Stockholm photography by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom

One of the tweets that caught my eye during TBEX Dublin was this one by Shaikha @MySuperSpace who I finally met in person in Dublin and can’t wait to spend more time with in Dubai in a few weeks.



This was the overarching sentiment I kept observing around circles during TBEX Dublin. A certain sense of being “down to earth”, accessible, eager to learn, and mutually respectful of each other. From Chip Conley of AirBnb who gave the opening keynote to Audrey and Dan of Uncornered Market who gave the closing keynote, I love being around people who don’t have to brag about their accomplishments but whose accomplishments brightly shine through while still being diffused by humility, hospitality, and humanity.

You see, this is also one of the reasons why I love coming back to Ireland and why I love the Irish. You can’t get a big head here and I was so happy to see this ethos permeate TBEX as well. It was refreshing to see. That we were beginning to commune around professionalism and skills and not just personality.

Then I popped over to Facebook and came across this quote by my friend Mike Sowden of Fevered Mutterings; a master storyteller, closet genius, and one of the most humble people I know.

There’s always a temptation to try to summarize these events, as if they’re so simple at heart that they can be boiled down into a pithy version. The reality is they’re always way too complicated, especially for someone as biased as me, taking a very specific path through the schedule.

But…right now, this felt like a lot of people saying “don’t be rock-stars – be professional musicians. It’s not about you – it’s about what you can do for the world. Gig and gig and gig until you’re simply amazing on your chosen instruments and you’ve learned what works and what your audience wants.

Then make something you believe the world needs, with all your heart.

Because you know what? That’s how successful businesses get made.

Honestly, I can’t top that sentiment and Mike eloquently articulated what I’d observed during this particular TBEX in Dublin, Ireland.

Backyard Blogging

Stockholm photography by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom

I was honored to be able to be a part of it once again. I want to share my presentation on why backyard blogging is essential to your brand below as well as the full case studies which I summarized during the presentation because their detailed thoughts and advice are excellent and need to be spotlighted beyond two quick slides.

So beneath the full presentation are sections with each case study and their advice. Thanks once again for sharing your experiences.

For smartphones -> LAUNCH Why Backyard Blogging is Essential to Your Brand from Lola (Akinmade) Åkerström

Case Studies

TBEX - Mythbuster 1 - Kara Williams

1) When did that big break/transition come from blogging primarily about Aspen to expanding to other niches as well as being known as an “expert” on Colorado and outdoor lifestyles?

Kara: I have written about Aspen since moving to the ski town in 1994 and landing a job at Aspen Magazine. From there, I edited a local parenting magazine, often writing about “things to do with kids” in the area. Eventually that evolved into “deciding to be a travel writer” in 2006, when I started pitching magazines and websites about my family’s travels to Mexico, Hawaii and Disney… and then eventually launching in 2009. BUT, I never ever stopped writing about Aspen and travel to Colorado for my own blog and other outlets. It’s because I truly love where I live, and I love sharing the best “things to do, places to eat and places to stay” with my readers – and I know those things to do in Aspen like the back of my hand. It helps that I live in a world-renowned mountain resort area that people love to visit, too!

Though I have always written about Aspen, Colorado ski towns and the big Colorado cities (Denver and Colorado Springs), it has really been the last 18 months that I’ve done a TON of print and online stories about my home state – from articles on Aspen for Ski Canada, Luxury Las Vegas and American Eagle Latitudes; to a Fodor’s Colorado guidebook update (Aspen chapter); to creating custom itineraries for Aspen visitors via; to blogging about Denver at Expedia’s Viewfinder blog. Of course, I also write about Aspen – and Colorado travel – for my monthly column in The Denver Post. This is all good, steady money “travel writing” – writing about my backyard! I think I’d say the Denver Post column – in travel section, always about Colorado – really cemented my “niche” (the column began March 2012).

2) Did you ever feel pigeonholed because you were known at the time as ColoradoGal? How were you able to break out and stand out amongst so many competitive travel bloggers?

Kara: I have never felt pigeonholed as “ColoradoGal” – a look at my blog posts on or my clips at, will reveal stories about other domestic and international destinations. I think I make clear in all of my social media profiles that Colorado family travel is a forte, but I also write about a bunch of other topics (Mexico, Hawaii, outdoors, luxury, hotels, spas). I am DELIGHTED when I’m pegged as the “travel writer who knows about Colorado” – again, more money in my bank account when editors find me via search with assignments about Colorado (which, are, frankly, easy for me to write because I know the destination well).

Indeed, editors DO find me via search (via “Aspen travel writer” or “Colorado travel writer”), AND other bloggers who know my “niche” recommend me for work (I got the Fodor’s guidebook gig because a FB friend shared the job listing with me – it was on a private forum for her journalism school.) TIP for bloggers: If you want to be known for a destination make sure your site/blog is optimized for those keywords!!

3) What advice would you give bloggers who are still on the fence about blogging about their own cities/towns/villages?

Kara: Get over it. You might want to be known for your exciting, far-flung travels all over the world, but if you want to have STEADY content for your blog OR if you want to be paid for your expert knowledge of your hometown via freelance-writing assignments, make yourself known as a local expert. You will never run out of things to write about. If, say, your travel wings need to be clipped due to lack of funds or time for travel, you can always explore (more cheaply, more efficiently) your backyard.

I don’t care how “popular” your backyard is – someone will want to know about (will be Googling for information for) your town’s attractions, hotels, restaurants — whether those spots are world-renowned, or visitors are just passing through to get to somewhere else.

NOTE: As a mom of an 11- and 13-year-old I don’t WANT to travel a lot without my family; and I don’t want to homeschool them on the road either. Being able to write about close-to-home destinations – or places we can go to as a family on the weekends – keeps me relevant to editors, keeps me in the travel writing game even without leaving home too much! I still get to do what I love – but on my terms (and no TSA!).

TBEX - Mythbuster 2 - Natalie Taylor

1) In what ways blogging about Toronto help your personal brand? Assignments or jobs you’ve gotten just by blogging about Toronto?

Natalie: Blogging about Toronto helped me with my personal brand because people associated me with the city because I wrote about it on a consistent basis and would give visitors personal tours. From there, if anyone had questions about TO, they would send them to me. Word of mouth!

I’ve gotten quite a few assignments from the content on my blog. (i also wrote a city guide for blackbook magazine before i started my blog). The biggest one was to write content for Toronto Tourism’s website and then a number of fact sheets for them. I’ve also written blog posts for their site and am a featured blogger. I will be published in their magazine next year.

I’ve also written a number of guest posts too and got a great assignment on hotels in Toronto for the niche Design Lines Magazine (and my first contributor photo!)

I became a local expert on Toronto for AFAR and won their hometown contest. From there, I became an ambassador and am now writing a digital Toronto guide for them.

In August, I went to Taiwan on assignment for AFAR to do in book advertorial and social media promotion for them. The work can be found on twitter and instagram: #taiwanafar

TBEX - Mythbuster 3 - Carol Cain

1) When did that big break/transition come from blogging primarily about New York to expanding to other niches as well as being known as an “expert” on NYC?

Carol: I started blogging about NYC because when I would research things to do in the city I would be hit would a long list of activities that were over priced or that targeted a very specific, young and/or affluent member of our city’s community. Having been born and raised here by immigrants, I knew that there was another side of NYC that would appeal to the more average traveler. I spoke to my audience as I would my closest friend.

This approach attracted not just guests, but fellow Nyers looking to enjoy the city as well. The recognition was immediate, 8 months into blogging I was nominated by Nickelodeon as one of the best NYC blogs.

2) Did you ever feel pigeonholed because you were known at the time as NYCityMama? How did you stand out in a city with so many competitive travel bloggers?

Carol: What limited me more as ‘NYCityMama’ wasn’t the destination itself, but that idea that I could only speak from a mother’s/parent’s perspective and had no other interest outside of that side of me. No matter where I go, I am always viewing the world as a Domincan New Yorker and a lot of my outlook is based off of those experiences, but I wanted to break away from just being known as a mom because obviously there is more to me than that.

I think I stood out because I am not afraid to admit that I am not as cool as everyone in NYC likes to say they are, and that I am always looking for a good deal. I highlight things about the city that are real experiences for those who live here – good and bad – but that still make me proud to be from here.

And I am not ashamed to call myself a tourist in my own town because this opens me up to learn so much more.

3) What advice would you give bloggers who are still on the fence about blogging about their own cities/towns/villages?

Carol: It is normal to take for granted the place that you call home, but there is a reason why people visit. Put yourself in that mindset. What is it about your area that interests people? Why do they spend their time and money to come here? How can you, as a native and resident, make that experience so much better for them? How do you live here, why, and share those stories. I think a lot of places are way more interesting than their residents give them credit for, and there’s great value in being a source of information.

TBEX - Mythbuster 4 - Emma Taveri

My name is Emma, I come from Italy (Brindisi), German mum and 10 years spent away from home (Rome, Milan and London).

6 months ago I decided to leave my manager role and big city life for good, to go back to Brindisi, follow my dreams and passion. And immerse myself in a brand new destination marketing strategy called “Brindisi is MY Destination“. Something in between a tourism board and a personal travel blog (Facebook page).

It’s very common to have a destination blog / website about famous destinations, but very hard to have one about an emerging destination. This is my mission, and it’s being very successful so far.

The first event I worked on was this february when I began to organize the Blogger Experience in Brindisi, where I invited 9 top travel influencers from all over the world to come to Brindisi and experience its best things and video output. Most of the bloggers who came are now my friends and it’s such a great thing to exchange travel and life stories with them.

The success of this event and what happened next (conferences I was invited to etc and a great support from local authorities and people) lead me to the decision to proceed with a destination blog where I also talk about my personal life and promote my destination through my story of the girl who came back, through the connection with my friends from all over the world and friends in my town.

This is motivating a lot of young people in my town and makes me really happy. So, added to the promotion of my area, I am also spreading hope and happiness around.

TBEX - Mythbuster 5 - Nicole Wiltrout

1) When did that big break/transition come from blogging primarily about Indiana to expanding to other niches as well as being known as an “expert” on Indiana?

Nicole: When I started my personal travel blog, I included posts about the areas around where I live because I very much still consider that “travel,” even if it’s just a few miles from home. A few months later, I applied to be an expert blogger with Visit Indiana, a paid freelance position, and was accepted into their program. That was a consistent source of income for me for over two years, and expanded as time went on. On my personal blog, I continued to write about destinations around the U.S. and closer to home in Indiana. My readers seemed interested in both, even those that found me originally through Visit Indiana.

2) Did you ever feel pigeonholed because you were blogging about Indiana?

Nicole: Not at all. That’s the beauty of a personal blog. While I CHOSE to write about Indiana often (because my family spent more time traveling Indiana than we did elsewhere), I also CHOSE to write about our travels outside of Indiana as often as I wanted. I never lost readers because I wrote about both types of “travel.”

3) What advice would you give bloggers who are still on the fence about blogging about their own cities/towns/villages?

Nicole: I don’t really see a reason not to write about where you live, unless you don’t enjoy it or like it. (And if so, move!) 😉 Often, those are the easiest posts for me to write because I know the destination so well. And I think readers really appreciate and seek out the type of first-hand knowledge that only a local can provide.

TBEX - Mythbuster 6 - Lola Akerstrom

Destination association has helped carve out a side niche for me as well as opened doors and brought in more income and helped me build cultural expertise. I’ve had many editors contact me out of the blue for Stockholm/Sweden content and fellow bloggers/freelancers have forwarded me work or made recommendations. Blogging is all about diversifying as well and solidifying your brand. There are opportunities in your backyard.

There’s a reason why Visit Sweden keeps flying in bloggers and journalists to cover the country. It’s absolutely gorgeous in many ways.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts below. Would love to hear from you.