Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki of Moroccan food and travel blog MarocMama spoke to MediaSource about the evolution of her blog, her relationship with PR, and how she measures blogging success.
Why did you start your blog?
I started MarocMama over seven years ago as a way to share my life as an American woman married to a Moroccan man. Initially, it was just a way to share recipes and life experiences, but today it’s more focused on global travel and life in Morocco. Just like life changes, so too has my blog evolved!
What has been the highlight so far?
I love meeting new people and sharing new experiences. As you might be able to imagine, living as an American Muslim girl in the Midwest USA, I had few people around me who could relate to my life. Through blogging I began meeting a lot of other people who could understand, and I found that sharing my experiences benefited them too. I also was able to launch a business in Marrakech from my website. Marrakech Food Tours was created in September 2014 as a way to combine all the things I love; connecting like minded people, sharing great food, and showcasing Moroccan culinary culture.
How do you measure the success of your blog?
It’s really easy to get sucked into the numbers game, and I’ll admit I’m guilty of doing this from time to time, but really success to me happens in the small things and comments I receive. Like the time I got an email from a mom who had adopted a child from an orphanage in Marrakech. She found my post after the adoption, but saw that I had done an online drive to buy baby mobiles for the children at the orphanage her son was in. She wrote to say thank you for that small thing, something that made her son’s early life just a little better. I have a lot of readers who send me comments thanking me for recommendations or letting me know they went to such and such place because of my recommendation. Creating an actual career from my blog has also been a huge check in the success column as well!
How do you decide which places/products to feature?
It’s important to me that whatever I feature has a tangible value to my readers. I won’t feature things that I haven’t used or that I wouldn’t use. I really feel I’ve developed a huge amount of trust with my audience, and I refuse to violate that trust no matter what the benefit to me personally may be.
How do you feel about sponsored content or advertorials?
I think they do have a place for bloggers like myself who work hard to earn an income from their work. Blogging is fun, but there’s a lot of time, effort, and investment involved in delivering top notch content. If something fits my audience, and is something I could see myself including without compensation, then it fits. If not, well then you won’t see it included.
How do you feel about posting negative reviews?
I’m honest about everything – it’s actually a quality I’ve had forever. My friends growing up knew I was going to tell them straight out what I thought with no buffer. I carry that through on my blog. But I do try to find the bright spot in everything, or offer alternatives if I have a less than great experience. If I’m working with a company or a brand and I just can’t find something good to say, then I talk with the PR contact or owner and let them know, giving them an opportunity to rectify the situation. I will rarely write something that is completely negative, I just won’t recommend it.
How do you like to work with marketers and PR?
Living in Morocco it’s sometimes hard to get a good phone connection, so email is the preferred way to work together. If a marketer or PR firm reaches out to me on social media, I’m thrilled to take the conversation to email or offline. I have a business background, so I understand that this is business and try to work to determine the best outcome for both of us. I really like it when they have a very clear understanding of what they want or need. Although, it’s also enlightening when they come to me and say “we have xyz need and xyz budget what are some ideas you have that would appeal to your readers?” To sum it up, have an open line of communication, clear goals, and a budget in place to make it happen.
How do PR professionals get in your good books?
A way to get on my good side is to recognise that the work I do is just as important as the work you do. It takes time, effort, and energy on my part to create something that will benefit your clients. This means it also requires fair compensation. I think the quickest way to get on my bad side is asking me (or any blogger) to publish, or work, for free. Another is not doing any research on the blogger you’re contacting ahead of time to see if it would be a good fit – it needs to be mutually beneficial and make sense.