Tuesday, September 3, 2013

9 things I learned about pet blogging at Barkworld 2013

Time for our annual trip up to Atlanta for Barkworld!

Me and my #petchat pals at Barkworld!
Barkworld is a conference for dog lovers of all types -- from bloggers to rescues to businesses. But the primary goal is to teach us how to get our messages out to you in the most effective manner possible.

But even better -- we get to see the friends we talk to online all year long, and our dogs get to meet too.

This year, I learned a lot more than just about social media. Here are the nine things I learned at Barkworld.

1) When you've got dogs in the car, ALWAYS have the child locks on the windows and doors. We almost lost Mom's dog Cappy on the way to Barkworld. He had broken the tether on his car seat, and he tried to get over my shoulder to the front. He put one of his paws down on the window button in the back seat and was almost sucked onto I-75. Fortunately I was able to grab his leash and pull him over my shoulder. Very scary. 

2) Come to brands with more than questions. Come with ideas. 
I got to meet a number of groups and companies this weekend, especially Thursday at Blogger Speed Dating. What I learned is that you can't just come to them, flash a media kit with your numbers and say "What can you do for me?" But at the same time, you can't just offer them the same old stuff everyone else does -- ads, sponsorships, etc. Companies are looking for new ideas. So come up with new stuff.

For instance, I'm starting work on a couple campaigns for the next couple of months that you'll hear about soon. My hope is that we'll do some giveaways with it!

Lulu at the Barkworld Opening Night Party.
3)When your dog starts dancing on the dance floor, take pictures!
We had a welcome party Thursday night, and there was a dance floor. Lulu did a few turns on her hind legs. Very impressive for a beagle. But I didn't get any pictures! I'm hoping someone else did and are willing to share.

Matt Silverman's keynote at Barkworld.

4) The key to success with killer content is a killer headline.
The first keynote speaker at Barkworld was Matt Silverman from Mashable.com and the Fluffington Post. And aside from his feeling that pictures rule the web (cat pics, HELLO!), this was a big take away for me, and an interesting one. When I'm not here blogging I work for a TV station, and we were taught how to write searchable headlines. So that's what I try to do here. But maybe I need to do a better job balancing the two sides.

5) Lulu has come a long way!
Last year, Lina, one of the top trainers for Petco, borrowed Lulu for onstage demos. At the time, she'd only had a couple of private lessons. Now she's been through almost a year of classes, and gotten her CGC. You can see the difference. She was calmer around MOST dogs -- she didn't bark at Pudgie the bull dog, or Carma Poodale (YAY!). She didn't bark at Pepper either. She did bark at Fabulous McGrady. I kept telling her that barking at a dog who was deaf was useless, but she didn't listen. And she still doesn't like Norman the Scooter Dog.

Here is Lulu last year.

(I'm trying to get this year's video up. I will add it when I can.)

6) Know the signs that your dog is not feeling well.
I realized that Lulu wasn't eating all of her food before Barkworld. I didn't know why, but I was prepared if she didn't want to eat that, at least mentally. What I wasn't prepared for was her sudden desire not to poop, and then for her tail to start drooping and her back reacting negatively to touch. It's the first time Lulu was doing anything like this, and while I tried not to panic, I couldn't help myself. Fortunately I was surrounded by more experienced dog people -- bloggers, rescue peeps, and vets. But Lulu wasn't well the rest of the conference. Poor baby!

Lulu wearing a heating pad on the last day of Barkworld. As you can see, the tail is not up.
 7) People really want to know how to work with the media effectively.
I facilitated a roundtable discussion on working with the media the Saturday of the conference. I was amazed at how many people came to our discussion. I hope everyone liked the information I gave. Perhaps I will write on the topic here at some point.

8) "If you drink tea and juice on a daily basis you are a blogger. If you drink whiskey and beer on a daily basis, you are a journalist."
This was the takeaway from one of the other roundtables, and being on both sides of the coin I totally find this to be true. But what I hope that, one day, more people consider themselves "journalist-bloggers. That's how I consider myself. Tea and beer. Though more wine for me.

9) I am bi-petsual. Are you?
I participated in a discussion on cat bloggers vs. dog bloggers. I learned that since I have a dog and a cat, I'm bi-petsual ( and I need to start writing more with Galadriel). 

One of the conclusions we also made was that we cannot be just dog bloggers or cat bloggers. We should say that we are pet bloggers, even if we only write about one pet. Why? Because we want people to understand that pet blogging is more than just a hobby. We are out to help people take better care of their pets, and to save pets by raising awareness. That means we need to be more unified to get people to take us seriously.

COMMENT BELOW: Where you at Barkworld? What was your biggest takeaway?

We got a sneak peek at the new Star Wars collection from Petco!

Ruff and Mews from Petco.
The bowl I painted Friday night at the Nutrish Block Party.
Lulu with Victoria Stillwell. She already wasn't feeling well by then.


  1. It was good seeing you guys. We can relate of not feeling well. Hope Lulu is well now. It's our first and we are a bit overwhelmed but like the small atmosphere of the conference. We missed petchat last night as we shad guests. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

    1. I hope you can make it back next year, Sugar! That's one thing I do love about it -- it's smaller.

  2. great tips! I just learned I'm bi! Who knew?! I agree pet bloggers should not be decided into dog or cat only. One question- I drink coffee and wine so what does that make me?

    1. I think that makes you a journalist-blogger too. ;) Or a teacher. Teachers drink a LOT of coffee.

  3. Sounds like you had a good time (Lulu's issues aside - and I do hope she is feeling better)

    as for the cat vs dog... being a cat blogger and a cat person I all too often see 'pet' = 'dog' and it is infuriating. I'm not anti-dog as I am pro-cat because for the most part they are the underdog (yes, pun intended) Dog people and those of you who are bi-petual often don't see it, but cats still are not very far away from being a 'throw away' animal... something that if it causes you a problem just abandon it.. no need to market to cats because cat people don't spend money on their pets, etc.

    When cats are seen more on an equal footing to dogs in terms of being marketed to, and when 'pet' actually means 'dog, cat, bird, rabbit, ferret' and not just 'dog' I'm sure I'll be seen as a lot less 'anti-dog' (if you know what I mean)

    purrs :)

    (btw, do you realize you have word verification on your blog comments?)

    1. Hi! I hope you can see this reply.

      I kinda understand how you feel. It always amazes me how little there is for cats in terms of stuff, and there's plenty of doggy boutiques, but very little in the way of cats. I've heard that cats tend to be treated that way. It's sad so many more are from in shelters.

      I think it's time a lot more people realize that.

      And yes, I have word verification because without it I got spammed incessantly. It was bad.

  4. Wanted to go but I went to BlogPaws and Alt SF this year (and I'm going to iFabbo fashion blogger conference in Oct). Next year, perhaps. Thanks for sharing your tips. What specifically constitutes a good, searchable headline? Did they say?

    Jules of Canines & Couture

    1. Hey Jules -- He talked more about catchy headlines, but a searchable headline usually involves key words. Google has a keyword search, but you have to have an adwords account to see it. It tells you what words people are inputting into search.

      Also, try to keep the headlines to 60-70 characters. That way google can easily scan it.

  5. Great post and great lessons - glad you had a good time at BarkWorld! Great points about being pet bloggers and creating good headlines - I'm always torn with headlines balancing SEO optimized and unique/catchy. They don't always match.

    Sorry Lulu wasn't feeling too well at times. Hope she's feeling much better now!

  6. great things that you learned! Wonderful! Only one thing, it's BI-PETUAL.........and...it originated with Jackson Galaxy
    I know because I am BI-PETUAL too and I first heard the term used by him

  7. Lulu isn't the only one who's come a long way this last year. Your content has, too. I need tips on writing better headlines! I know there's no magic secret to it, but dang!

    You ever visit Emma, the GBGV? She has a cute Snoopy post up today. http://mygbgvlife.com/2013/09/04/who-likes-music/

    1. Thanks Flea!

      I've heard of Emma, but I haven't checked her page today. Thanks for the heads up!

  8. Great post! I think I missed a few of the sessions you attended, would love to learn more. I hope Lulu's tail is all better soon. I(human)drink water and wine, what does that make me? BOL!!

  9. It was nice meeting you at BarkWorld. I hope Lulu is feeling better. I find that I drink the harder stuff when I'm working on my book projects. But as a journalist/blogger, it's mostly water.

  10. Poor Lulu, hope she is feeling better now. That would be bad to be sick at a conference!

  11. Nice post, Christie. I sat in on the journalist v blogger session twice, then had one of those "done" moments you get at conferences like this; I wish I'd sat at your session. :( I came to BarkWorld thinking that I need to be more serious about my blog and even think of monetizing, and from everything I heard know it's possible but I just need to set a direction. I do hope Lulu is feeling better. Also, are you going to write a blog post about Cappy and those child-proof buttons? I'd like to tweet about it and reference a post from you.

  12. Terrific post! It was great to see you, Lulu and your mom again! So glad to hear that Lulu's feeling better. Great tip about the child restraints on doors and windows. Prudence wears her harness in the car, you just never know what might happen.


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