The biggest blogging lesson of all

The past 8 blogging lesson posts have been focusing on the lessons you can learn about blogging from the 7th Season of The Next Food Network Star.   In the final episode – the payoff was huge for one contestant who kept his focus and his message tightly defined and on target.

From the very first episode, Jeff Mauro stuck with a single theme for his proposed Food Network Show.  He proclaimed himself the “sandwich king” and promised to help viewers “make any meal a sandwich and make any sandwich a meal.”

Week after week – Jeff made sandwiches for various challenges.  While fellow finalists Vic vacillated between “Vic Vegas” and Mama’s Boy – Jeff kept making great sandwiches.  While Susie flipped from one theme to another throughout the contest – Jeff kept focusing on making meals out of sandwiches – and sandwiches out of meals.

Jeff’s focus and dedication to a tightly focused theme helped him to win Season 7 of the Next Food Network Star.    However, he couldn’t have kept that focus if sandwiches were not his passion.

So what can bloggers learn from Jeff’s win on this series?

  1. Find your voice – and don’t be afraid to get personal
    Jeff talks about his hometown – Chicago – and his son with whom he hopes to share a love of food and cooking with someday.  Those stories help viewers make a connection with Jeff.
  2. Presentation is everything.
    From staying religiously focused on a central theme, to making his “message” match his “look” – Jeff did a great job of creating the “total package” which is what Food Network executives were seeking.
  3. Never give up – never surrender
    While he’s the “winner” of this show – Jeff entered this competition as a “failed” comedian.  However, he took the lessons he learned performing his comedy act and applied them to his passion – making sandwiches.   Jeff’s not a professional chef – but he beat out several professional chefs to earn his own show on America’s hottest food channel.

Now – take these blogging lessons and apply them to your own blog.

Blogging Lesson: Bring the reader into your world

This blogging lesson comes courtesy of Season 7 Episode #8 of The Next Food Network Star.

Blogging Lesson: Draw the reader in

Our blogging lesson from this episode isn’t from the show itself – but rather the words of Bob Tuschman as he explains what’s necessary to be a “star”.

Food Network Stars come in many different styles.

Maybe you’re like Ina – you’re not “out there” – you’re not “in their face” – you’re not a “born performer”  but you’ve got a lot of knowledge to share. Ina’s love of food – and desire to share that love – are what gives her a unique “star” status on Food Network.

Meanwhile, Rachel Ray is bubbly, vivacious and outgoing.  She’s “out there” – she’s “in your face” – she’s a “born performer”.   Rachel brings more than enough enthusiasm to make up for any “lack” of cooking expertise she may have.

Then there’s Bobby Flay – one of the judges for the Next Food Network Star.  Bobby isn’t reticent – but he isn’t bubbly either.  What he brings to the table is expertise and his own unique point of view – which is anything but narrow.  He has a show on BBQing on Food Network – he’s known for his love of southwestern influences on his cooking – and he’s a renowned hamburger aficionado.  Three different themes which are all uniquely Bobby Flay.

What all o9f these stars share is the ability to bring the viewer into their world – something Jyll the contestant eliminated from this episode was not able to do.

Jyll was constantly being chided by the judges for being too “news anchor like”.  Jyll reported the “news” which was the food she was cooking – and delivered the news well.  However, she was missing the “spark” needed to elevate her to the level of Next Food Network Star.

In the end – Jyll was eliminated because she was – in Bob Tuschman’s words,  “a train going down five different tracks”.  Jyll wasn’t focused – she hadn’t found her voice – and in the end – that caused her to be eliminated from the competition.

If you’re not focused – if you haven’t found your voice – then you can’t be expected to draw the reader into your world.  Don’t rush the process.  It takes longer for some than for others.  Keep blogging though and you’ll find your way.

Blogging Lesson: Embrace the Journey

This blogging lesson comes courtesy of Season 7 Episode #7 of The Next Food Network Star .

Blogging Lesson #1: Embrace the Journey

It’s “midterms” for the show – and once again two contestants are eliminated in a single show.  The first challenge is for the contestants to prepare and present their “signature” dish. Chris was the first to be eliminated because – in Bob Tuschman’s words he was “a walking apology”. Chris apologized constantly because he didn’t feel his food was good enough.

Ok – I know I told you in a previous blogging lesson that you must be an expert – but even experts are still growing and learning.  This continual growth and learning makes EXCELLENT blog fodder.

Chris was a good chef – but he wasn’t confident in his expertise.  He was afraid to let his food do the talking for him – so he adopted a “party frat boy” persona to try to cover up his lack of confidence.

Blogging Lesson #2: Is also to “embrace the journey”.

Penny was the 2nd to be eliminated from this show – and the core reason for her elimination was she couldn’t “embrace the journey”.

Penny was so focused on “winning” and eliminating her competitors that she didn’t enjoy the competition – and that lead not only to many confrontations with other contestants – but her eventual elimination from the show.

Wherever your blog is today – it’s not where it will be tomorrow or the next day.  Too often – beginning bloggers look at other more established blogs and see polished perfection.  What they didn’t see were the early days – when that blogger was still trying to find an authentic voice.

I’ve had way too many clients begin blogging for their business – and then get discouraged because they didn’t see instant results.  After a few weeks of blogging, one of my clients gave up and ignored her blog for almost 18 months.  She contacted me and asked  me to cancel it just as I was performing yet another WordPress update.  I logged in to see that she had 9 comments from blog readers who had found her blog posts and wanted to know more about hiring her as their coach.

When I let this client know what was “hiding” in the unapproved blog comments on her blog – she changed her mind about canceling it and has since used that blog to fill her coaching practice.  Even though my client hadn’t been blogging for a while – her old blog posts were being displayed to people who were searching for exactly the service she was offering.

If you’re an expert – then you should be blogging.  If you’re on your WAY to being an expert – you should be blogging.   Share what you know – and acknowledge what you don’t know – as a way to build credibility and authority with your audience.

Don’t view other bloggers as “competition” – view them as fellow bloggers who are all striving for a similar goal.

When you embrace the journey – you quit trying to “compete” with everyone else in the blog0sphere – and instead focus on your voice – and sharing your expertise.  Then you’ll find your blog will begin to blossom.


Blogging Lesson: Engage and hold your audience

This blogging lesson comes courtesy of Season 7 Episode #6 of The Next Food Network Star.

Blogging Lesson: Engage and hold your audience

The finalists are divided into groups of three and the challenge is to create a unique concept for a food truck.  From promotion to advertising, the contestants are challenged to meld their own unique “brands” into a single cohesive concept.   The ads are shown to viewers who must then choose a single truck to visit.

The contestants had to not only work well with their team mates – but they still had to retain their own unique “voice” and maintain a connection with the audience and their food.

Giada shares her impression of this stage of the competition:

Orchid was eliminated from this challenge because she couldn’t “grab” the audience and hold them.  So while she began the competition as one of the strongest competitors – she was eliminated from the challenge in this episode because she just couldn’t hold her own when sharing the spot light with other “larger than life” personalities.

Giada says in the clip above “They only have 10 weeks to come out of their shell, say this is what I want and who I am – and this is what I want to say.”

Fortunately – when it comes to blogging –  you’ve got more than 10 weeks to accomplish this huge task.  You don’t have to be “camera ready” from your first blog post.  If you’re like many bloggers, you’ll probably discover that it takes hundreds of blog posts to really “find your voice” and be able to say, “this is who I am – this is what I want to say and this is how I choose to say it.”

In episode #5 – the blogging lesson was to “get to know your audience and find your voice” .  It’s essential to learn that lesson before you can hope to accomplish this week’s lesson which is to engage and hold your audience.

Blogging Lesson: It’s essential to engage and hold your audience’s attention because – just like on TV – your readers can easily “change” to another blog or website.

Blogging Lesson: Find your voice

This blogging lesson comes courtesy of Season 7 Episode #5 of The Next Food Network Star.

Blogging Lesson:  Find your voice to connect with your audience

In this episode – Guy Fieri schools the contestants on the fine art of interviewing cooks and restaurant owners for his popular show “Diners, Drive ins and Dives”.   For the elimination challenge – contestants are informed that their cooking demonstrations will the be the live entertainment during a 4th of July celebration.

Vic really shined during this challenge… he donned a pink wig and really put on a show.  With his shaved head and heavily inked, bulging biceps -Vic’s presentation was definitely unexpected. However, at the end of his presentation – he gave an invitation to the audience to come to his booth so he could get to know members of the audience better. It was a heart felt invitation – which could have come across as phony or fake if he really didn’t mean it.

Here’s Bob Tushman’s take on this week’s challenge.

Vic genuinely wants to get to know his audience and that’s an essential element of success for any blogger. If you don’t know your audience – you can’t know what they want from you!

Of course, Justin D was eliminated this week – because he failed to learn from the 2nd episode’s second elimination – you have to be focused.

Justin D has spent the entire competition trying to “find” himself. He went from hip hop guy to southern fried home boy and everywhere in between. The time to experiment with different characters and persona was BEFORE the competition began.

One of the great things about blogging is you don’t have to arrive at your blog “camera ready”. Unlike the Next Food Network Star – you can take some time to experiment and “find your voice”. However, don’t expect your blog to find an audience until you’ve found your voice. As Bob Tushman said of Justin D – when he watched him jump from character to character – he was confused and as a result – he mentally “checked out”.

Justin D hadn’t found his voice – but Vic was well on his way to finding his. Vic’s invitation for the audience to come and introduce themselves to him helps Vic in future episodes to “find his voice”. In Episode #5 – he’s still “Vic Vegas” – but as he gets to know his audience – he changes his voice to reflect what his audience wants to hear from him.

Additional Blogging Lesson: Once you’ve found your voice, get to know your audience – learn why they’re at your blog so you can give them exactly what they want.