Following the launch of our new blogger interview series, last week featuring Thankfifi, this week we speak to Pam Gilmour, who writes Glasgow Food Geek.
Our blogger interview series aims to give insight into some of Scotland’s top bloggers and how PR practitioners and brands can work more effectively with them.
Blogger interview #2 by Aura’s Laura Sutherland
#1 Tell us a bit about yourself…
Pam: My name is Pam, I am a thirty something living in the west end of Glasgow, and I write the blog Glasgow Food Geek (GFG), which is a diary of my adventures exploring the Glasgow food scene.
I started GFG over three years ago, when my husband and I first moved to the west end of the city. Having grown up in the suburbs neither of us had ever lived in a city before, and we didn’t want to fall into a rut of always going to the same bar or restaurant all the time. So I decided to make a list of the 100 places I most wanted to try in the west end and city centre, and decided to turn the idea into a food blog to give my family a giggle. And somehow here I am three years later still writing my blog, which people seems to actually enjoy.
Laura: Firstly, thanks for agreeing to take part in our new blogger interview series! You’re love of food chimes with most Glaswegians! That was a nice way to set yourselves goals, to explore and let others know how you were doing. Since I’ve worked in restaurant management fifteen years ago to having worked with many Glasgow restaurants over my 15-year PR career, it’s certainly developed into a fantastic scene and it’s great to see so many thriving in what is a competitive market.
# 2 How important is it to find a niche when blogging?
Pam: I think it’s really important to create your own niche when deciding how you are going to write your blog. First and foremost for me writing a blog is a creative outlet for both writing and photography. By finding your own ‘voice’ and unique point of view when you write and design a post you’ll create your own niche.
The blogs that I personally read are always a little bit different, they all do their own thing and their personality really comes over in their writing. That for me makes them much more interesting than bloggers who try to replicate successful blogs and only follow trends.
Laura: Blogs have to be personal and authentic. I don’t think there is any way to have a consistent style if you’re copying others. I hope that our new blogger interview series will enlighten people and give them inspiration to either start their own or have a real think about how they can work with bloggers.
#3 How did you become inspired to blog?
Pam: I started the blog three years ago as a bit of a giggle for my family to read, I had just moved to the west end of Glasgow and thought it would be a nice way for them to follow my adventures. I genuinely never thought anyone other than my friends and family would read it, so it’s safe to say that I am shocked in the loveliest way at how many people do engage with me, both on the blog and social media.
In truth, I had never even read a blog before I started GFG. I am kind of pleased that I came into blogging without any expectations or being influenced by other blogs that I had read. It certainly helped me in developing a blog and style I liked rather than something I thought was the ‘right’ way to do it.
#4 Other than Glasgow Food Geek, what’s your favourite blog and why?
Pam: I actually don’t read that many blogs…or at least not as many as you might think.
I always check in on my friends blogs – House of Herby, Hungry Squirrel, Miss West End Girl and The Weegie Kitchen. I read these blogs because these women are all great writers and I know that they are just lovely people which I think comes over in their blog.
Also, at the moment I have a lot of love for Scottish male lifestyle bloggers. The Everyday Man, who always has gorgeous photography in his posts is a particular favourite. I am Peter and The Middle Age Man are also great new blogs I enjoy…the lifestyle guys are really killing it at the moment.
Laura: It’s great to see new bloggers coming to the scene. I can be skeptical about some new blogs until they really nail the look and feel of it and consistently post. Some bloggers don’t post often enough and that means they don’t build relationships and continue to grow. I should know, I’ve not invested enough time in my personal blog and I need to style it more. That’s for another day though! I know some of the blogs you’ve mentioned and will bear them in mind for adding to our blogger interview series!
#5 Do you think images and video are important when blogging?
Pam: In a word, yes!
I would go as far as saying the most important part of blogging is the imagery you place with it. Great photography just lifts a blog post to a different level and sets the scene for the story you are trying to tell.
Over the last three years of blogging the thing I am most pleased with is the way that my photography has improved and allowed me to developed a style. It is also the reason Instagram is by far my most used social media platform, and my favourite way to showcase Glasgow’s fabulous food.
Laura: It’s great you can do it yourself. Mind you, with all the apps you can get for filters and the amazing tech in phones, people can produce really great shots. I started using Foodie app a while back and it’s great for Instagram food posts.
#6 Do you need a budget?
Pam: Wow, do you need a budget!
I decided a long time ago to always pay for the meals I review on the blog, because I wanted them to be completely impartial. I feel that if a restaurant knows I am there I’m not getting a genuine experience, and I find it impossible to be properly impartial if I haven’t had to fork out my hard earned money.
I hate to think what I have spent on the blog, I suspect if I sat down and worked it out it would run into an eye watering amount. So, yeah to be a food blogger you do need to have a fair budget.
Laura: You make a good point about being impartial. It’s not like buying an item of clothing, because with food, you generally have to take the whole experience into account include service, ambiance, cleanliness, facilities etc. Through the blogger interview series, I hope readers get a flavour of exactly what is best practice and if dealing with bloggers in the future, know how to approach them specifically. It’s all about building relationships.
#7 How would a brand approach paid or sponsored content?
Pam: A collaboration all starts with a brand approaching me, usually via email, with a brief detailing the campaign or product they are looking to promote. After reading the brief I would decide if the brand and I are a good fit to work together. If it is campaign I am excited about, I will go back to the brand with an idea or a plan on how I would approach the project and how we might work together.
Providing the brand is happy with the plan we would progress to sorting out the finer details. At this point I think it is really important to clear up any questions you might have either as a blogger, or the client, on what you expect from the collaboration. For example, as a brand, do you want to read or see the work before it goes live? As a blogger, do you expect the brand to pay your expenses over and above the agreed fee? Will the brand be able to use any images the blogger creates on their social media? These are the questions that should be answered in advance to avoid any unnecessary challenges later.
This approach to collaboration although it sounds detailed, is necessary to ensure both parties agree what will happen, when and the outputs. It sounds scary but it’s not! I’ve never once had anything less that a great experience doing sponsored content. Brands will find most bloggers approachable and happy to work with you, and any brands who contact you are excited by your writing and style, and want to work with you.
Laura: I think it’s really important that people agree the parameters from the outset. It’s like anything – managing expectations, achieving goals, the discussions all take place at the start. As you say, it avoids any conflicts or issues later on and it means everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.
Pam: This is such a tricky question….would I expect or accept payment for a review? No, absolutely not, I wouldn’t even consider this under any circumstances. The most important part of my brand is that I want to always feel free to be honest with readers and have them know that they can trust that I am being truthful.
However as I said above running a blog can be obscenely expensive and time consuming, so I think that being paid for advertising, sponsored posts, instagrams etc is perfectly okay and something I am happy to do. As long as it is made very clear to readers that you have been paid I see no harm in this.
But accepting money for a review would feel wrong on every level to me.
Laura: Ethically, this is the response I wanted. Phew! You make an excellent point about being clear to readers if something is sponsored. It’s your duty to be transparent and it’s the law that consumers will not be mislead.
However, in the recent CIPR Ethics Festival, I had a discussion with someone about ‘what is payment’? Financial, yes, but also it might be something to do with a relationship or in the case of your area, getting a free coffee every now and again. You’re thinking is straight though, so I’m pleased Aura readers can see this demonstrated.
#9 What’s the best tip you’ve can give from your blogging experience?
Pam: Write for yourself, because trying to write for stats and follows will give you nothing but heartache. For 99.99% of people blogging is just a hobby so it should be something that you get fun and enjoyment from.
My biggest tip is write what you love, how you want to write it, when you want to write it, without worrying about what people will think of it.
Laura: Your last point rings true with many, people are scared of what people will think of their writing, images or even just taking the opportunity. It’s a confidence thing, but we see many people turning to blogs now to help tell their story, which may help others. In particular I’m thinking of young people with social issues or even PR practitioners with mental health issues. It’s a great way to formulate thinking and express opinions.
#10 You’ve branched out into other areas recently – tell us a bit about what you’re up to
Pam: Well, I decided earlier this year to launch a clothing line called FoodGeek Apparel – which consists of a range of fun, tongue in cheek, food-inspired slogan tees, sweaters, bags, and a bobble hat which I am just crazy about.
I have all kinds of exciting plans and ideas for the brand, and can’t wait to really get my teeth into it now that I am happy with how the soft launch of the site has gone over the last few months.
So keep your eyes peeled in 2017 I have big plans!
Laura: Oh exciting! Congratulations. I’ll be sure keep an eye out!
Well, huge thanks to Pam once again for agreeing to take part in our new blogger interview series. It’s be great to read about your journey and the exciting times ahead for Glasgow Food Geek.
Pam leaves us with her top three tips to engage followers
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