations from other industry professionals. Remember, they’re all chatting and networking just like bloggers, and are happy to share their contact information if you want. This means that if you do a good job with one brand, you are likely to get more opportunities.
- PR wants bloggers to show their individuality. Trek America’s Haley said the brand already has copywriters, and what they really need is personality and first-hand experience.
- They like to see your popular posts to understand what their audience is responding to and make sure it’s in line with their brand.
- Most PRs understand that social media engagement is more important than follower count. A blogger may have 10,000 followers, but if no one interacts with them, it means no one is listening. Another blogger may have 2,000 followers, but almost all of them reply, chat, ask questions, and read his posts. Which blogger do you think they will choose?
- Speaking of followers, don’t buy them. PR isn’t stupid either. They will know if you bought followers and will never work with you again.
- (I can already hear you saying, “Buy followers? I didn’t know you could buy followers!?” Yes, you can, but they’re not real. A ton of fake accounts will follow you, and it’s really pathetic. This is an attempt to make it seem more popular than it actually is.)
- Daniela from Kallaway PR made a very interesting point when she said she was looking for bloggers who were “client friendly.” This means people who are interested in the destination and are willing to have dinner with the hotel manager or someone from the tourist office.
- Tryphena from Brighter PR likes looking at case studies from previous trips. You don’t necessarily have to work with a travel sponsor. It could even be a weekend trip to Paris. But she needs to see the type of content you produce and the results (page views and social media reach) before deciding if she wants to work with you. This is especially important if you’re in a niche that you don’t blog about, because brands will want to see if you can blog about your travels in a way that fits their style.
I mentioned a blog post that everyone should read: “Dear Bloggers, Love a PR” by Tryly English. I also shared this in my weekend reading. That’s because this is a very honest post and a great way to see things from the other side of the fence.
That was my weekend at Blogstock.
Thank you to Paul Dow, Michael Ball and Ruth Haffenden for organizing such a great event. Thank you to Sarah from Fashion Gallery for inviting me to speak. And a big thank you to Hertz for providing us with a gorgeous bell tent that kept us warm and (most importantly) dry all weekend.
A big thank you to Paul for allowing me to use the image above.
If you visit Blogstock, what are the highlights?
If you work in PR or brands, is there anything you would add to the list of how bloggers and brands can work together?