Apr 18, 2016

What Does It Take To Write A Blog Post?

Actually happns
I recently wrote about my experiences with sponsored posts and why I think it is so important to make sure that the content within them is always worth reading.  I was actually surprised by how much traffic (and feedback) that post received.  Based on the majority of the responses to that piece (both on the post itself and on social media) I am clearly not the only one who feels that way.

It isn’t that I believe most bloggers set out with the goal of “write crappy sponsored posts and annoy my readers,” but sometimes that just happens.  Creating high quality sponsored posts usually means a lot more work than just regurgitating the sales pitch you are told to give.  Even with the best intentions, not every post will be a winner. Sometimes posts just don’t turn out like you envisioned. I admit that I have had that happen to me.

Good posts (sponsored or otherwise) are hard work..  and LOTS OF IT.  Most bloggers are already keenly aware of this, but a non-blogger may not realize what it actually takes get a post written and published. So today (and since I am tapped out of new projects to share.. #KeepingItReal) I am going to show you what it takes for me to create a post.

In this case (because this is the one project I could find photos of) I’m going to show you the steps that went into my (sponsored) Game Day Milkshakes Post.

The actual post was sponsored by Snickers (or as they wanted it written SNICKERS)  and I was required to use both mini Snickers bars in a recipe and also (somehow) incorporate another Mars candy (from a certain list) into the post.  Umm.. okay.  That was going to be awkward since I wouldn’t’ normally just throw in a random candy (I had chosen Starbursts) into a recipe post that didn’t use it.

IMMEDIATELY I knew I had just doubled my work.  I needed to create TWO recipes to justify using the second candy.

And that is exactly what I did.
First, Let’s first check out the beauty shot for that post:
Another thing you should know about that post is that it needed to come out Super Bowl weekend (but I couldn’t say Super Bowl) so I had to create a ‘big game’ theme around my recipe. Now, I LOVE football and I love Snickers.. (it is the kind of candy I take from the kid’s stash at Halloween) which is why I applied for this opportunity in the first place.  And I already had lots of football props (like the pom poms I used in the photos) but I didn’t have anything related to FOOD.

So the first thing I did was run to the dollar store and spent a few bucks on props.

Here they are in this photo. You can see I didn’t end up using all of them (the football shaped tray was going to be in the background but I pitched the idea after I tried it) but I did use the pom poms, banner and bendy straw.   I also bought two football shaped glasses to use, but it turned out those held more than 30 ounces!  (which is why i didn’t use them for the second recipe.. I had run out of ice cream even though I had purchased 2 half gallons!!)

Sponsored content propsNext I had to create the recipe.

Some bloggers just show the finished recipe and maybe a shot of the product, but I am a step-by-step kinda girl.  I like to photograph the process. I can’t recall if the step by step tutorial was required for this sponsored post (sometimes it is a requirement) but since I use them with my regular posts I also use them for sponsored posts, even if they aren’t required.

Of course first there is always the obligatory “show the products” shot, which I spent a fair amount of time photoshopping the non-sponosred brands out of:

I spent a fair amount of time doing it, because I didn’t want the photoshop (or fact the labels were obscured) to be obvious.  Some bloggers use tape on their packages, some blur them, others just obscure the name by the way they place the products. I don’t do it those ways since it is more obvious.  The above photo looks REMARKABLY like any normal “ingredients shot” I use in all my recipes and that is my end goal.   I want sponsored content to feel like ‘every other post’  (here is an example from my non-sponsored Southwestern Black Bean Pizza post):
Next I needed some ‘action’ shots of the recipe.  For this I have to make my work station look pretty nice since, well.. nobody wants to make a recipe that wrecks havoc to your kitchen. This is what I showed you in the post:
And here is what the kitchen counter actually looked like: Milkshake messWorking with ice cream was a NIGHTMARE.  Especially since (like I mentioned before) the cup turned out to be too large and I ended up having to make a second batch to get it full (in the orange milkshake version I got wise and stuck a ball of tinfoil in the center of the cup to displace some room and allow me to use less actual milkshake.)

Since I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time to get the photos right before the shake melted, the first thing I did was pre-set up my shots using my props.   Here is one of my test photos (see how I stuffed paper in the cup as my ‘stand in’ milkshake?) Practice shots for ice creamHere is what my setup looked like when you pull back:
Ice cream photoshoot
And here is what the end result was when I finally shot it:

By the time I had photographed it and allowed the kids to drink it, it was a melty MESS.  I poured it into two smaller glasses so they could share it, and this is the REALITY of what it looked like when they actually drank the Snickers shake:
Ice creamNot exactly a picture you would run in an advertising campaign.

After that, I re-set my backdrop and started again with the second Starbust recipe.
The whole process probably took me about 3-4 hours (not including shopping time) and at that point I still had to write the post (which usually takes another 1-2 hours.)  For the Snickers post I think I received a around $200.  By the time I factor in the prep, the post, and the time I took touting it on social media, plus subtract the cost of supplies and props it worked out to less than $25/hour.

Don’t get me wrong  $25/hour is a decent pay rate, but I don’t want people to get the impression that most bloggers are raking in hundreds of dollars per hour (Yes, yes.. I’m sure some bloggers may be making that kind of money but nobody needs to write me and tell me, since I’d just be jealous!) I only know myself (and my close blogging friends) are not lucky enough to be on that list.

And if you are curious whether all the extra work is worth it, the answer would be a resounding ‘Yes!’  Because it turns out that not only does it mean happier readers, it actually means happier brands!  Just today I found out that the ad network that I worked with on this Disney on Ice Campaign, selected it as one of the posts they liked: SITS
And last November a different network featured me after my Dremel and LEGO posts did so well. CGC

So that is the true insider version of what posts look like from my point of view. I actually really like writing sponsored content and taking on the challenge of figuring out how to include something meaningful and useful along with the brand's message.  Especially when it involves ice cream and candy bars!  I hope you are enjoying it too!

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