Who: Alicia Lund
What: Working at Elle.com; Life as a New Mom; How Fashion Blogging Has Changed
Where: Sextant Coffee Roasters, SF
Occupation: Lifestyle Blogger + Stylist
Alicia Lund has built her blog Cheetah is the New Black (CITNB) into a thriving business. She’s come a long way since 2009, when she started the blog as a personal outlet and was admittedly embarrassed to tell people she was a “blogger”. Since then, she’s become a household name in the world of fashion blogging and has a brand collaboration track record to prove it. Bay Area born, Alicia spent time in New York City before moving back to San Francisco and finally settling in Sacramento where she’s now living with husband and adorable baby boy, Rex. She told us about her time working at Elle.com while in New York (p.s. we found some of her Elle content!) and why she’s super grateful to be able to do what she loves every day.
Q: Tell us about your time at Elle.com and how that experience helped you build your own brand and blog?
When I lived in New York I was a freelancer for the fashion editor of Elle.com. When she left, it was a “right place right time” situation and I stepped in to take on the role. I managed both the fashion and accessories columns, creating seasonal content around trends, street style, Fashion Week reviews, and designer interviews etc. It was for sure a dream job at the time!
To be honest, during my time at ELLE, and even before working there, I didn't take my own blog or brand seriously. I was actually embarrassed to say I had a blog while working at ELLE! My experience there helped me to finally take my own brand more seriously. One of my big realizations was that I loved creating content and being able to write whatever I wanted on my own site (as opposed to at ELLE, where content was a little more driven by SEO and advertisements).
During that time, I also learned the importance of creating an editorial calendar and taking the time to look at my analytics (both of which I wasn't very good at prior). Here I had this audience that I had cultivated and yet I wasn't even stopping to consider what the CITNB girl really loved reading. I knew everything about the ELLE reader but not much about my reader.
Q: What was the biggest learning you took away from the launch of your Nor Cal-based boutique Syllabus?
Helping open and buy for a women's boutique was another dream job. This was such a fun learning experience for me. The biggest lesson I took away was realizing how hard the job of a buyer is and how much work owning and running your own store is. The selling part is hard–and I'm not a great sales person nor did I want to be in sales. I can tell you what's cool and on-trend though! (Which is why I'm better at sharing those tidbits on the blog).
Q: How has your rich experience on both the brand and the publishing side, in addition to being a blogger, helped shape your content strategy today?
Gaining a better understanding of the various aspects of the fashion industry has been so interesting and invaluable. I think it's important to understand from the brand's perspective what they want to get out of a campaign so I can deliver content that will be a win for my readers and the brand’s audience.
Q: You just had a baby (Rex - who is SO cute!), and you didn’t take any “time off!” As a full-time blogger/influencer, do you feel like you can ever truly take time off?
Honestly no. Even "on vacation" I’m thinking about posting to social media (it can be annoying but it can also be fun because I'm usually most inspired and excited to share when traveling). Working for myself, blogging and creating my own content has so many amazing perks but this is definitely one aspect that I struggle with. Even though things are a bit of a balancing act now, I get to be with Rex every day and feel very fortunate and wouldn’t trade in full-time blogging for a typical 9-5!
Q: What do you love most about being a digital content creator and influencer who works with brand partners?
Over the years I've learned that I'm truly happiest and in my element when doing something creative. I love having the ability to collaborate with so many amazingly talented friends that I've made, to work with the brands I love, and create my own little online space and brand. It's a constantly evolving industry and therefore I must constantly evolve my personal brand and strategy, but over time I've become more and more passionate and confident in what I'm creating.
Q: How has the fashion blogger landscape changed since you first started in 2009?
Blogging has changed so much over the years–obviously the various new platforms, moving towards mobile, and apps like Instagram have been huge shifts. It can be challenging to figure out how much to dive into each new platform and trend, and, it can really be overwhelming! I miss the old days of blogging but also appreciate the not-too-perfect, raw realness you can achieve with Instagram Stories and Snapchat (depending on how much you want to share, of course!) During our chat you mentioned a ‘love for long-form content’.
Q: With micro-influencers and increased ‘snackable’ branded content on the rise, how are you committing to long-form content and what’s your strategy for keeping your blog readership engaged?
I try to make sure I'm engaging on all of the social networks and remembering to send my readers back to the blog. There's more of a struggle now with getting people to the blog. I have better engagement on Instagram and Insta Stories, which I'm having fun with sharing snippets, but there will always be a much larger story on Cheetah is the New Black!
Q: As someone who’s participated in multiple campaigns in our ongoing Old Navy partnership, do you have any advice for others on building long-term relationships with brands?
I love working with brands again and again because obviously, those are the best and most organic partnerships. Trying to create the best content you can and really working to go above and beyond will land you another collaboration.
Coffee with Collaborators is an interview series featuring the incredibly talented, creative voices in our community. Interested in having coffee? Email us.