While traditional media, trade journalists and industry bloggers walked the floors at the NRA Show 2011 in Chicago and sat in on sessions about getting a message out through social media, many among the growing ranks of food and foodie bloggers had other plans. Some converged on Washington, D.C., and others headed to Atlanta for two conferences aimed at helping food-obsessed bloggers share stories and tips and get better at what they do.
BlogHer Food 11, an established conference, included a generous helping of former journalists who became food bloggers and foodies, who came to writing and photography as a way to explore their culinary passion. Eat, Write, Retreat convened for the first time, with small, hands-on sessions dedicated to helping bloggers get better at the basics of shooting food photos that make readers drool, writing posts that make them hungry for more and discovering ways to make money from their work.
And, being writers, they wrote about it.
In this post, The Whole Gang blogger Diane Eblin shared details on seven things she loved about Eat, Write, Retreat, including a Saturday lunch at McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants, where restaurant staffers took the trouble to learn each blogger’s name and explain each dish in detail. Smart move: Just because bloggers aren’t mainstream media doesn’t mean they don’t have power when it comes to publicizing good things about your restaurant. If you scroll to the end of Eblin’s post, you’ll see links to reviews by other attendees.
Chefs, restaurateurs and food bloggers often focus on different aspects of the same thing, but they all share a common passion for food, and many also share a hunger to learn more about how to use online tools to build their brands and make a living doing what they love.
Reading through the blogosphere’s voluminous coverage on these two events reminded me of a chat I had a few weeks ago with FohBoh’s Michael Atkinson on whether it makes sense for restaurants to start a blog and, if so, how they should go about it. I went back to reread and noticed Denise Lee Yohn’s comment about how it makes sense to blog only if you have a compelling story to tell. If not, your resources might be better spent on other community and social media efforts – maybe even cultivating bloggers most likely to write about your restaurant. She’s right, of course, and many bloggers who do tell compelling stories still find their tales lost in the sea of online voices. But a growing number of bloggers across many interest areas have cultivated a solid following and are even making a living at it, as The New York Times reported.
How to find the ones who might be able to tell your restaurant’s food story? One place to start is the attendance lists for Eat, Write, Retreat and BlogHer Food 11, which posted them online.