We all screamed as the water came out of nowhere and doused two young men on the street corner. I’d made a last minute lane change while coming to a stop at an Edmonton intersection and the puddle was unseen until our tire splooshed through it. We screamed, the water flew, the light turned green, we moved through the intersection and pulled over and then we heard it. The thud. The yellow overall clad men had thrown something at us, likely a plastic water bottle. That’s how the brand new EcoBoost Ford Explorer, which we were lent for transportation to the BlogWest conference, came to get it’s first dent. It was a small dent…but a dent still.
It was then that I knew our weekend was going to be amazing…I mean, we were only three hours in and I was already riding an adrenaline rush.
After our bumpy ride up to Edmonton and settling into our hotel room, we grabbed a sweet cocktail and waited to hear Angela Saclamacis, Manager of Public Relations for Disney Parks Canada, take the stage. Angela spoke to us about the Disney brand and how they wish to extend that brand through the media outlets they work with. She encouraged us to be true to ourselves and always ensure that what we write about is the perfect fit for our blogs and our own personal brands. And this seemed to be the theme for me throughout the conference. Why am I doing this? What is my brand?
I have always felt that my brand comes from within. It’s who I am and how I write and what I write. But how are other people interpreting it? Does what I present seep into how others perceive me? I wasn’t so sure. The largest thing I’ve taken away with me from BlogWest is to always have my brand on my mind when I do anything. If I change the look of my blog; is it in-line with my brand? If I take a product review; is it in-line with my brand? If I re-tweet someone; is that message in line with my brand? I know that a lot of the time I just do what feels right and hope it’s true to me and my brand and I don’t stop to really evaluate it. Those days are over.
The monetization panel, and the conference in general, got a bit of flack for being predominantly geared towards mom bloggers. There were some fashion bloggers and a few others who were not moms in attendance which I thought was awesome however, I feel some of those people missed out on some great info because they were unable to take what was presented and apply it to their own blogs. I saw some negative tweets and we even got sucked into the ‘mommy blogger label debate’ which was unfortunate. We all know what I think of that.
The final speaker of the weekend was Tanis. She spoke about how she got started in blogging after the death of her son. There was not a dry eye in the room and I’m tearing up now even thinking of her standing at the podium. I had my ugly cry on and though all that emotion she managed to deliver some practical advice on recognizing our worth, writing from truth and not compromising on who we are. She goes by Redneck Mommy but what comes through in her message is courage and strength. I’ll never forget hearing her speak.
So that was the educational part of BlogWest and for me, while I always love to learn, it was the social part that was invaluable. I got to meet people I’ve been tweeting with for years. I got to laugh with people who I felt I knew online and realize that I did, in fact know them in a real way. It was really insane how connected I felt with people like Sheri and Nicole who I’ve known online for about 3 or 4 years now. It was lovely to be surprised by the energy and fun loving personalities around me.
My roommate Sam and I hosted a wine and cheese in our suite and it was the highlight of my weekend. Sitting with people in session and talking about blogging is interesting. Chatting with them over lunch is fun but swigging some wine and laughing with people over a whole evening is how you really connect. People came by and added their bottles of wine to the table and at some point a cheesecake made it’s way into our room as well. There were folks who stopped in in their pjs and others who left their shoes behind. I laughed a lot and by the end of the evening I fell into bed with a smile on my face.
Our ride home was much more mellow once we found our way out of Edmonton (in spite of the unruly GPS system) and we chit chatted about a mish mosh of topics. I was feeling as though I’d come through a heavy emotional event. My mind was spinning with information, my body was tired and my heart was full. In the end, despite all the technical bits and all the strategic chatter, blogging is about relationships. It’s the other writers we interact with who help us to build our brands and they support them and propel them out to their own networks. All the branding and all the know how isn’t anything without someone else to come and comment and share their experiences too. The conference was everything I’d hoped it would be and I felt like I used my time there well. Thank you to everyone who spent their time with me and shared their BlogWest experience with me. I’m grateful to you all.