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Last Updated 24/03/2016
1. Mad about the house
If you are mad about interiors, then you better visit this blog. It’s got ideas that range from mild to wild and visuals that make you want to redecorate. Author and interiors journalist, Kate Watson-Smyth, uses a friendly, conversational tone that puts readers at the heart of every home.
2. Dear Designer’s Blog
Author Carole King started this blog in 2009 as a way to create her ‘own little library of loveliness.’ The library she created helped her to then start up a digital interiors magazine. The Dear Designer blog remains her first love and boasts an extensive blogroll.
3. The Design Sheppard
Author Stacey Sheppard calls the blog her ‘online home’ and you are invited in. This blog stands out from others on the list for the functional yet beautiful ideas it offers – like for real homes.
4. Design Hunter
Launched in 2009, author Helen Powell’s Design Hunter is now an award-winning design and lifestyle blog with a focus on understated luxury and enduring modern design.
5. Love Chic Living
Author Jen Stanbrook has been busy writing a series about loft conversions and at other times, picking up awards including the Cosmopolitan Magazine’s Best Interiors Blog award! Jen shows off her ‘insatiable love of home decor, interior design and home accessories’ through the blog that first started out in 2012.
6. Fresh Design Blog
The name says it all – it’s a fresh take on interiors. This blog offers ideas and inspiration for the modern and contemporary home and does so keeping costs in mind. Palm reading wallpaper, back to school bargains, geometric coffee cup sets…you get the gist?
7. Abigail Ahern
Recognised amongst design aficionados and devotees, Abigail Ahern’s blog is still one of the most influential interior design blogs out there and is a regular in our Top 10!
8. Sophie Robinson
Sophie has worked interior design for over 20 years and has a wealth of knowledge about the industry. Over the years Sophie has made a name for herself and appeared on BBC2’s The Great Interior Design Challenge.
Featuring an array of different writers this blog features the latest decorating looks to the best new home-improvement ideas, plus new products from high-street stores that will help you to create your ideal home.
This is a blog that picks out the best and most interesting properties on the market. The properties featured on the site are very stylish with stunning architecture.
The fundamentals of working with bloggers are the same as with traditional journalists at traditional media outlets: respect their schedules; take time to read their material to learn their interests; and only contact them if/when they want to be contacted.
Vuelio’s blog ranking methodology takes into consideration social sharing, topic-related content and post frequency. Profiles of these interior design blogs and their authors can be found in the Vuelio Media Database.
Other Blog Rankings
Photo Courtesy of mattwalker69 on Flickr
An interview with Helen Graves on her latest role as the food and drink editor at Londonist. Helen discusses how she juggles her work for the Londonist with her work as a freelance food and travel writer and her blog, Food Stories. Helen also reveals the best and worst parts of her job, Instagram’s rising influence as a social media tool, particularly for bloggers, and why Georgia is the country to visit!
How are you settling into your new role as food and drinks editor at Londonist? Can you describe a typical working day for you?
There isn’t really such a thing as a typical working day for me! I have so many different roles that I’m basically just trying to keep each plate spinning until I go to bed in the evening, which is exactly how I like it. I’m settling into the new role very well though thank you, it’s really exciting to be part of such a great team. I’ve read Londonist for years so I’m really proud to be a part of it now.
I understand that you are also an author and work on a freelance basis writing about food and travel. Can you tell us how that compares and how you juggle your different roles?
As I said, it’s very much a case of just doing what I can each day but I do enjoy the variety. I like that one day I can be cooking and styling, the next planning articles and writing. I think it’s important for me to have lots of different roles on the go as I get bored easily and find routine de-motivating.
You are also a blogger at Food Stories. Can you tell us a little bit about your blog and the motivation behind starting blogging? What makes it different and why should people read it?
Food Stories is a food and travel blog, but it started out as purely a recipe journal. I was reading blogs and I felt like I had something to contribute. I was also working in academia at the time and I needed a creative outlet – badly! I had always wanted to write and cook professionally but I just hadn’t realised and it all sort of came together without my even noticing. Food Stories then changed into something that was very much influenced by the area I was living in, in South East London, so I would see all these ingredients like scotch bonnets, strange fruits, vegetables etc, and start experimenting with them. That’s when it started to become popular – I think people felt like they were on a journey with me. Nowadays I still cook like this, but I’m more influenced by my travels. Every month or so I’m off somewhere else. People should read if they like cookery and travel! I’m also very no nonsense – I don’t take myself too seriously and I think people appreciate that.
How do you find the balance between honest opinion and reviews and the marketing and promotional side of blogs?
Marketing and promotion doesn’t = dishonesty does it?
What do you enjoy the most about your job? What are some of the more challenging aspects?
I enjoy almost everything about it. The cooking, the creativity with photography and styling (which I used to hate), the writing (obviously!). I love the fact that I eat and cook and write for a living! It makes me laugh out loud with happiness. I’m lucky to have met so many great people with who find joy in the same things, too. I can’t deny it’s a wonderful life. There are downsides however, the main one being that people don’t value creative work as they do other work. People will ask me to work for free very often, producing copy, recipes, photography. It’s outrageous. Sometimes they just need to be told to get lost, other times good negotiating skills are essential.
How do you engage your audience? How big a role does social media have to play?
Social media has a huge role. It’s interesting to see how Twitter has changed. At first people would comment often on the blog, and then they tended to respond more often on Twitter. I have my largest following there (+30K), but now Instagram is huge. There are people earning a lot of money for just one picture – nothing else!
How do you work with PRs and marketers? What advice would you give to PR professionals?
Don’t ask people to work for free! The idea that you will send an ingredient then have a blogger produce creative copy, write a recipe, test it, photograph it, style it, edit the photo, and then promote it in their social channels they’ve spent years building up is outrageous. Talk about taking the mick! Those people get very short shrift from me. Also do stop ‘reaching out’. Your arms will get tired.
What type of press material are you interested in receiving?
Anything food and travel related.
Blogger spotlight with Ken McEwen, author of one of the UK’s top motoring blogs, DriveBlog.co.uk Ken spoke to us about the wealth of experience he brings in both PR and motoring that sets his blog apart, best practices for marketers, driving the new Jaguar F-type and the future of motoring.
Why should people read your blog? What makes it different? I bring quite a range of experience to my blog. Over the years I have written about motoring for newspapers and magazines, for ten years I presented a motoring programme on radio and now I have my blog. With a background in business and marketing, I also aim to give an insight into the current and future trends in the industry.
How do you use social media to promote/share content? What are the challenges? I use Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest to promote the posts in my blog and to drive traffic to the site. I also recognise that I don’t have the time or resources to provide a digest of motoring and motorsport news. So, I use Twitter and my Facebook page to provide links to other third party news stories that I think my readers will be interested in. That way people can come to DriveBlog.co.uk as a one-stop source of motoring news. The challenge is to set aside the time to find and share the news on a daily basis.
What can PRs do in working better with you? I prefer pitches to be by email or social media as phone calls interrupt the day job. PR and marketing people need to recognise that I’m really not interested in filling space. A blog is not like a newspaper or a magazine which needs to fill all the editorial space. I only write a post on DriveBlog.co.uk when I have something that I really want to share with my readers – like writing a car review, or writing about the launch of a new model. So, when making a pitch to me, think about what would fire my enthusiasm to post something in the blog.
What has been your blogging highlight? In the last 18 months, the highlight must be driving the new Jaguar F-type. There has been so much anticipation of the spiritual successor for the famous E-type that there was the potential for the F-type to fall short of expectations. It didn’t. Going much further back the motoring writing career highlight was a Ferrari test day at which we were invited to choose from a line-up of about eight different cars parked at the front door!
What will be big in your blogosphere in the coming months? The big issue in the motoring world at the moment is the direction that motor manufacturers take as they strive for ever greater economy and lower emissions. The progress the motor industry has made to date has been nothing short of remarkable. It used to be that a car that returned 30 mpg and emitted 140 g/km of carbon dioxide was good. Now, 40 to 50 mpg is easily attainable in many cars and emissions below 100 g/km are not unusual.
In the run up to Mother’s Day, Cision spotlighted Susan K. Mann, author of Once Upon a Time…, one of the UK’s top mummy blogs. Susan spoke to us about some of the best practices PR should follow when working with bloggers, her thoughts on sponsorship disclosure on blogs and how she uses social media to share and promote content.
What’s new in your blog? I have been trying to include more personal posts and ones I feel will help others. I want other parents to feel that they aren’t alone with the lows of parenting as well and the many highs.
Give us an example of successful brand collaboration. What did you learn from it? I think one of my favourite collaborations with a brand was working with LPG. I learnt a lot about different types of cars and took it on a road trip to London from Glasgow and back. It was a lot of fun and I tweeted about the road trip along the way. LPG came out to the house and explained all about the car, their policies and why they do what they do. I felt supported in something that I didn’t have a lot of knowledge in at the start and had a lot of fun doing it.
How do you use social media to promote/share content? What are the challenges? Social media sharing plays a huge part in blog promotion. I try to spread it across Twitter, Facebook and Google+. I use twitter a lot so that’s easy, I chat on it for hours. My challenge is trying to find the time to schedule between working, spending quality time with the kids and life in general. I try to be organised.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a blog? I would tell them to go for it. Write a few posts to begin with and plan what you’d like to write about. Go with something you are passionate about and have lots to say on the matter. But, you don’t have to stick with the one subject. I blog about all aspects of my life, I have yet to run out of things to talk about. It takes time to build up a blog, look at other blogs on the subject you’ve chosen, pick a theme and go for it. You will make some wonderful friends along the way I know I have. Always be yourself, blog for yourself and don’t try to be anyone else, you are the best you.
How do you work with PR’s? I work with PR’s on reviews, blog posts, talking about brands or items, google+ hangouts and sometimes face to face meeting. Living just outside Glasgow it makes it difficult to get to London often. The internet world makes it easier to keep in touch.
Do you feel bloggers need to be compensated for the work they do? I think this is a personal preference and each item is different.
What do you feel about sponsorship disclosure? I think that a disclosure should be on the blog. I have a disclaimer on my pages and a disclosure policy. I feel this should be the case.
List three best practices PRs need to follow for better blogger outreach? Don’t send emails to everyone and their dog. Use a personal approach and appreciate the work bloggers put in to their posts. If I can’t do things, because I have a lot on at present, it’s nothing personal, but please don’t try to guilt me into it. We have a lot on our plates and juggle best we can.
What will be big in your blogosphere in the coming months? I have nothing major planned as yet. But, that’s one of the great things about blogging, you never know what’s coming up. I do have a blog revamp which about to go live in the near future with a lovely shiny new header.
An interview with Dane Cobain, the man behind the blog SocialBookshelves.com, and a social media marketer at fst The Group, an integrated creative agency. Dane discusses key social media trends, what the World Cup taught us about real time marketing, starting his book blog and his top tips for PRs wanting to work with bloggers.
What would you say are the main trends in social media at the moment? The main thing that I’m seeing is the diversification of social media. There are now so many popular sites available that there’s something for everyone, whether you just want to say ‘yo’ to your friends or whether you want to share your photos and videos on Instagram, your music on Soundcloud or your book reviews on Goodreads. Everything is getting more visual, too. As well as visual-based social networks like Instagram, Vine, Vimeo, YouTube, established sites like Facebook and Twitter are assigning increased important to photos and videos. Finally, everything’s going mobile. I’d predict that the next big social network to make itself known will start out as a mobile app and grow from there.
What lessons do you think can be learned from the World Cup in terms of real time marketing and how can brands take advantage of opportunities? That’s an interesting one, as real-time marketing has been a big thing for a while but the World Cup has broken usage records on both Facebook and Twitter and proved the perfect avenue for brands to try to make themselves heard. I think one of the big lessons is that real-time marketing is no longer cutting edge, it’s simply expected, and if brands don’t participate then they’ll be left behind by their competition. There’s actually a lot of noise out there now and it can be just as difficult to cut through it as it is with regular marketing. I think brands who want to take advantage of real-time marketing opportunities need to plan as much as they can in advance, prepare a ‘war room’ of sorts so that content can be created and signed off as quickly as possible to give them an edge. They also need to assign some budget to paid ads (Facebook’s sponsored stories and Twitter’s promoted tweets spring to mind) to boost the effects of the campaign as much as possible.
What was the motivation behind starting your own blog, SocialBookshelves.com? What makes it different and why should people read it? Part of the motivation was that I wanted a project that I had full creative control over. Quite often, the work I get to do with clients can be fairly restrictive, with a hefty sign-off process. I wanted an outlet where I could just talk to random people about a subject that I loved, without having to worry about the consequences. I also love reading, I always have done, and I do a lot of writing in my free time as well. Starting a book blog seemed to be the best way of sharpening my social media skills and doing something that I loved at the same time. In terms of why it’s different, one of the main things is that the word count of the reviews is the same as the number of pages in the book, so that a short book gets a short review and a long book gets a long one. I also review a lot of books. I’ve released around 250 reviews so far, but I eventually want to catch up with my book catalogue. In around two years’ time, I should have over 1,000 reviews on the site. I also do a lot of vlogging and blogging on top of the reviews, and there are some great author interview pieces up where people can not only read the review but also listen to the conversation that I had with the authors.
As a blogger, how do you find the balance between honest opinion/reviews and the marketing/promotional side of blogs? I find it pretty easy, to be honest. As I’m the only person running the site, I’m just honest in everything that I write. It can be a little bit awkward if someone sends me a book for review and I don’t enjoy it, but I try to be honest when I speak to authors, publishers and PRs by explaining that I’ll be honest either way. I also turn down opportunities if I think I won’t enjoy them. In terms of the marketing of the site, I run a competition once a month which I don’t think really affects the honesty of the site, and I do a lot of networking as well. Again, as it’s my own site rather than that of a client, it’s pretty easy to ensure that I only really bother with stuff that I’m interested in. That said, there have been some awkward moments. I remember trying to avoid getting into an argument with Brian Solis (a well-known social media figure and speaker) because I gave his book a bad review, and I also had a huge backlash when Richard Dawkins retweeted my review of the God Delusion. I’d tried to avoid drawing any conclusions about the nature of god in my review, despite being a staunch atheist myself, but that didn’t stop loads of people arguing with each other and, as a consequence, with me as well!
Do you have any key tips for PRs, marketers and brands when it comes to approaching bloggers with content? Yes, everyone says this, but find out more about the blog. In my case, the best relationships I have are with people who’ve learned the sort of thing that I like and that only approach me when they have something relevant. One of them works for a publishing company and has sent me a dozen books, and I only disliked one of them. A couple of them earned a 10/10 rating, which I reserve for books which have changed the way I look at the world! On Twitter especially, I see a lot of bloggers asking brands for free stuff, i.e. ‘My washing machine is broken, can I have a new one for review?’, and it gives blogging a bad name. As a blogger, I’d be buying, reading and reviewing books anyway. If I accept a free book for a review, that’s only because I otherwise wouldn’t have read that particular book and would have bought a different one instead. I see a lot of bloggers who set up blogs purely to accept free products for review and I’d caution brands to avoid those (it’s usually easy to tell), but also to consider the way that they approach bloggers themselves. As annoying as bloggers can be when they only ever ask for free stuff, brands can be just as bad when they get in touch with bloggers and expect an article about their press release. Brands pay bloggers with product, and bloggers pay brands with their time.
Last Updated 09/07/2014.
The fundamentals of working with bloggers are the same as with traditional journalists at traditional media outlets: respect their schedules; take time to read their material to learn their interests; and only contact them if/when they want to be contacted.
The Top 10 Student Lifestyle Blogs is the latest social media ranking from Cision UK, covering the ten most influential blogs of the education world. Cision’s blog ranking methodology takes into consideration social sharing, topic-related content and post frequency. Profiles of these education blogs and their authors can be found in the CisionPoint Media Database.
An interview with Laura Belshaw, author of the student lifestyle blog, The Confessions of a Professional Drama Queen. Laura spoke to us about the drama that draws people to her site, how she works with brand marketers representing different sectors and graduating and stepping into the job market.
Why should people read your blog? What makes it different? In all honesty? I’m bonkers. Well I think I am…and my bubbly personality shines through my blog. It works for me because I constantly get told how I’ve brought a smile or a laugh to someones face and that my writing style is hilarious. I never thought of myself in that way but to know my crazy self is making people across the globe laugh is brilliant so if you’re looking for a laugh and something unique in blogging, head on over!
How do you work with marketers and PRs? Normally they will email me introducing themselves and how my blog or myself can help them with a product or a campaign. I usually ask them about what sort of things they would wish me to do for them and we come to an arrangement. I tend to have a post up and running with 24 hours of PRs contacting me – I like to be efficient and enjoy it so much that I can never switch off from my blog!
What will be big in your blogosphere in the coming months? Oh tough question.I have more brand collaborations coming up in the future, so stay tuned for that. I have also just graduated and am looking for a career in marketing and PR so that is bound to have a huge impact on the content of my blog. I look forward to writing about the adventure!
An interview with Laura Seaton, author of one of UK’s top mummy blogs, Tired Mummy of Two. Laura spoke to us about the mix of content (including a Christmas tombola!) that makes her site so popular, why finding the right name for a blog is key for new bloggers, the importance of building a two-way relationship with brand marketers…and eating live bugs in a park.
Why should people read your blog? I read so many amazing blogs and see some of the things people write about, the humour they use, the effort they put in. Half the time I sit here late at night and just brain dump my life into the keyboard. There have been times when my blog has been my savior, it has been my counsellor, my best friend and sometimes a complete chore.
What makes your blog different? With so many blogs out there to read, it is really hard to find something that makes yours different. I find that the only thing that you can do is just be yourself. I have blogged about holidays, meals, being fat, watching my daughter go through chemotherapy and going out drinking. Life is varied and I hate being pigeon holed into having to write about just one thing. I am a mum, a wife, a sister, a daughter, an aunty and so much more. I am a best friend, a metal head, an amateur photographer and a lover of crappy films and I want to share it all so why not. I suppose the one thing that I do differently is my huge christmas giveaway. I have run my xmas tombola for three years now and I use my PR connections to gather together loads of prizes to give away. Last year I had over 200 prizes and thousands of entries.
What’s your favourite blog and why? I love so many blogs, in fact I spend so much time reading other peoples blogs that sometimes I forget to write on mine. One of my favourite blogs is The Boy and Me. I love seeing the adventures they get up to and the photos are amazing. I find that the blogs I read the most are from the bloggers who I have met and made a connection with. It could be that we have met at an event, shared a drink at a conference or become friends on social media. Blogging is all about the community and I love it.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a blog? After nearly three years of blogging there are so many things that I would have done differently but the one thing I have always been happy with is the name of my blog. When choosing your name make sure it fits, make sure you will be happy being introduced to people by that name and introducing yourself by that name too. The only other tip – make sure that name is available on all social media channels and the url. After that just blog, write for yourself, write for the love of writing and just enjoy it.
How does a good PR work with you? I love building relationships with PRs and I find it really helps to have these sorts of relationships in place. When a PR needs something reviewed or something to be shared socially then I am more likely to take part if we already have a two way relationship. I work in this way with a lot of PR’s most of whom I approached at some point in the past, usually when I am running a huge giveaway like my Xmas Tombola or when I am doing something for charity. Even if they cant help me they have responded to my email and that is a huge step towards an ongoing relationship. As a blogger I get so many emails and I always try to respond to every single one of them. Sometimes it’s just a thanks but no thanks, sometimes I offer a different way of working together and sometimes I say yes – but the professionalism of actually responding makes a huge difference and is something that I will always recommend bloggers to take the time to do.
What do PRs do that’s bad? This is one of those questions which I think depends on the blogger. A PR is always trying to do their best for their client, they have a job to do and a set amount of time to do it. If that means that they accidentally call me by someone elses name, use cc rather than bcc or even promise something and never fulfill that promise then that’s life. A PR approach will only ever be suitable for some people and if it is not suitable for me then I politely let them know and secure the relationship for a future when the approach is right.
What was your blogging highlight of 2013? 2013 saw my blog become my business, it saw me run my first ever blog conference, it saw me work with some amazing companies as an ambassador and as a consultant and it saw me shortlisted in the brilliance in blogging awards. The highlight of 2013 for me was none of these things yet a culmination of all of them. Blogging is a way of life but it also brings so much to our lives. We have had some unforgettable experiences that money can’t buy through my blog from holidays to days out, meeting celebrities to eating live bugs in a london park. Life is varied, exciting and full on and that is exactly the sort of life I want to be living and sharing with my kids and that is what 2013 was for us.
What will be big in your blogosphere in 2014? The best part of the year for me is the blogging conferences. I try to go to as many as I can, to learn new things, meet more fabulous bloggers and interact with some brilliant brands. The biggest thing happening for me this year is hosting my own conference in May. It is the second conference that I have done but this year it is bigger, better and more organised. I can’t wait to hear the feedback afterwards and to know that I have made a difference, helped someone to learn something or enabled people to connect with a brand that they really want to work with. The buzz on the day is unforgettable and addictive and I can’t wait to feel that all over again.
Editorial information on Laura Seaton, Tired Mummy of Two and thousands of other media contacts and outlets, can be found in the Vuelio Media Database.
How do you measure the success of your website? My blog is fairly new, but it’s exciting seeing the number of unique users going up all the time. There are so many ways to measure success – from visitor numbers to page views and social media shares, but nothing beats getting a nice message from someone saying they love my blog!
What’s your favourite blog and why? I’m a big fan of wedding blog Lovemydress.net and have been visiting daily ever since one of my colleagues’ weddings was featured on the site (and long before I got engaged myself!) The blog features a daily case study on a real-life wedding, including stunning pics and lots of behind-the-scenes info about the day. The blog has recently undergone a huge re-design and looks better than ever.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a blog? Take your time. It’s easy to rush into choosing a title, subject, URL and design for your blog but these things are harder to change later so take time to think about what you want to write about, who will read your blog and what you want to get out of it. Look at other blogs for inspiration and think about what will make your blog unique. I’d also recommend getting a good number of posts on your blog before telling the world about it – this will give you the chance to find your style and having a range of content on your blog will make a better impression on new readers.
How do you work with marketers and PRs? I work in PR myself so I’m very PR-friendly and work closely with professionals in the hotels, interiors and weddings sector. I am especially interested in hearing from PRs who can send me high-res images and organize Q&A interviews about the interior design at cool hotels, spas and restaurants. I’m also keen to hear about any relevant press launches and other events – I live in London where most of these events take place but am also happy to travel to check out new hotels.
Who do you work with in brand marketing? PRs? SEOs? Anyone else? I work mainly with PRs at the moment but am keen to hear from any marketing and comms professionals who think they can help me create great content for my blog.
What can marketers do better in working with you? Personal emails are always nice, but I’m happy to receive press releases as long as they’re relevant to my blog. I also really appreciate it when PRs get back to me quickly, as waiting for high-res images or interview answers can really hold up my blogging schedule! High-res images are also really useful, but in the first instance it’s probably best to send me a link to photos available online so I can check outhe photos are suitable for my blog.
What will be big in your blogosphere in the coming months? I’m looking forward to growing my audience, getting to know other bloggers and building relationships with PRs to spread the word about amazing hotels, beautiful interiors and fabulous wedding ideas!
An interview with UK’s top daddy blogger, Tim Atkinson, author of Bringing Up Charlie. He spoke to us about what sets his blog apart, how marketers can better work with him and taking on the Daily Mail, again.
Why should people read your blog? What makes it different? Opinion, information and erudition! The original dad-blog that just keeps going…
How do you measure the success of your website? It varies. Some individual posts generate huge amounts of traffic; some attract plenty of comments. As long as someone’s reading, I’m happy.
What’s your favourite blog and why? Katyboo’s weblog A ‘little known’ (heaven knows why) parent blog which is just about the best-written of the lot!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a blog? Do it! Don’t think about it, plan it, or discuss it – just get on with it. And read, read, read the rest of us.
How do you work with marketers and PRs? They tend to make a direct approach and if I like the pitch/product, we talk.
What can marketers do better in working with you? Read me. Know I’m not a mummy-blogger, for example!
What was your blogging highlight of 2013? Crossing swords with Quentin Letts and the Daily Mail… again!
What will be big in your blogosphere in the coming months? I aim to take on the Daily Mail, win, then conquer the world.
With the rise of digital media and subsequent growth in e-commerce opportunities, blogs have become a sweet spot for marketers looking to disguise a sales pitch in a personal recommendation or review posted by the so-called average consumer.
In the food industry, bloggers are very much the key influencers, as marketers – be they manufacturers, retailers or restaurants brands – have been quick to appreciate. For bloggers however, is integrity being compromised? Are they running a risk of converting their posts into advertorials and their pictures into billboards?
Cision asked two fantastic food bloggers for their thoughts on whether honest food reviews are a thing of the past:
Photo Courtesy of State Library of Victoria Collections
An interview with Hayley McLean, author of the mummy blog Sparkles and Stretchmarks. Hayley spoke to us about the mix of content that makes up her blog, best practices around working with PRs and comms and attending Brit Mums Live in June.
Why should people read your blog? I put a lot of time and effort into my blog, ensuring there is a good mix of organic content such as opinion pieces on issues that we face as parents as well as informative and detailed product reviews, and fun lifestyle and how-to posts.
I like to think of my blog as an online magazine where people can flick through and find an array of articles to suit their taste.
I make sure all content is well written and try to take extra care with my photography, to really show products in their best light.
What makes your blog different? I think what makes my blog different is the mix of topics covered – I of course like to do all of the usual cutesy posts about life with a baby showing lots of adorable pics and glimpses of family life, but I do also like to keep it real and post about the struggles we all face as mothers. I also like to regularly post humorous light hearted pieces as often as possible – I enjoy writing in a sarcastic style and find these posts to be among my most popular!
What’s your favourite blog and why? There are so many to choose from. I enjoy blogs that make me both envy the writers life as it looks so glamourous but also enables me to relate to them as they show the realness too – one of the best blogs for this is This Little House
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a blog? I’d advise them to make sure that they’re in it for the right reasons. A love of writing is a must in my opinion, and you need to dedicate a lot of time. You only get out of it what you’re willing to put into it. If you’re in it just to get some products to review – it shows and it won’t last long.
How does a good PR work with you? I love to get emails from PR people who make it clear that they have taken the time to look at my blog and make themselves familiar with it – when an email addresses me by name and makes reference to my sons name or age, or a recent post I’ve published then I know they’ve actually bothered to look at who we are rather than just send out a generic copy and paste email.
I think a good PR also discusses expectations from both sides right from the start – when they would like the review/piece to go live by, what they would like to be included, etc – this way there can be no crossed wires and everybody knows where they stand.
What do PRs do that’s bad? The biggest no-no for me is quite simply addressing me by the wrong name! I’d say 50% of the emails I get are addressed to “Helen” or “Hannah” rather than Hayley! This puts me off from the start as if they can’t take five seconds to read my name, they can’t be that interested in working with me!
What was your blogging highlight of 2013? Well all of 2013 was a highlight for me – it was the year I became a mum and also the year I started blogging as my blog began in January 2013! Hitting half a million views towards the end of the year was a great feeling!
What will be big in your blogosphere in 2014? I think the biggest thing for me is attending Brit Mums Live, it’s the first blogger conference I’ll have been to and I’m very excited about it!
An interview with Jo Harris-Cooksley a Londoner who loves the city and blogs about it on SheLovesLondon. Jo spoke to us about the content that sets her site apart from other London-centric blogs, how she works with marketers and more interestingly, what PR and brands can do differently in better working with her and fellow bloggers.
Why should people read your blog? What makes it different? SheLovesLondon.com is different because it’s not about listing or reviewing events, or the attractions, or telling you what’s going on or where you should go. That seems to be what most other blogs about London do, which is cool because we need all that, but mine is about living in London, working there, commuting, the day-to-day strange / funny / area specific stuff that you notice when you’re a renting local muddling along in your routine. I’m celebrating how brilliant London is by making the mundane a little bit more entertaining, I suppose. With occasional dogs.
How do you measure the success of your website? I’d be in trouble if it was money – as I don’t earn anything from it. If a post I’ve put a lot of work into gets shared and subscribers increase, or someone reads one post then sticks around and reads five more – then that’s a success. But single page views on their own, well, I don’t place too much weight on that. Mostly, I call it a success when people tell me that they read my blog and love it, whether that’s in the comments, on Twitter or in person.
What’s your favourite blog and why? One of my favourite blogs ever is Hyperbole and a Half, because it’s hilarious and often talks about quite difficult subjects. But the way Allie tells a story through cartoons and their expressions is so entertaining and even poignant at times – it just sucks you in. Unfortunately, she doesn’t post very often. But when a new one pops up, it’s the first thing I click on in my reader – that’s the sign of a good blog.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a blog? Be realistic about how much time you can devote to it – don’t start out by doing five posts a week if you can’t sustain it. Also, stick at it.
For years. Eventually, if you keep going, readers will come and with them, offers from brands and PRs and SEO companies will come your way – but keep your integrity and don’t be swung by money or offers that doesn’t fit what you do. No one wants to come onto a blog and read sponsored post after sponsored post, or how you “jumped at the chance” to review a pair of socks.
How do you work with marketers and PRs? Very sporadically! Mostly because although I get quite a few e-mails coming my way, the majority are copy and paste jobs, press releases, or just aren’t a good fit. I’m happy without brand input – so basically, if the PR / marketing person e-mailing me sounds like they’ve read my blog (you can always tell) and has a unique, well thought out idea that I can get involved with, or to be honest, if it’s just an excellent freebie I can have fun with and reward myself for time spent hunched over my laptop blogging, then I’ll reply and we’ll start talking. I’m always realistic with time scales, generally I do one post a week – so if I’m going to devote an entire post to one thing or mention something, it’s got to be special, and I’ve got to have tried it first.
Who do you work with in brand marketing? PRs? SEOs? Anyone else? Mostly PRs, or independent businesses / directly with companies themselves. I don’t generally work with SEOs, mostly because they’re usually offering things that I don’t put on my site (“original guest posts” / infographics etc).
What can marketers do better in working with you? Where to start? Tailor your emails, read the blog (past the first page), read my contact page where it says what I’m interested in and what I’m not, get my name right, get my blog name right, follow me on Twitter, say hello beforehand. Don’t pick a random post and say you loved it, that you love my blog, then pitch something irrelevant / ask if I’d like some “original content” on the best places to shop in the west end, for example. Mainly, just put some thought into the approach, I suppose, and talk to me like an actual person without all the insincere marketing chat. That way even if I’m not interested, you’ll still get a reply saying so, and I’ll still open to hearing another idea next time.
What was your blogging highlight of 2013? Definitely getting to “review” the penthouse suite of a four star hotel in Mayfair. I don’t really do reviews that much, so the post ended up being a bit unconventional, She Loves London style. Sort of poking at the way other bloggers write about freebies. Still, the PR was lovely and knew my blogging style, and I would never have stayed in a hotel in London otherwise – so it was an amazing experience and the resulting blog post raised a few smiles too, I hope. It was a success.
What will be big in your blogosphere in 2014? Dogs, probably. Dogs will always be big in my blogosphere.
An interview with Purav Desai, author and co-admin of the technology blog, TeckComesFirst, with inputs from Usman Hussain, founder of the site. They spoke to us about the content strategy in place, working with PRs and why wearable tech is a big focus for them this year.
Why should people read your blog? What makes it different? At TeckComesFirst, we have a “less is more” philosophy. By that I mean, we might not always cover everything in the tech world but we cover the most important news and find niche pieces of content to talk about. The less is more approach is further emphasised by the fact that every piece of content we push out is always well detailed and informative.
How do you measure the success of your blog? Most people would argue that the success of a blog lies in page views and unique visitors alone. While this is important, we see more value in the actual feedback on the particular pieces by our readers. This not only helps us to improve content but also allows people to suggest ideas for future content and helps us to know what we are doing right and what people enjoy reading.
What’s your favourite blog and why? I don’t really have a favourite blog, I frequent a wide variety of blogs and technology websites to learn new things and catch up on product announcements. The one I frequent most is TechnoBuffalo – I really enjoy the level of detail that goes into their reviews and the founder of TechnoBuffalo, Jon Rettinger, was my main inspiration for starting to make tech videos which then further developed into tech journalism. This is the main reason I keep an eye on his work closely to learn tricks and improve my own content.
Usman Hussain: I enjoy reading CNET and MacRumors on a regular basis because of the regular content that is published and the also due to the high quality of videos and images that go with the articles. I also read various tech journalists’ opinions on modern technology, particularly MacRumors.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a blog? I asked this question to David McClelland, a well renowned tech journalist last year and he said “write, write lots.” I would further add to that by saying try and reach out to other blogs and do guest content for them. I’ve done a few guest pieces on other sites myself and it’s not only helped me to reach new audiences but it’s allowed my readers to visit the external sites and discover their content too. For any new reader wishing to start a blog, I would say have a focus and if it’s a product announcement or something, don’t just reiterate specifications anyone can find online, share your own impressions even if you haven’t seen the product in person. Some readers will find worth in your words and opinions alone and you can build a great following from this. As an aside, TeckComesFirst does take guest post submissions and who knows if you’re good enough and if we like your work, you might even become a permanent writer!
Who do you work with in marketing? PRs? SEOs? And how do you work with them? I work with quite a range of PR agencies in order to acquire products to review.
I reach out to them by email or phone.
What can marketers do better in liaising with you? While not everyone will agree, email can be quite frustrating. Not only do you have to reply but you have to keep track and remember to send follow ups if people don’t reply. I know some agencies don’t mind if you call them to speak to them directly but I wish some more agencies would also embrace this idea. Talking on the phone is quick and to the point and you get your answer there and then. Another thing is meeting PR people at events is great because you’re not only able to put a face to a name but you can also remember them better so I would say marketers should try and do blogger events more often if possible.
What was your blogging highlight of 2013? My blogging highlight of 2013 has to be the #TalkToTCFTuesdays interview series I started on TeckComesFirst. As part of this series, a new interview is posted every second Tuesday of the month on the site. I had begun discussing this idea since May of 2013 with Usman and he was very excited about it. I reached out to some companies informing them of my idea and the first one Kaspersky was on board and that became our first interview in August as part of this series. Since then, we’ve managed to do written interviews with companies such as AMD, Cambrionix, Nano Magnetics and BURG to name a few. I’m very proud of the fact that I made this idea a reality and that our readers enjoy the interviews. With every new interview, we have another piece of content to show potential companies our work which helps us to reach people higher up in the company. The highest we’ve gone is Vector Unit’s CEO but who knows, maybe one day we’ll be able to interview the CEO of Samsung, Motorola or HTC.
What will be big in your blogosphere in 2014? I think this year is all about smart, connected wearable devices. Especially with major tech companies getting on board and with rumours of Apple and Google getting into the mix, it will be very interesting to see how these products develop. Oculus Rift is another big talking point, mainly because it was recently acquired by Facebook; there could be another paradigm shift in terms of gaming as we know it depending on the success of this product..
Usman Hussain: I feel that the focus will be on technology in glasses and wearable technology like watches. I’m really interested to see how products such as Google Glass and Samsung Gear evolve and how competitors also bring their own products to the market to compete with existing technology. I’m interested to see how this technology advances and how well it is brought to market.
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