I’ve always been under the impression that the most important aspect of a food blog is the photos. Anything that is aesthetically pleasing is going to draw people in and keep them coming back for more. This is why #FoodPorn has become a thing. We, as hungry humans, find great pleasure in close-ups of stretchy cheese and oozing chocolate.
But there is definitely more to a food blog than the sexy photos.
This is why I wanted to (attempt) to create A Guide to Mastering Your Food Blog Voice.
As 2015 wrapped up and 2016 resolutions were being penned, a hot topic of conversation between fellow food bloggers was the “blog voice” and the struggle that came with writing an actual blog post to accompany recipes and photos. People typically start blogs for the love of writing, so the writing aspect comes easy. With food blogs however, the blogger is usually in it for the love of cooking and sharing recipes. Several bloggers admitted to lacking confidence in their writing abilities and, inevitably, that can put a huge hindrance on progress–especially when it comes to connecting with your readership, which is your blog’s foundation. Without this foundation, you can’t build.
I’ve never really thought too deeply on the subject of the “blog voice” because my blog voice has always just been my voice. I’ve always written things in the same manner that I’d express them verbally and my writing is very reflective of who I am – terrible puns and all. (Seriously, I’m a walkin’ talkin’ Bad Dad Joke.) I do, however, have an advantage; I’m a Journalism grad and I’ve been writing as a hobby my entire life. So it’s easy for me to sit here and say, “Just write out your thoughts! Make it a story!” But in reality, things don’t flow that easily for everyone. I tried to imagine writing a post on what I call my “bad blogging days”, which are days where I just can’t find the focus to write or the will to be engaging in my writing. These days are extremely frustrating, and to think that that’s what some bloggers experience every time they sit down to write a post shook me.
This got me thinking about how I do it. I tried to break it down so I could write this post in hopes to push people into the right direction. We all know that writing is the core of blogging, so unless you’re running a photo blog, there is a certain degree of pressure to hammer on those keys and provide solid written content.
But where does one even start?
What is a “blog voice”? For anyone who may be unfamiliar with the term, a “blog voice” is the tone and flow in a blogger’s writing which is used as a tool to connect with their readership on a personal level without actually having a one-on-one conversation. This is important. If readers don’t feel a connection to you, they won’t become loyal readers and without loyal readers, you don’t have a solid readership. You might as well just go back to your LiveJournal days and write about your woes.
The ‘What’ and The ‘Who’: Determine your audience. The first thing you want to ask yourself is this: what type of audience am I after? It’s important to determine what lifestyle you’re creating content for before you try to connect with them. Maybe your blog is geared toward the 9-5 folk looking for easy yet nutritious weeknight meals? Perhaps you’re reaching out to a vegan-centric crowd?
Once you decide on what type of audience you’re after and what kind of content you’re going to create, break the audience down further with determining who they are so that you can connect with them. Are they millennials? Generation X? Baby Boomers? Surely you will end up with a mixed bag from many generations, but it helps to speak to a particular group directly so you can remain consistent in your approach–for both you and your brand.
Example: My target audience is those who live by the 80/20 rule (80% of their diet revolves around healthy eats while the other 20% of their diet appreciates reckless indulgence). I speak directly to the Generation X’ers who don’t have children and are into dinner parties, craft beers, and being innovative with healthier options while also paying homage to classic indulgences like a good ol’ mac and cheese. (Pretty specific, I know.) I also like to tie in comic relief that is relevant to that particular generation–because it’s my generation and I can. So sure, if I’m rambling in a post and find the opportunity to drop a Duran Duran reference or poke fun at AC Slater’s pleated Mom jeans, I will. The great thing is that there are enough millennials who are wise beyond their years and enough baby boomers who are hip to be unsquare that will read my blog and dig it. Don’t think of choosing your audience as building a wall; it’s a path. Stay on said path, and whoever else comes along is the cherry on your proverbial sundae.
Discovering your voice. There really isn’t one definitive way to discover and develop your blog voice aside from experience, but I can tell you what I live by.
When you sit down to write, pretend you’re one on one with a reader. Write as if you were telling them about this recipe in person, and tell them as if they’re a friend that you have a great rapport with. If you’re not used to taking this approach when writing it might take some getting used to, but it will eventually feel good and make sense. Blogging is so much more than words; it’s conversation. So communicate your experience with your recipe, don’t just write to describe the dish because that’s a snore. I don’t care how delicious your homemade tomato sauce is–I want to hear about the time you spilled it all over your pants.
When I started Killing Thyme, I wondered if being transparent and being the real me would work against me. If I was too punny, witty, or self-deprecating as part of my humor, would I come across as unripened and unsophisticated? Would the food blog world, which appeared to be full of accomplished and well-polished people, be accepting of me making light of my weaknesses or idiosyncrasies while I talk about pasta? Would I be seen as a farce? At the time it was a gamble, but in true unruly Dana fashion, I kept writing–even if to solely amuse myself. My antics were my fuel and if I wasn’t well-received, at least I was enjoying what I was doing. Luckily I’ve learned that what I’m putting down is less food blog anarchy and more engaging blog voice–and people are eating it. I’m not throwing a pie into the face of the food blogging world after all! Rather, I’m inviting my audience in by being my dorky self and going the extra mile to bring my life experiences to the table. Sure, there may be thousands of recipes out there for butternut squash soup, but when you visit my blog, you butternut expect my post to sound like the rest…
Example: In a recent recipe post of mine, instead of starting with, “I made this really great mussel dish today. It’s flavorful, slightly spicy, and a must-try” I got personal right off the bat. “One of my favorite things about being on a pescetarian diet is that I can justify devouring a plateful of mussels all by myself because hey, I need the iron!” Right away, my readers think, “Haha yeah, typical Dana trying to comically justify her gluttony! I can relate!” They’ve also just learned something about me (I’m pescetarian) and they’ve learned that mussels are a great source of iron.
Know When Inspiration Hits. Having to continuously come up with alluring posts can be difficult. Some days I just want to upload my photos and be like, “Here. I made a thing. It’s yummy. You should make it.” I’ve learned to stop myself when I’m feeling that way because the quality of a post is so much more important than the quantity and frequency of posts. People rather read something that is worth reading, even if it shows up once a week. This is good news! This means you can relax and take your time on that post you’re dreading. Wait for inspiration to hit so you can do it a solid, and know when inspiration hits for you so you can be prepared. Take notes in your phone or have a notebook handy.
Example: I’m one of those freaks whose inspiration hits at 10:30pm at night when I’m snuggled in bed watching Netflix with my husband. Luckily he’s a software engineer, so it isn’t too uncommon for the two of us to be in bed with our laptops clacking away–but it can be frustrating when I’ve spent my entire afternoon trying to write out a good post and nothing comes of it until late at night when I’m trying to shut down. Murphy’s Law, I guess.
Checkin’ Yourself Leads to Wreckin’ Yourself: Ignore writing conventions. THIS IS MY FAVORITE. It’s so important. Ignore writing conventions. Not forever, but while you’re in the zone. This is something I had to teach myself to do–especially since my post-college career programmed me to edit myself to death. When you stop writing to correct yourself, you disrupt your flow. When you’ve got a flow, your best and truest version of yourself comes out. All of your best thoughts and ideas flood from your brain to your fingertips and you’re like a machine. Why put the kibosh on that? You do not want to send that train off the tracks. All of your words and phrases will still be there once you’ve finished pouring your mind into your Word document, right? So stroke those keys until your fingers bleed and, when your flow comes to a screeching halt, go back and edit. Your polished version will be BOMB. Just make sure you don’t forget to go back and do the editing thing eventually…
So that’s it:
- Decide who you want your core audience to be.
- Speak to them to connect with them.
- Write from your inner voice.
- Get to know when your inspiration hits.
- Ignore writing conventions while in the zone.
Simple enough, right? You won’t find your true blog voice overnight, but don’t be discouraged. We’ve all killed ourselves over becoming better food photographers and a lot of us have come a long way.
Writing is the same.