In this regular feature we invite CCR members to open up about their journey as a content creator; from how it all started, to what sparks their creativity, to what makes them tick… or even ticked off. This is an honest forum with unique insights into the ever evolving world that content creators navigate.
This month we speak to John, owner of Dad Blog UK. John has been a keen voice in the conversation on influencer fraud and the need for better disclosure.
Dad Blog UK is a fatherhood, parenting and lifestyle blog. I started it back in 2012 shortly after the birth of Izzy, my second daughter. I am the main carer for my daughters while my wife works full-time and is the family’s main financial provider. The blog tells my story as a man who does the majority of the childcare and domestic ‘stuff’. Over time it has grown to become a commercial venture and I now run the blog as a business during school hours and fit it around my family commitments.
Oh my word, I’m really not sure how to answer this. Well, I will happily reveal the one thing blogging has taught me. It’s taught me that I must be tidier. You should see my desk 90% of the time. Well, actually, no, don’t visit my house to look at my desk. You’d struggle to see the desk because of the amount of stuff piled up on top of it!
I always had a desire to run my own business. I am now doing it and I think much more like a businessperson. From that perspective, yes, blogging has changed me. It’s also made me keep up with emerging trends much more. I know I am not the youngest blogger and I have to be relevant to younger audiences. I need to be aware of how 25 year olds speak to each other; what apps they use and how they spend their time. It’s interesting because when I speak to peers who are the same age as me, I often seem to know more about what millennials are up to than my friends.
I’ve seen huge change. It used to be that you wrote a blog post and did a few tweets and a Facebook post to promote it. These days you must have a nice picture for Instagram, maybe a few seconds of video for an Instagram Story or something longer for IGTV and a nice Pinterest cover in addition to writing your tweets and Facebook post. You have to produce much more social content and use it strategically. Video is still popular, but short-form video on IGTV and TikTok seems to be the way forward.
Content creators of all sizes have responsibility for their own actions. A content creator should refuse to do anything that goes against the Advertising Standards Authority or Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) regulations. I think the PR industry and SEO industry both have a role to play in encouraging content creators to adhere to these rules.
When the CMA’s new rules came into force regarding disclosure of commercial relationships, there was widespread speculation among bloggers that it would lead to the end of the world. That didn’t happen. In fact, many in the PR industry seemed to be very supportive of the guidance the CMA issued because it created a level playing field. That said, I don’t think the CMA got the balance right with the disclosure rules. A celebrity could be gifted a honeymoon in the Seychelles and do a feature for a print publication without declaring the holiday was gifted. A blogger, however, would need to disclose that relationship.
I totally see why the CMA produced the guidelines it did. The internet was like the Wild West and poor practice was widespread. It needed to be stamped out. I have no issue with the ASA and CMA’s rules, but for me it’s a sore point that some of them aren’t applied to print publications.
When it comes to buying followers, that’s an absolute no no. A huge amount of PR spend goes into online campaigns these days as the market is more mature. Content creators must be able to provide an honest service to clients. On this front, the various social media channels could do more to eradicate or reduce bots and fake followers from their channels.
After banging on about the need for a content creator trade body for ages, I am delighted to see the CCR is now up and running. It’s early days, but I think it could have a very important role to play.
The one thing I do like to stress is that I am, genuinely, the main carer for my kids. With the two of them now at school, I am more of a work from home dad as opposed to a stay at home dad, but play dates, packed lunches, dentist appointments, visits to the library and so on are all handled by me while my wife commutes and works 12 hours a day.
I think there are various reasons for this. Firstly, everyone can create their own blog / podcast / videos. What people create, they are passionate about so it’s natural that people would be passionate about the work they do.
Secondly, the Internet has democratised the media. This presents many different ways for people to be creative and earn money doing so. For our partners in the PR world, this also makes it much easier for them to hit their target audiences. It works well for everyone so I can see exactly why everyone is so passionate!
The first piece of advice I would give is to decide whether you are blogging for fun or as a career choice. If you’re doing it for fun, just go ahead and have fun. If you’re doing it as a career choice, I would advise you to sit down and think long and hard about whether this is the right thing for you to do. I wouldn’t want to put people off, but it is a crowded world and I think few people appreciate the amount of work that must go into producing a blog and updating social media channels. It requires immense effort and several times a month I rise at 5am so I can work on various projects.
Second bit of advice: blogging is very heavily regulated these days, more so than journalism. You need to know about your obligations to the Information Commissioner’s Office, ASA, CMA plus libel law and have a good knowledge of GDPR, so get reading!
Third: do not get into social media spats. It looks awful and no good comes of them.
At the beginning of the year I decided to get a lot more serious about Pinterest. That’s exactly what I’ve done and while my following is still small, it is growing. I also want to do more on TikTok. It’s a growing channel and I can see it will get increasingly popular over the next year or so.
I have other aspirations and plans, but I am keeping them close to my chest for now.
Let’s just say there are commercial reasons I can’t talk about them!