In episode 421, Megan chats to Caitlin Ritchie about how to establish a blog’s identity through strong branding and photography.
We cover information about how necessary a strong brand is in growing your blog, get knowledgeable about what branding encompasses, how to be cohesive across different platforms, what tools are helpful, and creating an identity in your photography.
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Bio Caitlin is a brand strategist/professional photographer turned blogger. While continuing to work as a branding and photography consultant, she is growing her blog The Rooted Farmhouse – a gardening, food, and slow-living blog.
- A good brand helps a visual presentation streamline across all platforms and represents you professionally.
- People connect visually to businesses.
- Good content is not enough to stand out.
- Stay true to your niche with branding.
- Understand who your readers are.
- Create a brand guide so you can share it with the team and can refer to it.
- Photography is just as important to your visual branding as fonts and colors.
- Using presets with your photography can help you stay consistent.
- Do an overall audit of your site’s branding.
Click for full script.
EBT421 – Caitlin Ritchie
Intro: Food bloggers. Hi, how are you today? Thank you so much for tuning in to the Eat Blog Talk podcast. This is the place for food bloggers to get information and inspiration to accelerate their blog’s growth and ultimately help you to achieve your freedom, whether that’s financial, personal, or professional.
I’m Megan Porta and I’ve been a food blogger for over 12 years. I understand how isolating food blogging can be at times. I’m on a mission to motivate, inspire, and most importantly, let each and every food blogger, including you, know that you are heard and supported.
We have covered the topic of branding a handful of times on the podcast over the years, but this is a new spin on establishing your blog identity through photography and just overall branding. Caitlin Richie from the Rooted Farmhouse, she’s a blogger over there, brings to the table some new ideas that we should think through about how to create a cohesive brand for our blogs. She talks about things like staying true to your voice, staying true to your niche, and being loyal and how all of these things can really define your brand. It’s a really great conversation. I hope you enjoy it. This is episode number 421, sponsored by RankIQ.
Sponsor: Hey, awesome food bloggers. Before we dig into this episode, I have a really quick favor to ask you. Go to your favorite podcast player. Go to Eat Blog Talk. Scroll down to the bottom where you see the ratings and review section. Leave Eat Blog Talk a five-star rating if you love this podcast and leave a great review. This will only benefit this podcast, it adds value. I so very much appreciate your efforts with this. Thank you so much for doing this. Okay, now onto the episode.
Megan Porta: Caitlin Richie is a brand strategist and professional photographer turn blogger while continuing to work as a branding and photography consultant. She is growing her blog, the Rooted Farmhouse, A Gardening Food and Slow Living Blog. Hello, Caitlin. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. How are you doing?
Caitlin Ritchie: I’m doing great. Thanks for having me.
Megan Porta: Yes. I’m excited to chat about blog identity and branding and all of that fun stuff. But before we get into it, do you have a fun fact to share with us?
Caitlin Ritchie: I do have a fun fact. So I am a designer and brand professional and I actually have zero schooling in that. I actually went to school for veterinary medicine. Then my husband decided that he wanted to join the Army, and so he asked if I wanted to come with him, so I did. Then there wasn’t really much to do where we were posted, so I just worked some odd jobs here and there. Then just decided if I was gonna make something of my life, I was going to do it on my own. So I just got down to learning. Google was my best friend. I just slowly built a career in design and branding off of everything I learned online.
Megan Porta: Wow, that’s so cool. What different interests too, from designing blogging. Oh my gosh, that’s so different. Okay. That’s interesting because it leads to what my first question was going to be. At what point in all of that did your blog start and why? Just talk us through that story.
Caitlin Ritchie: I actually started years ago. I don’t ever remember the year. It was over 10 years ago, back when Blogher was a thing, I had this little blog and I don’t even remember what the niche was. I think it was more so a Tumblr type blog where I would post these few images and maybe some design stuff. But my interest was actually building the blog. I remember I had one other blogger say, Hey, I really like your site. Can you do mine? So I was like, yeah, sure, whatever. I’ll do yours. So I created her blog for her, and then that kind of spun into me designing logos. Mainly at that point, it would be for local photographers or photographers that found me online. I got out of blogging until most recently. I was chatting with a few friends and we were discussing what our ultimate thing would be that we would wanna do if we were to quit what we were doing. Then I was doing design and photography all time, and I’m like I really wanna be a blogger. I’ve wanted to for years, but I just never had the time. That kind of just put a spark under my bum. I was like, you know what? Let’s do it. So I started the Rooted Farmhouse maybe a year and a half ago. Maybe about eight months ago, I just dabbled, and posted when I could. Then this January was when I really dug deep in, stayed consistent and I said, let’s make a go of this. So that’s where I am now. Yeah.
Megan Porta: Yeah. Nice. So having the experience of going through other people’s brands, like the logo design and all of the rest of their branding, why do you think it is so important for bloggers to think through branding, and why is it important for us to have strong brand recognition?
Caitlin Ritchie: I think a lot of people think of branding as just a fancy logo and slapping their logo, or their colors on any forms of media or templates or images that they’re putting out online. But really, it circumstance circumferences your whole brand. So someone that may have really good content and they have a poor brand, may not have the opportunity to get as many followers or readers in a sense compared to somebody that has maybe good content, but a really good brand. People are very visual. They connect to visual things. So good imagery, and good graphics. A good presentation on all your platforms though, whether that be your blog, your social media, or any content that people are going to see, ensuring that it represents your brand cohesively and professionally is really important. Just for the success and the longevity of your brand. It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned blogger or a new blogger, a really strong brand is very important.
Megan Porta: So good content is not enough, especially I think with our space being so saturated.
Caitlin Ritchie: Exactly.
Megan Porta: You need something else to make you stand out. So you mentioned cohesiveness and you talked a little bit about just I think you mentioned colors and early on you talked about logos, like getting that established. What else defines a good brand?
Caitlin Ritchie: It’s not all just about logos and colors. I say the most important aspect of a strong brand is the voice. Staying true to your niche and understanding who your readers are. So there’s a lot of content out there. So I’ve even fallen into the trap as well. Seeing what other people are doing, and trying to follow trends is really great, but if it doesn’t represent your brand as a whole, it could do the opposite. It could get your readers confused. It’s just staying true to your branding through visuals, messaging, your voice, all of that is, is more important than following trends.
Megan Porta: Yeah. No, that makes sense. That’s interesting because it’s not something we typically think of when we think of branding. We do automatically go to like logos and colors and fonts, and we don’t think about the voice, our voice, and the way we come across in our written word, and maybe even video and audio. Staying true to the niche is really interesting too. That is branding, right? You know who you’re delivering to and what you’re delivering. If you stray outside of that, you’re going outside of your brand, which people definitely notice, correct?
Caitlin Ritchie: The whole beginning of AI is a little bit tricky for some because I’ve seen a lot of bloggers come and use programs like that, but it’s using terminologies or the way you would write certain sentences, it’s not true to your voice. So staying true to how you even write your blog post is part of your brand as well.
Megan Porta: Yeah. So this is just proof that you don’t have to have a million dollars or even like $5,000 to establish branding. You can do it just by showing up and being you.
Caitlin Ritchie: Exactly. Exactly.
Megan Porta: Okay, so how do we keep that cohesive from blog to Instagram and other social media, YouTube across all the platforms? Is that just a matter of being consistent with the words that we use? How do you keep that all cohesive?
Caitlin Ritchie: I think it’s everything. So the easiest way to deal with being cohesive with your visuals is obviously using a program like Illustrator or Canva. I find myself leaning more towards Canva, especially with all the tools that they’re adding to it. Utilizing their brand kit, throwing in your colors, your fonts, your logos, and all of your brand elements within that software. Some of the pre-made templates, but adjust them to represent your brand. I know it’s hard to see some of them look really nice and pretty, but probably hundreds of thousands of other people are using those exact same templates. So just doing a swap with your fonts or your colors and your own imagery will help you stay a little bit more cohesive with your branding in a visual aspect.
But in terms of your voice and your messaging, just take a look at the way you write on your blog, and the way you talk in your YouTube videos, and just ensure that it is similar across all platforms. I know if we have an assistant, it can be a little difficult trying to keep the messaging across, but by creating or using a brand guideline, if you have one, which is just a really simple document, doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just create it, outline all of your elements, how you want your brand to be. Any mood board fonts, logos, inspiration, anything. Throw that in your document. Call it your brand guide and share it with whoever’s on your team or refer back to it when you’re unsure.
Megan Porta: This brings up something interesting that I’ve noticed just being a blogger for a long time, is that depending on the platform I’m on, I tend to speak differently to my people. Does that make sense? So like in email, I write a completely different set of paragraphs versus what I would put on Instagram. So how does that translate to what you’re saying? Because I feel like you get to know the platform and the people who show up to each platform and then you cater to that. Does that make sense?
Caitlin Ritchie: Yep, it does. I think that’s okay because you do have different people that are on Instagram versus in your newsletter. Especially people that are reading your blog or on your YouTube channel. So as long as you’re being true to those people and your brand, it’s okay to speak a little differently or talk about different things. For example, this is more of a demographic aspect. My blog is mainly for American citizens, but my Instagram is mostly for Canadian citizens. So I do talk to them completely differently because obviously if I’m doing any affiliate marketing, a lot of those products are not available in both countries, or they have to purchase them in different ways. So I do speak to them differently, but I am still staying true to my brand and my niche if that makes sense.
Megan Porta: Yeah, that does. I think we need to rely a little bit on our intuition for that because we just need to adapt as needed. But yet it’s staying true. It’s tricky, right? There’s a lot of gray area there. It’s, sounds really complicated, but I think most people who have been in it for a while know what we’re talking about.
Caitlin Ritchie: I think if you are pretty confident in your brand as a whole and you know exactly what you want, it is just instinct. The way you speak to different people about who you are as a person, you speak differently to different people. So it’s the same thing with your brand. Especially if it’s a personal brand, because that’s a little bit easier cause it’s who you are, right?
Megan Porta: Yeah. You can relate it to your life. For example, the way I talk to my mother-in-law is probably not the same way I’m talking to a really good friend when we’re out for a drink. There’s just something different that you adapt to without even really knowing it. Yeah. But you just accommodate.
Caitlin Ritchie: Exactly.
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Megan Porta: Then you mentioned the templates, the Canva templates. I love that you mentioned that because it is really tempting to go in there and just use the beautiful oh, that one looks great, but then I do this. I get caught up in it too. Or I’m like, oh wait, that didn’t align with my brand at all, but it was really pretty. So adjusting it as needed. But I also think that using templates, it’s not just good for branding, but it is really good for just being productive and efficient and fast, right?
Caitlin Ritchie: Yeah. Yeah. So the way I utilize Canva and what first attracted me to Canva, from moving out from my professional Adobe Illustrator software was the fact that I could utilize templates in my workflow. So what I’ve done and what I encourage others to do is create four to five, maybe six different templates, specific to whatever platforms you’re using them on. So create some Instagram stories, Instagram posts, carousel posts, and Facebook posts, if you have Facebook, Pinterest, tons of different Pinterest posts, and even web story posts. When you are writing your post out, when you’re finished, finish that you can just jump into Canva, upload your images, and drag and drop them in. Change the wording and you’re good to go. You’ve done that in less than two minutes. Instead of starting from scratch every time you want to make a Pinterest pin. Now what I do is I still like to play around with them, so when I have time, I’ll jump into Canva and play around with different templates or make them from scratch just to see what templates do better. If I find that my previous templates are getting boring or overused, I’ll jump in and create a brand new batch, test those out on some new posts, and past posts, and just play around with them. But I ensure that they represent my brand, whether that be through colors or fonts, or imagery.
Megan Porta: Yeah. Yeah. Then do you often change fonts around or do you keep with the same fonts across the board?
Caitlin Ritchie: I dabble in changing fonts, but I keep to the same typeface. So my personal branding, I like to use a lot of sera fonts. So I’ll play around with different types as long as they are quite similar. I’ll even throw in a few script fonts. If I want to add a little bit of elegance to it, I’ll be careful which script fonts I use. I make sure that it compliments the rest of my branding, but the majority of the time on my website or in my web stories as well, I’ll stay true to my font and type hierarchy.
Megan Porta: Okay. Okay. Let’s see. We haven’t talked about photography at all because that is branding as well. Correct. So talk about that.
Caitlin Ritchie: So I’m a photographer as well, so I have the best of both worlds and I’ve realized that photography is just as important as visual branding for a strong brand. So what I like to do is encourage people to find photos or create photos that they like and stay consistent across the board on that. So when I say consistent, I mean keeping the look and the feel of the photos quite similar. I know some people like to switch it up so they’ll have light and airy for one post, and dark and moody for another. But it can get quite confusing at the beginning for your readers, especially if you have people attracted to those specific photographs and then you come out and you throw a dark and moody one, they’re like, whoa, that’s not what I’m used to.
Megan Porta: What is that?
Caitlin Ritchie: Yeah, exactly. It’s nice to play. I still play. It’s good to be creative with how you style and photograph and edit, but finding a way within those photos to stay consistent in your brand is I think very important. So what I do is I like to use a lot of natural elements. I like to play with wood and linens, and I like to keep my colors quite neutral. You’ll never see me post a photo with a bright red napkin or tablecloth. That’s just not what my brand is, but I will play with the moodiness of my photos, especially if the shot that I am taking would look really nice with a moodier feel.
Megan Porta: Yeah. Do you go back, especially on Instagram, I’m thinking and see which photos perform the best and tweak as needed there.
Caitlin Ritchie: Not really. It all depends. I find that the style of the photos doesn’t really make a difference. It’s more on what the photo is itself. Not really. No.
Megan Porta: Okay. That might be a good thing to do if people are trying to figure out what kind of style their people like. I don’t know. I’m just trying to think through like how to navigate the experimentation part of it.
Caitlin Ritchie: Yep. Pinterest I’ll do that. Just because it is a very visual platform. I’ve strayed away from monitoring my Instagram. It’s not really my primary focus right now. Especially with the reels. It’s hard to figure out what’s doing well.
Megan Porta: Good point.
Caitlin Ritchie: Nobody really knows what’s going on with the algorithm, with the reels and the photos, and I just like to stay consistent as possible on that platform. But for monitoring what photos does well, I like to focus on Pinterest. So yeah I will play around with different styles that I find do well.
Megan Porta: Okay. Yeah, and then your template tip, being consistent with that can help you to stay productive. Do you also use presets or anything in your photography to stay productive there?
Caitlin Ritchie: I do. I do. So I have a lot of presets and I make them all myself. I do use them across the board for many things. It just helps me stay more efficient in my workflow. Sometimes the presets don’t work on all photos, but you just make a few adjustments. I gauge how I’m editing a photo off, maybe a photo that I did previously or something that’s similar, and see how they blend together just in case I want to use them in one post together. Or if I wanna use them on a grid, I’ll use presets every time.
Megan Porta: Yeah. That can help create an identity for your photos. There are some bloggers who I would recognize their photos anywhere even if they weren’t like on the blog or anything, if it was just like popping up on my computer, I’d be like, yep, that’s their photo. Just because of the way they edit the photos. Not even the styling or the colors. You can see certain editing styles.
Caitlin Ritchie: The fun thing about presets too is they’re not just meant for your professional photos for your blog. You can move them over to your Lightroom app on your phone and use them with your iPhone shots. They take sometimes a little bit more adjusting to get them cohesive, but it’s still quicker than starting from scratch on your phones. Then sometimes, because technology’s so good now, you can’t even tell the difference between an iPhone shot and a Nikon or a Cannon shot.
Megan Porta: I think it’s cool that the phones are getting so close to being like our really expensive cameras. I think it’s awesome.
Caitlin Ritchie: Me too. Me too.
Megan Porta: Yeah. I guess my last question for you would be if somebody is listening and they’re feeling like, oh gosh, do I have a brand? Should I be thinking more about this? What would you recommend for them? Just going through all of their platforms and seeing if everything’s cohesive? Where would they start?
Caitlin Ritchie: I would do an overall audit, so I actually do offer a free download for bloggers, for their branding audit. That goes over everything from your logos to your voice, to your photography. All of your platforms, each point has little questions to ask yourself, and I would just go through that checklist, write everything down, see where you’re at, see what you want to fix, see what you’re doing well, and just go from there. I do offer a course. It hasn’t launched yet. We plan on launching that in the fall of this year. But between my checklist and the course, we are offering audits as well to help you figure out how your brand is doing and what you can work on, and what you’re doing really well on already.
Megan Porta: When that’s launched, where can people find that?
Caitlin Ritchie: On my website. So I have a spot on my navigation where it says blogging and you just click that, and you sign up. You get your free checklist. Then just stay tuned for any openings I have for audits and any upcoming courses.
Megan Porta: So they would go to the rootedfarmhouse.com and it would be on your nav bar there?
Caitlin Ritchie: Exactly.
Megan Porta: Yeah. Okay, perfect. Awesome. This was so much fun. Just helped me to think through some things with my own platforms that I maybe need to tweak or at least keep in mind as we think about branding and being more cohesive and all of that. So thank you for all of this, Caitlin. This was amazing.
Caitlin Ritchie: Thank you so much for having me.
Megan Porta: Yeah. To end, do you have either a favorite quote or words of inspiration to leave us with?
Caitlin Ritchie: I do. So it’s, success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.
Megan Porta: Ooh. That’s one of my favorite themes in all of life.
Caitlin Ritchie: Yeah. Yeah. Something small every day.
Megan Porta: Yes, it adds up to big things. Oh, amazing. We’ll put together show notes for you, Caitlin. So if anyone wants to go look at those, you can go to eatblogtalk.com/therootedfarmhouse. Tell everyone again, just to end on a good note, where they can find you.
Caitlin Ritchie: You can find me at therootedfarmhouse.com for my blog or on Instagram, the Rooted Farmhouse as well.
Megan Porta: Everyone go check Caitlin out. Thank you again so much for being here and thank you for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you in the next episode.
Outro: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Eat Blog Talk. If you enjoyed this episode, I’d be so grateful if you posted it to your social media feed and stories. I will see you next time.
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