Friday, May 24, 2013

Attempting to find my voice at Kidspot's Voices of 2013 Masterclass

I find this little ol' blog of mine is an ever evolving beast. What began as a space simply to share my scrapbooking layouts with family, has become so much more. Over the last couple of years, I have been endeavouring to find my voice. To make this blog reflect who I am. I think I'm definitely headed in the right direction. If I ever stop trying to improve how, why, and what I blog'll be time to close the doors.
Last Saturday, I attended the first Kidspot Voices of 2013 Masterclass, with a view to inject some extra enthusiasm and passion into my blogging. While I was nominated as a Voice of 2013 (thank you lovely readers!), I really wanted to find out what more I can do to lift my game, and one day become a finalist.
The Masterclass was held at Megan Morton's The School; housed in the same warehouse complex as Koskela, and Kitchen by Mike, Rosebery NSW. For me, the venue for any blogging event is just as important as the content. It sets the tone of the day. You want to feel like it's going to be a special experience, and Kidspot picked the perfect spot. This is my kind of place! Inspiring, urban and eclectic. I wish I had more time to explore Koskela, but I suppose that gives me an excuse to return!
Gratuitous food shot --> before the Masterclass began, my bloggy buddy Tina and I had a bite to eat at Kitchen by Mike. Casual dining at it's absolute best. That salad was amazing...just simple ingredients, but perfectly combined. I'm going to try to recreate it at home!  I so wish Wollongong had fab cafes like this...perhaps they exist, and I just haven't found them yet?
Blogging events are a great way to meet the person behind the profile photo, to catch up with friends, and to make new ones! Belinda and I have been friends since high school, and with life getting in the way as it does sometimes, we haven't had the opportunity to see each as often as we'd like. Belinda began her own blog last year, The Hungry Mum, were she blogs her delicious recipes, and photos that will have you drooling! It was so lovely giving her a big hug! As a new-ish blogger, Belle enjoyed the Masterclass immensely, and took loads away from the content of the day. I'm so happy our friendship has stood the test of time, and we can now enjoy it on another level through blogging.
Onto the Masterclass...

Keynote speaker: Hailey Bartholomew
"It's not about ideas. It's about making ideas happen."

Hailey's talk was beautiful, and she had me captivated from the very first word. Hailey shared her story, and what led her on the path to becoming an award-winning photographer and film-maker. It's very rare to find a person who has as much passion for their work as Hailey does. Hailey's short film "Picket Fenced-In" was such a wonderful piece (I may have welled up with tears of joy), and while Hailey said she could see all the flaws in her film, it gave me an insight to the type of woman she is...passionate, creative, and dedicated. Truly, dedication is an understatement...she is currently working on a project that is over 9 years in the making! (The only project that has taken me that long, just turned 10 this week...his name is Seth. lol)
Hailey spoke of writing down your goals, working towards them, loving what you do, and never giving up.  Each slide reinforced these words...deeply resonating with much so, I had to draw up a little word picture to hang near my blogging space to remind me.

Panel 1: Blogging 101 - the nuts and bolts
Convenor: Pip Lincolne (Meet Me At Mikes / justb.)
Panellists: Rebecca (Wee Birdy), Jen (Interiors Addict) and Vivian (Ish & Chi)

The Panel had plenty to offer for both new and experienced bloggers alike. I never dismiss an opportunity to attend a "101" type session. You should revisit the basics occasionally, and let's face can never learn too much. The blogosphere is a changing place, and what was "desirable" a few years ago, has changed dramatically today.

The discussion began with what makes a "good looking" blog. The consensus was that bloggers need to resist the temptation to over-clutter their space...keep your blog clean and simple, with user-friendly navigation. Since this session, I have started redesigning my blog (what do you think so far?). While I loved my old design, I felt that I had outgrown it. I'm in the middle of cleaning up my sidebar as well, and thinking (again) about moving to a different platform. Interestingly, a show of hands indicated a 50/50 split of Blogger v's Wordpress bloggers (with a few using other platforms). I wrote down a tonne of notes, so I'll condense it for you...
  • Be yourself, and stay humble.
  • Try to create a conversation with your readers, and build your community.
  • Connect with your readers across different networks such as facebook, twitter, pinterest, instagram etc,
  • Be realistic with how much time you can devote to your writing.
  • As always, content is king! Step away from your computer and do some research. Explore.
  • Be original, and put your spin on it.
  • Add alternate text to your images, which describes your images thoroughly...and don't forget to rename your images from the generic "IMG1234.jpg".
  • Create Pinterest images that people with WANT to repin. Make it easy for your readers...include a killer headline that people can't resist. Think "how to" and "step by step".
  • Lastly...your blog can take you any where you want if you let let it!
Panel 2: Blogs & Brands
Convenor: Maxibella (Maxibella Loves)

Panellists: Lexi (Pottymouthmama), Stacey (The Veggie Mama), Louisa (Brand Meets Blog and Louisa Claire) and Brian Gliesen (Director - Social@Ogilvy)

Like the first session, I wrote lots of dot point it is!
  • Be choosy about who you work with. Pick brands that are relevant to your blog and readers. You don't want to struggle to talk about a brand. For example, at Life as we know it, if I were to start blogging about baby products, you'd know there was something seriously wrong.
  • Connect with your readers and focus on them. Add value their experience on your blog.
  • When you decline work, don't burn your bridges!  Don't talk badly about brands never know who might be reading. Remember...bloggers and PR agencies belong to very small communities.
  • Not all posts need to be paid. Build relationship with your brands. You may have noticed that I am now blogging for The Block Shop each week. This is the 3rd season of The Block that I have blogged about. The previous two seasons were purely because I love the show...this season, sponsorship is the ultimate icing on the cake!
  • Consider building long term relationships with PR's and brands. Research the brands you want to work with, and pitch innovative ideas to them. Build relationships with your PR reps...pick up the phone and have a conversation...they're people too, not just an automated email.
  • Work out what you're worth. It's not just about your statistics. Some PR companies take into account your expertise, your influence, engagement and relevance to the brand or campaign.
  • Plan ahead and consider how much you blog is reactive v's proactive. Are your blog posts a daily brain dump, or carefully planned and considered...perhaps a mixture of both? Are you confusing your readers because they never know what to expect?
  • Lastly, work towards a WIN, WIN, WIN outcome that is going to benefit not just you, but your readers, and the brands you work with.
I began blogging in February 2006, and my thirst for knowledge about blogging has never waivered. A reader friend of mine recently commented that "I am so lucky" for all of the opportunities my blog has afforded me. The truth's around 10% luck, and 90% hard work. Writing posts takes time. I consider my words carefully. I work hard to create beautiful images. I negotiate with PR's and brands to outcomes that benefit them, me, and you. Where I consider myself truly lucky, is the friendships I have made along the way. Meeting bloggers you've long respected, and catching up with my bloggy friends at events like this, are some of the best perks (oh, and a great goodie bag is always appreciated).
Pictured with Katrina (Katrina from The Block) ; Dani (Danimezza);
Pip (Meet me at Mike's); and Tina (Tina Gray {dot} me)
I'll leave you with this quote by Howard Thurman that Hailey shared with us...

Blogging makes me come alive. I feel incredibly blessed to be a blogger, and to be a part of the Australian blogosphere. I wonder where the future will take me? Join me, won't you...

A big thank you to Kidspot and the sponsors of the Voices of 2013 Vogue and Kidspot, Ford, and The Good Guys for a fabulous day out!

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