In 2012, Simon Ragoonanan gave up a career as a TV producer to become a stay-at-home dad to his daughter who was then six months old. He was also determined to share with her his love of sci-fi and superheroes – and to make clear that little girls can be interested in so much more than princesses, and that pink is just one colour among many. In this spotlight Simon chats to about why he uses his blog Man Vs. Pink to challenge gender stereotypes, trending on BuzzFeed, why he values building relationships with PRs and why being listed on our top ten parenting ranking is a measure of his success.
Why should people read your blog? What makes it different? I started my blog because there wasn’t a dad blog with my specific angle. I write about being the dad of a daughter, and contradicting negative gender stereotypes I see aimed at girls. I like geek stuff, sci-fi, superheroes and the like, and so does my daughter. But these are still seen as ‘boys’ things. We have great fun sharing our joint fandom via the blog, and I also write about related topics such as girl empowerment.
How do you measure the success of your website? While lots of clicks are great, that kind of data isn’t a true reflection of your worth as a blogger (and can be easily manipulated, so I don’t think anyone should be relying on that as a measure).
Success to me is engaging readers, and especially reaching outside the parent bloggers bubble. While I interact online with many of the parent blogging community, it’s when posts gain traction outside of it I feel I have succeeded.
I remember one message from a mother who told me her young daughter was really upset because a boy had told her that Star Wars was only for boys. But after showing her photos of my daughter dressing up costumes and playing with Star Wars toys, she was happy again.
An additional measure of my success are brands responding to my content and wanting to collaborate with me – and appearing in top 10 lists such as Vuelio’s is another measure for how successful I am as a blogger.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a blog? I have two contradictory pieces of advice. First, be honest with yourself about why you want to start blogging. If it is to monetise your site, that’s fine, and you should work towards that. But if you have different motivations, then remember that too and don’t get too bogged down in stats and the like. It’s very easy to get caught up in the culture of parent blogging, where there is so much talk of opps, ranks, and number of readers.
But also, don’t procrastinate to the point of inertia about starting a blog. I delayed endlessly, worried about my writing, layout of the site, imagery, and branding. It all got in the way from trying to create engaging content. A lot of your questions about what kind of blogger you want to be won’t be answered until you actually start doing it.
Whether you are monetising or writing for the love of writing, the goal is still to reach readers. Work on creating engaging content and staying true to your blogging brand.
How do you work with marketers and PRs? I blog a lot about brands, and when I see a chance to showcase a brand working well in subverting gender stereotypes – or I see an opportunity for us to do that ourselves, I’ll make contact. These can range from action figures, to dolls, video games, and activities. I also get approached for sponsored posts and giveaways. I only undertake these if I feel they can be presented in a way that is relevant to my blog – but the best ones are completely relevant and work as great content for my site as well as promoting the brand. What I don’t do is carry paid links, non-disclosed posts, or anything irrelevant to my brand.
How do you use social media to promote and share content? What are the challenges?
Social media can too often be used by bloggers as merely a driver for blog traffic, but I see all these channels as part of my blogging identity and outlets in their own right.
My main networks are Facebook Twitter, and Instagram. The key is to use each network effectively, as the type of content suited to each is different – although there is frequent crossover.
Brands are increasingly taking a more holistic approach when working with bloggers, seeking out those with good levels of social media reach, engagement, and influence.
The biggest challenge for bloggers using social media is the erosion of organic reach, which is dwindling for many, and how to effectively overcome this. While paid boosts are an option, and many bloggers also operate shadowy cabals of social sharing pods, the best reach is still achieved by creating great content. It’s encouraging all of us to up our game.
What can PRs do in working better with you? I think the most important thing is that they actually look at my blog & social channels. I have ‘About me’ and ‘Work with me’ pages on my blog to aid this for those looking to find out more about me. I get approaches that are clearly not going to be right for either them or me.
Also, keep your promises. If you’ve promised to connect me with a brand, don’t just stop replying to emails if it falls through. If you’ve promised me a sponsored post, don’t forget about me and give it to other bloggers instead. And if you’ve promised to send us a product – or even worse, asked my daughter to choose one to send – please send it. While it’s annoying for me, it’s very disappointing for her – and I’ll be inclined not to work with them again.
I really value building up good relationships, and it’s a shame when this isn’t respected.
What has been your blogging highlight?
We had a viral moment, when a story about us was picked up by BuzzFeed and then went global, with crazy spikes in traffic and followers.
What was great about it from my blogging perspective, was that it was completely aligned with my brand – the story was highlighting how my daughter is happy looking outside the pink aisle for her clothes, toys, and interests. The followers I continue to pick up from that are very engaged in what I share. And it’s kind of cool for my daughter that she was trending on BuzzFeed.
What will be big in your blogosphere in the coming months? My daughter has just started school, so that will change the nature of the content I share. It’s an interesting evolution for parent bloggers as their children grow older. I will continue to develop the way I work with brands, and part of that is networking with other bloggers. I’m part of creating a project to this end, and it is already proving to be very attractive to brands. I’m being deliberately cryptic, so if you’re a brand and want to know more – drop me a line!
What does the Vuelio Blog Ranking mean to you and how does it affect your blog? When there are so many other parent bloggers out there, being ranked by Vuelio is terrific – it’s a sign I am succeeding at creating and sharing engaging content. It’s also a seal of approval from a respected organisation with its own reputation to uphold, so I appreciate the ranking doesn’t come lightly. From a practical standpoint, it also leads many brands who want to work with me my way, and for that I am very grateful.