Ok, so first off I am super, super excited about my new blog header! Yay! My amazing friend Amy, of Fenetik Designs designed it for me on the condition that I pay her in wine. And no, that is not an invitation for you to do that same should you ever need a talented graphic designer. But it is a testament to how awesome she is.

I was so sick of my dodgy-looking diy job and now I finally know what it means when they say you should invest in professional work. Amy, thank you so so much for making Corridor Kitchen look like an actual blog, rather than something cobbled together in a wordpress-meets-ms-paint-meets-microsoft-word-kind-of-way (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

corridor kitchen

So on to the competition! Y’all must remember the lengthy/boring video review I did of the Philips Saeco Intelia a while back (sorry, when I think of Amy, I come over all Southern). *Ahem*. Well, the time has come for one of my (Sydney) readers to reap the benefit of my good fortune. I’ve recently cut back on my coffee, as I’ve been having what feel like b12 deficiency headaches – funny story, if it weren’t for them, Corridor Kitchen would not exist. So I feel I only need one espresso machine rather than two (I already owned one when this baby rocked up).

I’m giving one of you the chance to win the Philips Saeco Intelia, a fully automatic espresso machine that critics (ie myself and my boyfriend) are calling ‘pretty much ok.’ This machine retails for $999 and it’s no slouch. Quiet, efficient and mess and hassle free, it makes pretty good coffee if you use freshly roasted beans. To that end, I’m including a bag of freshly-roasted Campos Dark City blend to go with. Your welcome.

To enter, comment and tell me how you stave off cravings when you’re trynna cut back or give up something.

You’ll also need to like corridor kitchen on facebook and follow me on twitter to be eligible to enter. Competition closes Friday March 9 2012 and the winner will be announced via facebook/twitter on Monday March 12. This competition is open to those who can get something delivered to Sydney, NSW, Australia only, as that is where the PR company that sent me the machine will courier it.

About a month ago, we got talking about unsolicited PR emails, specifically, badly written, poorly targeted ones and how bloggers react to them. I asked for your take- your experience, what irks you, what you like, and what could improve this process for you. What follows are my 5 tips for PR companies when approaching bloggers.

1. Read the about page
Or any other page that might tell you whether the blogger will be remotely interested in what you’re pedalling. So many PR companies do not do this at all and it astounds me. There are many blogs that are ad free, don’t do sponsored posts or giveaways and state this clearly, sometimes multiple times. There is not point contacting someone with a policy like this, for example.

2. Read the blog!
Before you even think about firing off an email, spend some time looking at the kind of posts the blogger writes. Are there sponsored posts or product reviews? Do they write about an area related to your product? For example, I write a lot about coffee so I was offered a coffee machine to review. This was hardly a surprising thing for me to review. Look at the sidebars. Are there any ads? Do you think this is deliberate? Try and see where your promotion might be a good fit. If the answer is resounding ‘no’, let it lie.

3. Write a real email
You wouldn’t send the same cover letter out for every job, why would you send the same email to every blogger? You are pitching your product/promotion to the blogger, not he other way around. Don’t expect them to be grateful (although they may be) and don’t expect them to jump at the chance to run your promotion. Their blog is a project in which they are the writer, graphic designer, photographer, editor, account manager, etc etc. As such, may selective about the kind of promotions, if any, they run. They may also get tons of offers every day, so give them plenty of time to read and consider yours (no point emailing me about a promotion that needs to run next month, for example). And for god’s sake, get the blogger’s name, and the name of their blog, right. If I get one more PR email addressed to ‘Laura’, I’ll scream!

4. Write a concrete, concise proposal
In other words, be clear. What are you offering? Spell it out. Even minor league bloggers will get a few PR emails a month, and they are not likely to bother replying if they have no idea what’s on offer. Don’t write to a blogger asking for all their stats, especially without giving them a clear picture of what they’re signing up for. You know what your company’s policy is/what promotion you’re offering, put it in the very first email. It may be something like ‘we pay $20 for each text-based ad you run for a month for any blogs with 1000+ pageviews/month’ or ‘we would like you to review our new flavour of chocolate and can send you 1kg of chocolate as payment’.

Having this information, the blogger immediately knows whether or not your promotion will be a good fit for them. And having read their blog, you’ll know this too. There’s no point in writing ‘we offer text based ads to enhance your online profile and monetise your blog’. What in the hell does that even mean? How many emails will it take me to find out?

5. Be flexible

By approaching bloggers like a real person, you need to be prepared for a real answer. If there’s any scope at all for you to be flexible with your proposal, do so. Sometimes a blogger might have another way of looking at what you’re doing that may be of benefit. For example, you might offer to give them a free product, but they might prefer to give it away to their readers. You might ask for a review, they may prefer to use you product in a recipe.

Even with these tips in mind, you need to be prepared to be turned down. But hopefully you’ll get a reply, perhaps even one that’s speedy and polite, and you can cross that blog off your list.

What are your tips for PR reps when approaching bloggers?

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So today I received yet another unsolicited email from a media/PR company. They love bloggers. They love my blog. So do the companies they represent. They would like to give me some money to do a/some sponsored posts/s.

I’m interested in what y’all think about unsolicited PR/media emails. I get a lot of these, and they all run along the same lines.

If only PR companies would write to me on oldey timey typewriters. At least it'd be something a bit different...

Generally it’s a form email with your name and blog name inserted. It offers a vague proposal – sponsored posts or adspace at unspecified figures which will only be revealed once you’ve signed up/shown some interest…

Subject: we love you blog!
Dear (name),

We love (name of blog), perhaps for some reason that makes no sense at all or perhaps for I can’t be bothered to think of an example. My company works with bloggers and companies to make awesomeness. We will give you some money and our client (who totes loves your blog btw) will give you an unspecified amount of money to do an unspecified thing. How exciting!!!

I can’t tell you who any of these companies are or which one/s love your blog. How about you look at our website for testimonials and even more vague information? Cool.

We love bloggers. We love them because we know we can go to them with vague claims of representing brands and they’ll jump at the chance to sell us cheap adspace. We couldn’t pull this shit with ‘real’ media, that’s for sure.

Please respond to this email if you want to know more, at which point I will ask for all your personal information and get you to sign a contract before you see a penny.

Best,
(company)

I’m interested in what bloggers think about this practice. To me, there’s a spectrum of how these companies approach you. The relevance of their proposal is very much determined by how much time they’ve spent looking at your blog and whether they’ve considered your subject, audience, and so forth.

What do you think?
Are you interested in these kinds of promotions?
Have you had any good/bad experiences with these kind of promotions?
Do you have ‘rates’ as such?

And, most importantly:
What would improve this process for you?
Do you have any tips for bloggers?
Do you have any tips for PR/media companies?

I’d love to know what you think.

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Lonsdale Street Roasters

Here's me thinking 'Do I really have to write a post on this? Can't I just enjoy my macch?'

Part one- in which our protagonist feels somewhat out of sorts
It was the strangest thing. I was walking home from uni one day when I suddenly couldn’t walk straight. The world was spinning, I couldn’t get my balance no matter how I tried. The footpath just kept swinging towards me.

As I was almost home I hunched my back, gritted my teeth and stumbled the few blocks I had left. I crashed out on my bed for an hour in the dark, then talked myself into making dinner as I do every day. You’re fine, I told myself, who needs to keep their balance anyway?

Over the next few days, the collection of random symptoms I had just seemed to grow and grow; mind-numbing headaches, blurred vision, photosensitivity, back pain, dizziness, vertigo, depression, anxiety, fatigue and memory loss. I suffer migraines, these were not migraines (although I originally thought they were) – I couldn’t stand light and the pain was literally like being repeatedly clubbed in the head with a large flounder. The worst part was extreme what-the-fuck-is-wrong-with-me panic.

I couldn’t attend uni or work, I got reading glasses, was prescribed migraine meds, took enough painkillers to knock out a whale and spent weeks in bed before my fabulous doctor diagnosed a b12 deficiency. ‘Phew, no big deal.’ said every single person I told. Yeah, you might say that, except that left unchecked, it can lead to subacute degeneration of the spinal cord.

Part 2 – in which our protagonist has an epiphany
While I was sick, I was visiting my brother, who is a musician working a minimum wage job. I was so inspired by his work ethic when it came to his music, his creativity and his commitment to what is basically unpaid work. Both my brothers are musicians, totally self taught, always with multiple, self-directed projects on the go. It was while lying in the dark on a half-deflated air mattress in my brother’s spare room listening to him doing whatever the hell you do when you make electronic music that I really started to think about my own life. At this point, squinting out of one eye, reading food blogs to pass the time I thought ‘They are doing something, they are MAKING something. What can I make?’

Part 3 – In which our protagonist engages in storming of the brain
Since I didn’t know what was wrong with me and could barely get out of bed, I vowed I’d make something of this knack with words people often accuse me of. I decided to set myself a simple task – put together a food blog, blog once a week.

I knew I’d always eat, hell, I knew I’d always cook – I cooked that first day I lost my balance. I knew I’d always have an opinion about food. So I curled up on that air mattress with my eeepc and devoured all the blogs I love, be they about food or not, and I wrote a list for each one of everything I liked and everything I didn’t like about them. Then I wrote a list of everything I could think of that I loved to cook. Then I began to write.

Part 4 – In which our protagonist becomes unimaginably rich doing what she loves
This is actually true, if you take ‘rich’ in the extremely abstract sense. I have been blogging for exactly 1 year. It has enriched my life more than I could ever have imagined.

This is not to say that every time I sit down to write a post or duck into a café to snap away at my coffee, I’m excited to do so. In fact, quite the opposite; when I sit down to wrote a post, I dread it – I can’t be bothered and I worry that what I write will be rubbish. When I pop into a coffee shop to take pictures, I know people will stare and my coffee will get cold.

But the sum total of my experience blogging far exceeds the stress of putting together each idividual post. The bloggers I have met, both in person and online. The business and café owners that have welcomed me into their establishments like a long lost relative would welcome you into their home. Attending that blogging conference everyone’s talking about. And most of all, the way it feels to make something, create something, and to always have it there. No matter how lame the rest of your life may get sometimes, you’ll always have that thing you made.

When I started Corridor Kitchen, this was literally my thought process: I will start a blog. It will give me something to do. Hopefully I won’t die.

But now my goal is to make Corridor Kitchen as much of an inspiration as the blogs I love and am inspired by. If even one person is as inspired by my blog as I am by the blogs I was reading, squint-eyed lying on the floor of my brother’s spare room one year ago, then I consider Corridor Kitchen a success.

What about you? Why do you blog? Why do you read blogs?

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They let their food go cold. They rock fancy SLRs. They tweet up a storm, posting photos of their on-trend lunches and they always know where to get a good feed. Here are five facts about food bloggers you may not know.

1. They hate food fads just as much as you do
Macarons. Masterchef. Those over-blogged ‘it’ restaurants. Food bloggers have been there, done that, or at least read it in their mile-long blogroll. At EatDrinkBlog, one food blogger admitted to me, in hushed tones ‘I don’t think macarons are that great, actually.’ I had another prominent food blogger email me to agree that Sydney’s recent night noodle markets were both overrated and lacking in noodles. Chances are your fave food blogger is as sick of hearing about Jamie’s Italian as you are…or soon will be.

2. They’re zeitgeisty, not trendy
Food bloggers will break the next big thing months before the more cautious mainstream media. By taking risks, readers feel they get the inside scoop and other bloggers can follow suit and put in their 2 cents. As a rule, food bloggers don’t blog an experience they’re not that enamoured with, unless it’s macarons, possibly served at the night noodle markets by one of the contestants of masterchef, so the initial buzz bloggers create is often well-deserved.

3. They work extremely hard at what they do
Blogging requires consistent effort, especially for big name bloggers or those who have successfully monetised their blogs. Once readers regularly stop by or start paying for content, it becomes even more important to provide consistent, quality stuff. Food bloggers know they have to bring their readers something fresh and new that they can’t find on their own. A full-time blogger may work around 15 hours a day, 6-7 days per week. I myself spend about 8-10 hours a week just to produce 1-2 posts.

4. They’re often not as tech-savvy as you might think
Bloggers aren’t all tech heads, nor are they all graphic designers. When figuring out how to do something tricky on their blogs, the default method? ‘Google it’. I’m really glad I’m not alone in this, as along with visiting forums, it’s the method I usually use. Another thing I’ll do is to get in contact with bloggers who have a feature on their blog I particularly like, and ask them where they got it. Food bloggers are usually more than happy to share their knowledge and help you out.

5. They’re not all trying to get published in mainstream media
It’s often assumed by those outside the blogging community that bloggers are trying to get published in a ‘real’ medium. For some, this may be the case – they may be after freelance writing jobs or book deals. But for many, blogging can be a hobby, or it can be a business, it can be just plain fun. I know for myself the motivation is producing something, publishing something myself.

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