Live Blog: How to Build a Respected Blog with ESPN Blogger Stephania Bell, PT, OCS, CSCS

This session was captured by Heather of YummySushiPjs. Heather is a professional copywriter, a wannabe yogi, and mom to a space-obsessed little girl.

All blogs begin with a passion, but few result in a new career. ESPN’s Injury Analyst and Senior Writer Stephania Bell, PT, OCS, CSCS, will discuss how building a respected blog can unlock success. Using her expertise as a physical therapist and her passion for fantasy sports, Stephania blogged her way to ESPN. Stephania shares tips and insights from her experience.

Stephania Bell is a physical therapist who now works full time for ESPN. She is here in conjunction with the American Physical Therapy Association.

Most of the people here are blogging about topics related to fitness, health, and nutrition. A lot of people started blogging personal experience, which is great because it’s something you’re passionate about.

Motivations to come to FitBloggin: networking, learning about blogging, social time, vacation.

Stephania: When I started blogging I didn’t know it was “blogging” because that term wasn’t out in the public domain. I started as a physical therapist and was a practicing orthopedist for about fifteen years before I started blogging.

My process came out of two passions: sports and medicine. I put the two together…it wasn’t a designed move. It happened because I played fantasy football. People would ask me about players who were injured – people wanted help setting up their lineups and considering injured players. At the time there wasn’t a lot of information about the injuries of particular players. People in my fantasy football league would ask for all the details, as a physical therapist, to help them be more competitive. They gave me the idea alongside the patients I was treating, to share this information. I had to figure out a way to put it together and get it out.

Someone in my fantasy football league was starting up a side business marketing draft boards and was headed to a fantasy sports trade show. I went with him to the trade show. I must have been one of two women, and it was a lot of Mom & Pop businesses. There were a few people from recognizable internet companies, including Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline.

I walked around and talked to people. What if I wrote up information about injuries and players? Everyone understood the value of that for fantasy football, but they kept saying no one would ever pay for it. I didn’t let that discourage me, because I believed that I could get people to understand the value of my product. I understood that I would probably have to start by doing something just to get it out there, and then monetize it.

I found a small group that was willing to take a chance and give me a little spot. They paid me very little, and for a while I was working three jobs as I started up my blog. One night a week I would put together my content, and it would go under either a generic byline or someone else’s name. After that happened, I would go back to the fantasy sports conference, and by the time I went to the next one a bigger entity asked me to come write for them. They published a magazine and had a bigger website.

The new company paid me a little more, and then I saw my name on the cover of their magazine in a bookstore. It was cool to see my work in print and on the internet, and I knew I could make something more. The company then developed a relationship with Sirius XM and I started doing injury content there.

Ultimately, ESPN brought me in for an audition, but my written content was what got me through the door. They decided to offer me a job, and I’ve worked for them full-time every since. I am now their Injury Analyst and Senior Writer.

I’m considered multi-platform. I do writing, I have a blog maintained under ESPN’s site, I write special columns for every sport depending on what’s needed. I also do radio, podcasting, and television. I’m lucky to have major brand support.

When I started, Twitter and Facebook and even emailing links weren’t happening. The whole idea of being connected through the internet didn’t really exist. When I first started, even when I got to ESPN, I was not there as a reporter. As a blogger, some teams wouldn’t give me credentials to come in. Now I’m more recognized across multiple sports, and people are encouraging attention from bloggers because it drives traffic.