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Episode 108: Turning Your Blog Into A Sustainable Business With Laurie Buckle

In episode 108, we chat with Laurie Buckle from CookIt Media, about ways to stay relevant and sustainable in this changing online space.

We cover information about what it takes to be a successful blogger, how understanding your brand story is crucial and how you should be growing your audience.

Listen on the player below or on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast player. Or scroll down to read a full transcript.

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Guest Details

Connect with CookIt Media
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Bio Laurie Buckle is the founder of CookIt Media, an influencer marketing agency that specializes in food and lifestyle content creation. Laurie has worked in food media for more than 25 years – at magazines like Bon Appétit and Better Homes & Gardens; with digital brands like the Kitchn; and with publishers like Clarkson Potter. She knows how to create a successful brand story and how to market it.

Takeaway

  • Look for the gap in the marketplace – ask yourself, what makes YOU unique among the brands and products out there? Find where your opportunity is!
  • Ask yourself – Who do you do it for and why is it important? Take this chunk of knowledge and go back to your audience, sharing your content from different perspectives.
  • Your boss is your audience. They might not tell you your to-do list, but they’ll tell you when they’re happy or not. Survey them.
  • Triangle – Entertaining, Serving and being Aspirational!
  • You want to hang onto your current audience. But you want to find new audiences too and grow those demographics.
  • Really good blogs are like sharks. They have to keep swimming, moving to the next idea. 
  • You can’t put all your best ideas into one long blog post. All that content can and should be broken down into different reasons someone visits your blog. Create smaller posts and make it relevant to different audience members.  
  • Your reader is a different person at different times depending on what they need and have to accomplish. How are you serving these 3 people in 1?
  • Your recipe is the same but the content strategy is different.
  • Be thorough, forward thinking, be audience focused. This will separate you from the pack.
  • Food bloggers need to embrace the long view rather than just get down to the wire all the time. Organization is a big part of survival. 
  • Think in chunks of a month at a time to help you look at the long view. Google Trends can help guide you get valuable information. 

Resources Mentioned

20% off is available to EBTers who want to participate. To receive the discount, send a DM on the Cookit Media Instagram page to get that price point to participate in the course!

Transcript

Click for full text.

Intro:

Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, where food bloggers come to get their fill of the latest tips, tricks, and insights into the world of food blogging. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll provide you with the tools you need to add value to your blog. We’ll also ensure you’re taking care of yourself, because food blogging is a demanding job. Now, please welcome your host, Megan Porta.

Megan Porta:

Food bloggers. Don’t forget to check out the food blogging forum style community that we started over at forum.eatblogtalk.com. Finally, there’s one place that we can all convene and talk and that isn’t scattered all over Facebook. Here are the things that I am loving about it. It is free. It also allows for categorized discussions on all food blogging topics, and there’s a category for sharing successes, AKA self promotion. So no more holding back about discussing your big wins and things that you’re promoting. Also, everything is in one single spot. So no hopping around from group to group, and there’s an amazing opportunity to network and really get to know your fellow food bloggers in a single place. So come join the discussions that are going on over at forum.eatblogtalk.com. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. Don’t forget. Forum.Eatblogtalk.com.

Hello, food bloggers. Welcome to Eat Blog Talk. The podcast made for you, food bloggers seeking value for your businesses and your lives. Today I will be talking to Laurie Buckle from CookIt Media, and we will talk about turning your blog into a sustainable business. Laurie Buckle is the founder of CookIt Media and influencer marketing agency that specializes in food and lifestyle content creation. Laurie has worked in food media for more than 25 years at magazines like Bon Appetit and Better Homes and Gardens, with digital brands like the Kitchn and with publishers like Clarkson Potter. She knows how to create a successful brand story and how to market it. Laurie, I’m really excited to dig into our chat today, but first give us a fun fact about yourself.

Laurie Buckle:

Hi Megan. It’s so nice to talk to you. This is the silliest fun fact probably you’ve ever heard, but because I have worked in food for my entire career, literally starting at the bottom rung of the ladder at Bon Appetit and not even knowing how to cook at that point in time, it’s been this huge education in food and cooking and all of that amazing stuff. But I have this one handicap that has stayed with me the whole time. It’s the fact that I absolutely hate bananas. If you know me, I am one of those people who will eat anything. Everything from the most amazing hamburger on the street to a three-star restaurant kind of thing. So bananas are just kind of this obstacle. The whole trend that we’re going through right now about banana bread, I’m totally missing out on. So I feel really badly about it, but it is just this weird thing that I carry around with me all the time.

Megan:

That’s kind of funny. So do you find that people are constantly like, okay, I have a way that you are going to enjoy bananas. Did they ever try to do that? Convince you to like them?

Laurie:

All the time. I’ve always worked with test kitchens at the magazines that I worked with at everything. In the test kitchens, there have been so many tricks. There have been so many ways to get me to eat bananas that I can go to like a Jamba juice and have a smoothie and immediately know within seconds. Oops. Somebody put a banana in this one. So I’m really good at detecting it.

Megan:

You can’t even do something like a smoothie with a little bit of banana?

Laurie:

No. It’s not an allergy or anything. I just hate them.

Megan:

Just a huge distaste. It’s funny because they’re not super, well I guess they are kind of a strong flavor, but I’m thinking more of like beets for me. That’s my thing. But I think that’s kind of common. Because beets are just very, very strong.

Laurie:

Especially if you grew up on canned beets. Canned beets are not very good. But now I like fresh beet, definitely.

Megan:

I can’t do it. I’ve tried in every single way, just like you and I detect them immediately and I can’t do it. Well that was probably one of the funnest fun facts. So we are here to get your insights about growing a sustainable blogging business. But first I would love it if you gave us a little bit of information about CookIt Media and maybe how and why you started it and just give us a little information about it.

Laurie:

Sure. Happy too. CookIt had been sort of an idea in the back of my mind for a long time before it actually became the business it is today. To be honest with you, it was a progression of sort of what that original idea was and how it was going to become a business effectively. So not unlike the conversation we’re having today about creating a business out of a blog. In many ways a blog is an idea that you had, I think, and then there is this chance to figure out how to get it growing, what to do. So we’ll talk more about that, but coming back to CookIt, coming from food magazines and initially as bloggers were coming on to my radar, which was probably around 2010. Initially I was really hesitant because like I was mentioning before, I grew up in test kitchens and test kitchens are these places where recipes are developed and tested multiple times, seven, eight times until they’re perfect.

The people who work in the test kitchen are trained certified nutritionists, dieticians, that kind of thing. I just kept thinking, wow, who are these bloggers that think they know how to do all of that stuff, that was basically happening in the test kitchen. I really quickly began to see at that point that I should probably pay attention because something’s going on here in this industry and the food that I’m cooking from the blogs that I am following, is so much more interesting then what’s happening over here in traditional print magazines and that kind of thing. One of my first discoveries was 101 cookbooks and I started cooking from her blog and I just was blown away by the food. So I think at that point, I really shifted from skeptical to passionate enthusiasts for bloggers and what they were doing and wanting to figure it all out. Well, I have all of these skills from the publishing world. Everything from content creation, to editing, to understanding everything that goes into that. Creating brand stories, understanding your reader, who she is, what she wants out of you, all those things that actually make for a really great blog.

I kept thinking, all right, how am I going to share that with an influencer? What benefit am I going to be in that conversation? So I got very lucky at the beginning, at the point that I decided to leave magazines and move over to this digital space. I got to meet Gaby of What’s Gaby Cooking. I think she was already a couple of years into her blog. I remember after we met, I called her and I said, you know, I really need a guinea pig. I really need someone that I can talk to about what it is that I think a blog should be and how to get it there. She was game. She was all over it. Yes, of course let’s do that. I think we spent upwards of a year working together on her strategy, her story, which I don’t know if everyone knows her, but she’s amazing.

She’s basically the California girl and her food is just the epitome of what it’s like to sort of eat out here by the beach where you have salad for lunch and slutty brownies for dessert that night. She just has that whole balanced life, just perfect. I learned so much from her in terms of where I was helping? So from there CookIt really went on to get its start as a consulting agency. Me working one-on-one with the influencers, bloggers at the time and helping them really figure out what is their brand story? Who are they? What’s unique about them? Who’s their audience? Where is that potential to grow into an audience that’s really going to value that content? How do you actually create a content strategy around that audience and around that brand story? All those things that since then CookIt has really gone on to teach influencers over the years about how to do this.

Recently we have turned those teachings into a digital course that walks the individual through how to do this and how it will benefit her. So I’m sure we’ll talk more about that later. But in the meantime, in addition to the consulting, CookIt grew into an agency because the influencers we were working with would come back to us and say, wow, this is working and all of these brands are starting to reach out to me and not really sure what to say to them. I’m not really sure how to price myself. From my perspective, obviously working in magazines, your ad sales team is always in your back pocket. So ad sales, the advertising industry has always been a big part of what I do too. So it really felt like, okay, let’s just take this leap. Let’s really figure out what kind of agency we can create that really is in it to support the influencer. Simultaneously, the brand. Help create those partnerships that really move mountains when they’re done well. So that was a big part of how CookIt was growing. Then simultaneously, we were also working with influencers as content creators. Which again, comes back to my experience in content and realizing that in the influencer space, it’s so different and really it’s that potential that bloggers have to be the, do it alls of content, everything from the recipe development, through the recipe styling, the prop styling, the photography, the videography. You guys are amazing. I’m always impressed. I’m really grateful for this opportunity to work with so many bloggers really in content creation too. So that was the big story of CookIt that went on for a while there.

Megan:

No, that’s such great information. I did not know that history. I did know that you worked with magazines, but I love how that transpired for you. Where you were like, okay, who are these food blogger people? Who do they think they are? Because I think a lot of people think that. They’re like, well, they can’t take the photos and make the recipes and turn out good content, but actually the really successful ones can. So I love that you really dug into it and you realize, okay, there’s something to this. Then you really researched it and you dived in to the world and became immersed in it and used your own talents and your own skills to bring out the best in food bloggers and influencers. So what a great story.

Laurie:

I hope so. That is a goal, definitely. I have so much admiration for all of you and for this industry and where it’s going. I’ll always love magazines, but boy, am I glad to be here right now.

Megan:

Oh, that’s so great. I feel like food bloggers are very misunderstood and a lot of people don’t really know yet what we do or who we are. I don’t know that there’s been maybe like two people, honestly, that have said like, what do you do? I’m like, I’m a food blogger. Most people look at me like, what in the world is a food blogger. So then you have to go into this big thing. Well, I write recipes and I take pictures and it’s just this uncomfortable. So now I don’t even say that. So I never know what to say. Sometimes I say, I’m an entrepreneur. Sometimes I say, I’m an influencer.I feel like people just really don’t understand that either. So I appreciate, and we all appreciate those people who get it, who aren’t food bloggers, because it’s so rare and so unique.

Laurie:

We see the same thing on the brand side. They don’t really understand influencer marketing and what that is and the potential for this industry in terms of where it can go and the connections that bloggers have with their readers and that kind of thing. So we spend a lot of time on that. Basically we call it that education space. Helping them really kind of get what this is and what they can be doing. So I think it’s the same conversation. It’s just everywhere. It’s such a new industry in real time. It’s been around for, it seems to us, a lot more than a decade, but in the world of advertising and promotion and that kind of thing ,and content creation for that matter, it’s still relatively new.

Megan:

That’s so true. I love that. You pointed out that on their side too. It’s very unique as well. People don’t quite understand that fully either. Okay. So thank you for putting a scope on your company. I love that you focus on brand story to start, and then everything goes from there because really I’m learning this about my own business after being a blogger for many, many years, literally just learning that your brand story is the basis for everything. If you don’t have a good brand story, if you don’t know what your brand story is, you’re just floundering. I did that for so many years. So it’s the foundation. So figuring out what that is, is so crucial. So do you recommend that people take your course and then lean on you as an agency? Or how do you move through CookIt Media if people want help figuring out what their brand story is?

Laurie:

Such a great question. It’s so interesting to me when I look back at where the industry started. I think almost every day, somebody says to me, this was just a hobby. I was just looking for a place to keep my recipes because I love cooking and look at what it is now. I’m not really sure what to do with it. We’ve worked with hundreds of bloggers over the years and to hear that again and again, and then to hear people say, I used to do this thing where I didn’t really know what I was doing. I didn’t really have my story. I didn’t really have a sense of who I was talking to or what my value was to them. So I would just simply look at what everybody else was doing out there. I would do the same thing so that if it was a moment in time when unicorn cakes were really popular, everybody would, like a shiny object, everyone would gather around it and think, okay, well then I should do a unicorn cake too. How confusing that must have been for that content creator at that point in time. Because really, if you think about it, the individual who wants to make a cake doesn’t need 300 unicorn cakes. She needs a cake that’s really specific to what she wants to make and what she likes and what the occasion is. I think like you said, it’s just been this slow, steady progress of realizing that actually we need to be very strategic about blogs. We need to really understand who we are in the equation. We desperately need to understand who we’re talking to.

So when we are in the course, when we are really teaching this, this is actually going back to magazine work, is really understanding your competitive set or the marketplace. We kind of look at them. The marketplace is the really vast sort of view of everyone in the food space, who shares sort of a content like strategy, a story, something similar to yours. So if you’re Bon Appetit magazine in other words, you’re going to fully understand and watch and explore all those other brands out there that are creating food similar to to the foods that’s in Bon Appetit. So you’re going to look at all the other food magazines and see which ones are closest to you. You’re going to look at all the cookbook authors. If you’re smart, you’re gonna look at all the influencers out there and figure out, okay, so what are they doing?

It’s kind of like, you begin this process of really understanding what’s the conversation out there and where do I fit in? Because once you understand your entire marketplace and you can kind of zero in on, well, who are my direct competitors in that giant marketplace, how do I narrow it down to this particular author or this particular cooking show person or this particular magazine? How do I begin to see that they are really working for the same audience that I am, as I began to understand that piece of it or the audience I want to work for. That gives you that kind of sense of all right, well, here they are. Here I am. Then you begin the process of what we call gap analysis, which is kind of one of those funny marketing terms that actually is really useful here because you look for the gap in that marketplace.

So you say to yourself, what is it about me that makes me really unique among all of these sorts of brands and people and products that I’ve identified? What is that thing? It can be something small. I think I talked to somebody once who said, I spent my junior year in Paris and I didn’t do great in school, but I ate until I could just eat no more. I became this French cook in the process. So their food has this story behind it. It begins with obsession in many ways and how that experience really informed the way they cook now and the way they live for that matter. A lunch of a baguette and a hunk of brie is a really delicious thing and how that kind of thinking informs who they are.

So you look back out into that competitive set and you ask, is there anybody out here who has this particular perspective on what they’re doing? In the course, we have a bunch of workbooks where we take you through that process, so that you’re really tracking who’s who, where you fit in and what you began to see as your opportunity. At that point, I feel like the light bulb just goes on and all of a sudden you’re like, okay. I see it. I understand where I am. I understand who they are. I understand that they’re the world I live in and I watched them all the time, but I don’t copy them, coming back to the unicorn cake idea. I find my own path through this experience that for the reader is going to feel really unique and special. You can tell Megan, I could talk about this for a while.

Megan:

Oh my gosh. I just like absorbing all of this. I love all of that. So you’re really helping people to understand who they’re very specific audiences are, who are there listening to you and filling in the gaps. First of all, do some competitive research. Figure out what people are liking about your competitors. There is a gap there.

Laurie:

There always is.

Megan:

It might be something really tiny and it might be so tiny that you overlook it. So just figure out what that gap is and fill that gap. I mean, it sounds so easy, right. But I get it because I too sought out my gap and for years, I was like, I don’t know. I did the whole unicorn cake thing too. Everyone else is doing it. I’m going to make the 3000th version of it. I’m sure everyone’s going to appreciate this, but…

Laurie:

But no.

Megan:

No, they don’t. Because why would they need that? Like you said. Just finding what that gap is. So do you have thoughts about how to do that? If someone is struggling with that. Let’s say they have figured out their niche. They have a, I don’t know, vegan audience who eats mostly vegan food, but they don’t really know how to hone in on what that specific thing is that they offer. How do they go about finding that?

Laurie:

Such a great question. One of the things that I really love is by the time you get to the end of the gap analysis, part of the process, you have this light bulb go off and begin to realize, oh, okay, I can understand this in a larger way. So I can understand what it is that I do. We call this actually positioning. Understanding sort of, what do you do? Who do you do it for? Why is it important? I feel like when you get those pieces down, it’s a little more complex than that, but it is kind of really understanding that. You take that chunk of knowledge and you put it over here on the left side of your desk. Then you go back to the question that you were asking so well about the audience and really understanding the audience from a couple of different perspectives.

Yes, you definitely have your current audience, especially if you’ve been in this business for a while. You probably have a relatively good sized audience and you probably have a pretty good connection with them. You probably have email subscribers, you have an audience that basically you are providing value to. That’s an amazing thing. We basically call that your existing audience and you work really hard to understand them, initially. That’s obviously Google analytics is a great tool that you should be using all the time. I also love surveys. A survey where you really are asking questions about how you are helping them, because bottom line, the way I see it is that your boss is your audience. Without them, you don’t really have a business model. Do you know what I mean? There’s really no focus on what you’re doing. Even though they don’t specifically tell you, well, here’s your to-do list for today. They tell you when they’re happy with you. When you are helping them do something that they need to do, whether that’s as simple as getting dinner on the table, or it’s as aspirational as having people over for dinner. When we can do that again, which is hopefully soon. Do you remember the days of entertaining others?

Megan:

Oh, I know.

Laurie:

Definitely coming back, but it’s that kind of thing where you can help them with the small things. There’s really great value in that. You can help them with the larger aspirations for the kind of cooks that they want to be. So maybe they want to learn more. Maybe you get more content focused around teaching them things. Then you’re also entertaining at the same time. I talk about this as sort of a triangle of obligations that you have to your audience. So on the sort of helpful side, we often call that service content. That’s an old magazine term where you provide instructions on how to do something and they do it. On the other side of the triangle is that aspirational. Or help them achieve their goals on that side of the triangle. At the bottom, be entertaining while you’re at it, be interesting.

Megan:

So a lot of responsibility there.

Laurie:

I know. That’s such a good point; content isn’t just an easy thing that you wake up and do in the morning. That it has a lot of obligations to it. This initial obligation to really serve your audience, I think is probably the most important piece of it, but you’re right. It requires you to know so much about them. So as you begin to build out, here’s the audience I’m working with now. Now that I know this about myself and the audience I’m serving, you know what I want to do for this particular audience. This target audience, which is where I see my growth. So if, for example, right now, your audience is on the older side and they’re really appreciating a lot of the content you create. Maybe they’re empty nesters and you’re helping them cook for two. Whatever it might be, that’s great. You want to hang on to that audience. Maybe you see a growth opportunity for yourself, where you want to talk to the young mom with a couple of kids who’s really struggling, especially now, to do everything that she needs to do in order to run the house and get food on the table and be organized in the process. All those things that are so important to her, you can shift a lot of your content strategy towards her and begin to get a sense of how that’s working. Obviously bringing your existing audience with you, because all that’s going to be valuable to them too. But once you begin to know them, it just makes all the difference in the world.

Megan:

Oh, that’s all such great stuff. So much I wanted to comment on. I love your triangle of entertaining, serving and being aspirational. I think we all do that just instinctively, but it requires a lot of brain power. I think like you mentioned, it’s not an easy thing to do. I mean we all already have so many tasks on our plates. So now we have to think about serving them in three different ways. But the good thing about food bloggers is that they’re really smart and innovative and you guys probably do this without even knowing you’re doing it. You already are doing it.

Laurie:

I think that’s true. Basically, when you’re creating good content and your audience is growing, that’s because you’re doing it right. But it is also a really good exercise to hold yourself accountable to it all the time, to hold up a piece of content, a content idea and ask yourself those questions. Because I think it often does require that you’re checking in, you’re checking in with yourself and making sure that you’re doing your best effectively.

Megan:

We all see those influencers who maybe are askew a little bit. They’ve like one of the things on the triangle spectrum, they just don’t do it. You can tell. If there’s somebody who’s providing service and aspiration, they are not entertaining at all. You know something is missing and you just can’t put your finger on it. So you do need all three of those elements, I think.

Laurie:

Yeah. Especially as you move out into all the different platforms where all those things are required of you, otherwise you slip into oblivion out there. If you’re not entertaining, if you aren’t sort of delivering on all fronts.

Megan:

So true. And I wanted to point out another thing that you touched on. I think one of the main components of just figuring out who your audience is, who your existing audience is, a really super simple part of the equation, but you touched on a little bit, Laurie, just asking your people, what do you want? You mentioned sending out emails, looking at Google analytics, sending out surveys. It’s so easy, but we overlook it. That was when I really had a turning point with figuring out who my audience was, who I was speaking to, what kind of recipes and posts and material I was serving, was when I started asking people. What do you like that I deliver? What do you want for me? People answer, they are so willing to answer. So I think that was just a tiny little secret to point out that it’s actually sitting in your hands if you just do that. I mean, it’s right there. Ask them, they will tell you.

Laurie:

In many ways that’s what social media is to me. It is a chance to talk to people. This is much harder to do in the magazine world when you either have to have focus groups. So you have to come up with really creative ways to get to your readers and understand what they are thinking, what other ways can you be helping them? I used to do this ridiculous thing where I would stand in airports at a newsstand and I would watch somebody take my magazine off the newsstand and start looking at it. I would really run up to them and be like, okay, so why did you pick that magazine? What was it about that magazine that appealed to you? I’d have my own little focus group of one, every airport I went to. But now, you’re just on every social platform. It’s that chance to ask, so what do you think, what would you like? How can I help you? What is really working for you? Is there anything else you need? Just all those questions that you almost have to be asking all the time as the world around us is changing. Obviously right now it’s changing hugely. People need so many other things than they did just even a couple of months ago, but that’s actually always happening as we grow forward, as we grow into seasons and holidays, and pretty soon we’re going to be talking about Thanksgiving. People’s needs shift and to stay on top of that is really one of the most important things you can do.

Megan:

All the time. I have noticed that on Instagram, especially since the quarantine and all of this stuff has started. Different people, so new audience. I don’t know where they came from, but they are reaching out to me and just saying things like, I love your recipes. I see that as an invitation to understand. So I’ve been replying to every single one. I say, thank you so much. Then I just follow up with a question, like, what are you loving? What kinds of content are you looking for right now? Can I help you fill any gaps and try to really understand what they’re needing from me? I think there’s always opportunities like that. Whether it’s an email sitting in your inbox or people commenting on your posts on social media, responding to your stories. I mean, there’s so much opportunity. We don’t have to go to airports now and watch people consume our information. It’s literally being delivered to us.

Laurie:

I completely agree.

Megan:

I love that you did that by the way. So goodness, so much good stuff. That gives us a really good idea about just how to position ourselves with our current audience. I love that you also mentioned shifting into new audiences and maybe finding those areas that you’re passionate about, but that you haven’t delivered on yet. That you think would align with an audience, an existing audience, and just testing it out. Do you think that’s kind of a good strategy?

Laurie:

I think that’s a great strategy. I feel like blogs, like really good blogs, are like sharks. Do you know what I mean? It’s like a good magazine, same thing. They really have to keep swimming. They really have to keep moving toward the next thing. The next idea that the reader is interested in. Like I said, that’s changing all the time. Trends come into that in addition to everything else. It’s really interesting to watch the world of wellness right now and what’s happening in that conversation and how it feels like that’s changing. Just every few days right now, what people are interested in and how health is being defined out there in the blogosphere. So I think that’s a really important part of your growth strategy, your success strategy going forward.

Megan:

So Laurie, how do we stay sustainable through all of this? I mean, especially now, and it’s so turbulent and like you said, things are changing every day or every couple of days, and we’re predicting things and we’re not seeing those predictions come true. Then something else will surface and we’re like, oh my gosh, this is crazy. Then on top of that, we’re having to think about different seasons. We have grilling season in summer and right around the corner is back to school and Thanksgiving and holidays. How do we sustain during this time and not just be thrown around like a ship in the wind?

Laurie:

You know, it’s such a good question. It kind of comes back to how much admiration I have for bloggers and how hard you work. How much success you have accomplished to date. Then what it looks like going forward. Maybe just for a second, I want to talk about the blogging format itself, because I truly feel that the blog as a diary, the blog as that journal that it was when we all started, has run its course. That it’s actually holding you back and it’s holding you back because it’s only allowing you to do this one thing in this one way. Like you’re saying, but wait, there’s so much we need to be doing. I think fighting the format is one of the challenges people have right now. One of the reasons we created the course was really to help people think. The course is called Beyond the Blog. It’s really helping people to think, okay, if I’m not confined to these two walls effectively, that the blog format allows me. If I’m able to think bigger across categories that are really interesting to me, just as you were saying. I want to explore these other ways of creating content for my readers, because I’m pretty convinced that this is going to be a real value to them. So if you are that influencer who’s trying to cram all of your ideas into one sort of endless blog post, you’re shooting yourself in the foot because in many ways that post is going to come and go over a period of days on multiple channels and everything. Then it’s going to roll. The whole blog roll thing is just gonna roll right under and people are gonna forget about it until you decide to pull it up and obviously push it out again.

But in the meantime, you’re saying to yourself, well, I wanted to do this part. I wanted to show them how to do it. I wanted to talk about this ingredient over here. I wanted to offer the recipe here. Right now it’s all on the same post. That takes forever. It’s exhausting too. It’s basically like you’re creating a novel every time you want to write a post. Instead, when you realize that your reader is a different person at different times. So at five o’clock at night, it’s really focused on the recipe. She really needs a quick and easy answer to what’s for dinner. On Saturday morning, she might be deciding for herself, Ooh, I have a couple of hours this afternoon. I think I want to make something special for my friends who are coming over tonight. So maybe there’s a more expansive recipe option that involves some techniques on How To teach her something specific in the kitchen.

Then maybe another time she’s headed for the farmer’s market or the grocery store and she’s putting her list together. All of a sudden she sees that you offer really unique content about seasonal ingredients at that moment. Maybe never bought an eggplant before or an artichoke or whatever it might be. Maybe your content is directing her to think differently about food that she brings home and cooks and enjoys and discovers at the same time. So when you start to think about something that’s more like a site, a website than it is a blog, that enables you to take all those content ideas that you have and parcel them out among different sorts of content verticals. Whereby the reader can be much more engaged with her own sort of experience and that content. In other words, she can be more deliberate about what she wants and where she’s going to get it on your site. So your site is more focused on what she wants out of it and helping her create that experience for herself.

Megan:

So providing different options for ways that people consume your information. So a shortened version, or maybe taking a recipe and breaking it down into different posts. Is that kinda what you’re saying? Just providing different ways that people can consume.

Laurie:

That’s a good question. I look at content verticals as doors. In many ways you could walk through multiple doors to get to the same recipe. So let’s say the recipe is grilled cheese. I must be hungry. I’m just thinking about grilled cheese right now. Let’s say that it’s kind of an interesting grilled cheese. It takes 20 minutes to make, and it’s perfect family food. It lives in that place on your site where it’s easy answers to what’s for dinner, snacks, a much more expansive version of that, but that recipe lives there. It’s all about the simplicity of creating this recipe, getting it on the table, showing her a unique idea in terms of we’ll add this or add that. It’s exactly what it’s supposed to be the perfect answer to dinner. Then maybe over here in a part of the strategy that’s more about how you do this, you actually get into a little bit of technique with that grill. So the recipe is going to be the same, but your content strategy around it is really focused on, I’m going to teach her something. I’m actually going to teach her that if I cook this grilled cheese low and slow, as opposed to slamming it in a skillet and getting it done as fast as you can, I’m gonna take my time with this grilled cheese and I’m going to get that crust on it that makes it so amazingly delicious and crunchy, that it’s going to be this the way I cook grilled cheese from now on. But I didn’t know to do that until you, the blogger, taught me to do that. Then maybe over here on the side where we’re kind of exploring ingredients, basically the door we walk through is all right, let’s talk about all the different cheeses that make up a really great grilled cheese. You could use this, or you could use this blend or do you know what I mean? It’s like it’s wrapping different kinds of content around the recipes so that the reader gets what she wants out of that experience.

Megan:

I definitely get that. One of my goals that I came up with recently for my own blog is that I need to create more rich content. I just have been repeating that phrase over and over because I have that syndrome that I think a lot of us have where I’m like, oh, I want to do that. I have a new project. I want to make that recipe. Then I forget to really sit with my content and make it super in depth, quality, touch on every base. Figure out what bread you need for that grilled cheese, low and slow, like you said. What cheese melts the best. I mean, really getting into it makes it really rich. I just love that term because that speaks to me. Making every piece of my content rich and it is not currently, but that is my goal. So whatever that means for you, whether you need to create an ebook, or if you need to create a guide that you can email, just really digging into what exists. I do think that that is going to help people be sustainable through the ups and downs. If you can just be really thorough.

Laurie:

Thorough, and forward thinking, and audience focused. All those pieces that are going to help you survive and they are going to separate you from the pack in many ways. It’s chaotic out there right now. It’s really hard to find a corner of the marketplace that’s perfect for you, and to convince your reader that you guys are connected in this and they have found the perfect spot. But it’s much easier to do when you let go of, like we were saying, that blogging format and you’re able to really show them all your tricks. Do you know what I mean? All the things that you love, all the things that you can teach them and support them. Just coming back to that triangle; support them both in terms of really hardcore information, great aspirational ideas, goals for them, dishes that they’ve always wanted to make. At the same time, amazingly entertaining, be the brand that really gives them these tips. That changes the way they cook grilled cheese forever. You get a loyal reader out of that.

Megan:

That is so true. Even as a blogger myself, when I do competitor research, just to see what people are doing or how they’re putting their posts and recipes together, every time I come across a post that is really rich like that in content, I just feel like, okay, if I were this person’s audience, I would be really happy. It makes me sad because I don’t always do that on my own. I mean, I do sometimes. I have some stuff that I’m really proud of that I really dig into, but there’s so much value in that. I think people are going to appreciate that right now and also in the future. So I think that is going to tide us over for a long time, if we can really dig into that.

Laurie:

I also think that organization is a big part of survival. I watch bloggers, you know, sort of just working right down to the wire. Not having that sort of long view of what they’re doing and who they’re doing it for and why they’re doing it, but really having that, okay, what am I going to do today? Obviously coming from magazines where you’re working with hundreds of pages and hundreds of recipes on any given issue, you have to be very strategic about the process that goes into that content creation so that it all comes together in the end. I think we need to look at blogs the same way. We really need to get very strategic about what we are doing? How is all of this information getting connected? How is it getting produced and created and how do I give myself enough time, all the way up to the end to make it as best as it can possibly be too.

Megan:

Oh, I love the words, strategy and organization.

Laurie:

Don’t we all?

Megan:

I live by them and they have really helped me to take my blog to a new level. My business, really. So what is your advice for influencers about how to just create a really solid content strategy?

Laurie:

I love that question. For me, it really does come back to who is your audience now? What is this conversation that’s interesting to her? How is that going to change as we move into June and July and August. What are the things that are going to be sort of interesting to her, aspiring to her. It’s kind of like remembering your audience is always driving this car and you’re getting in beside her to learn from her. Simultaneously, you’re kind of anticipating where she’s going to be. So pretty soon, this is going to happen and that’s going to happen. When you begin to realize your content, you could almost look at it on a monthly basis. I really like the idea of sort of a monthly view of the content that you’re going to create across the content verticals on your site.

So if you can expand into this larger idea that we were talking about, that also helps you with organization. Because then you’re able to say to yourself, within your content planning, all right, so what am I going to do in this vertical? What about this one and what about that one? Your month gives you a theme to think about. So if it is June, if it is this kind of moment where, you know, we’re all going to want to get outside and get to the grill and get cooking, that whole concept can inform all of your content. So it can be a really great way to eat outside. Meals that you can carry. Meals that you can take to other people’s houses, things to do with the grill that you hadn’t thought of. So your ideas take shape within a format.

When you’re able to look at it that way, it just becomes so much easier. Pretty quickly you can kind of fill in all the blanks on that calendar. We actually have a template, a calendar template in the course that people always tell me, they come back to again and again. Because none of you are short on ideas. Everyone is so smart about what they’re doing and that potential to be really valuable. It’s like getting all those ideas into places where you feel like, this one slots in here and here, and this is how they connect. This is the bigger story I want to tell for the entire month. It all begins to make sense in a way that basically creates structure for the way you’re thinking about your content.

Megan:

This is how I do it. I like doing it by season, but then also breaking it down, like what you’re saying and doing more of a focused monthly theme. Then you can use tools like Google trends to guide you. I like it going on there and looking at the five-year scope instead of the 12 month scope. So you have just a really good idea about what is trending over really specific dates. The other day, I was doing some testing and I looked at baked beans and I looked at the trend over five years. Literally every July 4th, it was way high. Then surrounding there, it was pretty high too. Okay, if I’m thinking about making party food or side dishes in the next few months, I would obviously plan to put that before July 4th. There are tools you can use to strategize even further, but I love your idea of doing monthly themes. I love that you guys have a template that’s really popular. Obviously people are wanting that.

Laurie:

Such a good way to think about it. What’s been so interesting over all of my decades in this business is that we feel like things change all the time and they do. There’s always the hottest trend of the moment, banana bread right now, maybe. But at the same time, people are very traditional, I guess, for lack of a better word ,about food experiences over the course of the year. We have a lot of food holidays. We have January, which is always about all right, let’s do a little better this year. Let’s resolve to eat more of this or eat more of that or get more organized, whatever it might be. But you know, just the way you’re describing Megan, is that experience you have where, okay, baked beans are going to be good until this moment in time. Then that conversation’s over for a while. It’s like that. It’s like that with January. It’s like that with the grill. It’s like that with back to school. It’s like that with Thanksgiving. Do you know what I mean? The stories are always there and your opportunity as a content creator is to give a spin, give your spin, to that content in such a way that it really supports who you are and what you do. Simultaneously addresses what people are always going to be looking for.

Megan:

Isn’t it interesting that things are always changing yet, if you look at the facts, there are such predictable patterns with what people are consuming.

Laurie:

Why is that? It gives you a foundation.

Megan:

It gives you some stability, even though times are crazy and uncertain right now. Looking at those trends, you’re like, oh, well, we’re still staying on trend. That’s pretty cool.

Laurie:

Exactly. It’s kind of a trend and anti trend all at the same time.

Megan:

It’s comforting somehow to know that. You mentioned that anticipating and planning and being organized, how that can only help us. I just feel like when I am on top of being organized with my calendar and knowing what’s coming, it helps me to remove mental clutter. Which opens up so much space for being creative and for so many other things. Like being a good mom and just everything. So I speak this all the time. Organization is so important. I talked to so many food bloggers for like, ah, I plan my week in advance and I’m like, oh no, you’re missing out on that.

Laurie:

The torture of that.

Megan:

I know, I know. There’s such magic in planning ahead and being super organized and just knowing what’s coming. It automatically takes it out of your brain.

Laurie:

It gives you that opportunity to have it be the best it can be, that content. So that you’re not at that last minute. Okay. This is as good as I can do right now. You’re taking everything that you know, everything that we’ve been talking about. You’re ensuring that step-by-step, it really gets infused into that content.

Megan:

That’s so true. Oh my goodness. This has been so great. Okay. So I want to talk a little bit about your course, and I know that you have a discount for my listeners, but before we do that, I just want to make sure that we’ve covered everything. Is there anything you want to mention on topic that we haven’t covered already?

Laurie:

I think we cut through everything that I had on my list. Your questions are so amazing, Megan, thank you.

Megan:

Oh, this is so fun. It was a thoughtful conversation, but also very valuable. I think that food bloggers will definitely come away with some ideas and hopefully encouragement to be more organized and also have some ideas about how to be sustainable during this crazy time.

Laurie:

I hope so.

Megan:

I do too. We mentioned your course. Talk about how people can sign up and what the discount is. That’s so generous of you, by the way. Any other details we need.

Laurie:

Of course. It’s actually called Beyond The Blog. The website is beyondtheblogcourse.com, which will take you through an outline of what it is, of the different components. Introducing you to some people who have been through this experience with me and what that’s like and their success on the other side of that. I love those stories. They’re always so inspiring to me. The focus of the course is exactly what we were talking about, is sort of where is blogging now? How is blogging going to change? How are you as an influencer, as a content creator as an entrepreneur, how are you really going to get ahead of that game? Where is the opportunity for you? So the course itself is really intended to step by step, walk you through everything you need to know, to figure that out on the other end.

It takes you all the way through what I like to think of as the way you were talking about a five-year plan. It’s really looking at how big you can go. So that at the end of the course, yes, you’ve got a really good sense of your brand story, your audience, your content strategy site structure. All of these things that need to shift in order to take advantage of the opportunity. But it also points you towards, wow, so what is my next step? Am I interested in a podcast? Am I interested in a cookbook? Do I want to create an app that’s going to help people do something in a way that they’ve never done before? It’s inspiring you to kind of take your thoughts, take your ideas about your brand and let them be your future, effectively. Sounds large. It is step-by-step. I teach it through video in the course, but then there’s also a bunch of workbooks. There’s workbooks for every lesson, there’s workbooks for multiple segments within the lessons. We try to give you as much information as we can to ensure your success. There’s also a Facebook group, which I’m really loving. It’s a private Facebook group, just for the people who are taking the course. Where we get to talk about the things that they’re thinking about, whether that’s a hurdle that I can’t figure out how to do this part or it’s that sort of, wow, I learned this guys. I want you to know that this was really an eye opening aha moment for me. So it was sharing and learning over there. I’m hanging out there all the time. I just love, you can tell, I love talking to people about this kind of thing. So that part’s always there. Lifetime access to the course content itself.

It’s intended that you can take it at your own pace, obviously. Especially moms. It’s just so crazy right now in life. There may not be time to do everything at this moment. So you can start on little bits and just start exploring and pick it up later when everybody goes back to school, or if you’re somebody who has the opportunity right now, or really feeling that urge to, let’s do this now. Everything’s changing. You can do it all at once too. So it’s really intended to be just the thing for you as the way you want to do it. We’re offering 20% off for your listeners.

Megan:

Oh, awesome.

Laurie:

Our pleasure. If anybody’s interested, they can DM us at cookitmedia on Instagram. That would be great.

Megan:

Well, that’s such a generous offer. Thank you. I hope people take you up on that because your course sounds amazing. You sold me as you were talking. I was like, yes, yes, yes. Oh my gosh. That sounds so helpful. I just love how you structure all of that. Then you have a group for accountability and questions.

Laurie:

I have to remember it’s there for accountability too.

Megan:

Yeah, that’s great. Great stuff. So thank you for all of that, Laurie. Again, just thank you for being here and I just really enjoyed talking to you. I think that we had a really great conversation. So thanks for taking the time out of your schedule today to share value. We really appreciate it.

Laurie:

Thanks so much for having me, Megan. It was great.

Megan:

Yes. So before you go share either a favorite quote or words of inspiration for food bloggers.

Laurie:

Right. So it’s so funny. My entire team, I think they get tired of me. This is my favorite quote. If I had a tattoo, it would probably be this because I have to remind myself of this all the time. It’s, only do what only you can do. The first time I heard it, I was in the car and I literally had to pull over the car and write it down and think about it. Because that’s right. We’re all so crazy. We’re also busy. Bloggers in particular, trying to do it all. I fully admire that, but I also realized that wow, a team can be really helpful and an assistant, anybody that can kind of take some of the load off. When you can focus on really just doing the thing, only do what only you can do, then everything else opens up around that. It gives you real focus around what is your role in this process? Where are you most important?

Megan:

Oh, wow. That’s really what it all boils down to. Doing what you do best.

Laurie:

You can’t do it all. But we can do what we can do best.

Megan:

Love that so much. Thank you for sharing that. That’s the perfect way to end. So I will put together a show notes page for you, Laurie. If anyone wants to go visit that, you’re welcome to do that at eatblogtalk.com/cookitmedia. We’ve talked a little bit about where to find you, but Laurie, where’s the best place people can find you online?

Laurie:

Our website is cookitmedia.com and Instagram is CookItMedia. My personal Instagram even though it’s kind of silly. It’s just a bunch of food, is Laurie Buck. Those are probably the best places.

Megan:

Well, thank you again. So much for being here, Laurie, and thank you for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you next time.

Outro:

We’re glad you could join us on this episode of Eat Blog Talk. For more resources based on today’s discussion, as well as show notes and an opportunity to be on a future episode of the show, be sure to head to eatblogtalk.com. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll be here to feed you on Eat Blog Talk.


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Megan
Megan

Megan started her food blog Pip and Ebby in 2010 and food blogging has been her full-time career since 2013. Her passion for blogging has grown into an intense desire to help fellow food bloggers find the information, insight, and community they need in order to find success.

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