Sian Meades is a freelance writer and the Editor of Domestic Sluttery, a home and lifestlye blog about the finer things in life for women (and sometimes men too!).
Domestic Sluttery covers all manner of topics including design, food, fashion and goodies for the home, and is widely considered one of the most recent success stories of the UK blogosphere.
Sian kindly took the time to answer a quartet of questions about her experiences so far of blogging, PRs and where she hopes DS will go next.
What mistakes have you made as a blogger and how have you learnt from them?
Hundreds. Seriously. I’ve been blogging for three years now and my style has changed massively. I think the main one is learning to write strong blog posts without being controversial for the sake of it. If you’re throwing an opinion out there, backing it up with an actual argument is vital (something that’s very often overlooked by bloggers when they start out). My biggest bugbear is ranting and passive aggression on blogs (even personal ones). A blog is, by its very nature a public outlet and should be treated as such. There’s no point blogging about things you don’t have the balls to say. Cloak and daggers blogging is pointless. It took me a long time to learn this. But then, my personal blog has had three different versions before I settled. Not being afraid to make mistakes is important.
There’s a huge learning curve with blogging, and that’s what keeps it fun. You can tell when someone isn’t happy with a blog post – they’ll blog as much as they can to make it drop off the front page. Making mistakes isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You learn, you improve, and you move on. But you learn a lot from other bloggers. Reading other blogs and writing as much as possible is the best way to learn. You won’t learn if you only blog once a month.
Running DS you must get approached by PRs all the time – What is your relationship with PRs like, and how do you decide what pitches will make for a successful post?
I tend to have a good relationship with PRs. We usually write nice things! But you’re right, we get pitched all the time. A good pitch for us has a good image, an immediate selling point that I can see without reading the whole press release and all of the information I need. I have no idea what will work until I see it. But, if I have to scrabble for an image, or I don’t get one when I ask, I’ll move on to something else. The very nature of blogging is fast-paced.
I try and reply to all PRs, and explain why something isn’t right for us. But, as time dictates it’s not always possible. The one thing PRs do that annoys me is try and shoe-horn the brand they’re pitching into the site. If it doesn’t fit, there’s a reason for it and I won’t be budged. I’ve written about good PRs before (http://www.sianyland.com/2009/11/is-good-pr-really-rocket-science.html) – most good PR is just good manners. Be nice to me. Don’t badger me with calls. Don’t abuse my time. Don’t piss me off. I’ll offer the same courtesy in return.
How did you start DS and how have you managed the process of its growth?
DS was actually a test blog for a publishing company. I wanted to pitch it to an online publisher after seeing a niche in the market for a blog that mixed cooking and interiors. The name Domestic Sluttery was a working title. After working on it for three months, we couldn’t imagine it being called anything else. It never got seen by the publishing company (which turned out to be a blessing in disguise), but we didn’t want the work to go to waste. So we jazzed it up, braced ourselves and put it live. That was one of the best days of my freelance career. We knew we’d got it right. There was a time when we were getting 100 hits a day. Now, coming up to our 1st birthday (woot! yay! etc) we’re getting 25,000 unique users a month. The growth is largely to do with Twitter and Facebook. We’ve worked hard to build up a community and a buzz around the site and it works. We get featured in National press, but the online community is where our growth comes from.
There’s now 12 of us writing which helps manage the growth. We’re also taking on another girl soon. Everything has grown organically. There hasn’t been a huge spike in traffic that I’ve had to deal with. Most of the time, the site manages just fine, and when it doesn’t, I’ve got a team of awesome girls to take over whilst I go and make a cup of tea.
What direction do you intend to take DS over the next 18 months and have you got anything exciting lined up you can tell us about?
Lots of exciting things! We’ve just finished a great promotion with Habitat and there’s a biggy, which we’re still not ready to talk about just yet (ask me again next month). But we’re launching in Australia this year which is fantastic. I’d love a site in New York as well. There’s more events coming up – a lot of our success is down to our readers and the community around the site so it’s about time we met more of them in person. There’s an awful lot of plans and schemes that we’re working on. The site has changed so much over the last year, I can’t predict where we’re going to be in the future. The projects we’re plotting behind the scenes are so exciting. Huge amounts of work is going into them so I’m keen for them to be successful. But as long as people are still reading every day, we’ll keep being Domestic Sluts.