Once you start a successful brand centered around a city you live in with content about the food, lifestyle, topography, events, etc., it can be terrifying to make a move without thinking, "will I still have a following and receive engagement if I'm living in a new city where no one knows about me?" You put in the hours, shook hands, made friends, and established a name for yourself already. You can't avoid leaving just because you have a blog or something dedicated to a city, right? I started a New York City food and restaurant based blog called Chekmark Eats where I ate out almost every night and wrote reviews on my website five times a week. When I decided to move back home to Austin to accept a new job, I was a tad worried but realized I would just have to find a way to gain new followers and not worry so much about the brand I had created and maintained for six years in New York City. You shouldn't let your brand prevent you from following your dreams if it happens to be in a new city. You can bring your voice, aesthetic, creativity, and eye wherever you go. Here are a few tips on how to grow your brand and establish yourself in a new market than where you started:
As soon as I got to Austin from New York City, I looked around to find some of the best food, fashion, lifestyle bloggers and really any account that appeared as if it could offer a look into my city in the ways that I like to live. I found several new friends like @365ThingsAustin, @AustinFoodstagram, and @JenPinkston who were all extremely friendly and immediately wrote back to my emails and Instagram outreach. The food blogger community is usually a very open, inviting, and encouraging space and you just have to put yourself out there. I've found most bloggers in Austin are the same way because Austin has a small community and everyone loves to make new friends and have more influencers join the group. Once you gather some great Instagrammers to follow and engage with, all you need to do is send a quick DM or even email and invite that guy or gal to get a coffee, breakfast taco, or attend a fun event with you. Then you can talk about the blogosphere, your personal experiences, and learn more about your new city and how events work as well.
Since I ate out almost every night in New York City, my goal when I moved to Austin was to learn how to cook. To enforce this and make sure I couldn't back out, I started a Cookbook Club. I'd choose a cookbook, and then send out the recipe options to a group of around ten friends. This forced me to teach myself how to cook new dishes, introduce people to each other, create a beautiful spread for content (and eating)! I invited old friends from college and new friends in the food industry, and everyone had fun cooking and posting photos to Instagram sharing my Chekmark Eats Cookbook Club. The best part was having a small group to connect with and make new friends through others to then join the next time.
Small businesses and entrepreneurs are always looking for supporters and love nothing more than true fans. Since I have a major sweet tooth, I befriended several bakeries in town and reached out to introduce myself after I'd devoured goodies and posted about them several times. This allows you to make a relationship and establish yourself with the community. I then asked a few bakeries to do a giveaway with me to celebrate my seven year anniversary of Chekmark Eats. Of course, they were happy to donate a box of cookies after I had promoted them so many times previously. This helped me gain awareness with Austin locals as people were tagging their friends to enter the contest and then following my account. It also gave the local businesses content to repost, so people found me from following them and seeing their repost directing them to my page.
With the rise of so many entrepreneurs and self-starters, people are starting meet-ups, happy hours, and membership organizations in every single industry. Try to find one that has your demographic and interests, so that you can connect easily and exchange ideas. Also, try to find one that is opposite of you so you can learn from a different network and introduce yourself to one that you are outside of. They might turn to you for help!
As a blogger, you should be proud of your writing experience as most of us are self-taught and have not gone to journalism school. Don't be afraid to reach out to some of the local magazines in the city you live in and ask if they need a contributor for the topic you have become an expert in. I reached out to local lifestyle magazine Tribeza, and they ended up featuring me in their July issue about my favorite ice cream desserts for summer. I was able to write the piece myself, and their editor ended up included an intro interview with me about my website and Instagram. Having a byline in the magazine was just another way to reach a local audience that might not have found me on Instagram already. As you can see, it's important to put your phone down, get yourself out of your device, and connect in real life. Once you start making real relationships offline you, in turn, can grow your following and elevate your content on Instagram. Sometimes it can be hard to push yourself, but I always leave an event or a meeting with at least one lesson or new contact that I can turn into something useful and more importantly, enjoyable, down the line.
Alex Reichek is an expert in public relations and communications for food and lifestyle hospitality businesses. She started her restaurant blog, Chekmark Eats, seven years ago to share her knowledge in the culinary scene while she lived in NYC and ate at a new restaurant almost every day. Just one year after she launched, it was named one of "The Best NY Food Blogs" by Huffington Post. After eight years working at some of the top restaurant-focused PR firms, Alex moved back home to Austin, Texas, where she continues to stamp her "chekmark" throughout restaurants and bakeries looking for the best eats. Day to day, Alex runs a company, Chekmark Consulting, for local and national hospitality clients such as Picnik, Richard's Rainwater, and Hill Country Hospitality where she offers PR, Social Media Strategy, and Marketing. She also works on a project basis and has managed partnerships and events for Kendra Scott and Red Bull.