So while I was at ALT Summit, I did a panel on the business of blogging with Erin Loechner from Design for Mankind and Liz Gumbinner from Cool Mom Picks and Mom101. I always enjoy presenting, but something about the chemistry with those two girls made this conversation extra engaging for me.
I finally remembered to ask someone to record my presentation, but neglected to bring her a tripod. (Thanks for your forbearance, Kelly.) Here’s a slightly shaky video of my portion of the presentation:
I know a lot of you are bloggers trying to bring in a little income, so here are the main points of our entire presentation — each of us took on four tips.
Beyond the Banner:
A 12-Step Program for Successful Content Campaigns
Erin Loechner from Design for Mankind:
1. Re-invent the wheel.
Creative campaigns are fun and memorable. Consider Jason, who’s renting out his torso at I Wear Your Shirt. What do you have to offer that’s a little offbeat?
2. Test the waters first.
Before you jump into a huge commitment with a single advertiser, put a toe in the water. This way you’ll know more about how your readers will respond, learn how to price yourself through trial and error, and figure out which campaigns make you want to take a nap, and which are fun.
3. Know your professional strengths.
If you’re crappy at project management or staying on top of communications with clients, hire someone to do that for you while you produce content.
4. Less is more.
Erin likes to keep a ratio of 95 percent content to 5 percent sponsored posts. You’ll find your own ratio, but be mindful that you’re giving your readers something of value while you’re paying the rent.
Liz Gumbinner from Cool Mom Picks and Mom101:
5. It’s not all about you.
Think about the sponsor, what are their wants and needs? Let that shape the program you propose.
6. Measure your digital footprint.
Remember that your blog probably isn’t your only online presence. You may have readers on Twitter, Facebook, or even a newsletter. Think of the whole package.
7. Know thyself.
If your gut tells you that an advertiser doesn’t seem like the right fit, say no. Your readers know you, and they’ll obviously be able to tell if you’re promoting something and your heart isn’t in it.
No one likes to feel misled. Let your audience know who’s paying you and for what.
And me, Maggie Mason from Mighty Girl:
9. Consider events.
Throw a party for a local boutique, host an event in conjunction with a larger conference, or start a little retreat and build from there. If you enjoy throwing events, they can be a good way to build a tighter community while you grow your business.
10. Remember advertisers are people.
People who want to give you money are not your enemies, so keep the conversation going. If you start to feel adversarial about a proposed campaign, suggest other ways to work with a brand that might be more interesting to you and your readers. Even the largest brand has a team of people behind it, people with faces and families, who care about their product succeeding.
11. Pitch to your passions.
Seek out advertisers to support the content you’re already producing by being smart about how you package it. Can you tell people what your site is about in a single sentence? Is there a memorable narrative in your life story – maybe you’re building a house, starting your life over, becoming a new parent? Focus on that when you approach potential sponsors.
12. Know your worth.
Don’t just look at your daily unique visitors when you’re pricing a campaign. Consider your ability to amplify on Twitter, Facebook, via newsletter. Think about engagement — if you have a small audience of readers who are passionate about a particular subject and will leave lots of comments, that’s valuable to an advertiser. And don’t forget to take your time into account. Your work is probably worth more than you think.
That’s it! Are you trying to figure out how to make your living as a blogger? What did we forget?
First, I regret that I can’t offer Mad Men hair tutorials, because I had nothing to do with it. Diana from the Sax Fifth Avenue Salon was responsible for all the ratting and twisting and pinning. It involved no extra hairpieces, but she did use three pounds of bobby pins:
My neck could barely support my giant lolling head, but would you believe the whole session only took about fifteen minutes? Having an updo done in Texas is like having your tires changed by a pit crew at the Indy 500.
During the party, Jenny snuck back to her room for her bottle of Strawberry Hill — presumably because she was looking to get some teenage girls drunk. When she returned, she mentioned that someone had asked her if she was “working.” We laughed, because she was wearing a giant blonde wig and a black petticoat. The next day some guy at a helicopter conference mistook me for a prostitute too, only I was in my regular clothes. So who’s the pretty one now, Jenny?
Karen took some photos of me for her upcoming book The Beauty of Different. She taught me Andrea’s trick for making people laugh in photos, which is to ask them to turn away and then spin around really fast with a fierce face. Like so:
I demonstrated later for the very brave Jon from Daddy Scratches, who was among the few men at the conference. He took the photo I’ll use when I’m asked to speak at Davos:
Karen also started on her Mighty Life List at the conference! Boo-yah.
She just published it, and she’s already gotten started with a project to photograph 1,000 faces. Also, she offered to show me around Trinidad for Carnival on the condition that I wear a sequined bikini with her. So I apologize for the Flickr stream in advance.
Rebecca was my roomie, which meant lots of laughing after lights out and many startling, pseudo-sexual assgrabs at the bar.
I’m pretty sure we’re engaged now, Rebecca. Please apologize to Hal for me. Rebecca also did my eye makeup for the keynote panel. Her eye makeup tutorial is legend, so now my eyes are totally Internet famous.
(Photo by Mainline Mom who has lots of great photos of the conference.)
The keynote panel with Heather, Gabby, and Stephanie was a lot of fun because it felt like a real conversation — albeit a conversation with 300 people, many of whom were wielding cameras and live blogging. Good eye makeup does wonders for your chutzpah.
The last day, I walked Heather up to her room to keep her company while she packed. She reached into the minibar and said, “Do you realize how long it’s been since we’ve had a cocktail date?” Between pregnancies and breast feeding over the last few years, there’s been entirely too much napping and not nearly enough Madonna karaoke at our recent reunions. She twisted the tops off two miniature whiskeys, and we clinked airplane bottle necks.
This is Laura doing her impeccable Laura imitation at the Mom 2.0: Defining a Movement exhibit. The next day, Laura and I toasted her awesome conference in the hot tub. I met so many smart, kind women this year, I came home feeling overwhelmed by all the possibilities unfolding for our community.
Well done, girl. You know how to throw a party.
My dear friend and fellow Broad Summit founder Laura Mayes just finished editing her first book, Kirtsy Takes a Bow: A Celebration of Women’s Online Favorites. I’m so excited for her, and also honored to be a contributor. Pick up a copy, wont you?
Here are Day One and Day Two, if you’re looking for them. Spoiler alert: Today’s post is sponsor heavy, as our partners made the weekend far cooler than it would have been without them. Thanks, sponsors. You are nice.
Our last day at Broad Summit was a spa day, so we started things off with a yoga session led by Gwen Bell.
Gwen was an attendee who also happens to own a yoga studio in Japan. She said this was the only yoga session she’d ever led where she received applause afterward.
Zicam sponsored our yoga, and their representative Kelly has quite an eye. She knew it was a designy crowd, so she brought the yoga mats, set up the towels and pre-filled water bottles, and made everything look so pretty. I brought the Buddha head from home, and Kelly found a cute place for him. (More about the pretty yoga session over on Design Mom, by the way.)
Throughout the weekend, DDF Skincare asked if they could set up personalized facial consultations for everyone.
They had us fill out forms in advance so they could bring specialized products, and then had an aesthetician go through a skincare regimen for each woman. DDF’s products are really high end, so we all tended to gather around when each girl came back with her bag.
My sister Raina is a masseuse at the Fairmont Mission Sonoma Inn & Day Spa, so she brought along a few co-workers to give massages in the Boon Hotel spa rooms. Lots of the guests had never had massages before. As you might imagine, they were a hit.
Boon catered our breakfasts and lunches for the weekend, and everything was as tasty as it was attractive. They made things really easy for us.
We asked Boon to set out a lunch buffet just before everyone left so girls could enjoy lunch outside or take a boxed lunch along for the drive to the airport.
(Photo by Jenny Lawson.)
With Toyota’s help, all the attendees had access to cars all weekend, so we were able to set up carpools on the way to and from the airport instead of having a million separate vehicles.
(Photo by Jenny Lawson.)
I like to think that everyone felt so pampered that by the time they left, they had more energy than when they arrived. I love these girls. They deserve good stuff.
A few months after posting her Red Dahlia Earrings, I ran into Leslie at the Renegade Craft Fair and told her I was planning the Broad Summit. I asked if she’d like to include her work in the gift bags, and gave her my mailing address. A few months later a gorgeous package showed up at the office.
Leslie had made wooden, laser-cut versions of her earrings, painted them gold, and used thin black elastic to secure them to craft paper boxes. The result was so chic, don’t you think? I think they’d make great packages for wedding favors, and I’ve had mine propped up on my desk since it arrived.
The packaging was so cool, we used them as turn-down favors at the retreat, and several of the girls even wore their earrings the next day, which is the ultimate endorsement.
Go Leslie! Thanks so much for the lovelies.
If you’re looking for it, Day 1 is here.
The afternoon before everyone arrived, we arranged posies of Dahlias, orange tea roses, and green hypericum berries. We used pint-sized Mason jars as vases, and made a few dozen small arrangements so we could move them around to decorate various event spaces.
I love working with Dahlias because they’re pretty tough, easy to arrange, and stay fresh for quite awhile — even if you’re transporting them from place to place. We had a full day of wine tasting planned on Saturday, so we kicked off right after breakfast with a tasting class at 10:30 a.m., which was… ambitious.
Our team rose to the challenge.
The Wine Sisterhood brought in Leslie Sbrocco, author of The Simple and Savvy Wine Guide to walk us through some food pairings and offer some wine education. My favorite tip was to freeze leftover sparkling wine to use as ice cubes in orange juice. Insta-mimosa.
Moshin Vineyards helped us set up lunch and a tasting in the cask room, which was the most romantic lunch I’ve ever had with thirty other women.
Boon’s restaurant catered our lunch, including their signature homemade parmesan potato chips, which haunt my dreams.
At Arista Winery, we tasted outside with a view of the vineyards.
We wanted to leave the Broad Summit prints on the ladies pillows, but realized belatedly that guests would need a way to get them home safely. Guerneville doesn’t exactly have an Office Max, so we clipped some prints to boards and left others in pretty office folders on guests pillows. I especially loved how the clipboards looked.
All right, I’ve been asleep since last Sunday.
The retreat was amazing, and exhausting, but worth every minute of planning over the last eight months. All the Broad Summit organizers love to entertain, so we incorporated lots of details.
We met up in Guerneville, CA, which is near our cabin, so I brought over my collection of vintage wool blankets. We use them at the cabin all the time, and we had a bonfire planned for the retreat, so I knew we’d need them. Bryan mocks me whenever I come home from the flea market with yet another blanket, but seeing them all stuffed into our laundry basket on the lawn was profoundly satisfying.
We got use out of them all weekend, and they smelled amazing because we store them in a cedar chest to protect against moths. When I was passing them out, I swear I heard Martha Stewart howling at the moon.
It was a small enough group that we could really personalize everything. We wanted to make sure the gift bags really felt like gifts, so before we decided how to fill them, I told Laura that my dream was to get monogrammed totes from Land’s End. She just called and Land’s End and figured out how to make it happen, then collected guests’ initials via email. Then I proposed to her.
We spent Friday afternoon stuffing the bags (more on the gifts inside later), and when they were all set up, they looked zowie — though they do sort of evoke the image of having thirty bridesmaids. I feel slightly faint at the thought of getting that many girls to wear the same ugly dress.
Instead of hiring a caterer, we arranged for a taco truck to arrive before cocktails. For a large group, it’s a surprisingly economical.
Plus, there’s something so decadent about walking up to a window and ordering whatever you want without having to dig out your wallet.
If you’re planning a casual, fun wedding, taco trucks are the way to go. Delicious, and they make for great photos.
After tacos, we headed over to the sangria and soda pop bar. There were lots of non-drinkers and pregnant ladies in attendance, so we took inspiration from Jordan Ferney’s adorable soda bar. BevMo had a huge selection of cute pop in bottles. I called Jordan last-minute to ask where we could get striped paper straws in San Francisco, she offered to tap into her extensive personal collection. Score.
After cocktails, we all changed into our pajamas for a Milk and Cookies PJ Party by the bonfire.
A few days earlier, we found this milk-carton vase at CB2. Perfect.
Cookies were from Annie the Baker, who makes cookies for folks who would prefer to eat straight cookie dough. (Peanut butter. Order the peanut butter.) We also had a selection from Bountiful Vegan, because we were hosting women with all kinds of food preferences and allergies.
We pulled over the chaise loungers from the pool area, wrapped up in blankets, and used the milk to mix White Russian nightcaps in our coffee mugs. It was very Prohibition.
If you’d like to see more, Jean Aw took some gorgeous photos of the bonfire and hotel over on NOTCOT. More details from me Monday, have a good weekend.