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December 10, 2010

Food, Courage and Creating Content: Let the Journey Begin

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… by Beth Cochran

When I attended BlogWorld just a couple short months ago, I was working on a new venture that, at the time, was straddling the line between start-up and a viable business. I was glad to be passed the very beginning – the website creation, building an audience, struggling to get all the pieces of the puzzle together, etc. I was finally able to direct my efforts towards refining the content and finding sponsors. But things happen, partners lose interest, and I recently found myself back at the start – unwilling to let my passion die.

This journey, however, has made me realize how much passion goes into food blogging (and any content creation for that matter). So as I take an all-too-familiar trip down start-up road, I figured I would focus this blog post on the process and provide some tips and tools – and hopefully some inspiration – to keep you going.

Just Do It

As Julia Child said “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” Passion is indeed the first step, and it will get you far, but knowledge and the right resources will carry you the rest of the way.

  • Navigate the space – do your research. Is there anyone else out there doing what you want to do? How can you create something different? Find your niche.
  • Establish your presence – get out there and start creating content. There are tons of free tools to get you started:
    • Blogging sites – WordPress, Tumblr, Posterous
    • Social sharing – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, TubeMogul, YouTube, Flickr
  • Curating content – create an editorial calendar with dates and topics, but don’t let this become too daunting of a task that keeps you from creating!
  • Build your foundation – if you don’t have the budget to hire and SEO pro or a designer, there are several free resources to get you by until you can:
    • SEOmoz.org
    • SmashingMagazine.com

“Like Nike says, ‘Just Do It!’ There are so many things that a new blogger will need to learn to make his/her blog readable, more to make it good and even more to make it great,” said Tony Morales, owner of Desert Smoke BBQ and blog. “Nothing can happen until you take that first step so get the basics up, and start writing. Don’t worry too much about it being perfect from the start. Your blog will evolve as you learn.”

Build a Network of Foodies

Surround yourself with people of like mind, and before you know it you’ll start coming up with ideas you never thought possible. Attending conferences like BlogWorld and TECHmunch have proven invaluable. Not only do you learn tricks of the trade, but you build your network (and make several lasting friendships) and see what others are doing. It’s a great way to keep your thumb on the pulse of the foodie/content creation movement.

Don’t forget to explore the digital space too. Food is a universal language. Technology allows us to see, hear and in some cases interact live with food creators from all over. We are now able to be a part of “Chili Takedowns,” or learn how other foodies taught themselves to smoke fish or make gourmet chocolates (FoodCurated.com), swap recipes on BakeSpace.com, or see the crazy brisket tacos being served up by the Taceaux Loceaux artisan truck in New Orleans (VendrTV). Yes, it’s a lot of work, but take a cue from these fearless content creators and start living your passion…it will pay off.

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” – Julia Child

Beth Cochran (@BethCochran) is the founder of FoodTVLive.com, a live stream culinary show network, and Wired PR, a Phoenix-based public relations agency.

Bonnie Harris on Traditional versus New Media (part 2)

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Yesterday, I posted the first part of an interview with Bonnie Harris on traditional versus new media. Here’s the rest of that interview – some can’t miss information about new media in a world that comes from a different perspective. Check out part one before continuing with the rest below:

Allison: What are some of the differences between what most bloggers doing and how corporate blogs should be run?

Bonnie: I see a lot of blogs that look like they’re just hobbies of someone at the company. They don’t seem to have a strong mission, voice or purpose. Maybe someone likes to write and this is an outlet for that…that’s fine if there’s time for such an activity. I think, however, that without goals that translate to business goals (more revenue, better customer service, etc), most blogs just die.

I also see new blogs that are much too ambitious in the beginning. Unless you have the budget to do a big blog launch, no one will read it for a while. A couple posts a week by a problogger will work just fine to help build some archived content. Get a rhythm going, and a process, get your writing team and editorial guidelines established. THEN worry about great content, headlines, and search. I think most corporate bloggers do it backwards – they’re all gung ho to write the next Copyblogger when really they need to be managing all the components of a blog. Writing is just one piece of it.

Allison: What tips do you have for working with a team of professions at a company who all have access to the blog and social media accounts?

Bonnie: Again, think of the blog like a project. Have editorial guidelines, a calendar of blog posts, a clear mission and goals, and some frequency/content guidelines as well. You’ll find that some people are much more enthusiastic than others. Try to coach and train those people, and don’t worry so much about the folks that don’t want to contribute often. Blogging and social media aren’t for everyone, and you can’t force it. Having said that, if there are guidelines and a clear process, you’ll have a much easier time than you think.

Allison: For those who are interested in introducing blogging and new media to their managers/bosses/clients, what are some of the recommendations you have for helping them convince these old school marketers to get on board?

First of all, I would hesitate using the term “old school” – I think we need to blend new media and traditional tactics in order to be successful these days. Categorizing something as “old school” once again implies that it’s not as good or not as effective.

I do a lot of pilot, three month projects. Then I knock it out of the park during those three months.  And I ask THEM what goals they would like the blog to achieve…with some coaching from me of course. Maybe it’s more traffic to their product sales page. Perhaps they’d like to recruit influencers in the industry to write on the blog.  Most bloggers don’t do a good job of defining goals from a business standpoint. They don’t have to be aggressive goals, you just need to show progress against them. Again, it’s  about understanding how to justify this activity from a business perspective. Most of the time, I hear the person championing a new blog as saying something like “it’s the new way of marketing” or something vague like that. Those kinds of justifications won’t work with someone who has to manage your time and a budget.

Thank you so much for sharing all this valuable information with us, Bonnie. Readers, remember to check her out at the Wax Marketing blog and find her on Twitter!

Raiding the Pantry for Fresh Food Content

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… by Hilary Allard

Everyone talks about content. You know you need it – but when and how to create it? For many people, the prospect of adding “content creation” to their to-do lists is overwhelming.

Luckily for people in the food business, there are a wealth of simple ways to use what you already have on hand and easy ways to turn the things you do on a daily basis into meaningful content.

Consider the following:

Recipes

It’s not enough to put a product on the shelf – you have to help consumers understand how to use it. Whether your product is a gourmet ingredient or a kitchen appliance, gather your best recipes – from employees, friends, neighbors or mom – and share them on your blog. Showing customers how to use your product will help them make it an important part of their daily lives.

Think about seasonality when posting your recipes. Do you have tried-and-true favorites that are perfect for Thanksgiving or Valentine’s Day? What about best uses for all that extra zucchini in August or ideas for a Fourth of July barbeque? Map out a calendar of occasions and slot in the recipes you already have on hand. Before you know it, you’ll have a year of content in front of you.

Check out these holiday recipes and entertaining tips on Victoria Gourmet’s blog.

Instructions and Tips

No matter what your product, you will inevitably get a broad range of consumer questions. By sharing content that addresses your most commonly asked questions, you can raise customer satisfaction and put a human face to the brand.

Posting an instruction manual isn’t exactly compelling content. But what about augmenting your existing product instructions with a series of photos that show how that pie should look in the stages of being made, or a quick Flip video of how to lock the lid on your company’s food processor?

Don’t forget the tips that your customers send you. They can often provide insights into product uses or challenges that you may not have thought of. As a courtesy, ask first before sharing online.

Wilton Cake Decorating shows their expertise through a robust YouTube channel with instructions for cake decorating from the basic to the advanced.

Testing, one, two, three

The next time you’re in the test kitchen working on a new recipe, grab a few shots and upload them to your Flickr or Facebook page. People love seeing “behind the scenes” activity. Ask consumers what they think about the recipe idea. Is this something they’d like to try? What suggestions do they have for improvement?

Are there other food-related activities you are doing that you should share? Everyone complains about those who tweet about what they had for lunch. But what about a company potluck where everyone brings a dish made with your products? This could be a source of ideas and inspiration for your customers.

And where are you eating, anyway? If customers look to you as a food expert, they will undoubtedly be interested in your latest restaurant visit. Maybe not the sandwich you had for lunch, but maybe that dinner you had at a new Chicago hotspot on a business trip.

For inspiration, look to Martha Stewart who does a great job of blogging about relevant information related to her ventures, including cooking and dining out, complete with great photos.

Hilary Allard:
A Vice President at The Castle Group, a Boston-based public relations and event management agency, Hilary has extensive experience working with CPG, housewares and multi-unit restaurant companies. She works closely with her clients to develop successful media relations strategies and social media programs. An avid homecook, she writes a personal food blog. You can find her at http://slicedanddiced.wordpress.com, http://thecastlegroup.wordpress.com, and http://twitter.com/hallard

Tips for Proposing a Panel for BlogWorld 2011

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Believe it or not, we’re already experiencing a rash of inquiries as to when we’re going to open up BlogWorld ’11 for speaker proposals. We’re working on firming up the dates and getting all the little details in place so that we can give you all a chance to pitch a talk. In the meantime, many of you are also asking for tips for successfully submitting a proposal.

Many potential speakers prefer to submit proposals for panels for a variety of reasons.

The benefits of a panel include:

  • Newer speakers are more confident when others are contributing.
  • There’s no lag in the conversation.
  • Each panelist can present a different point of view.
  • The ability to learn from several different experts.

Of course, if the panel isn’t prepared or doesn’t have the right chemistry it can present a whole other set  of problems.

If you are hoping to pitch a panel when we open up for speaker proposals, these tips will help to put you in our good graces:

  • Make sure everyone on the panel is knowledgeable about the topic: Each and every person sitting on the panel should know what they’re talking about. Attendees pay good money to come to BlogWorld to learn. Those on a panel should be able to share and teach with confidence.
  • Make sure everyone on the panel agrees to being on the panel BEFORE you submit your proposal: Don’t mention a big name panelist in the hopes of getting your proposal accepted. If you pitch a panel and some or none of the panelists have any intention of coming to BlogWorld, we’ll probably not want to work with you again. Have panelist approval in writing before you pitch and tell us they’re onboard.
  • Don’t create a panel just to get your friends into BlogWorld: Don’t make up a panel of only friends, just so you can all get a free ticket to BlogWorld. We want experience and wisdom. Private jokes and conversations turn off attendees, and if your panelists don’t know their stuff they’ll quickly clear a room. Plus, after a year or two we start to wonder why you ask the same people to talk with you each year.
  • A balance of men and women would be nice: You don’t have to invite members of the opposite sex on to your panel, but we appreciate a balance of perspectives. Also, as mentioned in the past, we’re interested in good content more than anything else. However, we do like to see both men and women on panels. Besides, a diverse panel means a diverse audience.
  • Have an opposing point of view on the panel: A panel where everyone agrees is boring. When choosing your speakers, invite someone to play devil’s advocate. This way you’re presenting all sides of the issue and your audience will appreciate a fair and balanced representation.
  • A maximum of three panelists and one moderator: Too many panelists mean disorganization, people talking over each other, and a crowded dais. This year, BlogWorld is requesting that those pitching a panel include no more than three panelists and one moderator.
  • Make sure everyone will be able to prepare ahead of time: If a panel is unprepared and disorganized, we’re basically ripping off our attendees who came to learn. Unprepared speakers usually aren’t asked back again.

A panel, first and foremost, should contain an informative mix of expert opinions. It shouldn’t be an ego fest, a bunch of arguments or people trying to talk over each other.  Folks appreciate panels because of the different perspectives presented. However, if the wrong people are chosen for a panel, it can have the opposite effect. Please choose your topic and fellow panelists with care.

Do you have any questions or comments about submitting a speaker proposal  – for a panel? Please share in the comments.

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