“Kid, you gotta get a gimmick if you wanna get ahead” – Burlesque dancers from the musical “Gypsy”
You like food. Your family thinks you’re an outstanding cook. You spend hours pinning recipes from around the internet. Your travels always include sampling the best of local cuisine and spirits. You’re not content to serve mundane, boring meals. You’re a seeker. A foodie. An eater. A writer. All this is good, and bodes well for your future as a food blogger. But you have to have a hook, a schtick, a gimmick, if you want to get noticed.
The Pioneer Woman is perhaps the best example in all the blogosphere. Her success has launched her into the real world with a television show on The Food Network, best-selling books, and high-profile appearances. She has legions of fans. She truly has become a legend. How? Talent, first of all: for cooking, for photography, for writing with a warm and authentic voice. Her recipes are accessible, but not necessarily simplistic. She seems like your favorite girl from college with a down-home twist. And this is the key to her brilliance. She markets herself smartly, all the way around.
You live on a ranch? You’re The Pioneer Woman. You write about New England, you’re Lobster Girl. (That’s mine now…don’t steal it.) It’s a character you become that is an extension, a dramatization of your true self and circumstances. You’re not making up a persona from whole cloth. But you can embellish, you can create a little fiction, you must maximize your personality and what makes you unique. There are countless voices on the vast internet. Why should a reader choose you? What do you have to say that matters? Where do you live?
As they say in real estate: location. location. location. Most of the people reading your site don’t live where you live. Maybe they’ve never been there but have always wanted to go. Maybe it’s where they grew up or where their grandparents grew up. Maybe they took a trip there once years ago and long to return. Maybe it seems exotic. Or exciting. Or quaint. Or like a slice of life from a time gone by. Whatever you’ve got, use it. Write what you know and share your little piece of the world with all those strangers who wish that they were somewhere else. After all, the internet is full of people looking to escape, to travel without leaving the comfort of home. Bring them to you, wherever you are.
I want to stress that your gimmick is not a lie. The other thing about those faceless readers? They can spot bull from a thousand miles away. You have to be sincere, you have to be true to yourself. Find your voice. Tell real stories. Be the best version of yourself, or the worst version of yourself – but be yourself. Don’t spin yarns, just knit that yarn into a sweater everyone wants to wear. Okay, this metaphor is starting to unravel…ahem.
If you like facts, be informative. If you communicate through humor, be silly, or witty, or droll. Post photos of your kids, if you’re writing about family cooking. You are in charge of crafting what your site looks and sounds like. Don’t be afraid to exaggerate, just a little, for effect. Find a niche and run with it. There are hundreds of thousands of food sites, blogs, books, and resources. The reason you’re writing is because you have a passion, something specific to share, a distinct voice and perspective. Find your hook and you will find an audience. “Get yourself a gimmick, and you too can be a star!”