The Creative Process: Part Two – Blogging
Yesterday we interviewed the guys over at Wise Guys about their creative process when it comes to film making.
Today we’re focusing on the hugely popular platform of blogging.
Laura Miller is the brainchild behind the brilliant, award winning and ever so helpful, Milton Keynes Kids. The site documents and reviews many places in or surrounding Milton Keynes which would be of interest to parents and children alike.
When you consider the quality of the content on the site against the fact that Laura does this in her spare time, it’s nothing short miraculous that she’s able to generate a following well into the thousands. The Milton Keynes Kids Facebook page alone her blog has well over 11,000 likes. Yes, you read that right – 11,000. What’s more, her website has over 5 million hits in just two years! Let that sink in for one minute. Has it sunk in? Good. So if there was ever a need for evidence to prove that content is king, then this is it.
So we thought it would be a good idea to catch up with Laura and find out why her blog posts resonate with so many and exactly what goes into the creative process of developing this type of content.
Q1. Blogging or writing for the web is not as easy as many would think. Did you give any thought to your online ‘voice’ when you began writing your articles for Milton Keynes Kids or was it just a case of ‘keeping it real’?
I didn’t give thought to my online voice when I started. Articles were written almost in a diary format and in short sentences – a bit like Bridget Jones circa early 2000s as I wanted it to be conversational. I also referred to my ‘mummy friends’. I quickly realised though, that it wasn’t just mums who were finding Milton Keynes Kids useful.
It had a much wider appeal to dads, aunties, uncles, child-minders, nannies, grandparents and ex-pats so it seemed far more appropriate to make it inclusive of everyone so I dropped most references to mums. The more content I added, the more Milton Keynes Kids began to develop into an information portal that people could keep returning to, rather than just a collection of random articles. So although each blog post is written from my perspective, it’s more of a structured review now than when I started.
Q2. What inspired you to dedicate your personal time to creating a blog which in time would be viewed and appreciated by so many and before doing so did you follow any bloggers online?
My eldest son was 22 months old, when I found myself spending a lot of time in my evenings planning where to take him. He was (and still is) very active. He loves running around, vehicles, animals, slides, climbing and exploring. But I was struggling to find free or cheap places to take him and really good reviews about treat days out. I really wanted to see what somewhere was like before deciding whether to go there. I came across a blog called ‘Little Lewes’ (still online but no longer active) which was all about local places to take children which I really liked and so I thought about starting a blog, but at that point I was working full-time and heavily pregnant and I didn’t have the time.
Following a suggestion from a friend in April 2015, I decided to start Milton Keynes Kids the Facebook page, and I thought Milton Keynes and Kids flowed quite nicely together, and so started uploading pictures and a brief review of each place we visited in the hope other people would suggest other places to go. Its popularity snowballed and having found so many fun places, I needed somewhere to archive all of the information and so set up MiltonKeynesKids.com in October 2015. The only other blogger I knew was my friend Nick Coffer from My Daddy Cooks who helped me to identify a WordPress theme to use on the site.
Q3. When creating your content, do you stick to a tried and tested formula of delivery or is your writing all organic and from within so to speak?
Currently I always need to have one photo that effectively ‘sells’ the article. I will generally make a video of a place we have visited – that’s around a minute long and although uploaded to YouTube it’s primarily for my Facebook followers so it can’t be too long otherwise they get bored. I’ve started putting more sub-headings in articles to make it easy to read. But articles can vary in length. I have a post coming up that’s just about one climbing frame in Milton Keynes – there’s only so much to say!
Q4. How do you manage your time between your day job and delivering award winning content to thousands of followers? Do you feel a sense of expectation to deliver content on a regular basis?
It’s not easy. I only blog at night once my boys aged three and one are in bed. I do it in my spare time for free. There is a certain expectation having won awards, but because it isn’t my job, I can only dedicate so much time to it, so I aim to produce one blog post a week. Other bloggers do blog daily which I could only really achieve if I turned Milton Keynes Kids into a business.
I have more than 1100 subscribers who each get an email notifying them of the new post. Much of my content doesn’t date, and because I’m accruing new followers all the time, I use social media to promote all of the parks, country parks and days out I have previously written about which continues to inspire people to try out new places with the kids. Many of my followers find my blog so useful and have such a good time they send me pictures of the places they’ve been to, and so are effectively generating content for me which I can then link back to.
Q5. Are there specific things you look for when visiting an event or location?
Yes, I always have in the back of my mind several things. Such as, what will excite my followers most about this place? How can I best showcase it? And when is the best time to film it? Sometimes when there are so many good things in quite a small space I’ll do a tour. So I literally walk around somewhere and film it. I start with the most exciting thing first. Other times there are lots of highlights so I film very short snippets then edit them together. I don’t really want other people in my films so I go back and film when it’s quieter.
Q6. What’s your favourite part of the creative process and why?
Can I have two? I love making and sharing videos. And making a difference. A video I made of the Summerhayes Christmas Lights in Great Linford in 2016 reached hundreds of thousands of people. It attracted almost 3,000 likes on Facebook on it’s second outing. So many people went to visit and donated money, the residents raised thousands of pounds more for charity than they did the previous year.
I also get messages every day from followers who have visited places I’ve written about – knowing children have had so much fun and been active, makes it all worthwhile.
Q7. How do you overcome creative blocks if or when inspiration or suitable ideas just aren’t happening?
I always have ideas. Too many in fact. I probably have enough content for the rest of the year, but not enough time to process it. Then I have bigger world-domination ideas. Then I get tired and realise I have to get up in the morning.
Q8. You have been doing this for some time now. Have you noticed any shifts in the delivery of online content in the past few years? Vlogs (Video Blogs) are hugely popular at the moment – is this something you may explore?
There are many really talented writers out there, and hundreds of thousands of people blogging, but many struggle to get their blogs noticed.
People used to be able to post links on social media but it’s just not enough now.
You really have to be developing creative content (pictures and videos) that people will share in order to be more visible on Facebook. We live in an instant society – people want everything immediately.
You have to be talented at producing stylish pictures to get noticed on Instagram – as well as use the right hashtags and network well. Vlogging is become increasingly popular particularly amongst parent bloggers – many of which have developed lucrative YouTube channels. I already have a Milton Keynes Kids YouTube channel although I only use it for videos of the places I’ve featured. Would I explore that more? Possibly, but the most popular vlogs are all about people and can be really time-consuming to make. Does anyone want to see me drinking Prosecco in my PJs and rambling on about my latest purchases from Centre MK? Ooh there’s an idea…
Q9. What advice would you give to anyone looking to write online or make a career in line with what you specialise in?
Write / photograph / video what you know about and do it because you love it. Be it parenting, your dog, your fascination with the Back to the Future trilogy (ok that’s just me!). Niche blogs are often popular though. Don’t expect too much. Join Facebook forums for support and advice. Enter awards – you might win. Be nice and be positive. And if you need inspiration for a day out in Milton Keynes or surrounding areas you know where to find me.
Tomorrow we’ll be exploring the creative process to delivering content in the form of Photography.