I’ve been trying to find the right words for this post for days, and they’re just not coming to me. At this point, I think it might be a better idea to just start typing and see what comes out. Bear with me.
So here’s the thing: This blog & I are going through a bit of a rough patch right now. The blog itself is doing fine. I’m doing fine. But together we’re having some trouble making things work.
Okay, but what does that even mean? A few weeks ago, I wrote about having the “blahs.” I’d hoped that I’d be un-blah’d by now, but I’m not. I’m still finding it very difficult to write blog posts. I don’t think it’s writer’s block, because I have plenty to say. It’s more that I can’t find the intrinsic motivation to sit down and write. Or, like I said in my “Blahs” post, anything that requires mental and/or creative energy. Like creating pins – ugh. Or even something as simple as editing & adding photos to a guest post, like the one from my dad that’s been sitting in my inbox for months (sorry, Dad).
It shouldn’t be this hard. I love this blog – I really, really do. So why am I not having any fun right now?
This is NOT a breakup. It’s not a flounce. But I’ve lived long enough to know that when something’s not working, it’s time to make some changes. As Albert Einstein (or was it Henry Ford?) said, “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.”
Simply put – I need blogging to feel fun again! I’m not talking about making major changes, but I do have a few tweaks in mind that will hopefully do the trick.
What is Sponsored Content?
Without a doubt, the number one thing that’s sapping my energy is the disproportionate number of sponsored posts and product reviews in the last month. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, keep reading. If you’re a blogger, you can probably skip the next few paragraphs. (Bloggers: if you need a refresher, the FTC’s Endorsement Guide lays things out really clearly. It was published in May 2015, so the info is current.)
First of all, you need to know that the FTC considers it an “endorsement” every time a brand, sponsor, or advertiser pays me or gives me something of value to mention a product. With that said, I like to differentiate between sponsored posts and product reviews. Here’s how:
A post is sponsored when I am paid to write it. Payment may come in the form of money, gift cards, or high-value items. Typically, these are not product-centered posts; rather, my objective is to organically weave a product, brand, or message into a narrative post. Click HERE and HERE for examples.
A product review is exactly what it sounds like – a post where I review a product. Most of the time, I receive the product for free. Click HERE and HERE for examples. I do not accept monetary payment for product reviews, although the FTC considers it an endorsement when I accept free products and perks.
A product-centered post is different from a product review in that I’m talking about a product without evaluating it. It is more advertorial in nature. I may write this type of post for various reasons: 1) I was paid to write it, which excludes me as an unbiased reviewer; 2) I did not actually try the product; or 3) I tried the product and did not personally like it but believe that it’s a quality product that my readers might like.
Anytime I receive payment and/or a free product in exchange for sharing something on the blog, you will see a disclosure at the very top of the post. If you ever feel uncertain about my relationship with a sponsor or brand, please ask! Any lack of transparency is accidental.
Tweak #1: Less Sponsored Content
There’s nothing inherently wrong with sponsored content. It’s a good source of income, and I’ve gotten to work with some great brands. The key is finding balance. This means: 1) spacing out sponsored posts so that they don’t crowd out the rest of my content; 2) only accepting writing jobs that are of interest to me and my audience; and 3) declining jobs that contradict my ideals, fall outside of this blog’s message, or require me to present myself as an expert on pretty much anything.
Okay then, so why the sudden appearance of back-to-back-to-back sponsored & product-related posts? In a word – procrastination. You know how I hardly wrote at all this summer? Well, even though I’d taken a break from working, the work didn’t take a break from me. It piled up. It’s still piling up. And now that the kids are back in school and I’m somewhat adjusted to our new schedule, I’m finally catching up on my obligations. Which is why you’re seeing more sponsored content than usual.
The funny thing is that a couple of months ago, I made a conscious decision to shift the blog’s focus back to my personal voice & stories, while seeking other sources of income. Seems like I haven’t done such a great job at that so far. But that is the ultimate goal. For now, I need to follow through on all of my outstanding commitments (and there are still a few) and then come up with a strategic plan for how much and what type of sponsored content I’ll agree to going forward.
Lately I’ve been getting more opportunities to attend local events and attractions. It’s a really fun perk and a nice treat for my family. Of course, we’re invited to these events with the hope that I’ll write about them on the blog and/or social media. No problem – but how do I make a random restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida fit into a blog about being a mom and a runner?
Here’s how – by expanding the blog to include my life not just as a mom, but as a Florida Mom (which, of course, I am). And guess what? I’m also a Florida runner. So this expansion will also allow me to cover more local races and connect with the Jacksonville running community.
Here’s a list of the top 15 cities where my blog traffic has originated in the last 30 days (according to Google Analytics):
Jacksonville doesn’t even make the top 10. There is a LOT of potential for growth here, and it’s something that i’m really excited about.
I think a “slump” of sorts is a natural part of the creative process. But I think I can ride it out by enlisting the help of others – i.e., by featuring more guest writers.
In the 2 years since this blog started, I’ve only had a handful of guest posts, and most of them were written by my dad. Which means that 95% of the creative content on this site was written by me. Okay, duh – I’m a blogger, so of course I write blog posts. But it also means that when I’m too busy, uninspired, or mentally blocked to write, the blog could go days (or sometimes even weeks) without any new content. No bueno.
So first of all, I need to bring My Dad’s Two Cents back to life. (I said I was going to do this a while back, but this time I really mean it. Promise.) He was a regular contributor during the blog’s first year, and his posts were often more popular than mine.
Second, I’d love to have guest bloggers do product reviews for me. This would be especially helpful with food & drinks since I’m SO picky. Have you seen the Picky Eater Quiz on Buzzfeed? Here’s how I scored:
I’m not exactly the person want sampling your new vegan gluten-free chia seed cookies. Just being honest.
Anyway, the way I see this working is that I’d have the product shipped directly to the guest blogger. They’d try it out and write a review post. They’d get to keep the product (of course), get links to their blog & social media pages on my blog, and (when applicable) co-host the giveaway (i.e., get links on the Rafflecopter).
I think this might appeal to newer bloggers – it would hopefully drive some traffic to their blogs & gain new social media followers. And it appeals to me because it gives me more content to post. If this sounds like something you might be interested in doing, shoot me an email at sharon (at) mommyrunsit (dot) com. I’ve got the first product lined up already – I just need to find someone who’d like to review it.
In the blogging world, niche is a big thing. What is your message? Who are your people? Where do you fit?
There are Mommy Blogs and Running Blogs, and this blog is neither. Or rather, it falls somewhere in between as a Running Mommy Blog. (Google it – it’s actually a thing.) This is deliberate. When I created this blog two years ago, I wanted the central theme to be running, but I also wanted the freedom to write about parenting, traveling, and just life in general.
But I realize that in the last few months, the posts about actual RUNNING have been few & far between. I need to return to my roots, so to speak, and get back to writing about running. If things go according to plan, you’ll start seeing more of that in the weeks and months to come.
This isn’t technically a tweak. It’s not even about Mommy Runs It. But I just wanted to mention that I do have another project in the works. It’s in the very, very early stages, and I’m not ready to share it yet. Forgive the vague-blogging, but I’m hoping that announcing that I have something going on will help keep me accountable and inspire me to turn the Something into an actual Thing.
So there you have it. My Mommy Runs It Manifesto. Manifesto is a big word, but I think it fits, don’t you?
Last but not least, I want to thank you. Thank you for reading this (almost) 2000 word post. Whether this is the first post you’ve read or if you’ve read every post, THANK YOU. I am truly grateful.
Michele C. says
Girl, you have to do what you have to do! Given that I’m starting over again I feel your pain of figuring out what your niche is, balancing content, etc. I’d be happy to do a few food reviews for you — I have not met a food I won’t at least try haha! I have been struggling to find my voice on my new blog as well, and it is complicated by what I do for my main job, but your Manifesto has inspired me to double down my efforts and just go with my gut. We need a BlogHer ’13 Reunion to inspire us again!!!!
Yes we do!!! I love your new blog, but I’m sure it’s challenging starting over. I’m going to message you about a product – not a food per se, but a running fuel type of thing. xo
Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner says
Interesting! WE are inundated with requests to write sponsored posts or advertorials. It can be hard to choose which to take and which to pass on. I think it’s great that you are figuring out what you want to do and moving towards accomplishing it. Good luck!
For sure! I’m grateful to be “too busy” to accept any more work. But the choices are hard.