Monday, 8 July 2013

Inspiring, Interesting Interview No. 3: Ashley Turner, editor and founder of lifestyle blog, Pink Julep

Ashley looking glam as ever
Kentucky girl Ashley Turner founded her blog, Pink Julep in 2008. To use her own words, Pink Julep is “a daily dose of all the best that life has to offer including fashion, style, beauty, living, food, entertainment and more!” and I’d have to agree! Ashley is always off doing exciting things, and you can count on a fab post about it all afterwards. 

As well as being a blogger supremo, Ashley is a freelance Content Writer & Social Media Consultant for fashion, lifestyle and retail brands. Pretty cool, huh? She’s your go-to gal for all things bloggy (yes, I just coined that adjective), including blogger engagement, copywriting, social media strategy, community management and content creation at Snazzy and jazzy indeed. Ashley definitely knows her stuff, so I was thrilled she agreed to have a chat with me about everything bloggy (see, it's catching on...)

1. Hi Ashley! You’re a really established, successful blogger – can you remember what prompted you to start your blog all those years ago?

Hi Rachel - thanks for having me! I started blogging about five years ago when I had just moved to the Cayman Islands and was working as a temporary receptionist in a sleepy finance office. I saw on MySpace (which was cool back then) that some of my friends from home were starting blogs and writing about their weddings. I had always worked in the arts, so I missed that creative atmosphere and I needed an outlet. I dabbled with a couple of more personal blogs before starting this one, but eventually settled on a blog focusing on fashion and lifestyle content a few months later. Pink Julep was born after many cups of coffee in the Dunkin Donuts on 7 Mile Beach on December 6, 2008.  

2. It's true that a lot of blogs seem to start out with one theme but gradually change into something else (mine has!) Has your blog evolved over the years?

Oh my goodness yes! As the blogging culture has changed, Pink Julep has too. I think if you’re working on a project or running a business and it doesn’t roll with the punches, it’s dead in the water anyway.

That said, I never really pigeon-holed myself into one very specific topic. What I wanted to do then (and now) is to build a reference for all aspects of a well-rounded, fun, healthy, happy, exciting & beautiful life. I love the idea that if someone needs directions for roasting a chicken, information on a certain workout, a review on how a brand’s dresses fit or a playlist for their next party, they could do all that on Pink Julep if they wanted. 

The way I see it, what you eat, where you live, what you watch, what you wear and how you work out can all compliment each other in some way - they’re all pieces of the same puzzle. My mission hasn’t really changed that much, but how I approach it now is completely different than how I did it before and I’m always trying to refine it.

3. How is working in the UK different to the US? Is the blogging culture the same?

Open plan offices - I have never worked in an open plan office that didn’t at least have cubicles or privacy screens before moving to London. I found that very hard to get used to and when I worked in an office, I used to disappear to corners or conference rooms when I needed to really concentrate. 

As for the blogging culture in the US, I can’t really speak to that much because I haven’t lived there since I started blogging, but I think the main difference is sheer size of the country. America is so much bigger than the UK, which produces a lot more geographically different blogging cultures. Pretty much anyone in the UK could get to London if they needed to in less than a day without flying... You can’t say the same about everyone in the US getting to LA or NYC and that changes the game a bit I think in terms of content generation and brand influence.

4. Do you think blogs and social media have changed the relationship between brands, the press and the public?

Absolutely! There is no longer this weird barrier between brands/celebrities and the public or between readers and press. The public can speak their minds about brands, journalists, celebrities, etc. in an open forum that never existed before. Similarly, brands have a wonderful opportunity to connect with consumers, crowd-source faster than ever before and address the word of mouth in a public forum. 

Furthermore, with regards to negative chatter on social media and blogs, any time you have the chance to address problems or complaints publicly in a graceful, diplomatic way - it’s just plain good PR. Social media and blogs offers power to the people and for brands, the opportunity to better serve consumers. Everybody wins!

5. Was it a tricky decision to leave your job to focus solely on your blog?

It was a really hard and scary decision. At my job I had security, someone in charge, a steady pay check, somewhere to go every day and people around me all the time.  When I decided to leave, I had some goals I wanted to achieve and things I wanted to do that I couldn’t manage within the confines of a full-time job. I remember the first day after I left my job. I bought a flat pack desk, put it together and sat... For about two hours I thought, "Right - what do I do now?" But, before the end of the day I was into setting up a proper e-mail situation, getting registered for various things and redesigning my blog, strategy & social presences. 

About a week later my computer died and I thought “Oh no, I’ve made a horrible mistake!” However it’s all worked out so far and for that I’m truly thankful, but it’s a lot of work. I work ten times harder than I ever did in a job. I don’t ever really get a holiday and there has been a hefty amount of blood, sweat & tears, but it’s been totally worth it.  

Over the past year and a bit I’ve had a lot of amazing opportunities and I’ve really grown. I feel like throwing myself into this all alone has given me a better idea of who I am, what I’m good at and where I want to go with my career in five, 10, 20 years. I’ve learned a lot about all different kinds of media and having been on both sides, I have a really broad view of how things work. I’m still learning things all the time, which I think is really important because when you stop learning, something isn’t quite right.

6. Agreed. A decade or so ago, it was unimaginable that “blogger” could be a profession. How do you think the role of blogs and bloggers is going to continue developing?

It’s changing all the time and it’s a lot harder for bloggers to get noticed now than it was in the beginning. The blogosphere is so saturated and people are busy, so getting a piece of someone’s day to read your blog is hard work, though super rewarding.

Personally, I don’t ever think of blogging as my ‘profession,’ but more as a personal project or a stepping stone in my career. I like to think of myself as a writer and Pink Julep is like a book I’m working on. Some day (though I hope not for a while) there may not be a Pink Julep, but I’d like to think I’ll still be working even if it’s on a different project.

I think in the next couple of years you will see a massive change in the blogosphere. There seems to be a movement at the moment to ‘thin out the herd’ so to speak. Readers and other bloggers alike are challenging us to produce better content and get back to basics. One major change I think you’ll see is a decline in the personal style blog - I think these might have run their course, but that’s just my opinion based on what I’ve been hearing & reading. I also think that people are demanding something tangible and important to take away from the time they spend on a blog, whereas in previous years I think it was enough just to look at photos of beautiful people in amazing outfits. It will be interesting to see if it’s true and how the medium of blogging continues to evolve. 

7. Do you think blogging is a serious threat to traditional journalism?

No, I think blogging and traditional journalism are two sides of the same coin. I personally rely on both daily as they offer different things. There’s something very organic about a blog that covers a story with no budget and very little resource, but a strong point-of-view. It won’t be the same story or point of view as will be seen in The Times which has budget, resource and access, so where’s the threat? It’s just different. The internet provides the opportunity for everyone to have their say if they want to - it gets attention if it appeals to an audience. If that causes both bloggers and traditional journalists to up their games, then so be it - better information for everyone seems like an advantage!

8. It seems like everyone has a blog these days – what are your tips for making your blog stand out?

Content is king. This one is really hard, because it’s so easy to get sucked into the daily grind and the feeling that more is more because so many put emphasis on traffic. Traffic is important and the more you do, the more you’ll see in most cases, however to build a lasting impression, quality over quantity is the way. If you’re a photo blogger or use photos, those photos need to be the best you can manage - if you write, put some thought into it and make sure you have something important & unique to say. It’s easy to get lazy, but it’s rewarding to produce amazing content. Find something you love, want to learn or feel is important and let your thoughts be known. Be yourself and definitely don’t try to be something you’re not. What will make your blog special is you!

Brilliant, thanks Ashley!

Why not have a read of my previous Inspiring, Interesting Interview with Fiona Cairns, Luxury Cake Maker (she made the Royal Wedding cake, don'tcha know!?)

1 comment

  1. Thanks for having me Rachel! It's an honor! xx


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