This guest post is by Matt Long of LandLopers.com.
People are attracted to travel blogging for a lot of reasons.
For some, they are doing a year-long trip and simply want an easy way to keep in touch with friends and family. Still others are attracted to the niche travel blogoshpere for the sheer love of travel, and any partnerships with the travel industry are a bonus.
While it is possible for a successful travel blogger to participate in media trips, the way we interact with the travel industry is key to our long-term success. After all, many of us operate our travel blog just like any other blog: it’s a business and the relationships we make with industry are not just important, they’re vital.
Before seeking out opportunities though, bloggers should keep in mind the following key points.
1. Don’t take advantage
There is a fairly low barrier to entry to become a blogger. For little or no money, just about anyone can hang out their blog shingle and announce to the world that they are now A Blogger.
Yet for many people, particularly those in the travel PR and marketing worlds, this is a new and slightly frightening universe. Visions of bad TripAdvisor reviews fill their thoughts and they fear any bad press on web sites that can spread virally.
The blogger’s ability to write online and share information with people around the planet gives us power, and we must be mindful of that and not take advantage.
Don’t bully people into giving you things for free. Most destinations and large PR companies will see through this, but not so local sites of interest. For example, let’s imagine Sally Smith has a travel blog that attracts ten unique readers a month, mostly her family members. But she is a travel blogger! She has power!
With this power she decides that when she visits Bangkok, she will ask museums and tourist sites around the city to give her free access in exchange for a review on her blog.These organizations have no idea that she only has ten readers a month and would never think to ask. Instead they see the title Travel Blogger and get scared. The result is that Sally saves a lot of money and the destination gets nothing in return.
It’s easy to be attracted to the bright lights of travel blogging, but just like any other niche blog, it takes a lot of work and perseverance to be successful. Part of that success lies in not taking advantage of current and future partners. Ultimately, it’s all about providing great content for our readers, but first you need to make sure you have enough readers to make it worthwhile for others to work with you.
2. It’s not me, me, me—it’s them, them, them
Whether a country-specific tourism board, or a PR firm representing a client, wants to work with you, your must remember that these organizations have one goal in mind: to promote their destination or property and get more people to visit. Period. The End. Fin. This fact has to be kept in mind from pitch to post-trip blog posts, or mistakes will happen.
It’s up to the blogger to make sure that the trips or products make sense to their readers. The PR people pitching to you may not always have a strong grasp on what your site is all about, but you certainly do.
Similarly, bloggers must not lose sight of the focus of the trip, because there always is one. If a hotel invites you to visit their property in a fantastic locale, it may be tempting to write heavily about the locale, but that wasn’t the point of your trip. The hotel invited you down to write about them. It’s of course possible to marry the two, to describe the great activities found in the area if you stay at John Doe’s Hotel.
But at no point during your partnership can you forget that this is a business relationship with specific returns on investment expected.
3. Understand expectations
Before agreeing to anything, whether it be a travel product review or a trip to New Zealand, both parties must ensure that they understand each other’s expectations.
This is the time to be frank and honest. Let them know that you aren’t interested in running advertorials and will be fair and honest in your blog writing. Most destinations love this; it adds credibility to the coverage. However, some who are new to the social media world may be surprised at first, so it’s better to make it clear from the beginning.
Also be sure to ask if they expect Twitter, Google+ and Facebook coverage in addition to blog posts, and how many posts they are expecting. It’s equally important to ask about anything in particular they want to have highlighted. On a trip to a specific country, the tourist board asked that I investigate the culinary side to the destination, as it sometimes gets overlooked. Doing so didn’t threaten my integrity as a writer, it just gave me better focus and made sure I covered the areas my sponsor wanted me to cover.
4. Be honest
Honesty is important with any relationship, but especially so when it comes to travel PR. If you are a budget travel blogger and are approached by a high-end resort property, don’t say yes to their invitation to visit! Kindly let them know that you probably aren’t the best match for them.
Travel bloggers of course need to take care of themselves first, but we also have to safeguard the integrity of the community as a whole. If you promise something you can’t deliver, it makes every travel blogger look bad.
Similarly, be honest with your readers. Don’t hide the fact that you’re going on a press trip, highlight it—promote it! You’ll find that readers really enjoy the concept of traveling along with you as you travel, so don’t shy away from it. Weave into your narrative the fact that you’re going on a sponsored trip and explain why. Tell your readers how it will benefit them and you’ll not only keep readers, you’ll gain many new ones.
Travel blogging is a niche market that is still learning the nuances of the mainstream travel industry, and vice versa. But through smart and productive relationships, both blogger and PR pros can only flourish in this brave new world of travel promotion.
Matt Long, travel writer, blogger, photographer and world traveler is the Editor-in-Chief of LandLopers.com, a top travel blogthat caters to the “normal” traveler who wants to get out there and experience the best the world has to offer.