With the increasing number of people turning to blogs, it is no surprise that companies have also started recognizing its use as powerful marketing tools. And apart from just helping to spread the word, blogs can also serve as a way to communicate directly with would-be consumers.
Among others, the travel industry has seen the light. They now know better. Some – like Southwest and several travel aggregators – established their own blogs to reach out. Others, on the other hand, sought the audience of established individual or network travel bloggers.
Like travel writers from influential newspapers and magazines, travel bloggers are now being approached (at a smaller scale) to join travel junkets, receive freebies and/or get paid for sponsored reviews.
Now, if YOU – as a travel blogger – decide to accept these travel freebies, how can you make sure that you do not sell out and that you remain ethical?
Be Transparent. Always inform your readers that you are writing a sponsored review and/or that you have received certain items to review for free. Especially if you write a glowing review, your readers deserve to know that you are being paid for what you are writing.
Try to Avoid ‘Only Positive Reviews’. If you are going to properly evaluate a certain product or service, you need to write both the pros and the cons. Yes, even if you are little miss sunshine and would rather focus on the positive, your readers need to know if there is one aspect which is lacking or which may be of concern to other travelers.
If You Get a Giveaway, Give it Away. At least, you can try. The best way, in my opinion, is to hold a contest and give the giveaway away. Provided, of course, that it can still be used after evaluation of the product. In my opinion, this is a win-win situation. You will encourage reader participation, make one winner happy and your ìadvertiserî will get an extra giveaway or contest entry. AND if you have something considerably big to giveaway, you can even generate more traffic.
Travel junkets are trickier, though. Even if you promise to be true to your readers, how realistic would your experience be? I can safely assume that most of these companies would go all out because they know that you would be writing about your experiences later. You’ll get special treatment, the best rooms, the best food and I bet that you would not have to fall in line, either. Even if you write a glowing review because you’ve had this truly wonderful travel experience, do you think you would you still be true to your readers? Would your experience and your recommendation really reflect the kind of package they are really offering to normal travelers? Something to make you go hmmm…… Told you, it’s tricky.
Many say that the judgements of travel bloggers who accept freebies are compromised. Well, your readers would have to be the judge of that. The important thing is that YOU do not become a travel whore (excuse my language). YOU should not accept any sponsorship or freebie offers if they do allow you to be transparent and write negative reviews, if any.
Melissa Petri writes for 4 network travel blogs. Her day job allows her to travel 25x a year, written off as travel expense and/or courtesy of the miles she has accrued through the years. She admits to occasionally accepting giveaway (to be later given away in her blogs).