#BlogAtTheBeach – Talks and Tips with icelolly.com

When I was informed by the lovely Hayley at Tea Party Beauty that there was an email waiting for me with an invite to icelolly.com‘s fifth (and my first) #BlogAtTheBeach, I was a sharp mix of excited and apprehensive. I’ve always followed the buzz of their popular events but only via social media and this time I had the opportunity to head down to a distinctively themed function itself.

I can’t help but worry I’ll be a little out of place at these kind of events, surrounded by all the girl bosses who have smashed their way to the top and are circulating and thriving in their established friendship groups, when I’m just a mediocre blogger who hasn’t grown at the same speed and success rate over the years. BUT it turns out worrying is just my forte (no shock there) and there was absolutely nothing to be nervous about.

To say I didn’t make the best instant impression as I stumbled into the venue and nearly fell flat on my face as my clumsiness took over my awareness and a small step obstructed the way, I thankfully managed to settle in right away (nothing like acclaiming your ditsy name as a conversation starter, right?!).

Everyone was there for the same reason – to network, to support and uplift each other, to encourage, to inspire, to learn, to share their unique qualities, and to just sit back and have fun – and I superficially ticked all those boxes. The entire room was filled with friendly faces, passion and ambition, and 85 bloggers ready to show (or snow) a studio turned ski resort what we were made of.

As we grabbed our name badges, mingled and chatted to some new and old faces with a cup of complimentary mulled wine, notebook, and camera in hand, I grabbed my front seat like some sort of VIP whilst the icelolly.com team were preparing to introduce the three main speakers of the day from three prestigious names in the blogosphere; Kirsty, Bee, and Kaye. What I loved the most is how approaching the marketing team were, speaking so highly and postively about the influence bloggers have on their brand and hosting competitions exclusively for us to take part in (this time it was some beaut watches up for grabs). They were happy to chat, to take on ideas, and to put forward and stress that to use a platform for collaborative effect is a major strategy in their consuming media. Followed on by an insightful few hours of talks and presentations complete with tips, tricks, advice, shout outs to those bloggers unattended but still killing it, and improvised details that added that genuine touch, really put into perspective why I enjoy being part of such a nurturing, ever-growing, and fast becoming authoritative community.

First to take the stage was Kirsty, a travel blogger who’s recently took the step into freelancing with her extensive knowledge behind her, and boy did that show! Her topic of the day was ‘How to Pitch Successful Travel Collaborations with Brands’ and with the current unnecessary and damn right out of order drama over on a certain bitterly exploitative FB page at the moment, championing pitching couldn’t have come at a better time.

Now, I could take you through step by step but 1) you’d most certainly get fed up halfway down the lengthy essay, and 2) the slideshows from the three ladies are now up on IceLolly’s blog for you to read and download.

Instead, I want to briefly touch on the guidance given and what I learned and took away from the talk.

A ROUNDUP OF KIRSTY’S TIPS:

  • Don’t beat about bush, get straight to the point and tell brands what you want.
  • Ensure it’s relevant to your blog and your speciality as the most effective pitches are the ones that fit your niche.
  • List three things that makes YOU unique – the more unique you can be with your ideas, the better.
  • Show examples of your work!
  • Don’t use a template email or a copied wording because it will be transparent.
  • Tell them what you can offer, is it your SEO, your social media skills, your photography? Add depth, a quirky twist, and put it on a plate of “here’s what I’ve done, this is the content I’ve created.”
  • Don’t let lack of followers put you off as they’re not always relevant or top priority. Draw focus away from your follower count to emphasise on your favourite approach, engagement or photography instead!
  • Don’t over promise, be realistic with what you can do in return, but also be specific from the off.
  • Don’t be afraid to directly ask for what you want.
  • Pitch ideas they can visualise.
  • Be specific on the collaboration – is it social media takeovers, sponsored blog posts, vlogs?
  • Explain how your input will benefit their brand.
  • Do your research and keep track of what they represent by checking up on their channels.
  • Ask yourself if they really are a brand you admire and aspire to work with – there’s no point just diving in to all corners.
  • Use LinkedIn wisely – it’s a very handy platform and the perfect place to find relevant contacts and connections. Fully optimise your profile and connect to brands to the make the most out of the professional marketing tool.
  • Set up spreadsheets to audit your schedule and to make a note of who you have and haven’t pitched to.
  • Create and update a media kit as it helps and boosts your trademark enormously (something I definitely need to do!)

WHAT I LEARNT:

  • Followers aren’t the most important part of a pitch and if you can tick the boxes of being a good fit for the brand then you’re still in with a chance of achieving that dream partnership.
  • To remain cool and confident is key and you have to drill it into yourself – what’s the worst that could happen?
  • You have to think of it as a bringing in business opportunity – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out to pitch a potential collaboration, it’s how people get to know you, how people recognise you, and how you build a name for yourself. It’s how businesses and the freelance industry work and offering a perfectly reasonable service is not a crime. If brands are there to callously chastise, demean, and dirty you when you do, and are willing to work hard, then they’re not worth it.
  • Don’t think chasing them up is being rude, reaching out shows them that you do care and are determined.
  • Being more personal is more effective. Point out and congratulate a brand’s triumphs, tell them what it is you like about them, and develop a way for them to subconsciously see you for future reference, even if not now.
  • Tailor picking is the best way to do it as then it’s specific to you and not just everyone, it has to be something you truly want to feature.
  • People are scared to reach out because of lack of time, or not knowing what to say, but you can’t let the hang ups get the better of you and you can’t let a refusal get you beaten up.
  • Learning valuable sales skills, growing your blog and receiving more content opportunities is only going to spur you on more!
  • But mainly you have to create your own opportunities, do it yourself, be your own cheerleader! Kirsty has definitely given me the boldness and courage I need to just hit send.
  • It was so elevating to see how Kirsty has grown from strength to strength and to take that conduct away with me to adapt to my own blogging career!

WHAT THE ICE LOLLY PERSPECTIVE SAID:

  • Engagement is absolutely key, it’s all about how you draw in audience!
  • If you’re not listening or reacting, then the number of followers may as well be non existent.
  • Brands do get lots of enquires so it’s important to prove why you’ll be the best, most impressive candidate, and how you’ll stand out.
  • Finding common ground and being flexible and negotiable is a leading aspect.
  • Sometimes pitches will be missed, there’s certainly no harm in chasing emails because it shows you’re passionate and you really want to do it!

Next up, we had Queen Beady living up to her name. Bee is such a joy to be around and as soon as she got up in front of the microphone you can tell why she’s so well liked and why she’s such a bad-ass blogger prospering in all directions. Throwing out Celebration chocolates to those who answered questions, making light of those curve balls, rolling with the punches, and prompting lots of giggles in return. Her natural authentic personality really shone through and highlighted that calling she puts in the spotlight!

A ROUNDUP OF BEE’S TIPS:

  • Don’t take opportunities in what don’t fit and you don’t enjoy because everyone will see right through it.
  • Do less of what you don’t love and make writing about your enjoyment in life the forefront.
  • Don’t force it and don’t write for the sake of it as it will be obvious to your readers.
  • If you need a break away for days, or even weeks, allow yourself to take them. You’ll more than likely come back more motivated and refreshed.
  • INTERACT. Be genuine and responsive, converse with those who leave comments, leave a question at the end of a post to encourage people to engage with you etc.
  • Ways in which to be more productive include: setting your alarm an hour earlier, using your lunch breaks wisely, meeting up with friends for blog-related social gatherings, scheduling your posts the night before, surrounding yourself with an environment you’re concentrated and comfortable in.
  • Take your camera everywhere with you because you never know when inspiration may strike (one of my favourite tips and one I can definitely relate to!)
  • Think of your top 3 achievements, what they translate to, and why they’re advantageous.
  • Being able to show brands why they need to work with you is paramount. Provide hard evidence that you do make a marked effect.
  • Find your style of voice, your passions, and think about what makes your blog stand out from the crowd.
  • Emulating someone else’s success won’t get you far! You are your own person for a reason.
  • Familiarise yourself with SEO: include a link with a high DA, optimise your social channels to drive traffic, learn your keywords.
  • Reinvest back into your blog to reap even bigger rewards. This can be done in so many ways, for e.g. grabbing a fancy design, having a makeover, purchasing a new camera or lens, booking those cheap flights, enrolling yourself on a blogging course, working with professional photographers, going self hosted so you have more creative control over your site. Just keep it fresh and updated and in turn this will continue to develop your skills!
  • Transfer skills you have learnt from work or uni or any other primary notion to boss your blog. They really can be incremental to the running procedure!
  • But whatever you do, don’t let it take over your life, recognise when you’re heading for a burn out, know when to stop, don’t force it, and have a breather.

WHAT I LEARNT:

  • We all have the same amount of time in a day as Beyonce but none of us have an entourage the size of Bey’s. This really stuck with me because it’s true, it’s the reality. No matter how talented and incredible you are at blogging, you will never compete or be at the standard of a blog that has it all and is at the top of the market. You are in this alone but you can do it; be savvy, juggle time effectively, and keep the momentum going.
  • No one can do you and there’s no right or wrongs. As you’ve probably guessed by now, I prefer the long, wordy posts compared to the listicles and that’s okay – that’s what makes me, me!
  • Once the pennies start rolling in it’s a fantastic feeling (I already knew this but it’s nice to stimulate yourself and your mindset.)
  • Understanding your camera makes a hell of a difference. Test out different styles, reevaluate to your lifestyle, go outside to gain a new perspective, work with what you’ve got and not the typical cliches!
  • It’s perfectly okay to big yourself up! You matter, you have credibility, people are interested in your work. I’ve certainly been encouraged to sell myself and add value without feeling guilty.
  • Once you’ve found your voice in the blogosphere it will all flow naturally but interchange and mix it up because it will amplify your niche.
  • Sitting and recording yourself on voice memo to see if your speaking voice fits with your writing voice is a handy technique (for someone who cringes to the point of second hand embarrassment at the sound of my own voice, this is definitely something I want to test out and take on board!)
  • I need to make the most of weekends and breaks. Take blog photos in batch, plan, and capture as much content as you get because then it won’t feel like you’re stuck in limbo and you have lots of projects in process to be working on.
  • Thinking about and continuing to talk about the achievements you’re proud of is practical, it’s good to be reflective and it will be fruitful for brands.
  • Pay more attention to and ask my following what they want to see, number one tip for overcoming the insta algorithm is to optimise your content so I need to give it a more of an endeavoured try!
  • You have to think of your blog as your own little business and use your skills efficiently wherever you can.
  • It’s totally tacky to copy someone else! Simply decide what works for you and that authentic blogger title will arrive in no time.

WHAT THE ICE LOLLY PERSPECTIVE SAID:

  • Pretty much exactly the same as Bee because, you know, she’s a pro.
  • Having a niche is what sells it.
  • Brands do want to know about your achievements but the determined factor is all about what creativity and ideas you can offer!

For the third and final talk we were blessed with the presence of the famous Kaye Ford who’s behind Fordtography and her own personal blog, and of course behind the most talked about and most desired imagery within the blogosphere. If you haven’t heard of Kaye or seen her work then where on earth have you been? I adore her work, she’s seriously talented, and has a real eye for capturing the heart of both people and landscapes. I may or may not have fangirled a little (okay a lot) but how can you not, she is ultimate goals, and the ardour oozes from her. She was on hand to provide her travel photography tips and we were all more than keen to hear!

A ROUNDUP OF KAYE’S TIPS:

  • You don’t always have to focus on your travel buddy. Stop and think about who you’re taking photos with, aim for a more visually interesting photo and focus on landscape rather than your company.
  • Find ways you can counteract.
  • Don’t be a carbon copy of the same old shot you’ve seen a thousand times before.
  • Don’t look to produce the same content in popular locations as everyone else, don’t take pictures of your typical scenario, be individual and think of different ways you can play around with angles.
  • It’s more about capturing the essence and atmosphere of a place in a more memorable way rather than it being samesy.
  • Know beforehand what areas you want to visit and where you want to go. It’s a case of organising your schedule, making time and spending time. There’s no limit but it’s good to know the specifics!
  • Include tourists in shots, utilise the naturalness that gives a sense of regularity with a vibe. Embrace people, shoot through them, use their head as a block out part, don’t erase a crowd in a high tourist area.
  • Always shoot in raw so you can edit the white balance to your satisfaction.
  • The recommended is to always use your camera in manual.
  • Learn the bare basics of your camera, experiment, test and trial, and carry it around everywhere! The key is to teach and educate yourself so you can get the most out of your baby.
  • Respect wishes. If photography isn’t allowed in some restricted areas, then do not go against their policies just because you want to update your Instagram.

WHAT I LEARNT:

  • Having anxieties about travelling solo is fine. If Kaye can still produce the quality she does with people around her, then so can I!
  • Kaye finds buildings boring. It’s assuring to know a respectable and renowned photographer doesn’t feel the pressure to encapsulate architecture because simply, bricks really aren’t that interesting, are they?
  • People in the picture make it more alive. I no longer have to stand and wait for people to vacate before I take a photo because I’ve seen the ways the passing of the public can enrich a scene. It’s gonna save me a lot of time!
  • People never move out of the way in Iceland. It’s impossible to avoid. Handy to bear in mind if I ever head on a trip there (I’m already thinking about how I can use the tourists to my advantage).
  • Taking a snap of the whole scene is not always as efficacious as centring on precise parts. For e.g. Kaye shot from the window of Edinburgh castle with the frame in focus and the beautiful background in the distance and that made the end result more unique.
  • Snow will always have blue tones. Ideal to remember for the blustery winter we’re having! Remember to shoot in raw so you can edit!
  • Don’t be afraid to edit. This is major!! We all know over-editing is silly but we also know every photographer edits their work. You have the basis, and with editing you can enhance to its aesthetic potential!
  • Buying a camera to use for blogging? Don’t read the manual, go to YouTube and find a how to modern instructional piece.
  • Try and squeeze as much as you can into your hand luggage, you’ll be surprised how much you can fit in there with the allowance!
  • When travelling, you only really need the bare minimum camera gear – a 50mm lens, a tripod, and a long shutter. It’s all about playing with the settings and adjusting them appropriately.
  • A simple change of f-stop can make a photo less flat in an instance.
  • 50mm is very close to what your eye naturally sees.
  • Shoot directly or from above and then you’ll avoid shadows and double chins.
  • It’s so easy to use everyday essentials as a magnifier. She suggested making a rainbow with the reflection of a CD and it’s something I’m now desperate to try out.
  • I’m also at the stage where the mode is being switched to manual opposed to the aperture priority I usually use. I will master it! It’s time for upped change.
  • Kaye is a kinesthetic learner, and I’ve come to the conclusion so am I!
  • “It’s like Harry Potter; you don’t choose the wand, the wand chooses you” my favourite quote to come out of the day and the perfect way to end the seminar. Whatever camera you have, whether bridge, or DSLR, cheap, or expensive, it’s yours!

WHAT THE ICE LOLLY PERSPECTIVE SAID:

  • Kaye’s a genius.
  • That’s pretty much it.

And that marks the end. Congratulations if you’ve made it here, and I hope you’ve managed to get some valid information from my heavy post. Even if you weren’t there on the day, please feel free to contribute with your own blogging tips and your own achievements in the comments!

I’ma finish off with my hands held high to the entire IceLolly team! To say they are an independent site purely running to help you find the best deals for your ideal holiday, and drawing in 20 millions visitors a year, the way in which they connect and respond to the influencer market really is praise worthy and oh so very apt. They know what we want, they know our aim is to achieve our blogging goals, and they manage to arrange annual events to sustain and reinforce this with their especial backup and full surveillance.

(The fact it’s exclusively a Leeds event is just a bonus. I mean, I’m absolutely not biased when it comes to my hometown pleasures, nope.)

My head is filled with a whole load of initiative and I’m still feeling the galvanising spirit but if I was to take just one thing from Blog At The Beach it’s that bloggers really are mighty. We’re writers, we’re photographers, we’re editors, we’re social media assistants, we’re SEO experts, we’re life coaches, we’re personal motivators, we’re designers, we’re decorators, we’re dozens of other professions all rolled in to one and THAT is a win!

We win at life.

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