It is quite safe to say that I happened upon the commercial side of blogging by accident. I had started King's Road's Rock! - on a whim, following an ice cream with a friend in Battersea Park. It was the summer of 2010 when I was thinking about a novel I had wanted to write and about establishing a readership for my story. A brand new Twitter account and blog sprang to mind and both were swiftly set up. The focus was to be Chelsea because this was the setting for my story but other than that I had no idea what I was going to blog about.
By no means was I a stranger to blogging. I had been writing a personal blog about my journey as a screenwriter for the past year. It had become successful in its own right and I was already writing guest posts for other, more established websites. But I was tired of self-reflection and instead, I wanted to reach out and grab the public's attention. I wanted to be commercial.
But before I could set up my blog a local website asked to meet me after seeing my new Twitter account appear. Looking back, I guess I was being sussed out. Who was this new kid on the block? What was her intention? It didn't matter that I had lived in Chelsea my entire life and was simply looking to explore my passion. In their eyes, I could have been a possible competitor. But no guns were drawn. Instead, we had agreed that I was going to blog for this local business website and provide them with content on a weekly basis (for free).
In the meantime, I experimented with side projects: blogging short stories set in Chelsea and about local cocktail haunts. Then one day, it dawned on me. The blog posts I was writing for the other website weren't being promoted on Twitter and following casual discussions with the editor, I started to wonder if he had actually read any of the recent posts, which I had uploaded. I was also developing relationships with PRs for my research whilst introducing the PRs to the website's owners. And then alarm bells started to ring. What was I doing? There was a clash of interest here. I was providing content for a website which promoted businesses that had paid to be on there. So this meant either I was writing about a business that was paying to be written about, or I was setting up PRs for a possible business transaction each time the website's owners asked to be formally introduced. I felt like a Chelsea pimp. I mean, where was the journalistic integrity in what I was doing? Then I remembered, I wasn't a journalist, I was a mere blogger.
So last Christmas, I decided to go it alone and remove myself from the commercial arena. I decided to start my own blog and keep it fun. Little did I realise, I was about to enter the competitive playing field that belonged to the PRs. This time, it was their game.
When I set up King's Road Rocks! I wasn't looking for freebies; neither did I have a business plan. I simply wanted to blog about Chelsea.
In fact I remember an editor for a local magazine once remarking on the amount of freebies I must have been receiving. I looked at her quizzically and replied, sometimes. But as the year developed, I started to realise what she meant. PRs were starting to contact me, asking if I wanted to try their restaurant or go to their launch party. I've also accepted discounts and have received complimentary cocktails: pure joy when you think about my original intention when starting my blog. Yet, as much as I have enjoyed the odd freebie, I realised that there was another side to this whole game. It wasn't the dark side. It was more pragmatic. It was business.
The blogger provides exposure for the brand. It's that simple. It is somewhat free advertising for the PRs and as the journalistic landscape develops, the blogger's clout is gaining weight. Recently, I read a post by Disneyrollergirl in which she explains the shift in attitudes towards her as a blogger. She explains that today PR companies are developing their strategies to include various social media platforms with the primary goal of creating a buzz around their brand. Certainly these are interesting times for any blogger, and how they choose to develop their relationship with PRs is up to them.
Follow Mina Zaher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kingsroadrocks