Dear Readers, Jane is tickled red and green with sparkles to bring you today's Smart Woman Online, Christine Halvorson. Christine is a professional blogger - that's right - she gets paid to blog! Her work is featured at the Stonyfield Farm website and blog. She's a delightful young lady, warm and friendly, and a bit witty, as you will see in this interview.
We feel fortunate to be able to bring you this fun post, since we met Chris at the Blogher conference last year, and heard her speak. Read on for your holiday treat...[and don't write nasty emails 'cause we didn't say 'Christmas'...we celebrate the holiday...with lots of folks, some of whom are NOT Christian]
Lip-sticking: You're one of the few 'professional' bloggers that we know. That sounds so official! Tell us a little bit about how you came to be a blogger at Stonyfield Farm.
Chris: The blogs at Stonyfield Farm were entirely the idea of our CE’Yo (that’s what we call him--really) Gary Hirshberg, who saw the potential of this tool for building relationships with our already-loyal customer base.
Once he had the idea, he advertised for a blogger/writer, I found the ad, applied and there I was! That was in March of 2004 and we launched five blogs on April 1, 2004. [corrected dates; we had 2005, but Christine tells me it's 2004: which only makes sense! Today's date: March 7, 2006]
I have a journalism background and that seems to have lent itself well to the position which, at the time, was very much an experiment.
Lip-sticking: We're curious -- how much time do you spend blogging and ... where do you get your content? Is it original, or pre-thought out?
Chris: Our content is certainly a mixture! Sometimes I do include what could be described as Stonyfield "P.R." news—but this is pretty rare. If we have a press conference, for example, or get a nice award, I’ll blog about that in a chatty way, but I am definitely under orders not to make this a p.r.-vehicle or an advertising/marketing vehicle. [congrats! you are doing a fab job!]
So…I blog about things we care about—getting junk food out of schools [hear, hear] and getting kids to eat healthy; supporting women who want a healthy lifestyle; organic dairy farming and organics in general; and parenting.
Content comes from the news wires, from my head, sometimes from people sending me interesting tidbits; sometimes my own interviews and, of course, other blogs. But, I have to admit, with four blogs to maintain and prescribed content "themes" to meet, I don’t spend as much time reading and linking to other blogs and bloggers that I would like. It’s simply a matter of efficiency.
It’s easier for me to link to a New York Times article than to find THE definitive blog entry on a particular topic. I spend about half of each day working on the four blogs—that includes reading, research, writing, editing, posting, maintaining. [might we offer to help - check in with US or Blogher - who else do you need? ;-) ]
Lip-sticking: Do your 'higher-ups' dictate what you write?
Chris: Not at all. Sometimes I wonder if they’re reading! (No, just kidding.) My only directive from our CE’Yo is to "be real"—and I try to be funny. And sometimes there are things I obviously "have" to write about…but, nope—nobody dictates the content.
Lip-sticking: If you weren't a blogger, what would you be? For instance, if...the blogosphere went away next week (horror of horrors!), would you become a marketing manager? Or, a skywriter? Or, would you just fall to writing a print newsletter?
Chris: I’ve been down the printed newsletter route. That is soooo 1980s. I don’t think I’d do that, but whatever I do has to involve writing, writing, writing. Marketing manager? No way. That’s the opposite end of my personality, I think.
Another part of my job at the moment is to write our web content and, so, that would be a back-up position, I guess, if our blogs went away. At 47, I’ve probably missed out on my chance to be the next Paul Simon (the singer, not the late politician), so that eliminates one career option.
Lip-sticking: Tell us what you like about blogging for Stonyfield Farm and what you, maybe, don't like. We'll be discreet, we promise.
Chris: Spam control is the bane of my existence! There, I’ve said it. As a writer, I also don’t feel all that comfortable any time technology glitches rear their ugly head. I don’t like the interruption to the "flow" of the writing and I don’t like having to figure out even who to go to in order to get the problem solved!
That said, I love blogging. I get to read the news, stay on top of issues, write what I want in an editorial (opinionated) fashion, and serve our wonderful company in this way. Our company’s mission is to change the world and, so, it’s exciting to be part of that.
Lip-sticking: We met you at Blogher last year. What an experience that was! All those women bloggers in one place! You talked about the experience of being a professional blogger, and we were so impressed. Will you be returning to Blogher in 2006?
Chris: I hope so! It hasn’t been decided yet, but I certainly did enjoy meeting crazy women bloggers. I expect the 2006 crowd will be 3 times the size because the organizers all handled the first one so well. Word is out! Watch out world! [crazy women bloggers - sounds like we have a reputation!]
Lip-sticking: Now, tell us about Stonyfield Farm, especially about the Strong Women series. Oh, we just LOVE the website! Jane considers it female-friendly to the max! Who's responsible for that success?
Chris: Well, having a blog that deals with women was a no-brainer for us. We were already involved in a series of events called "Strong Women Summits" that brought women together with experts to get them thinking about health, fitness and—tada!---changing the world! Since we had several of these events already by the time we thought up the blogging idea, we already had a natural database of potential interested readers for a blog on that topic. It is the most popular in terms of subscribers, among our four blogs. (Yes. Subscribers. We offer an "email this entry" option.) So, I write the content and it’s a wide-range of topics. I have fun with it.
The Bovine Bugle is our next most popular blog. There, farmer 'Jonathan Gates' writes about his daily life as an organic dairy farmer in rural Vermont. Readers love it! He’s a great writer. We got a note once from a woman in a skyscraper in Manhattan who said it made her feel like she was down on the farm in the middle of her city and it was a wonderful break in her day.
Lip-sticking: You offer coupons on your website at Stonyfield Farm. Do lots of people download coupons? Which link is accessed most? Are your visitors primarily female or male (or don't you know?)
Chris: The majority is female (as are the majority of yogurt-eaters) and the coupons/sign up for newsletters page is the most popular, followed by the recipes pages. We have a ton of recipes—all of them pretty low-fat—so they appeal to a female audience.
Lip-sticking: What about YOU - are you an online shopper? Will you do much of your holiday shopping online this year? If so, what's your favorite comparison shopping site?
Chris: Oh, my. I do shop on-line often, but only at a select few websites. That’s largely an attention issue. I can only keep track of so many places I like to go and that I like their products. I have rarely used the comparison sites, sorry to say. I usually buy things on the low end of the price scale, so I don’t have to comparison shop. Again—that whole attention span issue!
Chris: Wow! I’ve been a journalist for 25 years! That means I’m the one who’s always asking this question. Nobody’s ever asked me this before…so I really had to think.
I don’t think I have a quote. My Mom—whom I lost in 1990 at far too young an age—inspired me to be who I am simply by supporting every single crazy scheme I ever came up with, unconditionally. Plus she lent me her car all the time.
She had a love of reading and a great sense of humor. I guess those qualities seep through my writing life, for which I’m eternally thankful.
Wow, this interview is one of our favorites, dear readers. Did Christine not support so many of the things Jane has been telling you all year: that women like to connect with other women, we eat more yogurt (okay, we didn't say that, but we said women are more health-conscious), and we're time-pressed, so we love shopping online. The best part was - her tribute to her Mom. Makes us all teary-eyed.
Say, what's not to like about that?