How to Work with Travel Bloggers

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"Pajaro Dunes sunset"

How to work with travel bloggers - not a walk on the beach

Working with travel bloggers as easy as online dating?

While the title may sound arrogant, some might describe the world of travel blogging as yet uncharted territory. If only the relationship between travel bloggers and public relations professionals were as easy as online dating.

Instead of filling out a form listing our physical characteristics and our favorite activities such as walking on the beach at sunset, we could describe our blog and tell our potential suitor what we’re looking for in crafting the perfect post.

As a public relations professional with over 26 years in the industry, I come to the travel writer/travel blogger relationship with a unique perspective. On one hand, I understand how PR Pros feel over-whelmed in wading through the endless amount of travel blogs. However, that’s not to say that there are not tools available to account executives to help vet a qualified travel blogger.

 

Tips for Creating Successful Relationships with Travel Bloggers:

  • Read my blog before you send the e-mail asking me to write about or interview your client.
  • Take the time to address your pitch to me, Nancy Brown.
  • Don’t follow up to ask when the article will appear. If you have your Google Alerts set, you will see my posts as they go live.
  • Don’t ask me to link to your blog or offer to write a guest post for me if I don’t accept guest posts.
  • Please don’t ask me to write a post for your client because it will provide me with “exposure.”
"one way"

Successful travel blogger/PR relationships are not one way streets

Tips for Creating Successful Relationships with Public Relations Professionals:

  • Keep in mind that like you, I have deadlines and demands of my time.
  • Take the time to visit my website and learn of my client before you ask of something from me.
  • Be accountable, courteous and professional. Successful relationships are not one-way streets.
  • My client may not yet understand the value of online media coverage. Don’t be offended when I ask for your Alexa, Compete or Technorati statistics or your Google Analytics. Part of my job is to “vet” bloggers, deliver circulation figures and determine editorial reach.

 

 

What tips do you have to offer for creating successful media relationships?

Related posts on this topic:

What This Blogger Wants PR to Know

The PR/blogger relationship

Women Bloggers Happy to Work with PR/Marketing

How to reach out to bloggers, and what makes us crazy

6 ways to improve your destination marketing (and why you’re toast if you don’t)

Pajaro Dunes sunset and street sign photo by Nancy D. Brown

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42 Responses to “How to Work with Travel Bloggers”

  1. Tim L. says:

    Good stuff Nancy! What seems really odd to me though is that travel PR is so far behind in figuring out the impact of online media, even though travel was one of the first industries to really take off on the web and be transformed. I run several travel blogs and a gear blog. The gear and apparel companies are at least three years ahead of travel in understanding, measuring, and knowing (through regular reading) who matters in terms of impact and influence. Way too many travel PR people seem like deer in the headlights when this subject comes up, with no media understanding beyond TV and print. I agree that we have to furnish hard statistics (and I put some on my about us or advertising pages), but PR has to realize that they can’t measure blogs the same way they measured traditional media: by full-page ad value and circulation. It’s a whole different set of metrics, and the impact can go on for years, not just appearing once in a pretty magazine spread that then disappears.

  2. Trisha Miller says:

    While it’s been said, and accurately so, that PR folks care more about the demographic your blog reaches than your numbers (for example, someone who blogs about Italy, or even Luxury Travel, will be of much more interest to a client who represents Italian villas for rent than someone who blogs about backpacking), BUT the numbers do still count, and are important. Every travel blogger should be using – at the very least – Google Analytics so that they can know the basics – number of visitors, number of uniques, bounce rate, page views, and time on site. If you want to work with PR people, be prepared and be knowledgeable.

  3. Dave says:

    Nancy – I appreciate the insights from a PR standpoint. Online dating was uncharted territory 10-15 years ago, and now it’s the norm. We’ll get there with the travel blogger – PR relationship as well. And I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

  4. NYCityMama says:

    Awesome, awesome post Nancy. I love how you provide input for both sides. We are all accountable in building these relationships with each other. Wonderful tips. Thanks!

  5. Robin Locker says:

    Great post Nancy and I agree with all of the comments so far. The only thing I wanted to add was that I think PR firms are smart in starting to work with travel bloggers – as opposed to just those who write for print. I think those who blog and are very active in social media can be a valuable asset as Tim pointed out. And I agree that every blogger should have some idea of their statistics and be able to provide them. But I also think that niche can be equally important. The trick is finding the right mix of both.

  6. Keith says:

    Great post Nancy. I agree with Tim’s comment above that travel PR firms seem to be so far behind in the endless opportunities offered by social media (including blogs). I’m often approached by PR firms for different things and all seem to share the same trait: a lack of creativity and understanding. I mean, social media is a completely new ballgame with awesome opportunities and different rules/etiquette. They just don’t seem to get it…yet! In this sense, I think travel bloggers can play a role as educators (or even consultants) as the more sophisticated bloggers are already fluent in the workings of social media and have established communities. PR firms have to make that important (mind)switch from ‘old’ to ‘new’ media channels though and embrace the value of interaction and community-building. Only then can a solid foundation for relationships between PR firms and travel bloggers be built. Once that’s done, I’m convinced it’ll be a very fruitful, mutually-beneficial relationship.

  7. kimba says:

    Great advice Nancy! You do have unique experience since you’ve worked on both sides of the fence. Here are a couple more tips:Tips for PR peeps: When you send a press release for an event in an area I cover, write the press release so it can be posted as is AND send at least one photo that can be used in the post with the release. It doesn’t mean the release won’t get edited, or even used, but the important thing is that you aren’t making me run around to find all the materials I need. Text is your friend. PDF is not. I don’t need a fancy schmancy looking press release that I can’t open or copy from. I need the content of the release in text in the body of an email with the photo attached. Also, 30-day lead time on an event is a good thing. 1- or 2-day lead time is not.Tip for Travel Bloggers: Create a PR page on your site in the About section to inform PR peeps of what you’ll accept, and what you won’t. Also there’s no harm in listing your stats and writing a blurb about the site. Mine is here

  8. Jody says:

    Great stuff- I hope the PR people read it. My biggest annoyance is when they pitch me but forget to change the name they are sending the pitch to. Dead giveaway that you are sending it to many people. And though I don’t mind getting PR pitches I’m- most likely- not going to publish the information. You are not paying me to run your information!While the travel industry is ahead of many in dealing with bloggers they still don’t understand the nature of blogging and that trust goes farther than a wordy pitch.

  9. Melanie Renzulli says:

    Great post, Nancy. I really appreciate that you took the time to write about the blogger/PR relationship from both sides of the coin.I really only know the travel blogger/writer side of the equation, but can appreciate the demands on the PR professional for getting the word out for his/her client. I had this in mind when I started two social media networks to bring these two factions – as well as travelers – together.The Italofile Social Network is a community that I created as an outgrowth of my blog Italofile.com, which is all about travel to Italy. I wanted a place where I could bring together other Italy bloggers, Italy travel lovers, and travel providers (PR people, hoteliers, etc.). On the site, PR people can post their travel deals, bloggers can find deals and PR contacts more easily, and travelers can also benefit from seeing these deals as they come off the press. Everybody wins.The other site I have created is USA Tourism Board, with which I also aim to bring together USA travel lovers and travel providers. I started this community because I was getting so many PR emails about great events and deals in the U.S. but no easy way (for me) to advertise them all. Another reason I started it was because in the U.S. it seems that most CVBs and tourism boards work independently (rather than under the unified umbrella of the USA Tourism Promotion Board, like you see for many other countries). My hope is that the site will be a place to come to learn about – and advertise – many different USA travel opportunities. The companion blog for this site is forthcoming.(I’ve got Twitter accounts for both of these sites, too: @italofileblog @usatourismboard)In short (if I can even say that at this point!), I’m trying my darnedest to create the next marketplace for travel ideas, which is not an easy task for a lowly, underpaid travel blogger like myself. I really do adore travel and want as many people as possible to be able to find the info they are looking for.

  10. Barbara Weibel says:

    Well done, Nancy! Having owned a PR firm myself, and now being on the other end, I see both sides. Most PR firms (and CVB’s) have definitely not figured out how to work with travel bloggers and the clients are woefully behind. My biggest beef is when I’m handed a schedule that has me running from place to place with no downtime. I can’t arrive in a new place, talk to the locals, and get great photos in 30 minutes. If they expect good feature articles from a trip, it’s much better to incorporate a substantial amount of free time in any press trip itinerary. But I do see progress. We can help by respectfully conveying what works for us, by being selective in the travel opportunities we accept, and staying true to our writing.

  11. Maja says:

    Dear Nancy,GREAT piece, I love that you consider both sides. The biggest mistake lots of journalists do is not thinking in business terms. PR-Journalist relationship , remember it’s a business. The most successful writers are the ones that know their PR contacts needs. I love your comments on your and all the bloggers that are out there needs! Thank YOU. It’s a new media world, let’s Do it! Swiss Cheers, Maja

  12. Jason Kintzler says:

    Good tips! I would add that PR pros should provide you all the content they can to make it easy for you to include images, video, tags, links, etc., in your post. The better packaged the pitch is, it’s likely the better chance they have of catching your attention.Thanks for sharing, hopefully our PRs will listen up!

  13. Caitlin @ Roaming Tales says:

    I’m not especially interested in working with PR for my blog. I’ve used info from a press release on my blog precisely once and I don’t do press trips. I do enough PR liaison in my day job as a journalist. But there are exceptions. I was delighted to work with Caitlin Murphy from CAM PR for Passports with Purpose. I approached her and I felt she really understood what I was doing. In turn, I hope I gave her enough substance (posts, StumbleUpon statistics, Google Analytics etc) to feed back to her clients.

  14. Sarah says:

    Great post Nancy. I manage PR for a tour operator and send many writers, including bloggers, on press trips each year. I wholeheartedly support online writers and am a fan of social media. My challenge is to demonstrate the value of blogs etc. to company executives who still think in column inches. The tide is turning, but help me out! I need information about your blog: stats, demographics. I often feel like people are offended when I ask for this information. But my job is to make sure we are reaching an appropriate audience for the particular trip/destination.

  15. Whit says:

    A little research on behalf of a PR contact goes a long way with me. Your points are spot on.

  16. Julia says:

    One that bugs me: If you know I write exclusively online, please don’t ask if the pitch might just possibly make it into print.

  17. Lisa Gerber says:

    Hi Nancy – you’re spot-on from both perspectives, and I have a couple thoughts to add as a PR pro. Bloggers should remember that its not always the PR people that are resistant to the value of blogs. I spend a lot of time working with my clients to understand the importance of it. In the end it’s not a hard sell. After all, where is everyone going to make their travel decisions? the internet. Having said that, it is EXTREMELY helpful to get stats from you when you approach us. Anyone can have a blog and yes, we can do some digging on our end – I check quantcast or alexa. i look at the comments sections of each post to see interaction, and I check quality of content. Lastly, but really should be first: I follow everyone on twitter. I get to know everyone first. Then I feel comfortable approaching you. I know if we are a mutual fit. Thanks for the post!!Lisa

  18. @AlexBerger says:

    Fantastic writeup, thanks a ton for putting this together for people. It never ceases to amaze me how people manage to get blinders on, and completely miss the point – bulldozing after their target. A very easy way to burn bridges and ensure you get everything but what you want. I’d add that I’m not an intimate object. I’m glad you’re interested in reaching out and being on the site, but don’t treat me like google adsense.

  19. Chris Gray Faust says:

    Nancy – Good tips for PR pros here, and thanks for linking to my own piece. I’m not sure that the problem is that PR pros aren’t interested in travel bloggers. I think a lot of them want to work with us. The issue is their clients. At USA TODAY, I was always steering PR people toward our hotel, flights and cruise blogs – but their clients still wanted print. Until corporate America really understands the value of social media and their brand, bloggers will always be lower on the totem pole.

  20. Mary Deming Barber says:

    Nancy, Thanks for putting this post together. As a PR pro what I would love to see more of is a partnership between journos and PR people. Together we can help each other achieve the results we need. As adversaries we can’t do that. PR pros need to do their homework before contacting any media (online or traditional). We need to know who we’re pitching about what and why before we reach out. That’s a given and it distresses me when we don’t always do that as it causes to journos to put us all in a bucket.On the other side of the coin, I recall many times having to drop what I was doing because a journo had an emergency and in order to get our destination in the publication we needed to send things in an hour or two. That’s just really poor planning and doesn’t help build the relationship. It’s the old adage that an emergency on your part doesn’t constitute one on mine. And, sometimes when we ask for your credentials it’s because our clients want to know who we’re working with. As I said, I really like how you’ve put this together with tips for both sides. I hope it can turn into a constructive dialogue that helps everyone.

  21. Johnny Jet says:

    Good job! I wrote up some suggestions just yesterday for a PR Person because they keep calling. It drives me nuts. Don’t call – just email.

  22. Mary Jo says:

    I guess I’ve been lucky, because I have a great group of PR people that I work with. They totally get online media, and the value of getting info to me comes not only in a blog post, but also via twitter, facebook, and other social media. They also understand that just because they send me a press release or a pitch doesn’t mean that I will use it. (That is, after all, what the delete button is for.) When I get something that I can use (I don’t republish press releases), I send a link to the story so they don’t have to go looking for it. Yes, I know they can set up a Google Alert (and most do), but relationships are two way streets and it doesn’t take me any time to send a link.Everyone answers to someone and has clients to please. A PR rep tries to do the best they can for their clients; it’s their job and I respect that. I answer to my readers, who won’t be readers for long if I don’t deliver quality content. The PR reps that I work with understand and respect that. When we both understand what motivates each other it’s a win/win relationship.

  23. Donna Hull says:

    Great article, Nancy. I appreciate the view from both PR and blogger side. I agree with others who’ve said that it’s not necessarily the PR rep who doesn’t get blogging and social media. More likely it’s clients who still want to see their company’s name in print.I do disagree with you on one point. I ALWAYS send the PR rep (and client) a link to published posts or articles. When I do, it’s an opportunity for me to remind them that I fulfilled my obligation. It’s also a chance to say, Hey there, remember me. Let’s work together again in the future. We all need a little good PR.

  24. Gary Arndt says:

    In the past I’ve been very vocal about how annoyed I am from the constant stream of impersonal emails I get from PR people. I’ve recently decided to change my approach. Now, when I get a press release via email, I reply back to the sender with a brief statement about how it doesn’t fit my site, and I send them a short pdf which gives an overview to what I do and the stats for my site. Rather than complain about PR people, I’m just going to take it upon myself to make personal contacts with as many people as I can in the industry and make sure they are at least aware of me and my travel blog.

  25. @svcathy says:

    Great post Nancy, thank you for sharing your insight and suggestions for both sides of the relationship. I hope others in PR follow along.My background is in tech PR (BtoB), but I also have an interest in travel/adventure. So here I am, following and reading. I’m happy to comment from my experience.Agree here on a basic tenant of building relationships with bloggers. PR pros need to get familiar with a blogger before pitching, whether it’s a story idea, a product, or to discuss partnering on a project. Love the online dating analogy here. Get to know a blogger’s personality, writing style, other interests, or recent changes in career or focus (or potential conflicts). Also, familiarity with the different blogs they may write for.

  26. Nancy D. Brown says:

    Thanks to everyone for the helpful and constructive comments. Travel blogger or PR professional, we’re all attempting to deliver top-tier editorial content to our audience.

  27. Spud Hilton says:

    Forgive me, Nancy, for a gleeful chuckle and a hearty: Welcome to my world.I and my predecessors have been asking PR professionals for exactly those steps for decades. (Those who paid attention became much more likely to have their information put into print, for the record.) Dealing with the unending onslaught of media updates and press releases is part of the job, so at a time when so many travel bloggers want to be taken seriously, it’s good to see recognition that there’s cumbersome baggage that comes with the territory (that maybe they weren’t aware of when they dreamed of traveling for a living).While my wife has forbidden me from complaining about my job, I am allowed to point out that for every hour I spend on the road there’s 80-100 hours sorting e-mail (and dealing with other administrative duties that have nothing to do with travel). With luck, many PR professionals (and bloggers) will take your valuable advice.Until then, forgive my chuckle.

  28. Kara @ The Vacation Gals says:

    Gary – That is a BRILLIANT way of handling press releases that don’t fit your site. I think I’ll do something similar – let folks know why I don’t need to receive releases about the new GM at a resort in Fiji (don’t cover hotel staff news; rarely cover South Pacific), and if they continue to send me in appropriate emails, I’ll ask to be removed from their mailing list. Might also share that I’d be happy to hear a *personal pitch* about just about anything… but random, unrelated releases… no, thank you.Mary – Nice reminder that our requests to PR people for info *now* do not always help to build that relationship. I must say, though, when I do have a quick question for a post I want to publish *tonight* or if I’ve got an editor breathing down my neck to get a fact-checking question answered ASAP, I always always appreciate PR folks who respond to my emails or calls quickly. I am always (I think) very appreciative of their time.KaraThe Vacation Gals

  29. lara dunston says:

    Hi Nancy – nice summary. Like you, I’ve also worked on ‘both sides’ over the years, so appreciate the challenges of both. Like a lot of people, I’m receiving a truly overwhelming number of approaches from PRs every day making the mistakes you outline above. The irony is I haven’t even had time to update my blog as frequently over the last few months as I was, as I am so busy writing for magazines/books (no, kids, print is not dead). The number of request to offer content is baffling when the blog clearly states it’s a personal place for me to reflection upon my day job as a travel writer (among other things). You make some great points above – well done.

  30. Michael Ni says:

    Great post, Nancy. As a PR professional that’s been working with travel bloggers for a couple years now, it’s good to note that PR professionals can easily obtain the travel blog’s stats as well. Similar to Alexa.com, Quantcast.com is a free service to provides a pretty comprehensive overview of websites and their demographic, traffic, etc. Besides just their blog sites, PR professionals should also note that a lot of bloggers nowadays are considered triple threats…tweeting their blog posts to their followers, posting on Facebook, creating video, speaking at conferences, etc.For travel bloggers, if their statistics don’t show up on these tracking sites, it would be beneficial to link their blog site to them. It makes things much easier for both parties.

  31. soultravelers3 says:

    Very informative post Nancy and I also enjoyed all the comments! So far we have had all positive experiences with PR folks.

  32. Johnanthon says:

    Good with information. Thanks

  33. Nathan Kam says:

    Aloha Nancy, thanks for this post and I couldn’t agree more with your tips on working harmoniously together. As you know, work at a PR firm in Hawaii that represents destinations, hotels, activities, attractions, etc., and I’m glad to say that most of them are on the social bandwagon and support blogger assistance/visits 100 percent. We also believe in giving the blogger control of their content…providing as much information and suggestions as we can to help them shape their experiences…but ultimately leave it in their hands to tell their story to their audiences. As Michael Ni mentions above, many bloggers/journalists are today becoming triple threats (which we adopted during client strategy session last year) and are providing destinations, hotels, etc. even greater opportunities to reach audiences through various platforms. If folks haven’t adopted social by now, they are missing tremendous opportunities.A hui hou,Nathan

  34. Nomadic Matt says:

    Great tips and advice that I think everyone should listen too.

  35. Lauren says:

    Hi Nancy,I agree with much of the above though do think that sometimes a few rotten PR apples spoil the bunch. At my agency we truly pride ourselves on our knowledge of the media and the relationships we’ve built and continue to build. Press know that we only send out hard, interesting news and aren’t ones to waste their time with fluff. PR execs and travel bloggers need each other to succeed so information sharing is key. Yes, we do need to sell our clients on the value of a travel blog before they spend a few thousand dollars to host a writer on a press trip. Page views, unique visitors and demographics help us justify the expenses, and a good travel blogger should understand this and not bristle at the idea of providing your potential host with some sellable figures need be. Please realize that it’s our job to vet the press. We have limited budgets and we have to spend them wisely. If you can help us prove your worth, it’s a win-win for everyone in the end.

  36. Hilarye says:

    Nancy,What a great post!!!! I too come from a PR background and has helped me deal with other PR professionals efficiently. While I never have (and never will) represent anyone from the travel industry- I actually enjoy receiving press releases to keep up on the news. I too feel PR pros pain wading through blogs. Especially travel blogs as it seems they are popping up by the hundreds these days..

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  38. Matt Potts says:

    Hi Nancy,

    Very good information also for the entreprenuer without a PR budget. Thx! I would like to add Trendscape.com to the resources available for checking blog stats.

    While I like to check stats first – and believe it should be important to PR professionals, to me it is more important that the blogger presents content professionally. A post here mentions that blog posts remain on-line, and are not “one time” snapshots. This is a critical consideration for viral PR; and perhaps a point that should be emphasized by PR professionals reaching blogs.

    Matt P. (archport.com)

  39. @Matt
    Thanks for the feedback. I checked out Trendscape.com. Always good to know about additional blog stat sites.
    Agreed that bloggers need to present professional content.

  40. Great points Nancy. Some simple changes in the way the PR/blogger relationship works can bring about huge positive results.
    We have worked with some really great PR companies who get it. It is always a pleasure and we make sure we provide plenty of value back.
    We love receiving emails from PR reps who have obviously taken the time to get to know us and our site and who make sure we are a good fit for their promotion or product. It can’t just be about stats and reach, you have to be RELEVANT

  41. Nancy, I can understand why a PR person might want to see Google Analytics numbers, but Alexa rankings are next to worthless (they’re too easily gamed), and Compete numbers are even worse. The ONLY valid use for such numbers is to exclude sites that don’t even register on the scale. In other words, a site with an Alexa ranking of 50,000 or 100,000 might have a decent amount of traffic or it might not, depending on whether the owner has made an effort to boost the ranking, but a site with an Alexa ranking of a million (or not enough data to result in a ranking) can be assumed to be next to invisible.

    Another useful metric is the “U.S. Demographics” table at Quantcast.com. Go to Quantcast, type the domain of a site into the search box, and scroll down to the demographics data. The page shows how a site stacks up against Internet averages for things like age, gender, income, and education. It also has raw data on audience percentages in each category. Quantcast’s circulation numbers are suspect (ours are usually off by at least a third, compared to Google Analytics), but the demographics numbers are given a fair amount of credence in media-buying circles.

  42. Thanks for your comments @Durant.
    At some PR agencies, interns and entry level account coordinators are building media lists. Typically, they have little experience with bloggers and their websites, therefore, using Alexa as a weeding process is effective.

    While I appreciate your recommendation of Quantcast (and I will add it as a resource in the post) you are assuming that most bloggers have installed the necessary coding required to make the analytics work. You are more html savvy than the average blogger!

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