Monday, April 13, 2015

My Journey to BlogHer Syndication


If you're a writer/blogger/online content provider like myself, you probably have a bucket list that changes each year depending on what you want to focus on. If you're like me, I have on my list a number of websites or projects that I want to be published on or be a part of. 

Last year, at the top of my list was to be able to get on the Huffington Post. With a lot of guts and possibly good timing, I was able to accomplish this through this essay.

This year, I announced to the Universe (as well as to a few blogger friends) that I want to be syndicated at BlogHer. I have been part of the BlogHer Publishing Network, as well as their Influencer Network since 2012 and I've enjoyed the community, especially the exposure my writing gets through their site. I have had several of my blog posts featured on the BlogHer site through the years, and though each time was thrilling and was such an honor, I have always wondered how I could get 'syndicated'. To have a post syndicated means that you actually get paid! Now who wouldn't want that?

It was a mystery to me, and wondered why I was still not getting any of the editors' attention when I've had 2 featured posts each in 2012 and 2013; 10 in 2014 (which meant I was practically getting featured every month last year); and then 2 so far this year. 

Then I met Susan Maccarelli of Beyond Your Blog and Pecked to Death By Chickens, online and in person at a blog conference. She had previously published her recipe for BlogHer syndication and I would advise anyone aspiring for syndication to read that post!

I learned a lot from Susan's experience but I told her that I was still wondering why I wasn't getting that precious email from an editor in spite of my numerous featured posts. Susan pointed out something I never thought about before—my featured posts were 'all over the place'. I had some under Blogging & Social Media, some under Work/Life, Love/Sex, Family and even Race/Class. It was great that I was everywhere, but not so great in terms of really getting noticed by a particular section editor.

This year though, after having two essays featured under Blogging/Social Media (5 Important Life Lessons from 'My Big Fat Fabulous Life' and Going to a Blog Conference When Your Blog is In-Between), I was emailed by the editor, not only to inform me about my featured post, but also to give me the opportunity to pitch three topics that I can write an original post on. She ended up liking 2 out of 3 but asked me to go ahead and send in a completed essay for her top choice to be Syndicated for April!

So, it is with great joy and much humility that I share my very first BlogHer Syndicated Post with all of you! It was published last Friday, April 10, 2015, and it focuses on setting your boundaries when publishing online. I discussed questions you can ask yourself that will help you decide what you can and should not write about on your blog or surrender to social media. I hope you can join the discussion and find the guidelines useful!





How To Set Boundaries With Your Blog

By Joy Page Manuel

‘TMI’, ‘Oversharing’, ‘Sharenting’. These terms, especially the last one, have been the topic of conversations recently. With the 2015 University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health showing that more than half of mothers and a third of fathers discuss their children’s health and their parenting experiences online, one can safely say that sharenting has become the norm more than the exception.

That said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone who has jumped on this bandwagon have thoroughly thought this out and weighed its pros and cons. I’d even say that our realization of this trend’s popularity has only now magnified the more serious issues and questions that lie underneath such as its long-term consequences on our children.

As a blogger, I’m often asked how I decide what topics to publish on my site. A part of me wishes I could say that I’m completely open about every aspect of my life. At the same time, I know that’s unrealistic, if not, completely unwise. Though I have an understanding of what sells and guarantees a decent amount of online traffic, this desire for constant seductive transparency is wisely tempered by my rational need for privacy. For personal and family bloggers like me, achieving a healthy balance between privacy and being able to come up with riveting blockbuster posts is never easy.

There are (non-anonymous) bloggers who write so freely about their experiences and I often wonder how they navigate their personal relationships given that they write about real ‘characters’ they often interact with.  Are they never concerned about offending someone who matters to them? Don’t they care that certain details about their lives might fall into the wrong hands? I’ve asked some of these bloggers for their input and answers often fall within two categories—it’s either they don’t care about what anyone else thinks, or they are certain no one in their close circle bothers to read their blogs.

But what if you’re one who cares, and whose blog is read by friends, family, employers, the PTA, or your HOA? The picture then becomes far more complicated and yet you know that over-thinking this only kills your creativity. This is why having clear guidelines that define your boundaries as a writer is important. It not only makes it easier to decide when a certain topic is off-limits online, but also helps tremendously in shaping your distinct voice as a writer.

The following are questions that may help define your boundaries for publishing online. Whenever I have doubts about whether or not it’s wise to publish a material I have in mind, I ask myself these questions and they’ve worked for me. Perhaps you’ll find them useful too!


Will it negatively affect a relationship that’s important to me?

And by ‘important’ I mean something that you value on an emotional or even solely on a practical level. Such relationships may include, although by no means are limited to the following: your relationship with your spouse, children, close family and friends, employers, colleagues, and neighbors.

I’m not suggesting that you only write about bliss and events worthy of the Dalai Lama’s high fives. What I’m suggesting is that perhaps, though rants can become very popular online, it’s not always necessary to air out one’s dirty laundry and sacrifice your peace of mind in exchange for a few clicks or even some overnight popularity. I believe there’s a huge difference between honesty and verbal incontinence.

Here are examples:

If you and your spouse have agreed on what topics never to post online, then you should never break that agreement unless you renegotiate. This might include your sex life, your finances, each other’s former relationships/ exes, or something so trivial such as eating or sleeping habits and other idiosyncrasies.

How about each other’s in-laws? We all know that’s a popular area for ranting and though you may love venting about this to your girlfriends, you might want to be a little wiser and more sensitive and keep your thoughts offline. In-law relationships are already complicated as they are. You wouldn’t want to add any more drama to it that you can’t easily undo and which will only lead to awkwardness and resentment.

I included relationships with neighbors and employers as areas that I feel bloggers and social media people need to be careful with as well. Obviously, these are more for practical rather than emotional reasons. If you post something online that offends the sensibilities of your employer, this may affect your job situation. In the same token, offending someone who lives nearby or knows your address poses a risk of making your home life a living hell for you and your family. Sometimes you just can’t be too sure about how insane some people can get when provoked. Changing jobs and addresses are not exactly the easiest things to do, so playing nice is definitely a wiser choice over your need for online catharsis.

 

Will it negatively affect my loved ones’ relationships with others, or tarnish their reputation and image?

I would never assume that everyone I meet in real life reads my blog. However, when I post online, I always try to assume that it will be seen beyond my immediate network. With social media, there’s really no telling how or where the information will flow once it’s out of your hands.

For instance, what I may find merely humorous about my husband, his current (or even potential future) employer may interpret to be a negative trait and could be taken against him professionally.

Recently I had an encounter with another mom from my son’s school which left a bad taste in my mouth. For days I was so tempted to write about it but I simply couldn’t find a way to fashion my post such that it won’t give away who this person was. Why am I being so careful, you might ask? It’s because there’s a possibility that my son may eventually be friends with this other mom’s child and I wouldn’t want to ruin that chance for my son simply because I couldn’t control my fingers from typing away and clicking ‘Publish’. It’s just not worth it and certainly unfair to my son.

 

Is this information something I can live with being out in the open a decade from now, accessible to strangers or future potential employers?

Digital footprint is something we rarely think about when we post online. But perhaps we should. What we write, information we share online, stories, photos, personal data—all of those may be accessed by others without necessarily requiring our consent.

You might be a homemaker now and a blogger, but what if you find yourself in the job market 8 years from now? Can you stand by everything you’ve posted all these years should a future potential employer come across all that information? Will your online image build and strengthen you, or destroy your chances for snagging that dream job? Imagining a potential employer viewing your online presence in all its forms might help you become more discriminating with what you choose to expose online.

And what about those pictures of your children that you posted? Are they really for public consumption and ones that your children will approve of once they mature? Most importantly, are you certain that details and images you share online don’t compromise your family’s safety and well-being? With crimes getting increasingly sophisticated in this digital world, we simply can’t afford to not consider the long-term consequences of our online behavior.

 

Is this information mine to share?

It’s hard for writers to consistently come up with good material. Occasionally, I find myself depending on my friends for inspiration given their personal experiences. That said, I know I have to be careful whenever I use their lives as my material and I always make sure to ask for permission.

I remember one of my blogger friends saying that some of her friends get scared when she’s around during their get-together because they’re always concerned that what they say will be online the next day via a blog post. My friend had to assure her group that she’s not that kind of blogger. But isn’t it sad that some people have this notion about bloggers to begin with?

To me, the rule is simple, whether it has to do with stories or photos: I have to own it to share it. If not, then I have to obtain permission.

There have been times when friends requested me to write about their experience. In those cases, I had to ask specifically what details I can reveal, and which ones I either need to modify or completely leave out. Once, I’ve even had to clear my title with a friend because I had chosen something that sounded controversial and I needed to make sure she was okay with it.

In any relationship, discretion is important. Nothing should change this just because we feel we can hide behind our computer screens.


What is my real intention for publishing this?

Blogging and social media are all about making connections. Let’s not lose sight of that. Maybe you want to make connections by sharing practical tips that could help others or by sharing experiences to make you and others feel less alone.

However, we also have to own the fact that we blog and go on social media to get attention and validation. And that’s perfectly fine! Just make sure you’re not doing it at the expense of others and that you are being true to who you are and your values.

If you are clear about your intentions, it will also set the tone of your writing, the angle or treatment you are giving your topic. A lot of times, tone is the one that sets apart a successful, well-received material from one that turns readers off.

Here’s what I always tell myself: You can always whine, criticize, vent and rant about anything or anyone and write about it. Just remember that you don’t necessarily have to publish it.

 

I’d like to know what your boundaries are for posting online. Is there one in particular that is most important to you?

 


*For more information on BlogHer Syndication, click here.*






































5 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Nina! It took a while but it was worth it. I loved learning a lot along the way! :-))

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  2. Congratulations, Joy! Great article on BlogHer. This very subject is one of the reasons I was hesitant to start my blog. I write about my boys and raising teens, but I'm very careful to never embarrass them. If I plan to write about them I always get their permission first. It's such a fine line to walk as a blogger - being open, honest and relateable without crossing the line into too much information!

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