Friday, March 2, 2012

365 Days of Dining -- NOT looking for a typical "food blogger"

I only heard about it tonight, but it's probably all over the blogosphere already: The city of Richmond is going to hire a full-time food blogger with their 365 Days of Dining promotion.

Every food blogger's dream, right? Maybe, maybe not. Depends on how much time you want to devote to this, because it's an overtime every-day job. Let's look at the job description and break it down:

... We are not looking for a food critic; rather, we are
seeking someone who can share Richmond s story through its eateries —someone who
understands that cuisine is an integral part of a community and a visitor s travel experience. ...

Responsibilities in this role include, but are not limited to:
  • at least one dining experience per day at one of Richmond s 800+ restaurants
  • one blog post per day using photos and/or videos to support the messaging
  • aggregation of content across personal social media channels (Facebook, Twitter,
  • Pinterest, etc.)
  • community management across social media channels—having conversations with the
  • audience as opposed to talking to them
  • a willingness to explore all that Richmond has to offer outside of its food scene and to
  • share this information in an engaging way
The successful applicant will:
  • have an established blog, preferably with a focus on food and/or travel
  • have a highly engaged following in social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter
  • have a proven ability to communicate online in a natural and authentic voice that is
  • engaging and transparent
  • have an open mind and a willingness to try new things
  • be willing to live in and explore Richmond, BC, for a period of one year
The chosen applicant will receive the following from Tourism Richmond:
  • annual contract salary of $50,000
  • daily stipend for restaurant meals
  • apartment and living costs compensation for a period of one year (negotiable upon final
  • selection)
  • 1 year gym membership at the Richmond Olympic Oval
Let's look at the salary first. $50,000 is deceptively small since it includes maybe $30/day for food, plus probably a minimum of $24,000 for the apartment and "living expenses". The gym membership I consider token as many apartment buildings will have some sort of gym anyway. So this is closer to a $85,000 job, if not pushing $100,000. Let's round it up to $100,000 as the City of Richmond's commitment to this marketing program.
And it is marketing -- make no mistake. They'll be naive not to have some sort of metric to see if they're getting their money's worth, and it'll be compared to their other marketing efforts.

But that's their problem. What's your end of the deal once you've inked the contract?
One blog post a day is easy if you're going to do a food porn blog where you throw up pictures of steamy hot food. And since some food bloggers do that and can get a following, let's say in the most desperate case you do that to keep up. Doing food porn as opposed to any actual critique is also the safest course as you don't open your mouth to give your opinion, so you can't accidentally say anything bad.
Remember that this is marketing for the City of Richmond. Will they really want to see you talk about a restaurant in any way that is even boring? In fact, you don't even have to say anything about the food. On the first page of the job description, it reads, "We are not looking for a food critic; rather, we are seeking someone who can share Richmond s story through its eateries --someone who understands that cuisine is an integral part of a community and a visitor s travel experience."

So they're really not looking for a food blogger per se, but a journalist/travel writer. Someone who can make going out to experience Richmond restaurants an interesting experience. Someone who can make Richmond an engaging and interesting experience. And probably someone who can make international travellers pause in Richmond on their beeline to Vancouver, rather than use it just as a motel while waiting for the plane.

And so here is the "real" job description. And it's NOT "food blogger". It's closer to "journalist". Maybe even "copywriter".

This is why aggregating data from Urbanspoon or Tripadvisor wasn't going to cut it. They could have very easily put together a site of Richmond eatery food blogs using a mechanic similar to the Zagat Fork and Tell program, where food bloggers can tag a post with a particular keyword, and only those posts with that keyword are picked up by Zagat. (Eat With Jenny is a sample Zagat Fork and Tell food blog).
Doing that would get them a lot of food blogs virtually free (except for website development time) and on an ongoing basis, a ton of food porn pictures, and (supposedly) honest reviews. But it wouldn't necessarily get them the Richmond engagement they are looking for.

I think this possibly $100,000 project is going to be a money sinkhole for Richmond because they haven't put in their job description what they are looking for clearly.
For one thing, they're asking for a well-connected social media figure. But who's that person's audience? People in Richmond who already know? People in Vancouver who can't be bothered to go there? Or an international audience that is likely NOT already connected to a *local* food blog?

Someone will get this job for sure.
But will Richmond get their money's worth?

(See what they're saying on Twitter about 365 Days of Dining).

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