How to Engage Hungarian Bloggers: An Interview with Zsuzsi Panyi

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By Kai Prager – Senior Media Relations Specialist, Frankfurt

After a pleasant and informative visit to The Hive in Copenhagen last year, I was looking forward to visiting the conference again in Berlin, the city where it was originally founded. The first thing I noticed was that the event for European bloggers had  far outgrown  its original borders, with attendees from places such as Hawaii and Canada coming to improve their blogging and social media skills, learn how to create a business model for a blog, and to successfully work with brands.

The Hive

I also saw a lot of bloggers that I had originally met in Copenhagen and noticed that the conference had become something like a family reunion. One of the people I met for the second time was Zsuzsi Panyi, a Hungarian blogger and glass designer, who launched her blog in September 2014. To reach an international audience, she later initiated bold.color.glass – an international version in the English language – as well as an Instagram account where she posts some of her best photographs on a regular basis.

As a lot of bloggers like to write in their native language, it can be hard to find out more about the blogger scene in some countries (due to the language barrier). As I don’t speak Hungarian, I was curious to learn more about Hungarian bloggers and therefore asked Zsuzsi some questions about blogging in her native country:

Zsusi

1. How important are blogs in comparison to other media?

Blogs are definitely rising at the moment. I’m not saying bloggers rule the media, but they certainly have more and more influence as candid, independent alternatives to traditional media. People read them and trust them.

2. Do you think that there are any special subjects Hungarian bloggers mostly write/blog about?

There is no question about it: Hungary is a country of food bloggers! And for good reason – we have an amazing gastronomical culture and we are happy and proud to show it. Food blogs (we call them gastro blogs) are flourishing here, but they face difficulties monetizing their blogs.

The main reason for that is the language barrier. Most blogs and bloggers speak and write in Hungarian, a language spoken by approximately 15M people in the world. This is a rather limited audience, and most big companies will not pay for such a reach. Therefore, food bloggers look for alternative ways to make money: publishing books, running a food business, like a bistro or a buffet, or making and selling specialty food products (jam, chutney etc.). These are great sources of income, but do require a bigger investment at the start.

The other interesting niche that the local food blogger community moves in is charity projects. For example, a group of food bloggers got together and established Segitsüti (literally translated as “HelpCake”, but sounds fun like “LemonAid” or “ChariTea”). Their goal was to make their voices heard while helping the community. They hold online auctions twice a year and the proceeds go to an organization they’ve chosen to support. It is a well-working system here. They can raise quite a lot of money while also making their voices heard.

The other popular topic is DIY/remodeling/interior and craft. There are many craft businesses in Hungary, but most are part-time businesses. There are many professional and self-taught artisans, artists and other hobby or professional crafters. Most of them are selling, or trying to sell, online. These people are either trying to earn some extra income or start their own business while being home with kids.

There is a cultural background for this: The local maternity leave is 3 years. During these years the state gives some financial help to families that is quite low (ca. €100 to €300/month) and insurance. Despite this rate, many mothers decide to stay at home with the kids for this period of time. As far as I know, this is the longest maternity leave in the EU. Three years is a long time and because of this there is hardly any way back to the workplace. Part-time positions and home offices are not common here. So after having kids it is very hard to get back to work. Some women, like me, start their own business that can be adjusted to the kid’s schedule and make money. I wouldn’t say that it’s easy, but it’s certainly flexible and good for the family.

Many mothers start down this route, but only the best go professional. Makers sell through little design shops, craft fairs and online. The major platform for that is Meska, which is basically a cheap Etsy copy from its early days. The ones who can drive traffic to their Meska-shop will get more successful, but few get to the point where they make their own website with a web shop. These women do not go back to their companies after the maternity leave. They keep improving their businesses and make a living on it.

It is useful to know that Hungary has, on average, really low wages. An average person makes €600/month. That is very low compared with the EU average. (For example, a primary school teacher makes somewhere between €300-400/ month!) These are the net wages. The reason for this is the high tax rate (gross wages are basically double the net salary) which is galvanized by widespread corruption and tax evasion (many people work on the black market and the few legal companies have to pay all the tax the country needs). People do not think about going to a restaurant or getting their apartment painted, they cook for themselves and make EVERYTHING they need around the house. On the positive side, this explains why Hungarians are so much into food and DIY blogs – it’s basically an extension of everyday life.

3. How can bloggers be reached?

That is pretty easy. Some brands write to blogs they like, and build some kind of cooperation.

As the reach of one blog is not that big, due to the mentioned language problem, sometimes PR companies collect blogs in one file, like food, and they sell their ad spaces together. This way they serve brands better.

4. If one would like to reach bloggers in Hungary, is it important to pitch them in Hungarian, or would other languages work as well?

Major bloggers do speak English. I guess if there are language problems, there is no point in proposing a partnership, because it simply will not work.

If a brand would like to make a long-term agreement with a big reach I would definitely recommend searching for PR companies, who will find you the perfect blogs!

5. There are reports about the harassment of Hungarian media that is not under government control. Do you see this as a problem for bloggers as well?

There are many things that are written about us, Hungarians and our government. As a small nation with a very special language on the more Eastern side of things, Europe looks at us a bit suspiciously. We always had the Turks, the Austrians or the Russians here. After centuries of foreign occupation in one form or the other, we are finally independent, and trying to define ourselves, but that takes a lot of work. We are, at the most immediate level, undoing decades of communist thinking and mentality, and we are only halfway into the second generation of post-Soviet society. You find media in each country that is liberal or conservative. It works the same way here; we have complete freedom to write what we want to!

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