In August 2011, HarperCollins Publishers (Morrow Cookbooks) sent out a request for bloggers to help promote Emeril Lagasse’s upcoming cookbook, Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders. More than 100 bloggers responded, but only 20 (including Diabetic Foodie) were chosen to participate in a three-week blogging party. You can read some of my posts about Emeril’s book. After the event, several bloggers decided to continue working together on similar projects, while finding interesting ways to support and promote each other, in ways that would be fun for their readers.
Out of that, Virtual Potluck was born.
We occasionally work together – with or without sponsoring companies – to post about a specific theme on a particular day. It’s not a progressive dinner party or a planned menu; we each bring to the table what we’re good at, within the parameters of the theme. It’s a true potluck of posts.
And then, like party guests everywhere, we talk about the party in anticipation of what will be there (on Twitter, Facebook, or wherever we happen to hang out) and we talk about it while the event is running. Then, of course, we help clean up the mess, pack up the leftovers, and chitchat about it afterward.
Shortly after deciding we wanted to work together, several companies agreed to work with us, even though the Virtual Potluck concept was completely untested. Abrams Books (with their Stewart Tabori and Chang imprint), California Olive Ranch and Bob’s Red Mill (in a combined promotion) and Marx Foods were the first three, followed later by OXO and others.
Companies benefit by working with us as a group, by only having to deal with one point of contact, rather than a dozen individual bloggers. And when the posts go live, they’ve got a lot of bloggers talking about their products all at once.
For our blogging group, having that one point person saves us time and trouble, because if we’re not running a project we can just sit back and let someone else hammer out the details. We just sign up to attend, bring our “dish” when requested and enjoy ourselves at the potluck knowing that someone else will make sure we’ve got plenty of forks and ice.
Another great benefit to this group approach – and this is great for both the bloggers involved and the sponsoring companies – is that during the potluck events, we all promote one another. Each blogger has a unique audience and unique strengths. One might have more blog followers, another might have a huge Facebook presence and another might dominate on Twitter.
Working together, we are much stronger than we are alone. That makes our group more attractive to companies than individual bloggers working separately, and it benefits our blogs with more visitors and page views during the events, and possibly, some new followers afterwards.
Best of all, our readers get the benefit of a network of lively content, introductions to interesting new blogs, bloggers and products and quite possibly, the chance to win something in a series of fun giveaways! And since we’re picking and choosing the companies we want to work with, our readers can rest assured that we’re not just doing this for the swag. We genuinely like the companies we’re working with, and we like the products we’re writing about. And since we all maintain our individual identities, if someone isn’t interested in a particular company or product, they’re not obligated to participate.
A group filled with skilled cooks and dedicated foodies, Virtual Potluck’s bloggers all have different tastes, different focuses, different connections and different talents. If you visit each blog during an event (and we highly recommend that you do) you won’t see the same recipes or the same photos or the same ideas over and over. We complement each other, we don’t copy each other. Even when our themes are somewhat restrictive or we’re all using the same ingredients, we bring different perspectives to the table. The Virtual Potluck bloggers are Diabetic Foodie plus the list of other bloggers in the right column.
We’ve had a lot of fun brainstorming this new group and arranging our potlucks. We hope you’ll like the results.
Food Companies: Would you like to work with Virtual Potluck for your next promotion? Any food-related companies, publishers, cooking gadget manufacturers, PR companies and other parties interested in working with us as a group may contact Shelby Kinnaird at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bloggers: Virtual Potluck is not adding new blogger members just yet. If you’re interested in joining us if/when we do expand, please contact Shelby Kinnaird at email@example.com.
UPDATE: The Virtual Potluck group disbanded in 2016.