Are We Relevant Yet Part II: 5 important lessons learned in the first year of blogging

posted on: Thursday, 10 March 2016

There is a certain clarity that comes with writing day in and day out about things you are passionate about. When I first started the blog I wrote about everything – and I mean everything. I was writing about lipstick launches, magazine covers, runway shows, the great migration of fashion designers from house to house and more. Basically, if there was something that had to do with the world of fashion and style, I was going to be featuring it. I couldn’t get enough. But then a funny thing happened. In writing about absolutely everything, I discovered there were a select few things that I was very passionate about. I learned more about myself in the first year of writing FFG, than I had ever really taken notice of in the previous 29 years I had spent on the planet. There was a great clarity that came with hard work. Yes, HARD WORK. I gave something my all and in return, I was given an understanding of my passions. What a wonderful exchange. It fueled the future. So the lesson here is this: Hard work has its rewards and sometimes it’s the most simple rewards that will make the biggest difference in how the future unfolds.


Now, let’s define hard work and why it paid off. Here’s an interesting case study. In my first six months blogging, I wrote about one particular brand over 40 times. This wasn’t a casual mention, it was a full on love affair that was coming from my mind and presenting itself on the page in a near-on obsessive fashion. I appeared in Google Alerts for this brand so often that I am pretty sure they met with me just to meet the maniac. What manifested was a relationship that has carried on for half a decade thus far. I didn’t have to hound the PR. I never once wrote and asked to be gifted and I most certainly never demanded their attention in any other form than sincere flattery and I have stuck to that method for six years and its never ever done me wrong. If I love a brand, I write about them. I shout about them from the rooftops. I buy their products and I let my readers know I love them because I genuinely do so. Money didn't change hands, freebies were few and far between and the love flame continued to burn. Such was the way back in the day.

You have to remember in my first year of blogging, bloggers were almost seen as the enemy. Magazines all hated us, thinking we were out to kill them. I still don’t understand where that came from. In my first year of blogging, I doubled my number of paid magazine subscriptions. I couldn’t consume information fast enough. I was inspired by my heroes at these magazines and never in a million years thought I would be anything but someone who continued to support them – and that’s exactly what I did by featuring their covers left, right and centre. I have always said that no blog will be able to take a well respected magazine down, as long as we don’t have the budgets to hire Bruce Weber, to shoot Gisele Bundchen in a Dior Couture dress on the streets of Paris. Magazines are where dreams are made, for me at least. And that will never die. Sorry  - a bit of a tangent there.

Anway, back to the blogger as the enemy. Yes, back then we were seen as the unpredictable truth tellers. Brands were scared, magazines were scared, PRs were scared and I was fearless because I had nothing to lose. Well, that isn’t entirely true.

Here’s a story I’ve never told anyone. In January 2010, I shared a magazine cover image that had been put up on twitter. I screengrabbed the image, credited the twitter profile who was responsible for sharing it and gave my dialogue on why I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Well, it turns out the legal team for the magazine didn’t have the same opinion. The next morning, while I was at my day job, I got an email from the lawyers for, let’s just call it Magazine X. They were threatening legal action for releasing a cover early without expressed permission from the magazine itself. Sh*t. I kid you not, I got the email and ran to bathroom and threw up.

How on earth had something that was supposed to be a fun evening activity for me turned into a nightmare I could have never anticipated? Luckily, the PR for the magazine in NYC was copied into the email. I wrote her asking if she could speak and when she replied, I immediately left the office to call. I groveled. I’m pretty sure I sounded like a woman on death row at this point, begging for my life. What a scared little child I was at the time, but I genuinely thought this was the end of me, my blog and any hope of working in fashion in the future. Well, this woman, for whatever reason, took mercy on my soul. She told me to take down the post, any mentions of the post on twitter and she would take care of calling off the attack dogs. I went on to live another day. But it took me a few weeks before I had the courage to start posting magazine covers again. Thank goodness this was around the same time that PRs clocked onto the idea of actually just sending me their cover images to feature- and even then I checked and double checked on embargo dates. So, what’s the lesson learned here? Well, mainly – stick to what you have created yourself or images that have been expressly given to you to publish. If you have a feeling in the pit of your stomach that it’s not right, follow your gut. I knew I was taking a risk and I did it anyway. In the end, not worth the pain.

I’ll tell you what is worth the pain, however - your first year of networking. In my first year of blogging I said yes to everything, bar the opening of an envelope. Five nights a week I was leaving work and attending one launch of another. I found the PR at the event, introduced myself and made a point at telling them that I would be doing a blogpost about the evening. Then, the next morning, after I’d published said post, I would follow up with an email (and also most times a handwritten thank you note) to the PR saying how much I appreciated the opportunity and including the link to the blogpost. If I tweeted about the event, I would also include a link to this.
The event where Mademoiselle Robot and I met for the first time - in my first year of blogging - at A Bobbi Brown event... see... going to events pays off!! I met my best friend at one!
Ok, now it’s fair to say that I had an advantage from the start here. As I had worked in PR for ten years before this time, I knew what I could do to make a PR’s job easier – mainly give them great coverage and supply them a direct link to said coverage so they wouldn’t have to hunt for it. Again, not once did I cold call or email a PR. I waited patiently for interest to come my way and when it came I leapt on it like a lion. These days I have dozens of friends in fashion PR and I must just come out and say that the one thing I hear repeatedly is that they receive thousands of emails a day from bloggers asking to be gifted. WRONG WAY TO DO THINGS GUYS.

If a PR doesn’t know you from Adam, why are they going to suddenly say to themselves, “yes, this person seems like a good person to send a £750 handbag to for no other reason than they asked for it.” See what I’m saying here? It’s not sound thinking and you get put on a blacklist…and fast. Don’t be this person. It’s unintelligent and lazy and that’s how you’ll be remembered. Be smarter. Think smarter and play smarter. Back in 2012, it was estimated that 10,000 new fashion blogs were being created daily. That’s a lot of competition. You want to stick out from that pack and be the person that has respect from industry leaders. Operate in this way and the possibilities are endless. Choose another way and you’ll be lucky if you’re a flash in the pan. Lesson here: Write about the things you love from the start and carry through in this way. Don’t ask for things, things will come your way. And most importantly….remain humble!

Not let’s talk about this idea of being humble. It’s a tough one. In my first year of blogging, I didn’t make a dime. That’s the honest truth. Not one penny came my way. It took seven months of writing before I received my first “gift” and even then we’re talking about a tin of cakes. Then the first real gift, I guess you would say, arrived and it was the most beautiful leather bag I’ve ever seen – maybe because I didn’t pay for it. At that moment I sort of knew I was in trouble, that times they were a’changin’.  The next day I carried the bag to an event and I sat next to a bigger blogger, that shall remain unnamed, from the USA. The whole evening she spoke about how cheap the brand had been because they only sent her a bag when they should have not only gifted her an entire outfit, including shoes, they should have actually sent over a selection of outfits. It was in this moment that I made a promise to myself – I would never EVER be THIS girl. She was rude, unappreciative and down right snobby. And you know what? The universe has a funny way of working stuff out. Turns out that our two other table guests were actually journalists for print magazines who were good friends with the PR for the brand. Sorry, lovely rude blogger but you were blacklisted for a reason. Lesson learned here: Be humble, keep your smack talking for shower time when no one can hear and appreciate everything you receive. There are no guarantees in this business and you can’t stay hot forever.

Now back to those two journalists sitting at the table with myself and the rude blogger. This is where I say that sometimes being successful in this industry is down to three things: being good at what you do, networking and luck. Yes, I firmly believe that FFG has survived while flying on the magic carpet ride of pure luck… being in the right place at the right time and learning to roll with the punches as best as you can to make luck work for you. Even the year I started was pure luck. It was when blogging wasn’t yet massive. In fact, it was probably the last year to get in before everything blew up. I got lucky and the luck continued. One day it will fade away, I have no doubt about that. But for right now, I’m enjoying the ride and the view from the front seat.

Have I said thank you yet for affording me that ride? Because I’ll tell you what isn’t luck – all of you that keep coming back to read again and again. Here’s the biggest lesson I have learned and it is how I’ll end what seems to be turning into an old lady rant of information. YOU – the reader – are the most important part of any blog’s story. In my first year of blogging, I learned that you guys are a hungry bunch. But, I also learned you are a force to be reckoned with. If I recommended something you didn’t like, you sure shared your opinion. On the flip side, if I imparted information you loved, you also spoke up. Twitter comments, instagram comments, facebook comments (not sure why you guys hate commenting on the blog as it never happens… hello?!) all gave me daily motivation to carry on and push harder and produce more. I wasn’t speaking into a black void, I was speaking to you. 

You became one person in my mind. You became a friend I was speaking to daily and it made every word that was written, the easiest and most delightful thing to produce. Lesson learned here: Blog readers are a savy bunch and they are to be respected and fed daily. And my biggest surprise has been how the many of you I have met, sat down and spoken with, or emailed with, over the years. Daily, I am given an opportunity to help someone in some fashion, whether that’s on the blog, email or  social network. I set aside a part of every day to answer emails and since day one I have helped people with various dilemmas ranging from wedding attire solutions to ideas for Christmas presents, questions about blogging to advice on where to go when visiting special destinations. Every single day with you is an adventure I treasure and I’ve learned that each day I am given to continue to impart information is a day that is truly just plan lucky. Ok, I need to stop sounding like a sappy life coach and end this already. I’m getting all teary eyed. In short, you're fabulous and I love you. Year one to year six, my constant lesson is that you are not to be ignored, but rather worshipped! 

Now, something to bring this around to a more humourous level. My first video interview celebrating one year of the blog with Crane TV. Get ready for cringeworthy moments, like when I say I have a passion for fashion. Kill me. Or when I say I don't do it for the money because it would ruin who I am. Well, I will say I still don't do it for the money, but it has become my full time employment and I hope that never changes how I write... but I'm sure you'll let me know if it does... right?


Click over to Mademoiselle Robot to read more on this series.

To read part one click here