By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group\
In my day job, I write about the airline/aviation business. I also have a personal blog where I post about travel and I contribute to the I’m Black & I Travel blog. I’ve also developed a nice travel following on my @AvWeekBenet and @benetwilson Twitter accounts.
And it was on Twitter where I discovered the Haute Travels blog, written by Marian Anderson. Her blog covers two of my favorite things, so I though it would be fun to speak with her. But a great discovery for me was finding out Anderson had reinvented her career after 10 years in broadcast journalism, most recently at the FOX Network in Chicago as a regional producer. We talk with Anderson about her transition, her blog and creating a job you love.
NABJDigital: Where are some of the media outlets where you worked?
Marian Anderson: I started out as a news writer, and most of my career was in Chicago at WFLD-TV as a writer. I then moved to FOX News Channel as a regional producer, where I decided what would be of interest in the state or across the country. I was in TV for 10 years.
I left because I wasn’t enjoying the work anymore. For years, I worked nights, doing the evening news. There would be plays right across the street at the Chicago Theater and I felt like life was passing me by. On my days off, I was sleeping. I missed being out and about with people. I didn’t want to be in the news business anymore. But I wanted to take those skills and my personality and move to public relations and strategic communications.
I’m solo now, but I worked for two advertising agencies — E Morris Communications as a medial relations consultant and Burrell Communications as a PR strategist. In those jobs I worked with clients including Disney’s Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey, McDonald’s, Walmart and Allstate Insurance.
Now, I’ve gone a step further by becoming a speechwriter. My current client is the CEO of the Chicago Urban League. Speechwriting is another way to use my writing and communications skills. I was also PR director for the Salvation Army in Chicago.
ND: How did the idea for the Haute Travels blog come about?
MA: When I left news, I wanted to write about things I like to do — shopping, travel and spas. A friend told me about a magazine for affluent black women, and saw that the spa section needed worked. I pitched them a Chicago spa story and shopping in Paris, and that’s how I started writing about travel in 2006. Last fall, I went to the Blogalicious conference and people told me to start blogging. I was also encouraged by Natalie McNeal, aka Frugalista. So I went to Blogspot and set it up six months ago.
ND: What are your favorite types of stories to post?
MA: All my posts are based on things I do. I’m an inquisitive type, so I like to travel, but I also like fashion, the beauty of fashion and what’s in beauty bags. People ask me questions like `what kind of sunscreen do you use’ or `I’m going to Miami, what hotel do you recommend?’ People thought I was a travel expert and I became one because people told me I was. Even now, I have 1592 followers on Twitter and they ask me about all things travel. People are doing research (and they come to me as a resource like Pro Football Hall of Famer Darrell Green’s wife Jewell Green.
ND: How important is social media for what you do?
MA: Twitter is a PR tool for me. It gives people direct access to what you’re doing. It also allows you to tap into groups that you otherwise would not have access to. Extra TV follows me. Spencer Pratt from The Hills follows me. Because of Twitter, I’ve had people see my blog ask to contact me and interview me for travel trips. A South Florida newspaper interviews me for travel tips. Social media is a great marketing tool. I hear from PR firms, hotels and convention and visitors bureaus. It’s a blessing and a curse. I send out tweets for travel tips and got an invite to Disney and to France. I also get products to test and write about them all the time. When I was in Chicago, a local spa called me because they wanted to test travel-ready hair, and they had a treatment they wanted me to try.
ND: How do you financially sustain the blog?
MA: Initially, people think they can make money. But once you take ads, people think they can control what you write and that is unacceptable for me. My blog is not an advertisement platform. But if it’s a brand I like, I’ll write about it.
ND: What advice would you give to journalists interested in pursuing their own blogs?
MA: Change, and figure out what you love among your skills. I love writing and found that I could use that. I did freelancing, then PR, consulting and speechwriting. My vice president at a PR firm decided a client needed a speech and said I could do it and she was right.
When it comes to blogging, just do it. You can always course correct. My blog is organic. I keep it simple. My blog is about things I do, but I try not to insert myself into it. I use professional photos that are ready to go. I hate looking at blogs that are badly written with bad photos. And buy your name at GoDaddy.com.