Alice Judge-Talbot is the author of More Than Toast, a blog that offers a candid insight into what life is like as a single parent. Alice is an open book, sharing every element of her life from the challenges of online dating while mothering two young children to beauty tips, healthy eating and travel. Most recently Alice was hired as a columnist for the Telegraph and has also written for the Daily Mail. In this Spotlight Alice talks about why ambassadorship is the future of bloggers working with brands, her trepidation about joining SnapChat, how she measures success, and why PRs need to understand the value bloggers bring their brands.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what made you start writing your blog? I began blogging in 2009 when I first got pregnant with my daughter. I’ve always been a fan of writing, so it was a natural progression. Parenting blogs weren’t such a big niche back then, you could count how many parenting blogs there were on two hands, it was a really nice small community. At the time, I didn’t know anyone else who was having children so blogging was a way for me to connect with other people.
What’s new on More Than Toast? I’ve just started writing a column for the Telegraph in December of last year, I’d say that’s the biggest thing I’ve been doing in the last few months. The editor found my website and she called me in and asked me if I’d ever thought of writing for a newspaper, and I was like yeah, my whole life. I write for them once a month, and I’ve just written for the Daily Mail. I’ve carved a niche out of divorce, single parenting and dating, so that’s what they’re all about. In terms of what’s new on More Than Toast, I’ve started noticing more brand campaigns, whereas before it was very straightforward sponsored content, I’m working on much bigger projects. I’ve been selected to be an ambassador for brands and I’m starting to do a lot more of that which is so much more interesting as it gives me a better chance of building relationships with brands and understanding what they’re all about rather than just writing 500 words for them.
Why should people read your blog? What makes it different? I think it’s quite funny. With everything I write I always try to include an emotion whether its sadness or happiness and I think that’s what good content does, it will either make you feel happy or sad, it will make you think about something and that’s what I try to do. I make it my goal to create content that makes people think, laugh or make them cry. Sometimes people write to me and say that made me cry or that made me feel sad and those are key emotions, creating an emotional connection.
I also feel that there is a very negative perception of single parents and what I do with my blog and my Telegraph column is to put across my side of the story and make people understand that it’s not all people on benefits and being downtrodden. I think stereotype creates a lot of shame for single parents and they shouldn’t have to carry that burden. If something like my blog existed when I first became a single mother I think I would have been a lot happier going into it than I was.
How do you measure the success of your website? As long as I enjoy doing it, that is success to me, it’s great that it is a commercial concern now, but to enjoy doing it is more important. I enjoy writing and connecting with people and that’s what’s most important to me.
What has been your blogging highlight? I do love the trips abroad, I went to Thailand last year which was amazing. In my blog I write about discovering a part of Thailand I wouldn’t normally go to, but I think the Telegraph column has been a dream come true.
How do you work with marketers and PRs? I have really good relationships with PRs, but it’s always a joy to work with people who enjoy what you do, people who have researched what you do, know your subject matter inside out, and understand the affinity between their brand and your brand, and that’s often missing.
How do you use social media to promote/share content? What are the challenges? I use Instagram a lot more than I used to and I think the way social media is going is very visual, and a lot more video-heavy than it used to be which I’m still trying to catch up with. I think it’s a great way to connect informally with your audience. I know SnapChat is the next big thing, I’ve tried to get into it but I feel like a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to video because I’m used to things that are web based. It’s interesting now when I go to events and I see younger writers there and they’re recording everything and talking to a camera, I’m not sure I could do that in front of everyone.
As for the challenges of social media, I think it’s a very competitive market. Maintaining a big audience, keeping up with the latest trends and knowing where to find your audience is a constant challenge.
What can PRs do to work better with you? I think it’s important to understand the affinity between the brand and the content producer. Recently a well-known brand approached a lot of content producers with a competition and they wanted them to write about the competition, and they expected a post to generate social media coverage but there was absolutely no budget behind it. I think PRs need to realise what clout these content producers have and think about how they can compensate them fairly, it’s getting better but it still happens three or four times a week. If you look at an advert in a weekend supplement in a newspaper which is reaching 40,00 people you would pay six or seven thousand pounds for that but then you look for a blog that has 100,000 unique views a month, brands won’t give them £100 to write sponsored content. It’s completely imbalanced. I think it’s time brands realise how valuable it is to deal with niche audiences.
List some best practices PRs need to follow for better blogger outreach? Again, I would say research the blogger you’re targeting? And who they have worked with previously, follow them on social media, email them, don’t call them. It’s really annoying when bloggers receive unsolicited phone calls and it’s something bloggers talk about a lot.
What will be big in your blogosphere in the coming months? Brand partnerships will continue to move towards more long-term relationships, so there will be a lot more ambassadorships. I’m currently working with Mark Warner, they’re sending me on two holidays this year. I’m also working with another brand on an interiors project which will last a month. I think that this will become more of a trend when it comes to relationships between content producers and brands.
What advice would you give to someone who would like to be a successful blogger? You have to do it for the love of it. People can tell if you’re not. Audiences are a lot savvier than they were before, they’ve got so many blogs to choose from so I think you can tell if someone is doing it for the love of it.