Coombe Mill. Fiona and her husband Farmer Nick run fantastic self catering farm holidays and alongside this Fiona runs their blog where she shares activities from the farm as well as the weekly linky, Country Kids. Fiona has won four awards for her blog as well as countless nominations and is widely recognised as both a fantastic blogger and brand.
How do you think your experience as blogging from a brand perspective differs from personal bloggers?
In many ways not very much and I think this is actually the secret of my success. I really like to know and understand and connect with bloggers as fellow parents and not just see them as potential customers. I chat just like any other parent on social media and try to remember significant events in others live. On the blog I am mindful not to alienate followers so my posts are not ranty, shouty or sweary and few posts are controversial. The odd post that has involved a little controversial debate created great interest but on balance I decided it was best to steer away from such subjects. Generally my posts cover the happy events on the farm, things in our personal lives which are well received though interestingly they are often nothing to with the business. I believe it is good to have a mix of posts, those which are designed to entice you for a visit and those that are purely an insight into our lives away from working. I am keen not to be a pushy brand but rather a friendly blogger. I join linkys, host my own and comment widely and am always striving to improve my blog.
Do you get many requests from people looking for freebies? How do you feel about them?
I do receive a fair few requests for freebie holidays; they are generally nicely worded and opportunistic. I don’t mind at all, after all I think it is quite common with the bigger companies and ambassador programmes. However in reality we are only a small family business and apart from an occasional competition, like the one I’m running now on my blog to Win Christmas with us, I don’t offer freebies. Not that I wouldn’t like to, simply that I can’t afford to and for all the popular times we are fully booked anyway. I think I have been extremely lucky to have appealed to the parent blogging community and now have a full Pinterest board of holiday reviews for Coombe Mill from paid for visits. https://www.pinterest.com/coombemill/holiday-reviews-for-coombe-mill/
If you could advise someone on the best way to pitch to brands, what would it be?
My advice on pitching to brands would be to be clear what you can offer them. They may not understand the blogging community and social media as well as you do as a blogger so spell out the obvious and don’t feel shy to shout about your commitment and achievements and what that will give them in social media presence, but be realistic and honest to them and yourself about the time you have and what they can expect to see from your efforts. Find out the person you need to speak to and address them by name then email, tweet or phone, sound confident and friendly, the worst they can say is no, this is why I never mind if someone approaches me. Despite being a brand I still pitch to brands myself, like my linky sponsorship of ‘Country Kids’ with Muddy Puddles and ‘Trash 2 Treasure’ with Duck Tape Colours.
You obviously run your own business as well as your blog - how you find time to fit it all in?
Do you schedule posts or is it more when you have time you write a load at once? Running a business, a blog and bringing up 6 children is a juggling act. I work late into the night 7 days a week and thrive on just 5 or 6 hours sleep every night. This said I will also take an hour out in the day to go for a run or a bike ride and my children are now growing up and do help with the business. I have days when I have my “writing head” on and will draft up 3 or 4 posts, coming back to them during the week to edit and add photos. I usually work a week ahead in draft as I hate being up against deadlines and always worry about the unexpected with the children or the business so I like to be prepared.
What is your best advice on running a linky and how to make it successful?
My advice on running a linky is to choose a topic you are really interest in and know you can create a host post for easily. For me outdoor fun was a no brainer with the freedom of our 30 acre holiday farm. Make your theme wide enough to encompass a range of posts but with clear boundaries and try to be original, no one likes to be copied. Having done this, tell the world about it, make reference on your other posts and share on twitter but be careful not to spam people with it. Be a good host and comment and share all who link with you. Never take those who link up for granted, it takes time and effort to join in and it is important they know you appreciate this, but be warned, it takes me about 10 hours a week commenting and sharing and inviting back on Country Kids, so give it some serious thought before you jump in to run one. I think linkys work best run weekly or monthly, personally I find bi-weekly really annoying as I forget which week it is and I’m sure I’m not the only one; I run Country Kids weekly and Trash 2 Treasure monthly.