Chiara Maci, a Food Blogger and a consultant for companies in the food industry, is one of the most recognized faces in the Italy. We met with her at the MGI Sessions, part of the activities programmed for the Master in Business Management Community.
Chiara Maci is one Italy's most popular personalities in the food & wine world. She isn't a starred chef though. Chiara Maci is a communication expert with a sound background and a pioneering experience as for blogs. And above all, she's an expert endowed with a keen eye for the gastronomic world.
How does one becomes Chiara Maci?
My professional history started in 2006: I received my law degree from the University of Bologna and I attended a Marketing Master's in Milan. Then I started working; at first in a communication agency, then for Sky. After two years of marketing, a life-long passion for food got the upper hand. I inherited this passion from my family and then I consolidated it when I studied to become a sommelier. At that point, everything was clear. I went up to the seventh floor of the building that hosted the company I worked for, to the HR office, and I resigned. I did something that nowadays might appear normal because there are many people who suddenly change their life, but in 2009 it meant taking a leap of faith. From the certainty of a job, to nothing. I was supported in doing this by the trust I placed in my marketing and communication skills, that I'd acquired while studying and working.
Where did this leap of faith take you?
From Milan, I cam back to live in Bologna with the idea of establishing a catering business. But in those years, communication was changing radically. Up to then, communication for me was the standard one: advertising and below-the-line, advertorials, articles in magazines, leaflets. In Italy, at the time, the first blogs started to appear, together with websites illustrating products. They got me really interested, therefore I decided to start a blog with my sister. We mostly wrote about my life and my family's, doing what today is defined as storytelling. At the time, a blog was the only bottom-up form of communication, the social media weren't so popular yet. This type of online narration was appreciated to the point that Alce Nero got in touch with me and asked me to write something about their organic jams. My counter-proposal was to visit the fields instead, to meet the farmers to write about organic farming. I'd chosen my style, which was no longer centred just on the character associating his/her image to the product. It was important for me to be convinced about the product quality and provide my readers with a sincere piece of advice. It's very convincing if you become attached to a product during the storytelling. It was the right way, because I was then contacted by the Norwegian authority for the transport of salmon stockfish and then I realised that was actually work.
What do you remember about those moments?
When it all started, the main element was spontaneity. I'm sure luck too played a part, as well as the right moment and intuition. What marketing managers often told me was that we spoke the same language. Being in tune in terms of vision and skills was the trump card. At the time,bloggers were people with a passion but often unprepared, devoid of real communication skills.
I guess you needed some time to really take off...
The first two years of the blog were extremely hard, because there was an explosion of contents going on. Cooking was already under the spotlight, but mostly oriented towards recipes. My idea was to recover my roots from Campania [region in Southern Italy] and write about my personal experiences with the Southern food and wine culture. From big family gatherings back in my childhood, to the first discoveries of typical produce, bought in crates directly from the farmers. With these stories, the readers from the South started to appreciate me. Then with Bologna, I wrote about its traditional cooking, renowned and celebrated, and I captivated another segment of readers. With the North, the towns of the prestigious starred restaurants, Milan and its venues, I extended my reach to an audience interested in the haute cuisine. All of this though with a great deal of spontaneity, I reached a very wide and diversified audience without even realising it. Now that I have the tools to know my target of followers well, I realise that just being myself and being able to write about it has been my greatest luck.
What has changed since you took your very first steps in the web?
Communication forms have changed a lot. When I started with the blog there was the beginning of the shift towards the social media. While now the opposite is taking place. Now it's all so much faster. Some time ago, I've started working on product placement. In the past, it was something that was done in the context of TV marketing. While now it works mostly on social networks, and its vehicle is the influencer. Technology and the form of communication too are changing. In the past five years, I've changed the slides of the courses I hold every six months. A lecture presented in January cannot be the same in December. We went from communication with a post on the blog, a long text to read, to the image, much faster and of great impact. And then short video-clips, always faster, with a lot of compact contents. And then Snapchat posts, the quintessence of speed. I believe that at the end of this journey, based on speed, there'll be a return to posts on blogs or even to real articles. My first job, with Alce Nero, comprised five posts on the life in the organic farming fields. If I did that today, nobody would read them. I grew up with TV ads and advertorials, while now young people deal with a communication that is always available on their devices, super-fast. But there isn't just technology: credibility and trust are still the values everything relies on.
What would you suggest to someone who is about to start this profession?
It'd be important to be more concrete and tend more towards finalising. Sometimes you only have in mind the name of the companies. Those who are starting now are just given a budget and they're requested to do communication without even really knowing the companies. In the past you had to know them inside out. Nowadays we have a powerful tool like search engines that allow us to study globally successful case histories. Choosing a specific action field, studying it and going to the customer with a precise and detailed project could be an excellent way to start. Also because almost no-one does it.
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