I’ve interrupted our Sunday schedule to share some things that have been weighing in on my thoughts this week. I hope you won’t mind. It felt timely and important to say a few words today, specifically.
It’s been a strange week indeed – difficult, for a start, to avoid the fallout following the Clemmie Hooper/@mother_of_daughters drama (a story which has been covered by just about every major newspaper and digital media platform over the past 7 days. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you can read all about it here, here and here.
The whole ‘Mum-fluencer’ (?) and parent blogger scene is not one I’m personally involved with, but the ramifications and repercussions of what’s happened will, I believe, have a ripple effect impact across the entire digital media scene.
Photography by Kev Elkins for Sanyukta Shrestha
In addition to this, another big wedding blog have announced over the past week that their business has been acquired by a subsidiary of a very large asset management investment company. A corporate buy out, if you will. The subsidiary company also own most of the big wedding gift list/registry companies in the UK. The same wedding blog later announced it is going entirely #ADFree, across all it’s platforms.
I read the article (between the lines), and concluded this: it’s a privileged position to be in, choosing to go #AdFree. The founding blog members are, after all, presumably salaried employees of the subsidiary company who now own them. So again, presumably, they no longer have any need to concern themselves with generating enough revenue to cover their own personal incomes. Good for them I say. Having openly admitting to selling majority shares in their company way back in 2012, the idea of maintaining their independence appears not to have been something as important to them as it always has been to me. Each to their own, no judgement here. It’s 100% not and never could be a situation I would seek to find myself in, however.
Maintaining our full independence and ownership has for me, been a standard of integrity for the past decade (did I mention Love My Dress turns 10 years old this month?).
Why am I telling you this? The reason is twofold.
Firstly, I’d like to address the matter of advertising through ‘blogs’** like Love My Dress. I’m not in any position to cease advertising through Love My Dress – but more to the point, nor do I wish to be.
As a matter of fact, we have, for around 6 weeks now, been considering the impact of removing ‘banner adverts’ from Love My Dress in their entirety. But this has purely and only come from a place of us desiring full aesthetic control on the design and creative layout of our site. That, and the knowledge that banner adverts are no longer an impactful advertising tool.
Take a look at The Lane, for example, which is pretty much the only other wedding blog I ever visit and enjoy visiting to boot. It has a beautiful layout, the design of which is not limited by the need to accommodate banner adverts. From a website developer’s perspective, this is a dream. Our own developer is urging us to seriously consider dropping our banner adverts – especially since he is also our chief SEO advisor and knows that banner ads simply no longer work like they once did 10 years ago.
This makes me nervous, because despite all I know about ‘banner blindness’, we risk being seen to be ‘taking away’ some level of support to our clients if we remove them. We must consider this impact and decide what we are going to replace it with, and how we can educate our clients to understand there are better ways. And this all takes time and resources and relationship nurturing. It’s not straight forward. But we very much want to evolve and aren’t afraid of taking risk – we’re still in the process of considering all our options going forward, consulting with our readers and clients and ‘outsiders’ for a fresh perspective too.
But I’m strictly talking ‘banner advert’ only here – not ‘advertising’ per se. Advertising is the bread and butter of our business. I feel no shame in acknowledging that. And I feel very proud of the high level of support we provide to our advertisers and clients (or ‘partners’ as I prefer to refer to them).
We earn our income through advertising and from a blogging perspective, we have a quite unique set up in that respect. We have a number of different income streams but for us, the biggest by far is through the partnerships we create with brands in the wedding industry. We also have a wedding directory, but for me, the partnerships are what make me tick. Through our partnerships, we effectively become ambassadors for the brands we work with – providing them with a bespoke level of support. This could be anything from some light-touch social media support, or written editorial, to full campaign production (something we are now able to do through the LMD Collective arm of our business – more on that shortly) and promotion across our platforms and social channels, to consultancy to helping them manage their own social channels – and everything in between. Everything depends entirely on the clients budget and needs.
I want to touch briefly on my use of the term ‘unique’ in the last paragraph, because our situation really is quite special; I work with my husband in running Love My Dress – an individual who has been hugely influential in the shaping of this business and the direction it’s taken over the past decade. Philip graduated in fashion design and for a short time, he had his own business creating high fashion womenswear. His dress designs were stunning – some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. His expertise and knowledge of pattern cutting, the process, the cut and fit has taught me SO much in terms of being able to differentiate between a designer who really knows their stuff and is gifted at what they do, to those who have yet to develop such skills.
This insight and knowledge has played a significant role in deciding who we take on as clients, and really put our time and efforts behind. And because Philip also has commercial experience of working for brands like Mulberry, and producing collections for London Fashion Week – we have an innate understanding of the processes our clients who are designers have to go through to evolve and market their businesses. This has all helped towards us establishing some deeply respectful and meaningful relationships with our clients, because, put more simply, we’ve been there – we ‘get it’. Without wanting to sound superior, this experience and expertise really does help to set us apart.
We only ever partner with brands we respect and we develop very personal relationships with them; phone calls, Skype calls, physical visits to meet in person, strategy planning and problem solving together – we are constantly working to identify how we can improve and evolve our client support. Working so closely with our partner brands like this challenges me in an intellectual and creative way that I gain a lot of job satisfaction from. This method of working is part of the DNA of our business and I’m proud of the income generation model we’ve created because it comes from a place of passion, honesty and integrity.
So you see, for us, the concept of advertising lacks no integrity or transparency for my team and I. Our clients pay us to help make their business more visible to potential clients and we do a really good job of fulfilling this objective. I have always considered Love My Dress to be a bit of an anomaly in this respect, because I don’t think we provide a ‘traditional paid for advertising’ model as such. We’ve created our own unique thing and I love it. It’s a business model I’m very proud of. So much so, that I hope any of our clients reading this will be nodding (feel free to come forward and say a few words you guys!).
In addition to this – I respect our community of followers and readers enough to believe they understand and respect my need and choice to earn a living through advertising and yes, for want of a better term, ‘influencing’. They know that Love My Dress is my career of choice. The money I earn through Love My Dress pays for our mortgage, it clothes my children and puts food on the table.
I’m not an ‘influencer’ in the common, accepted sense; I don’t vlog beauty products every week or do any face-to-camera product or travel recommendations – I find the concept of ‘unboxing’ and sharing ‘hauls’ on Youtube quite alienating if I’m honest – but I/we do in my/our own way, influence to a niche community (bridal, and those planning a wedding). And again, I am proud of the way we do this and my use of the hashtag #AD has only ever been in relation to content I’m proud of.
So I’m an ‘Influencer’, in my own way, and a ‘blogger’ too – two terms that appear to have been falling into disrepute in recent times, a process that has been catapulted forward after the very recent ‘Mummy Blogger/Influencer’ drama I referred to at the start of this article. The influencer scene feels like it’s taken one huge hit this week and whilst I’m not sure it’s fully imploding just yet, it absolutely does feel like the events of the past week or so will become a watershed moment in the history of how social media and blogging/influencing evolved.
But have a moment, will you, for the people and teams like our own, just trying to work hard and earn a fair wage by running a business with principles, passion and honesty (and we’re not alone – solidarity high fives to all of you out there trying to earn a crust doing the same). I want to fly a flag for the independent businesses like own own, who have worked extremely hard to maintain that independence and integrity without any outside financial investment, and for whom advertising remains a critical and vital means of income. And regardless of what you think about ‘unbiased’ recommendations and how they work with the whole #AD concept, I sincerely hope you feel you can trust us enough not to ever take the piss out of our most important asset ever – our readership. You. We would not ever recommend any brand, ever (ever!!) just for the sake of earning some £££ or adulation from strangers. Not what we do, or have ever done.
And by the way, work hard I do! It was politely pointed out to me this week that I needed to be careful in sharing stories of our new puppy during the daytime on Instagram, because it gave the impression I wasn’t at my desk working and taking my business seriously and that clients wouldn’t like that. Whilst I tip my hat to that – you really do have to remember, social media NEVER tells the whole story. If only you could be a fly on the wall in our house, you would see that aside from some very brief interludes in the day to fuss a play with a really rather cute pup, I’m pretty much glued to my desk working long hours every day to support and manage a business I love. But I do understand how things can be misconceived. It’s partly why I’ve now made my personal Instagram account a private one.
Ultimately, the request I wish to make through this article, in a week where it feels like the digital scene has entered a BREXIT level state of unprecedented turmoil, and articles are being published on mainstream blogs, virtue signalling the concept of #AdFree platforms (when frankly it is ludicrous to conceive of most blogs being able to survive as independent businesses if they were to follow suit), to please not cast away your respect for all ‘bloggers’ and all ‘influencers’.
Please know, this is not a dig at the blog that is going #AdFree. Far from it – that is their business. This essay is a show of support for the many of us here keeping our heads down and working hard through an advertising framework and business model of integrity and transparency that we are proud of.
My team and I will continue to explore innovative, lateral and creative ways of supporting our clients as we evolve into our second decade with courage and confidence. I shall not deny that 2019 has been an exceptional year of change that has brought about significant challenges for us as we’ve had to evolve rapidly and transition from a space of feeling like we were reacting to all the changes happening around us, firefighting on a daily basis. Now, we are very intentionally positioning ourselves to become enablers of that change. We are taking a much more proactive approach to moving forward. I want to be here, doing what I do, for another 10 years at least – and this will require me to forge my own path. It will require me to be brave and take risk but that comes with the self employed territory. And especially so in today’s unrestful economic and political BREXIT driven climate.
As for the future of Love My Dress? I am crazy excited to tell you now that our plans include a Podcast for 2020 (HOORAH! Said it out loud now so absolutely have to have to hold myself to account now!) and I’m finally fulfilling a more creative, art director style role that I’ve yearned to for years, since co-founding LMD Collective. After various knock-backs this year, I feel I’ve discovered a new level of confidence and you know what? I cannot wait to pour some new energy back into my beloved, beautiful and much loved little blog business. You can expect to see much more content we’ve created ourselves and in that respect, we’ll be getting really up close and personal with the individuals and businesses who inspire us. There are so many talented creative people out there, working hard to add their own kind of magic ingredients to your wedding day. I am very proud to provide an advertising platform for them and will continue to explore cool new ways to help creative meaningful connections on their behalf, through Love My Dress – content that will be a pleasure for you to enjoy every day.
By the way, the images I chose to accompany this article are from the brand new, as yet unseen and not yet released collection by one of our absolutely treasured and adored clients, Sanykuta Shrestha. We have worked with Sanyukta for at least 5 years now and I am bursting with pride that she has asked us to share these images (which we will be doing so in full next week) before anyone else does. The collection is utterly sublime.
Thanks so much for making it to the end of my Sunday monologue and for respecting me enough to spare your precious weekend time to read. Normal blogging service shall resume just as soon as I’ve had a little downtime today with my family.
Big love and hugs – I welcome any comment below or over on our Instagram account today.
** On the term ‘blog’. I’ll be honest, I just don’t like it, at all. It doesn’t represent or capture the spirit of what I do anymore (and from a phonetic perspective, I’ve always thought it sounded kind of dour!). 10 years on from when I started, and I’m doing a hella lot more than simply hitting publish on a sweet little article I wrote in my spare time about something I liked the look of, so if it’s OK with you, I’ll invite you to join me in considering what my all new job title for 2020 can be, because it feels like it’s time for a change! Answers on a postcard please. Thank you.