Under the banner of FAIT ICI
, the small organic food and goods business that I co-own with my girlfriend, I’ve been managing a group blog called Ici et here
for more than 40 weeks.
Based on a successful smaller experiment with guest-blogging on the FAIT ICI website, we created the separate Ici et here
blog, and invited 52 prominent, quirky, and interesting members of the Montreal food community to post over a 52-week span.
The bloggers are a diverse group that includes chefs, local food bloggers, journalists, a Hollywood actress, a New York Times
bestselling author, and even my mom and dad. Each author posts only once, and we publish once a week. Authors are not
assigned specific topics but are asked to tell a story that touches on the interplay of food and life in Montreal. Because it’s a bilingual city, some posts are in French, others in English.
Here are the goals we set, and whether we achieved them:
Goal No. 1: Harvest great content for our owned media properties.
This was the most easily achievable goal. By partially outsourcing the creation of content, we’ve had far more original material than would have been otherwise possible. Bottom line: The beast is fed!
Goal No. 2: Generate earned media and attention.
Here are some facts:
• Mentions of @FAITICI on Twitter have nearly tripled since the start of the project.
• Our Twitter and Facebook followings have increased by more than 30 percent since the project began. (I’m not saying that’s because of Ici et here, but it’s worth noting.)
• CTV, the biggest English TV network in Montreal, profiled the project on a newscast (and shot in our store).
• One of Montreal’s French-language daily papers, Le Devoir, wrote a profile on the project. (Please forgive the ridiculous picture of me; I was not actually drunk.)
• The Globe and Mail, Canada’s paper of record, profiled FAIT ICI and its digital strategy, including Ici et here.
• Noted social media consultants Jason Falls and Erik Deckers profiled the project in their upcoming book, No Bullshit Social: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing.
• Content from Ici et here will soon be syndicated on the We Blog the World Network.
• Ici et here has accounted for a total traffic increase of just over 100 percent to our owned media properties.
• Our sales, especially over the last few months, are up. Is this because of Ici et here? We can’t say. But earned media matters in terms of getting the word out, especially when you have $0 for paid campaigns. And we know Ici et here has driven earned media.
Goal No. 3: Build relations with influencers in our segment.
Measuring this goal with rigor is not easy. I can say, anecdotally, that I’m very happy with how we have fared on this metric.
Quantitatively, the majority of our Ici et here
authors have “liked” our Facebook page, and nearly all of those who are on Twitter now follow us. They’ve also come by the shop, spent money, and talked about the guest-blogging experience positively. Good signs.
Ici et here
has also served as a conversation starter with influencers who’ve ended up writing about the store, not the blog. The best example is this piece
that appeared in the major English-language daily. Though the food critic who covered us wrote about our lunch offerings, the dialogue began around Ici et here
. The article has done wonders for sales.
During the nine months of Ici et here
, we’ve done a number of things very badly and a few things well. Here are some key lessons about running a group blog:
It all starts with goals and metrics.
It’s such a cliché, but without clearly iterated goals—bonne chance!
Create an editorial calendar, and slot in your authors very early in the process.
We did not do this, because we were rather hectic running our lives and the business. It’s a necessary step, so do it and save yourself some time!
Having a broad rubric instead of forcing authors to write on specific topics was helpful to us.
It has allowed our bloggers to be creative and was something they appreciated.
Select your authors carefully.
Author selection should mirror the goals of the project. We wanted earned media, so we needed people with some profile. Not everyone on Ici et here
has a massive profile—my dad,
for example, had never written a blog post—but you should realize that the quality of the project and the realization of certain goals will depend on who is producing the content.
Recognize that some authors need more guidance than others in choosing a topic and promoting their posts.
I mentioned that we’ve had some weaker posts; that was inevitable. But we didn’t send a standard overview of dos and don’ts to authors. Have material ready for your bloggers that outlines what the spirit of the project is (and is not).
Others may care about your project, so tell people.
As a communications professional by day, it has been fascinating to see traditional media (with big circulation/viewership) pick up on this digital project. Don’t be shy to tell them, because traditional media are interested in cool stuff going on in the digital space, especially if there’s a heavy local tie-in.
In the final analysis, group blogging has been a great content marketing tool for us.
I believe our approach is applicable to many other types of organizations. Whether you make outdoor gear, own a local clothing boutique, or run a massive charity, this is a tactic with real potential returns.
That’s my story. I’d love to know about your experiences. Have you been involved with a similar initiative?
Jackson Wightman is a
PR Daily contributing editor. This case study also appeared on the blog Communications Conversations.