PD: I think WIWT has worked well because it’s such a simple idea; one post of one outfit every single day. It’s as much a photo diary of ‘a year in the life’ as it is a fashion blog. It’s consistent and I think that’s important. Posts are pretty much the same length and format as they have been from the first day of launch. It’s not overly trendy either and I think that’s helped in my case, they’re wearable outfits without being too boring or safe (I hope!). You won’t find me wearing a doily that belonged to my Great Grandmother as a headpiece or anything too zany like that and I think that’s what a lot of girls like about it, it’s stylish but completely accessible. But you have to know your audience…if people are expecting Hoxtonite, give them Hoxtonite. And obviously just like with any web content, good pictures, clear page layout and good (preferably somewhat amusing) copy is all mega vital. Question two: How much of your content is ‘found’ by you versus being fed to you? i.e. PR SW: “For the first three years of my blog I generated 99% of my own stories and never once approached a PR (to the best of my memory). Now it’s a mixture.I pretty much don’t cold call agencies: I wait for them to approach me. I have so much available content that I’m not hunting out stories, and I don’t like to cold call -in product as I think there are way too many bloggers chasing freebies and I don’t want to be tarred with that brush.”
JH: “It varies depending on how busy I am at the time. I have a full time job too so if I am struggling to update my blogs I do look to press pieces for interesting content – aways in keeping with what my audience would be expecting from me though. I think the editing process says as much about the blogger as the articles they write from scratch.”
GS: “I find almost all my content myself. If I’m invited to an event by a PR I’ll normally write it up on the blog, but I’m quite picky about the events I chose to attend. I’ve probably only used information sent to me by a PR unsolicited 2 or 3 times in the 2 1/2 years I’ve been blogging.”
PD: “I’ve only just started The Lust List, so I’m still making baby steps with it, but every item I’ve featured so far has been found by me. I don’t mind readers suggesting items, in fact I actively encourage it, but it wouldn’t seem genuine if I was just churning out rehashed press releases. A lot of The Lust List’s readers come from WIWT so they’re familiar with my style already, they’d know I was being fake if I implied I was lusting over a feathery headpiece for example as it’s just not my thing. (I think even within this interview I’ve made it clear I’m not one for headpieces)”
Question three: What is a good example of a PR / blogger partnership you’ve seen in your space – what does each party need to bring to the table?
SW: “I like face to face meetings where we can build a relationship. I loathe the digital agency approach where they just think shoving branded content at me cold via email will grab my attention. Sure it does, but not in the way they hope! Traditional PR still works best for me: we get to know each other, and can manage our expectations.”
JH: “I think ongoing partnerships are where there is real value. When I feel a personal connection to the PR representatives I’m dealing with it’s so much easier to work with them and it feels more like a two-way thing where both parties are in control. The Aussie Angels project is definitely one of the best I’ve been involved with because of the community it’s built up and the way their amazing events just make you want to tell people about the brand.”
GS: “I’ve seen several good examples. Hendricks Gin sponsoring events with Vintage Secret and Fleur De Guerre, Topshop ran events where they have provided bloggers with interesting photographs to use on their blogs afterwards and the Aussie Hair Angels collaboration was also good as it focused on a select group of bloggers and then ran several interesting themed events.
“I think that PRs need to acknowledge that they are asking for valuable space on a blog that someone has put a lot of time and effort into and ensure that they provide the blogger with something relevant and interesting to writing about. I think bloggers need to ensure that the content they provide in return is also relevant and interesting and acknowledge that they’re not being wooed with gifts and parties just because they are lovely people. Equally I think that both parties need to ensure that they are clear about the ground rules. Bloggers shouldn’t feel obliged to be positive about something they don’t like or even write about it at all just because it was gifted and PRs shouldn’t assume they can change the ground rules after the fact (asking for specific text links in a blog post AFTER it’s written is an example that springs to mind)”
PD: “The PR needs to understand that the blogger has an audience that they’ve carefully built a relationship with over time, they don’t want to whore out their blog – it’s their baby. At the same time, the blogger needs to understand that the PR will have certain expectations of the partnership for their client. As long as everything’s communicated well in the beginning there’s no reason why it can’t be a really happy and successful relationship, you just need to make sure the goals of both parties are being met without one side compromising too much for the other. I love what Liberty London Girl does with Mercedes Benz, it’s amazing.”
Question four: How important is photography / video – can you get your hands on everything you need when you need it?
SW: “I shoot all my own photography, so access to product/places/people is important for me. Likewise I shoot all my own video. Very occasionally, as part of an ongoing collaboration, I may run someone else’s content but it’s unusual. And nothing, nothing annoys me more than companies trying to palm off promotional branded video content as potential editorial onto blogs. We aren’t stupid, you know.”
JH: “For me and the type of blog I write I have to have something visual to go with a post. The way I read blogs is to scan the images looking for something that catches my eye and in the time-starved world we live in I’m sure I’m not the only one. If I’m offered really strong creative then I’m far more likely to feature a story, brand or product.”
GS: “Photography, particularly, is vital to most blogs. Clear Hi Res pictures can make or break a blog post. I’ve not often had problems getting images to use, but if the images aren’t available on the website sometimes image requests aren’t replied to as quickly as they could be. Blogging is a high speed medium and often bloggers will need those images within hours, not days.”
PD: “Very! You need to be able to describe an item beautifully but even the best writer is going to struggle without supporting photos. As I imagine Alice (of Wonderland fame) would say if she were shopping for a new pretty dress in 2010…”What is the use of a fashion blog without pictures or conversations?”
Question five: Which fashion blogs / conversation drivers will you be paying special attention to this fashion week?
SW: “Twitter will be my first, and probably my only port of call. I doubt I’ll have time to read blogs.”
JH: “My Google Reading list seems endless but I’m probably going to look to someone like Fashion Foie Gras for coverage of Fashion Week. I love the blog and the commentary, not to mention the regularity of the posts. I will also be looking to Twitter for as-it-happens updates.”
GS: “I like to keep an eye on the street style blogs like Garance Dore, The Satorialist and Vanessa Jackman during Fashion Week. For show coverage I read a variety of places, including mainstream sites like Style.com and Vogue, but I do keep an eye on The Style PA.”
PD: “I’ll be following the #LFW hashtag very closely on Twitter. I love the ‘instantness’ of Twitter, you’ll be able to see those initial gut reactions as the models strut their stuff on the runway live as it happens. There’s something lovely and raw about that first reaction to a collection which could easily have changed by the time it has been pondered over and a full blog post written up. And of course it’s the easiest way to see what lots of people think all at once, I can’t wait to see which collections get people tapping away at their iPhones and BlackBerrys the hardest.”
Question six: What can other blogs learn from the way fashion bloggers operate?
JH: “To get out there and network. Fashion is full of industry and PR events and I’ve made some amazing contacts and friends simply by getting away from the computer and socialising. The same goes for Twitter, I’d consider it a vital tool for growing a blog audience and networking.”
GS: “There is a sense of enjoyment in Fashion Blogging. It has to be fun first, not just a job. Not having blogged about anything else I don’t know how others operate, but there is definitely a strong sense of community and influence in fashion blogging. Ideas, looks and themes are frequently borrowed and expanded upon and linked to in turn. I love the conversation that exists outside the blogs themselves, on Twitter, Facebook and with community sites like Independent Fashion Bloggers.”
PD: “I think if there’s one thing fashion bloggers have, it’s passion. They know their subject matter and they love it with all their hearts. They really invest time into their blogs because it’s something they love to do.There are some fashion bloggers who have only a teeny tiny audience but they slog away at their content day after day because they love it, they write for themselves as much as anything else. If nobody had ever read WIWT I’d have still enjoyed creating it, it’s like a diary to me. If you’ve got a genuine passion for your subject, regardless of whether it’s taxidermy or horse shoe fitting, you’re made.”
Note: A big thanks out to Sasha, Jenny, Gemma and Poppy for taking part in this post – I really appreciate your time.