Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Company Magazine's Blogger Forum 2013

"How did people live before the hashtag? #how" - @gemfatale

Walking down the achingly hip Shoreditch High Street, in the vicinity of the fashion haven that is Brick Lane, I began to get nervous. Heading to the Company Magazine Blogger Forum is, for a jeans and hoodie loving girl like me, akin to walking into a lion's den - and that is something I'd already survived once, literally  so the odds for making it out alive a second time were not looking good. All sorts of Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty type scenarios were racing through my head, and as I walked in my heart sunk further- everyone else, immaculately dressed (I've never seen so many awesome coats and hats in the same room), had come in twos or threes. I was alone. Luckily, @lizziegrif was also flying solo, so we buddied up and got on with the mingling together. As it turned out, everyone was lovely and friendly anyway, so there was nothing to worry about.

So it was that I found myself sitting in a mini lecture theatre with seven painstakingly stylish women from across the globe, from Texas to Finland, ready to spill the beans of their blogging wisdom. It was only then that I realised how privileged I was to be among the lucky 70 or so guests who got tickets; whilst I was there, three people tweeted me saying they wished they were there, and the live Twitter screen being projected onto the screen behind the panelists showed many more people on the Twittersphere all wishing they could have attended (to catch up on the live tweeting of the event, use #companybloggerforum).

The panelists were:

@Alexxsia |  @gemfatale | @venzedits | @parkncube | @wishwishwish | @5inchandup

led by CompanyEditor Victoria White (@companyedvic).

Victoria began by explaining that when Company was rebranded last year, they chose to embrace bloggers, rather than fighting them, as many other major fashion publications seem to be doing. Then the questions began; how to start a blog? Why to start a blog? Opinions were divided on some topics, such as whether to allow anonymous comments on your blog, but the biggest consensus of the night came as a result of @parkncube's suggestion that comments on blogs were decreasing. All of the other bloggers agreed unanimously that people are turning to other networks, such as Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to interact with bloggers and audiences, and that output on these platforms is therefore just as important for a blogger as producing content on the blog.

Top five tips I took away from the event:
  • Write a business plan for your blog. It will give it focus- @venzedits. This doesn't mean a five-year financial plan, but rather a plan for how you want your plan to progress. @Venzedits gave the example of her blog; TableTop Tuesday focuses on design, whereas SaleSaleSale Friday focuses on the shopping element - a great way to get around that age old dilemma of wanting to write a blog post but lacking inspiration, and certainly something I'm considering taking up to give this blog more structure.
  • Establish how honest you want to be from the start - @5inchandup. This one was in regards to product reviews. One of the most interesting debates of the night was centred around how honest you should be when reviewing products on your blog. The general consensus among the panel was that people come to blogs for honesty- if they want positivity and perfection, they can find it in glossy magazines who are far more restricted on what they can and cannot say. Superblogger Suzie Bubble was cited as a good example of someone who is always honest in her opinions, but carries it off with admirable tact. @wishwishwish said "I find my readers love honesty and write in and thank me for being honest", with @gemfatale commenting "The beauty bloggers who do really well are the ones people know they can go to and the product will be good". In short, honesty is important as long as it is constructive. I think it's obvious from some of my previous reviews that I'm a no holds barred kinda girl.
  • You need a USP to be taken seriously- @companyedvic. "Think about what's going to make it stand out, not just 'here's a picture of me in an outfit'"  This came about when a member of the audience suggested that the blog market will become saturated in the next few years and asked how it is possible to stand out. I agree entirely that it's becoming harder to stand out - the world, his missus and their pet hamster seem to have a blog these days - yet a USP is something I lack and something that I will be working on in 2013. I've got an idea or two up my sleeve so watch this space...
  • Work out why you want a blog - @companyedvic.  Initially I wanted a blog as a way to build up a writing portfolio and slide my way into the magazine journalism industry. Two and a half years later, however, I'm hooked, and I have a blog purely to share things that interest me, be that a good book, a great new cafe or a bargain pair of shoes.
  • Once you find your niche, reign it in. Ah. So close yet so far. This is one thing that I haven't yet nailed, and is similar to the USP point above. I blog about anything from travel, to fashion, to food, to books, so a niche is one thing I don't yet have. However, I'm not going to force a niche for the sake of having one - if I find something I like to write about more than anything else, I'll go with it, but until that happens, it'll be random service as normal.
As well as the above, the main thing that I took away from the event* was reassurance. These ladies, deities of the blogosphere, had all been through the same sort of dilemmas that every amateur in that room has faced at some point, and it was reassuring to know that their blogging journey mirrors my own.

All six bloggers agreed that choosing a blog name is a big decision when starting out. Those of you who have been with me from the start might remember the days of "Brilliant, Bonkers and Downright Bizarre" (I cringe just thinking about it!)  The moniker discussion culminated in @gemfatale's advice "Still be you [when choosing a blog name] but bear in mind that there are ways to make you more findable". In hindsight, Scribbling Lau is not the most SEO friendly name I could have given my blog, but that is not why I started out blogging.

A similar issue was raised with the design element of a blog. For anyone who is not technically minded, designing a blog can be a nightmare, but @5inchandup's solution was "Start simple, keep changing, it's something we all do". Again, anyone who has been reading this blog for a while will have seen it go through several transformations, and I'm certainly not finished yet! She then went on to suggest having a second blog, a test blog which is not released to the wider public, but allows you to tinker with settings as much as you please. Interestingly, the other panelists all agreed that this was a brilliant idea and something that they themselves had never thought of, showing that they were learning as much from each other as we were learning from them

Another familiar dilemma was raised by @5inchandup; "Should I say I have a blog?". Before the panel session started, I had this discussion with some of the other attendees- at first, when starting out blogging, it can be hard, embarrassing almost, to admit that you have a blog. It takes a while to get into your groove (sorry Madge!), find your own style and feel comfortable enough with what you're producing to show it to anyone, particularly people you know.


Final comment, courtesy of Company Editor Victoria White: "It's like any form of journalism or writing, you have to do it well".

*I also took away this fabulous goody bag:


I've been to a few similar events at various publications, but this was the best goody bag by far. Contents were: Lee Stafford Root Boost Mousse, St. Moriz instant leg tanning spray, Baptiste dry shampoo, technic Party beauty set, Shatter by OPI nail polish, Elemis tranquil touch body polish, Body Shop strawberry body butter (my fave!!!), Primani sunglasses and case, Next curve control tights, Velvotan self tan applicator mitt. Popchips potato chips, Green and Black's chocolate, Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, Kleenex face cloths, and of course the February issue of Company. Not bad for an evening of mingling!


Needless to say I got a few envious looks on the tube on the way home. Thanks, Company!

4 comments:

  1. Hey Laura! This is a great post, the goody bag was incredible, my favourite is the body butter - I got mango! Couldn't find your follow button but I'll definitely keep on checking out your blog :) xx

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  2. Thank you Lizzie! It was great to meet you and I love your blog - it looks so professional! I deactivated the follow button a few months ago and completely forgot about it. It's reactivated now, so thanks for reminding me!

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  3. Hi Laura... I really wanted to go to the Company blogging forum but I didn't book my ticket in time.
    However thanks to your post I feel like I was there (minus the goody bag-haha).
    Well done.... great post & lovely blog.

    Katie (living-in-a-fashion-world.blogspot.co.uk)

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  4. Hi Katie, Thanks for reading! It was a great event, I'd definitely recommend getting a ticket next year if possible (worth it for the goody bag alone!) Great blog by the way, how do you find the time to update so often? Refreshing to see someone blogging about men's fashion for a change too.

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