Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Smoked salmon on Walkers oatcakes and what motivates food bloggers

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Smoked salmon with horseradish-spiked sour cream on Walkers oatcakes

Food companies are coming up with all kinds of creative ways to work with food bloggers.

It used to be that only the elite bloggers got to participate in sponsored programs. You know which bloggers I mean - the ones who started long ago, built a huge following when competition for attention was scarce, speak at all the conferences, jet-set to glamorous locations to cook with Michelin-starred chefs, and eventually get their own TV shows. (I am not one of these elite bloggers, in case you were wondering.)

But smart food brands are realizing that even food bloggers who don't bring in millions of page views provide value. A hundred food bloggers with 10,000 page views each equal one food blogger with a million page views. Or maybe a hundred bloggers are worth even more, because they're going to deliver 100 inbound links to the food brand's website, 100 different Facebook and Twitter audiences, and 100 chances that they, too, will each bring in a million page views a month someday.

Some bloggers will only work with food companies when they get paid. That's okay and it's their choice. But budgets are fickle things. Sometimes there's money and sometimes there's not. Which is why smart food brands are starting to think about what else bloggers want and are designing programs around bloggers' motivations and needs.

Money's great, but this blog doesn't support my family. I have a job for that. In the broadest sense, though, that's what I'm working toward - the day when writing about food, in some shape or form, is my way to make a living and a mark on the world.

So if I'm going to work with a food company, what do I really want? Traffic. Exposure to a new audience. Make me famous. Put me in the spotlight. Help people find my blog so I can rope them in and keep them coming back.

A few weeks ago Walkers Shortbread asked me (and, no doubt, many other bloggers) if I'd be interested in making one of their recipes and contributing a photo to their website. No money involved. A skeptic would have looked at the email and said Well, that's one way to get their product photos done on the cheap.

But I think Walkers is smart. They asked for very little from me and played to my motivations. If they choose my photo, it'll be featured on their website. They'll link to my blog from the Walkers Shortbread Pinterest page (the smart PR rep remembered to mention that their Pinterest boards were recently featured on Mashable, which is a pretty big deal).

Traffic. Make me famous. In exchange for a few minutes of my time, I'm getting something that matters to me. And they're getting what they want too: Here I am, writing about and linking to the Walkers website. I don't have a million page views today, but someday I might.

I chose smoked salmon on oatcakes because it was easy to prepare, it was something I was happy to eat, and I was pretty sure I could get a good picture. I sent the photos above to Walkers a few days ago. Here's hoping they make the cut. Either way, the oatcakes they sent me were really tasty.

print recipe
Smoked salmon on Walkers oatcakes
Pull out smoked salmon whenever you want to dress up your cocktail hour. The cool, creamy sour cream provides a nice contrast to the crispy oatcakes.
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp prepared white horseradish
  • 16 Walkers oatcakes
  • 8 ounces smoked salmon, thinly sliced, cut lengthwise into 16 pieces
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chives, minced
  • Optional: caviar (for garnish)
Blend creme fraiche or sour cream and horseradish in a small bowl. Arrange the oatcakes on a platter. Top each with smoked salmon, then a dollop of the creme fraiche mixture. Garnish with chives and caviar, if desired.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 servings


Deena @ stay at home FOODIE said...

I'm new to the food blogging world and trying to figure out how to get those connections to happen. How did you find out about the Walker's promo? How do you connect to companies and opportunities?
You are an inspiration. Thank you.

Jersey Girl Cooks said...

Great information and I love this appetizer too.

Erika Kerekes said...

Deena, this topic comes up often at food blogging conferences. Here are a few tips:

1) Go to food blogging conferences like IFBC, BlogHer Food, Foodbuzz or Camp Blogaway. Some people shy away from talking with the PR people. I'm all over them. They are most often the door into opportunities like this, as well as bigger and better ones. Talk to them about who you are, what you write about, what your particular angle is. Ask them which companies they work with (it's usually more than one), find out about the products, new launches, etc. Get to know them.

2) Add a "contact me" page to your blog that explicitly states you're interested in working with brands, and include your phone and email contact information. PR people are more likely to contact you if you're easy to contact.

3) There are numerous blogger directories you can list yourself in, like or or or a dozen others (Google "directory of bloggers" or "blog directory"). Go ahead and submit yourself with the proper tags or categories. Some PR people use them, some prefer to compile their own lists.

Hope that's helpful. Others, please add!

Unknown said...

Best of luck to you Erika! You deserve to be famous. And thanks for the comments on connecting with other bloggers/promo companies. I will use some of your important tips.

Maureen said...

I think every food blogger would love to do nothing but cook, photograph and write. I hope you get your dream!


Rocky Mountain Woman said...

I love the recipe! I make my own smoked salmon so I am always on the lookout for new ways to eat it!

Dana @ FoodieGoesHealthy said...

Hi Erika, Thank you for the thoughtful post. I don't think that there is a clear cut answer to your question "is this exchange equitable?" We are in unchartered waters with new media. Although the blog has been around for about a decade, it's popularity is new. People using the internet as an online cookbook is new. In the food bloggers world there are really only a handful of break-out stars so far. Being "first to market" is always an advantage. Now that's over. How can a single blogger stand out from a crowd of millions? I don't think anyone has the answer yet. But exposure can only help. I see what you did with Walkers as barter, not as working for free. When you check your stats, you'll see if people click over to you from Walkers, and you'll know if pans out to be a worthwhile exchange.

Erika Kerekes said...

@Dena and Maureen - thank you for your supportive comments. I DO want to be famous someday, or at least semi-famous. Of course, by the time it happens, I may be too old to appreciate it fully....

@Rocky - please share details. You smoke your own salmon? Never considered doing that but now I'm interested.

@Dana - you're right. It's barter. I got something I wanted, and they did too. I guess that was what I was trying to point out, that food companies are finding interesting ways to get around the no-cash issue and still give bloggers something of value. Thanks for clarifying.

Patti at Camp Blogaway said...

Well done, Erika. You have presented useful insights for bloggers weighing the pros and cons of being open to such opportunities. I like your approach - use the opp to throw a rock in your pond, bigger ripples can happen. Looking forward to seeing you at Camp, too!

BonnieBanters said...

Really appreciate your candid remarks about what motivates food bloggers and your tips about connecting. I agree with Patti at Camp Blogaway! This is a great and useful post and great comments from others too...thanks!

Unknown said...

I like the creme fraiche-horseradish twist, Erika. Thank you for the recipe...

Best regards, Steve Dawson (President, Walkers Shortbread)

Erika Kerekes said...

Steve - thank you for your comment and for your delicious oatcakes. It's your recipe from your website! :) I just took the picture.

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