The last time I attended the Indaba, in 2011, I won a ticket from Food24 and I just started blogging.   It was a fabulous event even back then and I got to meet people that I really admired.  For instance, I used to watch Michael Olivier do his thing on Expresso, then I met him at the Indaba.  I was star struck to tell you the truth and it was kind of embarrassing.  Imagine going like “Hi Michael, I’m such a big fan!  I wake up each morning to watch you on Expresso and I really enjoy your demonstrations”.   Ha!

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Fast tracking to 2014, this year I sort of know everyone in the food scene and Michael Olivier is now what I would like to call a friend.   The Food and Wine Blog Indaba is an event that is a brain child of Colleen Grove and our London based and proudly South African Jeanne Horraik-Druiff.   I don’t know how these two ladies manage to organize such an astounding event while they are two continents apart.  Technology must be playing a huge role.

Colleen and Jeanne have been blogging for years and it is great of them to host such an event to help guide and create networking opportunities for new bloggers.   The event is sort of an annual get together for all bloggers and an opportunity for catching up.

This year the Indaba took place at the exquisite Eastside Boutique Hotel in Observatory.   The turn up was good.  There are a lot of new faces in the blogging community.  It was also lovely to see the older bloggers such as Linda from Squashed Tomatoes, Else from The Food Fox, Sam from Drizzle and Dip, Jane-Anne Hobbs from Scrumptious, my boo Ming-Cheau Lin from the blog, Butterfingers and Fritz from the blog, Real men can cook.  There’s so many I can go on and on….

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Oh my God, I was asked to be on the panel that discussed working with brands.

First of all, this is a very interesting topic.   As a food blogger, personally when I started blogging my idea was to have recipes, cooking advice and also interact with people from different cultures and share recipes and stories.  After a while, PR companies start sending you packages.  New products, DVDs with new cooking/ food shows and you get tons of media releases flooding your inbox.  Initially, you feel flattered that you are getting all this stuff.   Until it gets to a point when the same PR companies keep reminding you that “we sent you a goodie bag, hope you are enjoying the items in it, we would appreciate a post on your blog, a mention on your twitter timeline and facebook page.  Thank you for the support.”  Then it feels like you are obligated to blog about them because you received the goodie bag.   To be honest with you, that takes the fun out of blogging.

Ask any blogger out there and they’ll tell you one thing.  Their blog is their happy place.  It really is.  Blogging is fun and it can sort of feel like having a hot and steamy love affair.  I mean that’s how exciting it is.  At the same time it is a lot of work.  A great deal of work.   And most of us notice this after we have already established our blogs.

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This is what a food blogger does: You have to come up with unique content, spend time doing research, come up with recipes, shop for ingredients, test your recipes, set up a taste panel (be it family or friends) and annoy them with questions such as “what do you think?”  “which one do you prefer?” or  “does it look appetizing?”.  It doesn’t end there, you have to organize some props, take pictures of your dish, edit your pictures, come up with an interesting and engaging post, post in on your blog, respond to the comments, be active on your social media channels.   This is a lot of work and there’s a lot of time that goes into blogging and personally I feel that it is an insult to just send me a package then demand me to write about your product.

I mentioned this during the discussion that late last year I was looking for answers on how to address this situation.  Trust me, I know it is good to have good relationships with PR because at the end of the day I want to know when there’s a new product in the food scene, I want to know about new cooking shows and cookbooks.  It is my duty to provide my readers with all the latest and interesting stuff happening in the food scene but my concern was finding where to draw the lines.   So during the December holidays, I did a bit of research on how to address this issue.

This is my experience so far, I would get an ad emailed to me and asked to post it on my blog, twitter or facebook.  This one time, I told the person that you know what?  I can’t post this on my blog…..And this ladies and gentleman is my divine right to say no if something is not in line with the purpose of this blog.  I mean it was an advert for a restaurant special.  I asked myself, okay I’ll be promoting their business and what do I get?  Therefore, I suggested that I place the ad on the side banner of the blog and have a “pay per click” arrangement.  I never heard from them again.  This is just one example.  There are several similar to that one.  My question is, if you feel that you need your message to reach my readers, why do you expect me to do it for free?  Do you know how long it took me to grow my audience?  Do you respect what I have to go through in order to get original content on my blog?  That is my question.   It all boils down to the word, Respect.

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Now, back to the brand and bloggers panel discussion…..The question was, what advice would you give to a blogger wanting to work with a brand? This is a summary of my answers:

  • Research your audience, study them and know who reads your blog.   Study their engagements patterns and by that I mean pay close attention to the kind of topics they interact on.   Is it recipes? New Products? Health advice or nutritional matters? Or is it restaurants to go to?  Or even cooking shows?  Basically, find out why they come to your blog and try to provide them with that.
  • Prettify your blog, work with web designer.  Technology evolves, evolve with it.
  • Don’t be afraid to pitch to brands for possibilities of collaborating.  If you like a brand, why not?
  • Most importantly, please don’t forget why you started your blog.  Sam from the blog Drizzle and Dip mentioned this during the panel discussion.   Blogging is not about money, if you believe in a brand or love their story or contribution to the community.  By all means work with them.

Another question was, what advise would I give to to brands wanting to work with bloggers and this is my thought:

  • Food blogging is time consuming and expensive.  Brands need to respect bloggers for their time.

For more information on the Indaba, check out the detailed write up on this blog:  http://www.se7en.org.za/

Check out some of the tweets from the bloggers that attended the conference:

Follow @SAFWiBI

 

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