Former MSc Communication and PR with advertising student, Gemma Louise Bond, a.k.a That Belfast Girl, tells us how setting up her beauty and fashion blog, has led to enhanced career prospects, a following of over 20,000, worldwide press coverage and getting to do cool stuff, like flying around Belfast in a vintage aeroplane.
What made you decide to write a blog and when did you start it?
I started my blog in summer 2011. I was poorly and waiting for an operation. I was about to go into my second year of my undergraduate degree (Politics). I always loved beauty & fashion and created my blog to busy my mind. My original blog was called Champagne Lifestyle, Student Budget and it’s grown as I’ve got older into That Belfast Girl (maybe it’ll be That Belfast Mum one day!)
What topics do you write about?
Everything from food to fashion. I love finding little gems in our city and also amazing beauty bits that you’d usually walk past!
What’s the best perk you’ve had from blogging?
I was able to further my career through my blogging – I got my first job in PR because I did a collaboration for an agency who then hired me! I think a lot of people think blogging is glamourous but as a good friend of mine says, ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch!’. If I am sent things such a makeup or clothes, people usually want something in return!
What’s the best experience you’ve been given due to your blog writing?
I had an amazing experience getting to fly around Belfast in an amazing vintage aeroplane to celebrate the launch of KLM in Belfast.
What opportunities have arisen from your blogging?
Getting to work on projects with huge brands like American Express and Marks and Spencer has been incredible. I’ve learned so much to benefit my marketing career through amazing opportunities.
Tell us about a typical week in the life of Gemma Louise and That Belfast Girl. What do you get up to?
It’s busy! I work 40 hours a week in my day job as a marketing assistant and also sing for Belfast Community Gospel Choir. I usually spend Sunday working on my blog content or any project work I have. I need to be as organised as possible so I use lots of scheduling tools so ensure I have constant content on the go.
You were recently in the press for posting a picture of yourself in your swimsuit. Tell us a bit about that and how you coped with the publicity.
It was a bit of a shock!! I posted a picture of myself on holiday in a swimsuit as I don’t feel you often see girls of my height or build in swimwear. I didn’t think anything of it until I looked a few hours later and it had 1000 likes. It ended up going completely viral – on Daily Mail, Teen Vogue etc. I’ve never dealt with anything like that before. Some of the comments were hard but 95% of them were lovely saying I was a great role model for young women.
Has your blog had any impact on your career?
Hugely! I feel my digital skills come from my blog and this is a unique skill set for working in the industry. I’m passionate about digital PR and influencer seeding so it certainly has given me a niche in the NI market.
How has your course contributed to any of your successes so far?
I think it helped to make me a better communicator and notice how my body language can play a huge role in communication. The PR modules were also invaluable to my career.
Would you recommend blogging to others?
Yes – it’s a great way to become disciplined in writing copy. If you want a career in PR, writing copy is a skill that needs honed over time!