Last year “Party princess” Zoe Griffin, the Sunday Mirror’s “youngest and hottest columnist”, took the brave step of leaving her position as the paper’s showbusiness columnist to become a fulltime blogger.
Now one year later she managed to get into Cision’s UK Top 10 blog ranking: Celebrity blogs
We caught up with Zoe to talk about celebrity journalism, social media and the expectations she has on PRs.
1. Who was the last celebrity you met and where did you meet them?
Today I interviewed Jennifer Aniston at Harrods as she was promoting her new fragrance. Forget fancy names, her Eau de Perfume is called Jennifer Aniston.
2. The title of your blog is “Live Like a Celebrity”. Is this a serious recommendation?
Hell yeah! Who wants to live like a beggar? If you live like a celebrity you have your pick of the world’s best fashion, make- up and travel destinations and you get lots of stuff for free.
Be like a celebrity by reading my blog and finding out what the celebs do and where they hang out. Then loving yourself enough to do the same.
3. When you were working at the Sunday Mirror you were billed as the “youngest, hottest columnist out there”. Was that a curse or did it help your career?
I was 24 when I started the column so I was the youngest columnist. It is a blessing to be the youngest and the hottest columnist. Who wants to be old and ugly? It meant I was constantly on my toes and had high standards because if I slipped up and started looking tired and rundown, it would be clear I didn’t deserve to be called hot any more.
But hot isn’t just to do with looks – it’s about delivering scorching hot gossip. There’s a lot of pressure to do that and I thrive under pressure.
4. What was the reason for leaving the safety of the Sunday Mirror’s safe employment to become a fulltime blogger?
I look at my career as a long term thing. I’d had two great years at the Sunday Mirror but I couldn’t see where it was leading. I couldn’t see myself moving into features or news.
What I enjoy is going out and getting stories and writing about them, and being a blogger you get to do that and see some sort of career progression as your site gets more traffic and thus more revenue. I like a challenge!
5. What was the main motivation that made you move from print to blog?
If I could afford to make a magazine myself then I would do. However, a blog is free to set up and run and I can always expand into print at a later date, which I may well do.
However, for now I am happy with a blog because the gossip I can give people is instant. I don’t have to wait for printers to print it and people to distribute it. For example, I met Jenifer Aniston at Harrods at 2pm and it was on my site at 3.30pm.
6. How has your journalism changed since you became an entrepreneur/freelancer?
I have higher standards now I am an entrepreneur. If I mess up I have nobody to blame but myself. So I am super careful and check everything I write so I don’t get sued. And I work harder to get stories because I only get visitors to my site (and therefore revenue) if I get the best gossip.
7. What is important to run a successful blog? How are celebrity blogs different from other types of blog?
You have to have a subject that people are interested and can engage in. People like to feel they have a shared interest and that they can go to the blog and know they’ll get what they like. Whether you have a music blog, a blog about soaps or a blog about bird watching, you have to give people stories about the subject that interests them and go the extra mile to communicate with them via Twitter and Facebook.
8. Do you think that social media has changed celebrity journalism?
Social media has definitely changed journalism. If people don’t like something they can comment immediately. This means celebrity journalists have a lot of pressure to deliver what the audience want. Also, there is a rise in citizen journalism. If people see a celebrity they can take a photo on their phone and put it on Twitter straight away. This actually helps celebrity journalists as it means the stars cannot hide! The truth will out.
9. How do you see the future development of social media and celebrity journalism?
As social media grows there will be more blogs instead of printed gossip columns and magazines. I’m in the privileged position of being one of the very first celeb blogs in the UK but I reckon I’m going to have a lot of competition very soon.
10. How do you use social media in your work?
Social media is very important. As soon as I write a story, I tweet about it with a bitly link. My Google Analytics software shows that a lot of click throughs from my site come from Twitter.
I also use Twitter and Facebook to publicise the competitions I do on my site.
11. How do you interact with Public Relations professionals? What do you expect of PRs?
PRs call me or email me to invite me to events where I will get a story and in the story I mention the reason the party is held. Or PRs just give me a story about a celebrity in relation to the product they are plugging without me needing to go to the event first. I need stories, they need mentions of their products, and we find a happy medium without the story looking like a press release.
Half of my stories come from PRs and half (the better ones) come from my good network of contacts such as friends of celebrities or hotel workers.
12. You also use less known social media tools like Yahoo! Buzz on your blog. Why?
All social media is important if it gets more people seeing your blog. If it just attracts one person extra to the site it’s worth it as that person will tell all their friends about it. You can never have enough social media!
13. Which social media tool do you consider as the most important? Which one has the biggest potential?
At the moment, Twitter is the most important as people can click through to the blog. With phone apps, people are on Twitter constantly so they can see when you update.
Facebook is also good, but it’s not as mobile as Twitter and people use Facebook for different reasons, not just to get gossip.
Twitter can attract new users, whereas Facebook just keeps you in touch with ones you already have.
14. Did you ever find a celebrity in an embarrassing situation?
Charlotte Church broke her dress at The Dolce Vita Christmas ball one year – I had to help her mend it in the toilets.
Mischa Barton did an interview with me while she was on painkillers. She’s slurring her words, which is embarrassing for her!