I’m an introvert.
I’ve been told I mask it well, but at the very core of this being called Bee, I’m the type of person who gets anxious at networking events, may come off as aloof when I’m around a group of people I’m meeting for the first time, and prefer to recharge my batteries at home - ideally with a book, music, and my own company. So, when I registered for the 2012 Blogging While Brown Conference, I was filled with excitement and chilling fear. I was a new blogger – would I be totally out of my league? Many of the folks I follow on Twitter had been to BWB numerous times – would it feel high-school cliqueish? And how damn awkward would I be with the daunting task of networking? All of these questions swirled through my mind in the days leading up to my departure, but I had a few things on my side. One: I wasn’t alone – the homie Rowena from Nubiansoulslocks was rollin’ with me, and two: my desire to learn and grow was greater than my fear of all of the unknowns. So last Thursday, we reached Philly and hit the ground running!
The trip to Philadelphia was…exhausting. A 10 hour bus ride became a 12 hour bus ride due to hold-ups at the border and traffic stops. Excitement kept Ro and I going for a while, but when that faded it was the struggle of all struggles. A packed bus, wi-fi access as scanty as Naomi Campbell’s edges, and chatty passengers made for a long ride. Anyways, we finally reached Philly, checked in at the Hyatt, and hit the sheets to catch some shut-eye before our 1st day at the conference.
The next morning, Ro and I trekked it the few blocks from the hotel to the Chemical Heritage Foundation Center where the conference was being held. Friday was dubbed the “Business of Blogging” day, and I was curious to see what that would entail.
Panel #1 was “Blog To Book”, featuring Angel Laws (of Concrete Loop), Demetria Lucas (of A Belle In Brooklyn), and Todd Hunter. Angel and Demetria are successful bloggers-turned-published authors, and Todd is an editor for Atria Books. They shared invaluable information for bloggers who have aspirations of being published as well. Key takeaways from this panel were:
- Ensure that your book is part of a bigger brand. It will help if bloggers-turned-authors have a sizeable social media presence, with the potential to build more – that still may not translate into automatic sales, but will help to sell you to a publishing house.
- Write proper book proposals! A guide was mentioned for those looking for help in this arena: How To Write A Book Proposal by Michael Larsen
Next was “Blogs and Brands”, featuring Tyrha M. Lindsey (Managing Director at LAI Communications), Jennifer Polk (VP at Edelman Digital), and Mananya Soobhawan (Digital Supervisor at Weber Shandwick) – all amazingly intelligent women with backgrounds in PR and brand collaboration, especially in the online world. A large amount of blog monetization comes from bloggers and brands partnering together, so these ladies explained what brands are looking for in bloggers, and how bloggers can be prepared to take the next step to monetization. Important points were:
- Blog analytics (# of subscribers, comments, unique views, Twitter followers, etc.) are important, but many brands place more value on the credibility, authenticity, and uniqueness of the blogger. Build your numbers, but BE YOU!
- Want to pitch a proposal to a PR agency/brand? Use a 10-slide Powerpoint presentation, not a Word document. Include hyperlinks to a few sample blog posts and/or screenshots from your blog. If you’ve done any work with brands in the past, include a case study of what you did/what happened. Ensure to have graphics, like an image of yourself, your logo, etc. Include contact info. IMPORTANT – make sure your About page is ON POINT! Agencies/brands will usually look at that and your most recent blog post to get an impression of you.
The after-lunch panel was “Blog To TV”, led by Harry Hairston (Emmy Award-winning journalist), Lou Dobbs (Social Media Editor for WCAU-TV), and Alexis Garrett Stodghill (New York and Lifestyle Editor for TheGrio.com). This panel was great for educating bloggers on their role in TV media – from obtaining guest spots on live TV to the blogger vs. journalist conundrum. Here were some key take aways:
- If you’ve never been on TV/radio before, record yourself using your phone and play it back to hear what the tone, cadence, and inflection of your voice on tape.
- Many people attempt to connect with anchors and journalists via Twitter, but you may have better luck reaching out to the news directors instead. Anchors/journalists can have such tunnel vision that they may not respond to an alternative view. News directors may be able to see your vision.
The last panel of the day was probably the most polarizing. “Blog To Big Business” was paneled by Fred Mwangaguhunga (Founder/CEO of MediaTakeOut.com), David Wilson (Creator/Executive Editor of TheGrio.com), and Jennifer Williams (CEO of J Sharpe Agency Public Relations). I was looking forward to learning about how to grow your blog into a media empire, but we definitely got much more than that at this panel. Fred from MTO had the room buzzing and Twitter on fire with his quotes that “passion and love for the Black culture are all you need to have to work at MTO” and “in the future, we’ll look back and see that MTO was positive for Black culture”. Yeah. MTO has never been one of my favourite sites to say the least, but I was glad I’d be able to hear the real deal from the man behind the ratchetry. However, when he made those statements, I tuned out until David started talking. David’s story explained the upward trajectory of how he left corporate America to complete a documentary about his family’s history, and how he eventually created TheGrio.com and sold to NBC. It was impressive to hear him discuss his presence and impact in NBC’s boardrooms because of his beginnings with TheGrio.com. Overall, the main lesson I got from this panel was the importance of passion and excellent content. Write about what you love, write it well, and the right people will come knocking.
Here's an awesome highlight reel that captures the essence of Day 1:
That sums up Day 1 of the Blogging While Brown Conference – The Business Of Blogging! Stay tuned for a recap of the Relationship Panel, Day 2’s social media focus, and my forays into successful networking and socializing with complete strangers (including how I got through the weekend without my usual clumsiness – until the last night)…