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The Guaranteed Blog Post: A Sticky Situation

Posted on 21 May 2014 by Administrator

I recently saw a dialogue that appeared on a Facebook Group page for an organized outing. The organization was approached by a restaurant to have its member bloggers sample food, with a guaranteed blog post on each blog after said free meal. What’s wrong with this picture? What if you don’t’ like the food? What do you then?

how to host food bloggers

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When some group members questioned the expectation, they were told they could shy away from a positive view in exchange for an informational post. That seems drab and a bit calculated (more mentions on blogs and social media are good for the restaurant).

I feel for the restaurants, I really do. One of the most missed experiences I have is the seasonal menu tastings that Seasons 52 used to do for bloggers. They hosted us + a guest in their private dining room and we were privy to a special screening with Master Sommelier George Miliotes to discuss the well thought out wine and cocktails paired with the multi-course meal we were about to sample. The service and food was impeccable (and each dish is under 475 calories I might add), yet most bloggers failed to ever write anything. Although Seasons 52 never admitted it, I can’t help but feel this is why they stopped doing these exceptional events for bloggers.

Here’s the restaurant / publicity company perspective:
You mean we just send one email out to a person who handles inviting all the other bloggers? And each and every blogger we invite will absolutely write a blog post? Yippee! This is win-win for us!

As a blogger, I only attend events I have the full intention of writing about. Did you read that word “intention”? While it is unfair to take a free meal at a restaurant knowing you will not write a word, it is also unfair to your readers to write something that isn’t your true sentiment. I also organize monthly blogger dinners and adhere to a “no pressure to post” motto. The restaurants trust that I’m inviting bloggers that I’ve personally vetted to be ethical and use their best judgement when it comes to reviewing.

To get another opinion, I contacted Dianne Jacob, author of Will Write For Food, speaker and educator on food writing and blogging. Here’s what she had to say:

AoFB:  What is your opinion on bloggers who attend a complimentary tasting or meal with the understanding that they must write a blog post about the meal?

DJ: I can see how the restaurant would want that, but I would not agree to attend with that stipulation.

AoFB:  What do you think of restaurants or PR companies that stipulate this as a requirement for hosting a blogger for a meal?

DJ: They are trying to do what they think is best. It’s up to bloggers to do what they think is best too. It’s their blog, and they should not feel obligated to write a post, especially a complimentary one, in exchange for a meal.

AoFB:  What effect does this requirement of a post per meal have on the food writing industry?

DJ: Bloggers have a reputation for being pushovers. It makes readers take their opinions with a grain of salt. Many are not confident about their skill level in evaluating dishes, so it is easier to write a positive piece about attending an event than to make critical decisions about the food and restaurant.

how to host a blogger dinner

One member of that group commented on the facebook conversation, saying that restaurants often expect a glowing blog post if they are hosting bloggers even the experience is less than satisfactory.  This brings up a good point. Restaurants sometimes view bloggers as low hanging fruit. Sorry, but it is true. They believe that since we are not paid journalists, then we should gladly write a positive review in exchange for a free meal. One publicist even went so far as to send a blogger friend of mine a nasty email stating “Why would you attend the dinner if you didn’t intend on writing a blog post?” when she chose not to write anything after a disappointing meal. Hey buddy, take a hint, we were being kind by NOT writing.

And restaurants, here’s why these are the bloggers you don’t want at your restaurants:
The blogosphere is vast and diverse. Not all bloggers are created equal. Sheer numbers of social media followers don’t tell the full story. The trustworthy bloggers have carefully nurtured a relationship with their readers and won’t take chances to screw that up. That means not taking a free meal with a promise of a shallow review. The ones that do write an honest review are the ones whose readers will take action and show up at your restaurant.

Of course a complimentary meal and a good review are not mutually exclusive for ethical bloggers. After all, how many bloggers can afford $100+ dinner 4-5 times per month? But that doesn’t mean you should gush on and on about the restaurant. If you like the food – super – share that with your readers. If you didn’t like it and don’t plan on writing you at least owe the restaurant or publicist that invited you an explanation of why.

There seems to be a tipping point right now in food blogging. Are food bloggers going to continue to stay relevant? How do we rise above the noise while growing and nuturing readers? While our association provides guidelines of ethics to follow, at some point, you, the blogger, have to take responsibility for your blog, brand and writing and decide what your personal ethics are.


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Successful Networking in Nine Steps

Posted on 17 April 2014 by Administrator

As bloggers we rely so much on social media, we sometimes forget the importance of face to face meetings. Networking may be a lost art thanks to social media, but it is still one that does offer true benefits when done effectively. So, whether you are at a tweetup or a true networking event here are nine tips to make it a success.

1. Don’t rely on sticky name tags
I hate those sticky tags, don’t you? Guys don’t wear all different kinds of materials – but women do. Those tags never stick well to most of my clothing and by the time the night is over, I’ve either lost it or it has found its way into the back of my hair somehow. To combat this, travel with your own pre-made name tag that you can pin on to your shirt. If you have the one with the plastic pocket, you can even put your business cards in there.

2. Arrive early
Besides the fact that arriving early allows me to get a great parking spot, it allows me to get the lay of the land and I can scope out who’s there and who I want to network with. If you arrive just after an event has started, most attendees are probably engrossed in a conversation already. Then you are left on your own until someone is free.

3. Check your breath
There’s nothing worse than talking to someone with bad breath. So, make sure to avoid garlic, onions and other bad breath instigators at lunch. And always carry breath mints with you too.

4. Dress Up
In this era we might be tempted to dress down or like hipsters, cause, hey, we are bloggers after all. But if you have ambition to be something more, maybe even be a professional writer, than you need to dress the part. Not only does dressing up make you feel better about yourself but others notice you and wonder either consciously or subconsciously “Who is that? She certainly looks important.”

5. Be nice to the greeter
Often as we are rushing into a meeting we barley acknowledge the person checking us in. We look for our name badge or utter our name to him or her, get checked off and that’s it. Big mistake. If there is someone who is attending that networking event you wanted to make contact with this is the person who will know when they arrive and can point them out to you. Always make friends with the greeter.

6. Know your pitch
When job hunting, advice you get about networking says you must know your elevator pitch – the 30 second to 1 minute summary of your and your talents. When someone asks what you do, be prepared to state in about two short sentences what it is you do. While he may not be the right person to give you a writing contract, they may know someone who does.

7. Be authentic
Some of the biggest fakers I’ve ever met have the biggest personalities online. It is astounding how big a person seems behind a computer but in person they are so reserved and standoffish. I try to be the same person offline as I am online. If your personalities online and offline don’t match it tends to people not feeling as if they can trust you. And that will never lead anywhere good.

8. Focus on who you are talking to
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone that you can tell isn’t listening to you? They are simply scoping out the room for the next person they want to talk to? Isn’t that annoying. If that is the case politely excuse yourself – they aren’t listening to you anyway – and find someone else to talk to. But more importantly don’t do this to someone else. If you find the person uninteresting, than excuse yourself, but don’t let them occupy your time until you find someone else to speak with. That’s just rude.

9. Follow up and follow through
Make sure to connect on various social media channels with those important connections you make at a networking meeting. One of the qualities I value most in people I maintain long term relationships with is how good they are about keeping their word. If I say I am going to connect two people, I do it. Not all, but many, will remember you as a person of your word and in a world where many are not, this is good networking karma.

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#SoCon14: Social Media Conference

Posted on 25 February 2014 by Administrator

Luckily, I live in Atlanta. We may not know how to drive in snow (I know you were thinking it) but we are one of the most digitally connected cities in country. So, it is the perfect place for the #SoCon14 convention. This is a yearly digital 1-day conference on all things digital and social media. If you couldn’t attend, I’m going to provide a recap of all the terrific information shared by the panel and speakers and relate it to the blogging world.

While much of the content does relate to businesses, there’s still a lot of good information that we, as bloggers, can take and use to our own benefit. In fact, there was an entire session on building yourself as the brand, which I am a huge advocate of. And, isn’t your blog a business anyway?


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The day begins with a panel of experts in who discuss various social media questions. Then there are three Breakout Sessions during the day of which it is nearly impossible to choose which one to attend without some feeling of attendee remorse.

No matter the session or discussion there were some generalizations that were consistent throughout the day:

  • If you don’t have time to do every SM platform pick a couple and do them right. But understand the context of them and be sure to pick ones where you audience is.
  • Keep the “Social” in Social Media – Make sure to have a human element to your posts, not just robotic posts.
  • Visual is key. People have short attention spans and don’t want to read. Make sure visual is a key component in your Social media.

Social Media Strategy in 3 Words (Phil Bowdle @PhilBowdle)

3 Words: Promote Engage and Encourage
Promote: While many businesses may be guilty of self promotion, so can bloggers. If you only tweet YOUR pictures, YOUR posts, you become a bullhorn. Promote others too and they will reciprocate.

Engage: Build a community around your blog / brand. Not only promote others, but build relationships by replying to tweets and give shout outs to your followers. Ask questions, post fill in the blank questions and even tweet trivia to engage fans.

Encourage: Add value to you audience’s life. Think about what time of day you are posting. In the morning post something inspirational. A review of a seafood restaurant may not be what encourages your fans early in the day, but maybe knowing about a lunch special might.

Building Yourself as the Brand (Tara Williams)

Create profiles on Linked In, Pinterest, Google+, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.
Make sure they are 100 percent done with a good picture of yourself. Post 5 times a day to really help you rank in the search engines. Plus, it can’t hurt to have your mug in front of people quite often.
Make sure you own your own domain name with an email address, none of this
Linked In is especially important for building your brand so be sure to put your area of expertise (writing, photography, recipe development) in your headline. Make use of connections and network with them. Engage with groups that you can work with.

Lunch Break
Yes, I’m going to talk about our lunch break. For one thing they gave us nearly two hours for it. And two, the cafeteria at Kennesaw State is simply phenomenal. Some choices were: Lamb Shank, Gnocchi with Truffle Butter and Poached Eggs on top of Pork Belly. Are these really options for college kids now? If they had all of these choices when attended I would have probably gained the freshmen 1-5-0.

Social Sauce (Josh Martin @JMart730) Social Media Manager, Arby’s

Maybe you’re not thinking Arby’s, but there’s no doubt that the brand did an incredible job with their social media. Did you know that they have raving fans that tweet about their sauce as if being without it is the equivalent of a zombie apocalypse?It’s so true that Arby’s decided to sell jars of their Arby’s sauce and used a fun social media campaign to generate interest.

Source: Josh Martin (Arby's)

Source: Josh Martin (Arby’s)

arby's social media strategy pharell


We may not all have a huge social media team behind our efforts but that doesn’t mean one person can’t make a different. During the Grammy’s, Josh had his twitter stream open and when singer, Pharrell came out wearing a gigantic cowboy hat, he cleverly tweeted “Hey @Pharell, can we have our hat back. “It gardnered 64,000+ retweets and a response by Pharell that said “You tryin’ to start a Roast Beef?”
Just thinking about the creative team behind the campaign does make a bit giddy. Yes, I’m a total social media nerd. High five to Josh as a badass social media ninja and fellow Kennesaw State University alumni. Go Owls!

How to Build Your Brand with Visual Social Media (Lauren Thomas, @HelloLT)

You could tell that this was easily the most anticipated session of the day, as it was standing room only before we were moved to a bigger classroom. As Lauren engaged and made us laugh with her one-liners, there was still plenty of insightful information to be shared as well.

Meme image

Meme image courtesy Lauren Thomas

Here are some quotes from Lauren from the session:

  • We are all publishers. We are all broadcasters. So the question is, What’s your story? The purpose is more important than platforms.
  • Use visual shorthand to produce shareable content and foster social engagers.
  • If your website and your social aren’t consistent in look and tone, then you might have social media schizophrenia.
  • Each one of us has a production studio in the palms of our hands and everything in our lives is content.

People have a short attention span. Using visual is important because it lets you use these as an introduction to your longer content. So, a picture or short video makes a user more engaged with you and want to click through to your blog.

Keep in mind with everything you do, you are building your brand, try to think in terms of your tone that you want to convey. This should come through in your visual posts and be consistent throughout all of your social media channels.

Some ideas for visual posts:

  • Before and after pictures
  • How To
  • Pop Culture References
  • Holidays / Seasons
  • Inspiration Boards

Lastly, SoCon really is short for So Connected. While this does center around social media, it is important not to forget human interaction. Take it offline once in a while and actually interact with and meet people face to face. At a tweetup? Put the phone down and engage with the people in front of you.

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How My Free Lunch Turned Into the Most Expensive Sandwich Ever

Posted on 19 February 2014 by Administrator

The most expensive sandwich I have had cost me $191. You must be wondering just what was in this sandwich – gold? Nope. It was a Kimchee chicken schnitzel sandwich. Nothing to it really, albeit maybe a little too heavy on the Kimchee. Why the high price tag? Because it was given to me under the guise of a sales meeting. When I factor in my time, consulting and travel, for this meeting, it runs the cost of nearly two Benjamins. This takes the saying, “There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch” to a whole new level.

After countless meetings, I’ve honed my ability to spot those who just want to suck the knowledge out of my head. But every once in a while I get duped. And this was one such occasion. I knew the owner as we’d worked together on an event before and when he emailed me suggesting we meet because he’d like to talk to me “about your PR and Marketing services” I was pretty excited.


It takes me about an hour to get ready (I’m a girl, what can I say), an hour to drive to this location – city traffic, (31 miles one way), an hour for the meeting and an hour back home. That’s a huge chunk out of my day, but as a sole proprietor, I wear many hats, sales person being one of them.

As soon as I entered the store, he sat down with me asking probing question after probing question:

  • I’m thinking of opening up a second location, where should it be?
  • How do I fit in the market place?
  • How do I get a mention on and local television stations?

Of course, there’s a bit of freebies in the form of expertise you have to give away so that potential clients know you know your stuff. But these were some pretty in-depth, complicated questions. I asked what help he needed with social media and pr. He just smiled and said “Oh I can handle all of that myself. I just wanted your feedback on some of this other publicity.” I left, feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. Did he really think the fact that he gave me a $7.49 sandwich justified what he did?

I didn’t write all of this just to vent, though it has been a bit cathartic. As we food bloggers keep up our craft, no doubt we will be pulled in different directions. Writing, photography, recipe development and maybe even social media expert. I write this to tell you this is a talent and your services aren’t free. So, don’t let these leeches get away with taking advantage of you.

You have worked tirelessly to get to be where you are and acquire the skills to do what you do. If you are being sough after, it is because you bring value to an organization or business. Don’t sell yourself short. Stick to your guns. I promise good things will come your way.

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Interview with Beer Blogger and Expert, Ale Sharpton

Posted on 27 December 2013 by Administrator

Dennis Byron, aka, Ale Sharpton, knows everything about beer. IPAs, Porters, Pilsners, you name it, Ale, as he likes to be called, is the beer authority. Dennis began blogging about beer several years ago and has turned his love of beer and writing into a career. He now travels around the country doing beer seminars and has been featured on local tv stations and even the Weather Channel talking about beer.

1. How did you get started with writing about food / drinks?

When attending Cornell University, I took it for granted that I did so well in my writing and communications courses. It wasn’t until I finished my college career when I actually considered making journalism an actual profession. Since I have a long line of chefs and caterers in my family—we’re talking generations—I embraced that with my passion for exploring the world of beer. To add, Atlanta is such a great city for this, so it was a no-brainer to make that my focus.

2. What’s your favorite type of food?

I went with the simple formula: If there is a food I couldn’t do without, what would it be? Hence, I came to realization that I am a seafood fanatic. Specifically, baked or broiled salmon and crab (specifically legs and cakes). If beer was considered a food source, that would be first.

3. Where is your go to spot in your city where you know you can always have a great meal, whatever it may be?

Having a great meal in Atlanta is pretty easy to do, but having it balanced with a great beer selection is another story. So with that being considered, you can’t lose with Cook Hall, Georgia Pine, or JCT Kitchen for starters. I’m a Libra, so I am a bit indecisive. Sorry!

4. Tell us a little about what your career involves.

I thrive on informing my readers that there is more to beer than ratings and criticism. I cherish writing in my own voice what I consider great beers, breweries, gastropubs, restaurants, attractions, hotels and most importantly people to meet in any city I visit both nationally and abroad. With this framework, it’s virtually unlimited what I can write about.

5. What is something you wish you knew before you started blogging? Or something you wish you learned early on?

Truly, nothing comes to mind. Blogging is an ongoing learning experience and I cherish every minute. If anything, I wish I started earlier. It’s a fun challenge to build your identity as a blogger and candidly share your experience while broadening your audience.

6. Tell us what your 3 favorite tools or online resources are.

One, I enjoy tweeting because it’s my way of doing what easily could be a blog post in a limited amount of characters. Two, I love having the ability to research any beer through various reliable platforms including,,, and And three, in general, I love Google.

7. What do you do to stay fit?

I do 100 push-ups and 100 sit ups daily, run two miles every three days, eat small portions, no desserts, no soda, no breakfast, and only taste beef and pork. Oh, and three servings of quality beer. We can call that the Ale Sharpton diet. (DVDs are available.)

8. Do you have any advice for aspiring bloggers?

Do not be afraid of expressing your voice, but just do so tastefully…and factually. Also, do your best to know AP standards. This is a great framework to help structure your writing and keep things in check. People will be turned off by too many grammatical errors and unnecessary rambling. Last, know the difference between writing for magazines and Web writing. They are totally different fields. Oh yeah, besides having a Twitter account, being a great photographer surely helps too. Evidently, with all of these new apps, people like pictures!

9. Who is your hero?

My mother, Brenda. She was fearless, spoke her mind, loved teaching and was simply a downright genius. She made me what I am today. I miss her crazily.

10. What do you love most about blogging?

The ability to meet people, set your own deadlines, be your own boss, speak your voice, and explore the world due to the power of the pen—err…keyboard. Having a camera in tow to document your experiences and post your shots later is also very rewarding. I wish anyone reading this good luck.

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Interview with Go Eat Give Founder, Sucheta Rawal

Posted on 23 October 2013 by Administrator

We like to highlight bloggers who have become successful in their craft from time to time. Not only is it inspirational, but it is also a example of what you can accomplish with your blog. Even more, that there are many paths that come from being a food blogger. Here’s our latest interview with Sucheta Rawal, founder of the non-profit, Go Eat Give.

AoFB: How did you get started with writing about food / drinks?

SR: I was always a big foodie and loved to cook and entertain. My friends would call me for restaurant advice and cooking tips. One of them introduced me to a friend who was the editor of a SouthAsian magazine based in Atlanta. So I approached them and started writing their section on restaurant reviews. Thats where the food writing started!

AoFB: What’s your favorite type of food?

SR: I love anything made with fresh ingredients where you can taste real food (not the modified unrecognized version of it). Also, I like to experiment with a lot of different kinds of spices. Having said that, my two favorite cuisines are Italian and Indian.

AoFB: Tell us a little about what your career involves.

When I started doing restaurant reviews, it was purely as a hobby while I held a full time corporate job to pay bills. I started contributing to more magazines, teaching cooking classes, and finally incorporated a lot of travel writing. If there is one thing I enjoy more than food, it is traveling! As more friends encouraged me to share my unique voice on exploring countries, I created a blog called “Go Eat Give.” Here I wrote about restaurants, recipes, travel destinations, volunteer programs and culture. As the popularity of the blog grew, I started getting invited for speaking engagements and interviews.

Now, Go Eat Give is officially a 501c3 nonprofit organization. We have expanded our services from a FREE blog covering 40+ countries, to international cooking classes, monthly cultural awareness Destination events & volunteer vacation programs around the world. We work with partner nonprofits in Cuba, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Spain, Kenya & South Africa. I don’t spend as much time blogging now, since I lead some of these tours & coordinating the Destination dinners, but its been very exciting to see how the concept has impacted lives of people locally and globally.

AoFB: What is something you wish you knew before you started blogging? Or something you wish you learned early on?

One of the things I wished someone had told me before I started blogging is – have an intention for your blog and every blog post you write. Sure, you want to share opinion and keep your own voice, but when you are broadcasting sometime to the world wide web, it stays out there forever! Readers create a perception of you & your writing. If you want to write a journal, you can keep your posts on “private” setting, but if you want to be known as a credible writer, make sure your every post is well though out, meaningful and free of grammatical errors.

Another fact I learned from experience is that it is very time consuming to do exactly that: write a well constructed 500-800 words blog post, with properly formatted photos, linking back to website and sharing it on social media. It takes me average of 2-3 hours to complete a blog from start to finish. So if you are thinking updating your blog is something you plan to do after you finish cooking dinner and tuck the kids into bed, make sure you have allotted enough time for yourself.

AoFB: Tell us what your 3 favorite tools or online resources are.

Wikipedia: I always check facts before posting my articles.
Pinterest & Google images: Good for inspiration esp when I want to experiment with a new dish

AoFB: What do you do to stay fit?

I always start my day with a light meal (tea, fruit, eggs) so that I don’t have to deprive myself of anything rest of the day. When I’m not traveling, I try to cook healthy at home as much as I can, eating mostly vegetarian.

Yoga keeps me aligned physically and mentally when I’m traveling. It also helps with digestion (after those big meals) and back pains (resulting from long flights).

AoFB: Do you have any advice for aspiring bloggers?

I started my blog just as a means to share my passion for food and travel, but I think often times new bloggers think their blog would be their business. Selling ads and getting free meals is great. However, if you want to quit your job and follow your passion, it has to involve selling other skills that companies are actually willing to pay for.

Another common mistake I see with many bloggers is that when they start blogging, they are very enthusiastic about it, but after a few months you begin to see fewer and fewer posts, and eventually the blog becomes a grave site of some delicious reviews. While its discouraging to not see your Google Analytics skyrocket after you posted the recipe of your most raved about cheesecake, you must not loose hope and keep at it. Consistency and persistence are key to running a successful blog. It takes a long time and lot of hard work to build a strong traffic.

AoFB: Who is your hero?

My formative years were most influenced by my grandmother in India, who I grew up with. She would host travelers from around the world, and spoil them with her delicious food and generous hospitality. I also use to accompany her to do charity work participate in cultural events in our hometown. She was perhaps the most socially active lady in town, and still is at 80+ years!

AoFB: What has been your biggest accomplishment?
The powerful impact Go Eat Give has makes me feel very accomplished. After every Destination dinner or a volunteer trip, I see the reaction of the people who have participated. Some of them are deeply influenced by the culture or take back some learning that they had never imagined. Practically everyone who has been on a trip with me has had a life-altering moment. Also, when I see our attendees break into a group dance (be it Afghan or Bollywood) & have a fun time, I feel great about being able to create that positive experience for them.

Winning the “top 5 most influential cultural bloggers in the world” in 2012 was also a nice pat on the back.

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Social Media Rules: Ethics and Disclosure in Blogging

Posted on 13 October 2013 by Administrator

I recently read an article on SocialFish about FTC rules relating to publicists and social media managers and bloggers. Basically, it puts the onus on these publicists and anyone in social media representing a company to require that bloggers disclose an freebies. “The difference between honesty and sleazery is disclosure.” A good quote from the article, it goes on to say that it is all about trust and you can’t gain that if you don’t disclose that you as a brand have given something to bloggers for free.

But what about us bloggers? We have the responsibility as well to disclose when we get anything for free, whether the restaurant / manufacturer asks us to or not. I wrote about an experience where a company explicitly asked us bloggers NOT to disclose that we had gotten anything for free. It left me with an icky feeling, and the result is that I never wrote a word about t them.

Has this ever happened to you? You are approached by a company that says they will pay you to do put a sponsored post on your blog. There’s just one catch – they don’t want you to disclose that it was a sponsored post! The reason is of course they want it to appear as if you are truly endorsing this product, restaurant, etc. The other reason is search engines discount anything that is labeled as a sponsored post. But the fact remains, if you were paid, then you need to disclose that to your readers.

The bottom line is that besides it being ethnical to disclose freebies and sponsored posts, it goes back to trust and your reputation. If you fake it, your readers will be able to spot it. The best thing we as bloggers can do for ourselves is to protect our reputation at all costs and be as transparent as possible to our readers.


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6 Ways Bloggers Piss Off Publicists

Posted on 09 September 2013 by Administrator

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As bloggers, there’s a thrill of excitement we all get when two little words pop into an email in our inbox: You’re Invited. It is an exciting thing to be invited to media events. But it all comes at a price. Public relations professionals have a responsibility to provide coverage for their clients. That is where you, the blogger, come in. After talking to many public relations professions, we’ve put together this list of ways bloggers can piss off public relations professionals and guarantee no future invites from them.

1. Can I bring my photographer, who also happens to be my SO?
You may think you are being clever, asking to bring your “photographer” with you. But most publicists see right through that. If you have a plus one, that’s cool, just disclose it ahead of time. “We do make every effort to accommodate the extra person, but please understand we are at the mercy of the restaurant,” Atlanta Publicist Kitsy Rose says. If we say only media, then it is only media. You may slip by us once with the “plus one” angle, but we’ll remember you next time.

2. Not writing in a timely manner
If we invite you to an event for a preview – guess what? That means we want you to write about it BEFORE the event takes place. Three months after doesn’t really help us out. In fact, while we are on the subject, if it takes you more than three months to write about out event we’ve most likely already written you off, especially if you are a new blogger we are working with.

3. Feeling entitled
I hear this from publicists all the time: Bloggers are invited to a restaurant and ask to bring numerous friends with them. The norm is you can bring one person to events or one guest when you are reviewing a restaurant. Ask for more, and you come across greedy and entitled.

4. Being a No Show
You committed to showing up. You need to do what you say. If for some reason you can’t make it email / call and let us know. We might be able to give someone else your slot. It doesn’t matter if something better came along. Keep in mind that this relationship is for the long haul not just a free meal for a midweek night.

5. Don’t skip the tip
This should go without saying but if you were invited to dine somewhere, you are getting a complimentary meal, so leave a good tip! If the gathering is a true media event with many of your peers, often times tipping is not necessary. But when you and a guest are invited to a restaurant for a review with a comped meal, a tip is customary. Many PR companies inform you of this beforehand. If the invite came directly from a restaurant, it is likely they won’t ask you to do this, but it is expected.

6. Honest Feedback
Yep. Public Relations do want your feedback. To them. Not to the public. This is a tricky one. You can’t fib on your reviews to keep getting invites. You need to provide valuable, honest content for your readers. Yet if you pan numerous clients, chances are you won’t get more invites from a particular PR company.
So what is a blogger to do? For the most part, it is almost always possible to find the good in a restaurant experience. Maybe only one appetizer was disappointing or out of two entrees, one really out-shined another. Focus more on those, even if you do mention the less than perfect dishes. You can share the full details of the negatives with the publicist.

A publicist’s job is to make the restaurant look better to the public. And restaurants do hold them accountable for freebies. Publicist’s use bloggers and other media help spread the word about new dining establishments. But keep in mind this is a relationship both sides should nurture, not abuse.

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Storytellers Wanted: Writing Course in Paradise

Posted on 06 August 2013 by Administrator

Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica is hosting two Immersion Travel Writing Retreats. Aspiring travel writers can attend workshops offered August 30–September 3 or November 7-10, 2013. Often times, food and travel go hand and hand. For many of us a culture’s food is a glimpse into a way of life.

Four Seasons is embarking on two travel writing courses that take place at their resort in Costa Rica. Taught by top travel writers whose works have appeared in publications and media outlets including the New York Times, National Geographic Traveler and on the Travel Channel, the course promises to be a learning adventure.

What else can you expect? Along with participating in informative writing sessions and classes, attendees will take part in half-day adventures near the hotel, interview key local experts and personalities and enjoy unique culinary “assignments” including the Costa Rican chocolate class and organic garden Chef’s table at Caracol restaurant.

The course + travel doesn’t come cheap. The course is $500 and hotel room rates start at $319 per night. However, the opportunity to be instructed under the tutelage of these seasoned travel writers is a rare experience hard to pass up. For more information about the class visit the Four Seasons site.

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How to Stand Out in the Blogosphere

Posted on 24 July 2013 by Administrator

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I’m often asked by new bloggers, what to do when starting a new blog. There are so many blogs out there, how do you stand out? How do you make a difference and get recognized? Here are some strategies that I recommend for getting noticed in the blogosphere.

Take a different perspective
A strange thing happens to us food writers after several years of writing and some recognition. We sometimes forget we are writing for foodies and start writing for other bloggers / food writers. And sometimes we are afraid to say something opposite of what the critics are saying. There’s great power in being a newbie. No one knows you…yet, so feel free to be quite opinionated and speak candidly. Maybe that pricey steak joint that just opened up in Trendyville isn’t as fabulous as every other food writer would have readers believe. Spill the beans and let your readers know why. You’d be surprised how fast word spreads.

Reach out to Publicists
With so many writers and media out there, it is difficult for publicists to keep up with all the blogs. However, it is easy for bloggers to find out the publicists who represent restaurants within the city. Reach out to them (send an email or tweet) with a heads up on your reviews (only if it positive though). They always want to get positive exposure for their clients and you are helping with a favorable review. And they’ll circulate your review to their followers. Maybe the will invite you to their next media dinner.

Post a Guest Blog
We bloggers struggle for content on a regular basis. As a blogger, many have a full time job and this is a hobby. So, it is hard to find time, among all the other responsibilities to write. While it may sound counter intuitive to spend your time writing for someone else, if you pick a high profile blogger in your city, you could generate some good traffic to your site by a worthwhile blog post, provided they link to your blog somewhere in the post.

In the beginning, I couldn’t afford to go to all the food festivals I wanted to attend. And since I wansn’t well known, no one was going to give me media passes. So, I volunteered. You know what’s fun about volunteering? You get a behind the scenes peek at what really goes on. And, then you can dish about it on your blog. The other good thing about volunteering is getting to know people. It is because I schmoozed with others at events that they remembered me and invited me to judge contests. Although the payoff for this isn’t immediate, it is terrific networking and that is a big part of blog recognition. When people get to know you and like you, they naturally want to promote your stuff.

Host a Tweetup
One thing I LOVE is event planning. I have a group of foodie friends and I’m always planning outings for us. If you are blogging, chances are you on twitter and are following other foodies. Why not reach out to a restaurant you like or have a good relationship with and plan a Tweetup with them? It gives them exposure to the restaurant and your get to know those you follow in real life. When you do this, you set yourself apart from others and become more of an authority figure.

Use New Media
You’re probably on Facebook and Twitter. What about Foursquare, Instagram, Youtube and Google+? It may seem daunting in the beginning, but if you start one or two of these social media outlets, you’ll find them not as difficult  as they may at first seem. Make sure to include links to all of these on your blog. Social Media helps with your Google rank overall, because these sites are indexed just as your blog would be, so it’s terrific for inbound links.

Use the Big Guys
You know two huge hubs for foodie sites? Urbanspoon and Yelp. They get TONS of traffic. If you have a blog you can link to your posts on both of these sites. If you are not doing this, you are missing out on easy traffic. Urbanspoon provides an easy way to link to your posts. Yelp is not as obvious. Besides putting a link on your bio of yelp, a good idea is to do a partial post (maybe two paragraphs), then link to the rest on your blog.

Whether you follow all or just one of these strategies to help your blog stand out in the blogosphere, I think you’ll be happy with the boost in traffic. What other strategies do you have for boosting your blog recognition? Share them here.

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