Cara Greenstein of Caramelized

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Cara is the creator and contributor of a beautiful food blog called Caramelized: Sweet Touches To Every Day Experiences. Visitors can find restaurant guides to both Memphis and Austin, various recipes, restaurant critiques, and conversations with fellow foodies. Not to mention, the photographs are almost impossible to stop staring at. A native Memphian, Cara knows culture and good food. While attending The University of Texas at Austin, her taste buds came to know much more than southern soul food. Study breaks were spent brunching and exploring different parts of Austin’s foodie community. After graduating in 2014, Cara moved back to Memphis where she now works full time for  Doug Carpenter & Associates. Read her interview below for some great advice on brand awareness, social media, and how to stay true to your own voice. 

How long have you been writing? Have you always been a writer?

I have been the writer behind Caramelized for over two years now, though I’ve been writing for miscellaneous publications, blogs, and websites for six years. My passion for writing is essentially what fueled the creation of my food blog.

What inspired you to create a blog and where does the name, Caramelized, stem from?

“Caramel” was a childhood nickname dubbed by a beloved family friend, Leigh McLean. I began the blog in an effort to “make life a little sweeter,” hence why the cooking method of caramelization applies to the greater joys of everyday living. After being assigned a blog project in an entry-level public relations writing course, I simply couldn’t stop. And, having been surrounded by dozens of restaurants in Austin, the opportunity to cover the food scene proved to be a wide open door.

What are some ‘best practices’ you stick to while blogging? In other words, what specific tips/suggestions could you give to fellow bloggers that you notice yourself continuously doing for your blog?

1. Put yourself out there. In one day, I’ll introduce myself to the barista, follow new local/regional shops on Instagram, compliment a blogger via email or write the owner of a restaurant for my exceptional experience the weekend beforehand. It’s about those personal touch points; they’ll draw people to you and to your platform. Introductions and connections are essential, or else you’re just another recipe.

2. Be true to your voice. Do not feel that you have to sound like the fabulous food blogging comedian Joy the Baker (because no one beats Joy). Do not feel that you have to attempt to write like the New York Times food critic. Do not feel like you have to sound like anyone else but you. Your followers and friends will appreciate the authenticity and character!

3. Do not over promise content. Unless you’re blogging full-time, it is exhausting to fill an editorial calendar with daily topics. Write when the time feels right. The last thing you want to do is force yourself to think about last month’s cheeseburger at 6 a.m. on a work day.

A blogger’s brand is equally as important as the brand for a company. How do you create brand awareness and make sure your website stays consistent with the brand you want to promote?

A consistent brand is essential, especially one that can transmit both personally and professionally. Strong name and brand identification will carry your audience through any product or offering. With my name directly immersed in the word “Caramelized,” the title of my blog has quickly (and hilariously) become a nickname, verb, and adjective of my lifestyle. I love carrying my business with me, no matter where it takes me.

After launching a new Caramelized site design last May, I saw the update as an opportunity to reintroduce Caramelized to local and national influencers in the food and entertainment categories. NoVa, a gorgeous restaurant in Austin, hosted an event for my constituents with a specialized menu that mimicked my new, minimalist website design. I invited friends, bloggers, and photographers who would enjoy getting a “taste” of my brand. The photography was stunning, and I believe I was effective in conveying Caramelized across social media platforms, in-person, and through a customized menu. I look forward to another event.
On a smaller scale, I have freelanced writing pieces to publications such as StyleBlueprint, The Scout Guide, and Southern Living’s blog. These writing samples hyperlink to my website and social media links, which increase online traffic and readership.

Social Media is rapidly growing. It’s a tool that can be used to promote one’s blog while connecting with users, customers, etc. In what ways do you utilize social media for Caramelized?

Social media, when used properly, can create incredible opportunities — especially long-distance ones! For example, I have partnered with a style blogger in San Diego (who I finally met in person this weekend!) through a table styling/menu series on our respective blogs, and publications such as Darling Magazine and West Elm have picked up the pieces. Additionally, social media has been a huge factor in brand awareness and growth. It’s the tangible, approachable first impression and the instrument that connects followers to you and your values. The time commitment is huge—especially with a full time job—but the payoff is eventually worthwhile.

What do you find most challenging about blogging?
Creating fresh and honest content in a materialistic, visually-drawn online world. The bar sets itself higher and higher each day and, frankly, it’s difficult to grab onto with 100% attention and dedication. I also struggle with the compensation component — Since I’m not a fashion blogger, I can’t simply sell the food off the plate of my photographs! Food bloggers now must rely on sponsored ingredients and products, which can easily diffuse the authenticity of a writer’s voice. I’m searching for the solution.

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