Earlier this month, I had the incredible opportunity to speak at the Food Blog Forum in Atlanta. The forum was created by Jaden and Scott Hair of Steamy Kitchen and Todd Porter and Diane Cu of White On Rice Couple. Gwen Pratesi, of Bunky Cooks, helped to bring the forum to Atlanta and served as the local organizer. The organizers and presenters packed a lot of information into the day. Of course, the food was great and the company was even better. I met a lot of talented food bloggers and photographers. I also had the chance to talk shop with other people who are passionate about social media and the ever-evolving opportunities in this field.
I spoke on a panel with John Kessler of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and James Andrews (a Managing Partner of Everywhere, the firm I work for.) We shared our tips for working with media outlets and brands. John shared insights on how bloggers can partner with, and write for, media publications. James and I gave advice on how bloggers can effectively work with brands and navigate the FTC guidelines. We also shared our opinion that, these days, bloggers are media companies of one; they are the publishers and the talent. Bloggers are brands.
Next, Alisa Barry of Bella Cucina and Virginia Willis spoke about power of personal branding. They shared tips on refining, building, and protecting personal brands. In the afternoon, Todd Porter and Diane Cu of White On Rice Couple led two sessions on food styling and photography. I’m exploring digital photography and it was such a pleasure to learn from this talented and dynamic duo. Throughout the day, Jaden shared tips on blogging, branding and monetization. Scott Hair, a former trainer at Anthony Robbins seminars, kept the crowd energized with words of motivation and inspiration.
A lot of information was shared during the Forum, so I wanted to share 10 take-aways from the day. These tips come straight from the collective wisdom of the panelists and participants.
1 . Dream big.
2. Think of yourself as a brand.
- Define and refine the essence of your brand.
- Whether you’re talking to an audience of 4 or an audience of 4000, remember that you’re talking to an audience.
- Sometimes you have to say “no” the wrong opportunities so you can say “yes” to the right ones.
3. When in doubt, disclose. Protect yourself (and the brands you work with) by following the FTC guidelines. Sites like DisclosurePolicy.org can help you get started with creating a disclosure policy for your blog.
4. Leverage every opportunity. Get your foot in the door and use every experience to climb higher. For example, after Jaden launched Steamy Kitchen, she began writing articles for a small local newspaper. She parlayed that experience into writing a food column for the Tampa Tribune. From there she’s gone on to write for Discovery Health, publish a cookbook, and appear on Daytime Show.
5. Diversify, diversify, diversify.
- Diversify your skills. The more skills you have, the more valuable you are.
- Diversify your platforms. Learn to create content for multiple platforms. Think blogs, books, newspapers, radio, podcasts, TV…
- Diversify your streams of income. The more streams of income you have, the more value you can create for yourself.
6. Network and build relationships. Establish and nurture relationships with bloggers, brands and marketing agencies. These relationships will help you learn, grow and discover new opportunities.
7. Play to your strengths.
- Do you have a talent for photography like White on Rice Couple? If so, share photographs on your blog.
- If writing isn’t your strength, consider video blogging.
8. Invest in yourself.
- Invest in the right equipment and, more importantly, the right education.
- Take time to create and publish content on a regular basis.
- Work with talented designers to create (or update) your logo, blog and marketing materials. (Note: I’m a fan of Gaius Benbow. Jaden worked with Purr Design to revamp Steamy Kitchen.)
9. Find a need. Fill a need. Everyone is an expert on something. What knowledge do you have that others lack? What information can you share that might help someone else? Find a need in the marketplace and look for ways to address that need.
10. Start now. And by “now,” I mean 10 minutes ago.
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