Garden Bloggers Conference 2015

February 25-27 will call bloggers back to Atlanta for the second edition of the The Garden Bloggers Conference, and I'm thrilled. The first one, which took place in September 2013, floored me. Everything was spot on, from the quality of the speakers to the engagement of the attendees. This year's event is shaping up to be even better. Check out the lineup, and while you're there, be sure to vote for the Garden Bloggers Hall of Fame, which, yea, we're sponsoring! (This gal here gets to present the awards, and I've been working on perfecting the phrase, "And the winner is...")

Below are my six takeaways from the first event as they originally appeared in the October 2013 Garden Writers Newsletter. If you're interested in receiving this monthly newsletter, sign up here.

Recap: Garden Bloggers Conference

Last week’s first annual Garden Bloggers Conference, hosted by DigitalSherpa in Atlanta, welcomed 125 bloggers to a two-day event mixing general merriment with quality, actionable tips from garden superstars and marketing professionals alike. It was enthusiastic madness. The Twitter feed was going wild. Inspiration coursed through my veins and ink through my pen. I took a dozen pages of notes.

Now home, I can reflect upon this newfound knowledge and make sense of the scribbles. I’ve packaged some of my favorite lessons into bite sized tidbits for your enjoyment. For an overwhelming play-by-play, visit the Twitter feed using #gardenblogconf.

Tell a good story.
A good story provides suspense, drama, comedy, and surprise. These aren’t words often associated with a typical plant profile – unless you’re New York Times' bestselling author Amy Stewart. She reminded us that people are the characters that lead through the story, not the plants. In his keynote address, plantsman Dan Hinkley used his personal history to similarly illustrate that it’s not just about the plants, but the memories and interactions surrounding them.

Find a new perspective.
Mark Twain’s quote that there are no new ideas is, well, nothing new, but Rochelle Greayer of Leaf Magazine and Studio 'g' approached this topic with a new and memorable perspective to make this lesson all her own: cat photos. The more you observe, listen, and learn from those that have come before you, the more you can create your own perspective on gardening and find your unique voice.

Create something beautiful.
…Whether it is in your garden, in a photograph, or the graphic design of your chosen outlet. The horticulture world is one of beauty, and our work in its communication should reflect that. One of the most tweeted comments came from Gardenista’s editor-in-chief, Michelle Slatalla, when she said that images are the currency of media. Felicia Feaster, editor-in-chief of HGTV Gardens, reiterated the importance of aesthetics by saying that when you care about design, it shows pride in your content.

Be intentional.
Chris Heiler from Landscape Leadership stressed the importance of being deliberate in each action you take in order to move toward the mission set by your brand. Work with purpose, not just because everyone else is doing something. Fine Gardening editor, Steve Aitken, said that digital media can learn from traditional print media in this regard. The beloved magazine is constantly testing and analyzing content to guarantee that they’re meeting the needs of their readers, which is their number one priority. “Know who you are,” he said, “and stick to it!”

SEO is important – but not that important.
Search Engine Optimization is a term that is not going anywhere. The experts from DigitalSherpa shared how developing keywords, properly labeling photos, and utilizing analytics can help your website or blog raise its search engine standings and attract new readers. A few easy clicks, and your traffic could double… but as Robin Horton from Urban Gardens reminded us, we need to write for people and not robots. “Google has no sense of humor.”

Build relationships.
Social media has allowed us to connect and build a massive community of garden enthusiasts, but every now and again, somebody forgets his or her manners. Don’t be that person. Respect, gratitude, and collaboration are so important. Seasonal Wisdom’s Teresa O’Connor noted again and again that success is easier when you are working with others, while Amy Flurry, author of Recipe for Press, gave one of my favorite pieces of advice from the conference, “Be lovely and easy to work with.” Simply and beautifully put.

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