Painlessly Prospecting for New Travelers to Grow Your Travel Brand

A lot can happen in 60 seconds. Every minute of the day, Facebook users share 2.46 million pieces of content. Twitter users tweet 277 thousand times, Google receives over 4 million search queries, and YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video. That’s a whole lot of new content in just one minute.

tommartinThe competition for travelers’ attention, especially repeat attention, is incredibly high and growing literally by the minute. That’s why it is so imperative to establish a digital footprint that extends far beyond your own corporate website or blog. The key to winning the Invisible Sale is to create propinquity — or the opportunity for repeated interactions— between you and an unqualified traveler. In the buzz of all that content being created, you have to make sure your a prospective is seeing your brand.

The art of generating helpful, relevant content that is strategically dispersed throughout the websites and social networks favored by your today’s digital planning travelers is creating what I call your Painless Prospecting platform. As your unqualified prospects move through your platform and run into you and your content repeatedly, they begin to qualify themselves through their actions and interactions with you and your content.

As you set about establishing Painless Prospecting platform, there are three legs you’ll need to focus on:

1) Home Base

Everything you do online and offline is designed to drive prospects to your Home Base. Your Home Base needs to be a website, a blog, or both. If your company has multiple brands, you might have multiple Home Bases. Regardless, your goal is to always drive prospects back to your Home Base, where you can use your content and tracking technology to qualify prospects and drive them down the appropriate sales funnel.

The single most important thing to think about when crafting your home base is how well it functions. In your website, you want to create a funnel-optimized, mobile friendly, qualified lead-generation machine that is committed to achieving only one goal: the constant creation and qualification of convertible leads for your brand.

2) Outposts

In the simplest terms, an outpost is a place where you and your content show up from time to time and where your prospects congregate. A good example is submitting a guest post on a popular travel blog, authoring an article for a magazine or some kind of review penned by an influential travel blogger. You create and post the content there, but you’re not investing a lot of time in doing so because your goal is to generate awareness. You’re trying to leverage the platform owner’s audience to create awareness of you and your product or service, and give prospects a simple way to follow you back to your Home Base.

3) Embassies

Similar to outposts, embassies are places where you find and interact with prospective guests, but in a much deeper and engaged manner—embassies are where you’ll plant a flag and plan to spend a good amount of time interacting with the people you find there. Embassies are the place you’re going to meet people, introduce people to one another, and get introduced to people.

Unlike outposts, effective embassy management requires plenty of work and a hefty time investment on your part. But that effort should translate into significant value in the form of new leads, reputation enhancement, or opportunities to connect with resources that enhance your ability to grow visitor usage of your brand or destination. You’ll have only a few embassies in your platform, so you need to select them strategically to maximize the effectiveness of your prospecting platform.

Your Ever-Changing Prospecting Platform

Keep in mind that your prospecting platform is not a static digital footprint. It ebbs and flows as you, or your company, emphasize different products or services. As you move in new directions or target new audiences, any propinquity point can vacillate between serving as an outpost or acting as an embassy. This might be due to a change in your strategy, a changing business climate, or just a realization that a particular propinquity point is under- or over-delivering based on your current effort level.

As you embark on this journey to build your own Painless Prospecting platform, know that you will make mistakes along the way. Failures will occur. Platforms or outposts will end up not making sense or not generating a big enough return on your time and investment to justify continued involvement. That’s okay. Failure is the price of learning. The key is to fail small while simultaneously setting yourself up to win big.

For more information on creating a painless prospecting platform for your own company, join me at TBEX Europe in Athens when I’ll present Propinquity: Leveraging the Secret Science of Relationship Formation to Grow Your Sales on Friday, October 24th at 10:45am or pick up a copy of The Invisible Sale.

Author Bio:  Tom Martin is a no nonsense, straight-talking 20-year veteran of the advertising and marketing business who favors stiff drinks, good debates and helping travel brands grow their businesses. As an internationally recognized digital marketing keynote speaker, blogger, founder of Converse Digital, and Author of The Invisible Sale, Tom marries his two passions, marketing & technology, to teach companies how to leverage digital marketing channels to achieve and sustain sales growth, enhance brand perception and painlessly prospect for new customers. Follow him on Twitter at @TomMartin.

 

The Nuts and Bolts: Why You Should Understand the Technology Behind Your Website.

The website, over the past several years, has evolved.  The web started out as a way for tech-savvy people and businesses to monotonously display their information.  Now, the web is an expression of the caricatures of the human race.  The moments of greatness – and the occasional moment of darkness – are displayed in full high-resolution for everyone to experience.  Centuries ago, only the rich and powerful could print words.  Now, the power of the press is available to anyone and everyone. A website is a beautiful representation of a person’s soul and passion.  Why, then, would a person not strive to understand the inner workings of their own soul?

Mitch CanterOK, maybe that’s a bit on the melodramatic side, but I do know this: learning the inner workings of a website empowers people.  It’s an amazing feeling to be able to fix a problem on your blog – especially since you don’t have to to call your web developer friend when something looks out of place.  Being able to make (or fix) something with your hands – even if that something is made of bits and bytes – is a great feeling.

The biggest deterrent, I’ve seen, is that people just don’t know what they don’t know.  They’ve stumbled haphazardly onto their WordPress theme editor and panicked at the sight of lines and lines of code.  To best understand what’s going on in our website, we must first know what we need to know.  When people ask me what they should learn, there are three things without fail that I recommend they study.

HTML

HTML tags are the fundamental building blocks of the internet.  No matter what language you write in, the resulting output is usually HTML.  HTML stands for “Hypertext Markup Language”, and serves the purpose of taking raw content and applying basic structure and form.  HTML won’t tell you how wide or what color something is, but it does provide the backbone for being able to set those attributes.  Paragraphs (<p>) are separated from headlines (<h1>) and lists (<ul> or <ol>), and documents go from a mass jumble of words to a neatly formatted set of instructions for the browser to follow.

CSS

HTML tags only display information.  It’s the CSS (Cascading Stylesheets) that takes that information and applies true form and style.  You can make those paragraphs grey, change the headlines’ font, and ensure your lists have a colored background.  You can even take whole sections of content and position them exactly where you want to on a page.  Most browsers already have styles built into them, but we can over-ride those styles by changing their rules in a stylesheet document – a top-down approach that “cascades” the style rules down a specific order of operation.

PHP (WordPress)

Now that we’ve determined the structure and color, we can start talking about the content.  Running a site that’s pure HTML is a daunting task.  Fortunately, content management systems like WordPress have made it easy to “templatize” a site – you supply the style and function rules, and the machine spits out your content depending on where you are.  Going to a single page pulls only that content from a database, and a category only shows posts that are specifically marked to show.

PHP uses defined functions – meaning that you can write rules that can then be called again and again as needed.  A WordPress site, at it’s most basic form, only changes the ID number to figure out which content to grab – everything else is just a template.Yes, this is a gross simplification of a larger process, but once you learn the basics it’s amazing what you realize you can do.  I encourage anyone who owns or operates a website to at least pick up a few of the basics.  Your website is an extension of you – it’s your place on the web to make art, write, and even sell your wares. And I’d dare say that having a website is no longer optional – not even for your regular people.

I do workshops weekly for people to learn the inner-workings of WordPress and other design-related topics (and I’ll be doing a Design & Tech Workshop in TBEX Athens to teach people some of the very things I talked about above).  I’ve seen people’s lives changed because the act of learning, even if it’s just a small fix here or there, has empowered them to make the most out of their website.  Learn the basics, take control of your website, and make the world a better place.  Who could ask for more?

Author Bio:  Mitch Canter is a WordPress Designer / Developer from Nashville, TN.  He strives to make the web a more beautiful place, and to empower his clients better understand WordPress and how to use it.  You can see his work at http://www.studionashvegas.com, and find helpful WordPress resources athttp://www.understandwp.com.

Why Photography Matters as a Travel Blogger

sunset athens

As travel bloggers, our primary role is that of content creators. We weave stories from our experiences to share with our readers.

We have a number of mediums to do that. The main four, in my mind, are Video, Audio, Text and Photography. None of these are easy, and like any skill they all take a significant amount of time and investment to properly master.

So where to focus your attention?

Personally, I believe that Photography is the easiest medium in terms of connecting with your audience quickly, and making a long lasting impact on a user.

Take this picture.

Eiffel Tower paris scaled

 

It’s a picture of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. But you know that already, right? I don’t need text to tell you.

I shared this picture on my Facebook Page, and it reached 148,000 people, organically. Here are the numbers, if you like that sort of thing.

paris screenshot

Now, I could have done a wall of text instead, a status update perhaps on my trip to Paris. Or a video, that people would have to decide to click, find their headphones, and then get distracted by a notification. Or a podcast, describing my adventure.

Those are all great options too. But for instant impact, for something that can’t be unseen, for something that transports your reader right there and then to the moment, a photo can’t be beaten.

Once you have your readers attention, without having to resort to headline titles such as 26 Reasons Why You Wouldn’t Believe Paris Has Kittens In Every Window, you’re well over half way to having an audience.

Another real world example: I have almost 300,000 facebook fans. My secret to success? It’s pretty simple really. Share great, unique, photos. My fans are passionate, engaged, and I love interacting with them and sharing my adventures.

Of course, it’s easy for me to say that it’s simple. Photography is not simple. There’s a lot of technical jargon. There are a lot of different ways to approach a subject. There’s a whole side to optimising your images for your blog, and optimising your blog for your images.

If you want to know a little bit more, and get real first-hand, unfiltered advice, on all aspects of your photography as a travel blogger, from the practical aspects through to using it to grow your community (and yes, some more tips on using Facebook beyond “share great stuff!”), then come along to the workshop I’m running with Daniel before TBEX – there are still a few spots left.

It does cost money, and yes, there is a bunch of great free stuff you could be doing instead. Investing in your skills though is something you won’t regret. I look forward to seeing you there!

Author Bio: A photographer, writer and traveller, Laurence has spent much of the last five years on the road, documenting his journeys and adventures at his popular travel and photography blog: Finding the Universe, which he runs with his partner Vera. He is also a founding member of Lightmoves Creative, a photography firm which offers bespoke photography and learning opportunities to brands and individuals.

 

5 Key Habits for Travel Bloggers

Last May, I launched The Daily Travel Podcast. There were only a handful of other travel podcasts and I wanted to do something remarkable by launching the first and only daily show about travel. I wasn’t sure exactly what it would be about but I knew that I could reach out to fascinating people living remarkable lives of travel and find out how they make this a reality. As a result, I get to spend my time examining the stories that people share with me and my listeners to pull out common trends, themes, and patterns that have helped many of them to succeed as travel bloggers, writers, or content producers.

On episode 91, I sat down with TBEX keynoter and world record holder Lee Abbamonte to get inside his head on how he got started traveling, went to every country in the world, and built a business and lifestyle around it. Below is the full session followed by 5 key habits or lessons for travel bloggers to apply that I pulled out of the conversation. (And I put together a bonus worksheet at the end of this post that compiles the 5 things you can ask yourself to refine your travel blog.)

1) Be remarkable by doing remarkable things.

By going to all 193 countries, Lee traveled to many places people neither know nor visit. In the interview, he shares with us compelling stories about going to Pitcairn Island and crossing a border in Libya during the recent war. His experiences stand out and as a result of going to these places he is often asked about them, well-practiced in talking about them, and has become known for going there. This is how Lee has grown expertise and authority around topics. If you tell stories about places where other people are not going or the things in which people aren’t talking about then your content will be both uniquely interesting and more discoverable for its novelty.

What are the unique travel stories that you have to tell? Or, in planning your next trip, where can you go to find them?

2) Have a quest

Lee acknowledges that his world record affords him a lot of credibility. If you do remarkable things, then people will reach out to you for your story. This does not mean you have to travel to every country. While Lee landed on my podcast because he’d traveled to every country in the world, we didn’t concentrate on that. Instead we focused in on specific experiences from his travels.

If you don’t think you’ve done something remarkable enough then remember that Lee started his blog as a way to chronicle his attempt to set the record and not as a way to promote the achievement afterwards. That came organically after he’d built an audience around his quest.

As a traveler, you might already have this ace up your sleeve. Maybe you quit your job to travel the world, but what’s your quest? What remarkable thing are you doing? Be specific and don’t be afraid to be unrealistic. Maybe you’re hiking the tallest mountains, diving in every ocean, skydiving in every sky, golfing all of the courses. Even the smallest quest can lead to bigger things. This is certainly not something you must have to be a travel blogger, but it’s an easy way to become larger than ourselves. If you set yourself on a journey with a goal, your readers will not only follow you to read your content but also to root for your success.

What journey are you already on? What’s something you consider unrealistic?

3) Tell your story

In the interview, Lee says, “All of my travel happened by accident.”  That is an extremely intriguing statement from the guy who traveled deliberately since 2006 to every country by a certain time to set a world record. It’s an honest statement that adds intrigue to Lee’s backstory and intrigue is a critical ingredient to a good story. If you’re on a journey with a goal, then all you need to have a simple story is to know why you’re on this quest. For Lee, his father didn’t understand why he wanted to travel and openly questioned his decisions. Defying that mentality compelled Lee to continue the journey until he found himself on an accidental quest to visit every country. By having a reason why, a daunting quest to visit every country becomes something to which many people can relate.

What’s the reason why you’re continuing towards your goal?

4) Don’t be afraid to self-promote

In the interview, Lee lets us know that he went to a top business school, earned good money on Wall Street, and set a world record. He knows that he can’t rely on me to bring these things up in the interview and that he should be proud of his accomplishments. The fact is, you have to sell yourself first. You can’t rely on anyone else. If you went to a top school, let us know that. It can be uncomfortable to self-promote but if you want to gain exposure at any level then you have to be your own number one fan. After all, travel blogging is inherently self-promotional.

If you’re completely uncomfortable with it, try something. When I opened the interview, I read testimonials about Lee from Arthur Frommer and Samantha Brown. Don’t hesitate to ask for a testimonial from someone you respect.

Who do you respect that understands your work?

5) Focus on others, not yourself

It’s important to note that there’s a big difference between selling yourself and writing for yourself. Lee identifies himself as an entrepreneur. He refers to what he does in travel as a business because he recognizes that he’s delivering value to his audience. It’s easy to confuse the idea that writing about an experience you had is selling yourself but if you only ever focus on you, and neglect your subject or audience, then you might not be offering anything of value. Lee shares his story of visiting Pitcairn Island and everything he has to say about the place is about the place. In his story about crossing the Libyan border, even after getting led into the crossfire of gunfight, he doesn’t criticize or pass judgment on any part of it. Instead his storytelling focuses on the effect a thing had on him rather than his reaction to it. The former is something we all might experience, while the latter is only his.

Are your travel stories ones that anyone might be able to experience or only yours? If they’re only yours, what lessons from your experience can you highlight for your audience?

And there you have it!

Those are 5 things I learned from my conversation with Lee Abbamonte that I’ve applied to my work.

Nathaniel Boyle at Great Wall

Author Bio: Nathaniel Boyle is a creative consultant, personal brand designer, explorer, and host of The Daily Travel Podcast, the first and only daily podcast about travel. The show features conversations with those who took the plunge including world explorers, creative wanderers, and travel experts to help you create a life of travel, whatever that means to you. As a brand new dad, he’s still trying to figure that one out himself.

If you want to apply these questions to your travel blogging business, I put together a helpful series of questions from this article into a single worksheet for TBEX fans. It’s a lot to remember and I find it helpful to have a simple series of questions to ask yourself. You can grab that right over here.  

 

 

 

Travel Podcasting 101: Professional Tips and Trick

 

Successful travel podcasting isn’t about equipment; it’s about content and technique.

paul.jpegI’m probably one of the most widely heard podcasters in the world of travel. My wife and I produce, create, and record 10 travel podcasts a week for the American Forces Radio Network, and we now have nearly 10,000 podcasts in the archives. More than 2 million people in 180 countries listen to us every day. For us, creating radio content and quality podcasting are one and the same.

Think of podcasting as freezing radio in time. We’ve been doing it since we put up our first website in 1994. Then, we used a program called real audio. At the time, AM and FM Radio were the most popular listening models, and the Internet was almost unheard of.

Today nearly half of the world consumes their audio from the Internet by listening to podcasts and Internet broadcasts. And the audience today is hipper, more knowledgeable, and better educated than the radio audience in those days. That’s why podcasting is clearly the way forward into the future. To note how fast the world is changing their listening habits, BMW is proposing leaving AM radio out of their newest car models in 2015. You can imagine how legacy radio is receiving this news.

So at TBEX Athens, we’ll look at how simple it is to make a podcast and what you need to do to make it sound great. There is no long equipment list. You may not know it, but you already own a recording studio. And perhaps most importantly, you’ll be able to leave the interactive session with the easily learned techniques you need to make a podcast that sounds professional and that people will listen to.

Author Bio:  Paul Lasley, along with Elizabeth Harryman, create half hour radio shows and podcats on travel topics every day that are distributed globally on satellite by American Forces Radio Network. The shows are daily in 180 countries to an audience in excess of 2 million. The goal is to help listeners travel better, smarter, cheaper and have fun. Paul and Elizabeth also produce and voice a one-minute feature for AFRN that airs several times a day and includes news and information on travel and travel related subjects.  Podcasts are available at www.ontravel.com. Paul is a member of SATW.

Editor’s Note:  If you’re thinking about giving podcasting a try, you won’t want to miss Paul’s breakout session at TBEX where he’ll create a podcast episode during the session. You’ll have a chance to see how it’s done – and give it a try yourself – in this entertaining and interactive session.

Are You Taking Great Pictures with your iPhone?

 

You should be.

We all know that we have a better camera on our phone than most people ever owned even a few years ago. We all know that we are sharing those images, and we all know that images engage far better on Facebook, and are what make Pinterest and Instagram so insanely popular.

Most of us are very intentional with the stories our words and pictures are telling on our blogs, but sometimes we take our mobile photography a little less seriously. We shouldn’t.

Here’s why: all those images are part of your brand, part of the story you are telling as a travel blogger. Many people follow their favorite bloggers far more closely and consistently on social media; they are getting the minute-by-minute part of your story as it happens through your images.

And so, of course, you need to think about what story you are telling with those images that you are snapping with your iPhone. Is it the story you want to tell?

The good news is – it’s not hard to tell your story, with great images, right from your iPhone. Mostly what you need is to take just a little extra time and care. And, of course, the right tools are a huge help.

So let’s start with where you are. Take a minute right now to pull up your Instagram profile (or your Facebook or Google+ photo feed). Look at that grid of pictures. What does it say? Is there any sort of consistent theme – perhaps that you enjoy adventure, or that you’re the life of the party, or that you love selfies? Think about that as it relates to your brand – are you saying what you want to say?

TBEX insta SBJ

 

Now, think about your favorite people to follow for their images. Here are a few of my favorites with an emphasis on travel:

TBEX insta collage

 

Pull up any of these feeds and it’s clear what these bloggers are doing. The scenery may change, but the feel, the brand, the story, is consistent. The other thing they all have in common? They are telling their stories with beautiful, compelling images – taken with their iPhones.

Don’t you want to do that as well? Sure you do! Remember…it’s not even that difficult!

Now that it’s settled, make plans to join me to talk about iPhoneography at TBEX:Athens, where we will get into the nuts and bolts of advanced iPhone photography. We’ll learn helpful techniques and tools to make those images tell your story clearly and beautifully.

And to get us all thinking about and working on our iPhone photography skills before then, I’d love for you to join me in a week-long photo challenge during the first week of October. Post a picture taken with your iPhone along the theme each day with the hashtag #TBEXiPICS, in addition to the usual #TBEX hashtag. You might even see some of your images in my session!

 

TBEX photo challenge

 

Author Bio:  Sarabeth Jones is a creative at Fellowship North who enjoys all kinds of artistic work: writing, directing, acting, design, photography, and the occasional flash mob. Her personal stage is her blog thedramatic.com, where life is series of scenes: some with fabulous costumes, some with witty lines, and some that should probably be edited out. She lives in Arkansas with her husband and 3 kids and loves to write about they way they make her laugh, whether they are traveling the world or living the #DogtownLife at home.  At TBEX Athens, Sarabeth will be leading a session on iphonography and some of the advance techiques that you may not yet have discovered.

Dragon Slaying Lessons for Travel Bloggers

 

Are you running your business or is your business running you? Is your blog contributing real money to your earnings or does it seem destined to always be a sideline hobby?

Tim LeffelMost likely the answers to those two questions depend a whole lot on how much you get done each day when you open up that laptop. Do you use it to slay dragons or do you use it as your virtual water cooler?

“Slay your dragons first” is a common piece of productivity advice that applies across most jobs, but is especially key for anyone who is self-employed, like your typical travel blogger. It generally means to get your most important work of the day done in the morning before you do anything else, but if you’re at your most productive at night, then become a noctural dragon slayer instead, putting on your night vision goggles and seeking out signs of fire. The key is knowing which accomplishments have the most impact on your business and giving them priority over everything else.

A Velvet Rope To-Do List

In practice, this means having a to-do list, of course, but one that puts highly leveraged and high-impact tasks in a class of their own. Maybe there are 20 things you hope to get done tomorrow, but there are likely two on that list that will truly move your business forward. Meeting a freelance article deadline perhaps, or getting that guest post done you promised two weeks ago. Often it’s getting your latest blog post published and making sure it’s as good as it can be. Or perhaps it’s nailing down an ad agreement or following up with that promising contact you made at last week’s trade show. It could be a media interview where you’re the subject or one where you’re interviewing someone else to meet a freelance deadline.

In every case, the key one to three tasks per day that really matter are the ones that shouldn’t be postponed, delegated, or phoned in. Since we’re all content creators, there’s your first sign of importance: taking the time to create good content nearly always needs to be near the top of the list. Without income, your business whithers and dies, so tending the relationship with anyone who is paying you is also a high-impact, leveraged activity. Third, communicating with the people who allow you to get more done in a day is also an activity that creates tremendous leverage, so keep contacts with assistants and freelancers who may work for you in that high priority section as well. Last, there are long-term projects that require long-term focus over multiple days or weeks, such as books, presentations, partnership proposals, and feature articles. Carve out distraction-free time for those.

If the items on your list don’t fit into one of these four categories, they can probably slide. If your time is worth $40 an hour and you can hire someone else to do the same job for $8 an hour or less, it’s downright dumb to be spending time on those tasks. You can outsource nearly anything that meets this criteria, or at least postpone it to a less busy day. I’m not saying these things don’t have some marginal impact on your future, just that spending more than a fraction of your day on any of them is probably not a very good use of your time. It’s like using Excalibur to kill 20 rodents instead of going after the glory.

Are You Spending Time on Things That Matter?

Here are the questions to ask yourself for each item on your list that you want to get done tomorrow or this week.

  1. Is there a good chance it will earn me substantial revenue now or in the future?
  2. Will it help my relationship with someone who is paying me?
  3. Will it serve and grow my audience on a long-term basis?
  4. Will this promotion action send more than a smattering of visitors to my site?
  5. Will spending an hour on this accomplish any more than spending 10 minutes on it?
  6. Could I pay someone far less than I am earning (or deserve to earn) for this task?
  7. Is this something I’m doing because of a real business need rather than just because I think it’s fun?

Once you’ve applied these questions to your list and have your “yes” answer ones starred or circled, turn off anything that is going to interrupt your concentration so you can get real work done. Close e-mail. Close every social media platform. Turn off Skype. Turn off your phone. Those are sending you other peoples’ priorities and they can all wait.

Now do real work for two or three hours until you’ve really accomplished something substantial.

After that you can go visit that virtual water cooler, go for a walk, have a leisurely lunch, hit the gym, or go to happy hour. If you go knock some lesser things off your list, fine. But if you get nothing else done today besides these one to three key tasks, it’s not going to matter much. You’ve got a couple dragon heads to display and your business is moving forward.

Author Bio:  Tim Leffel is the publisher of Al Centro Media, a collection of six travel websites and blogs, including the Cheapest Destinations Blog (established 2003) and the award-wnning narrative site Perceptive Travel (established 2006). He’s also the author of five books. Tim will be discussing specific tactics for becoming a more productive blogger and writer at TBEX Europe 2014 in Athens.

 

 

 

Utilizing Instagram Video to Enhance Your Culinary Content

 

Editor’s Note:  You may have spotted Andrew at TBEX in Toronto when he presented a talk entitled “A Taste of Place: Defining a Destination Through Its Food Culture.” Andrew follows up with his return to TBEX Athens via “How to Monetize Your Culinary Content.” 

When I spoke at TBEX in Toronto the last few slides of my presentation focused on highlighting brands I had worked with in the past to enhance my culinary content. What I found most interesting is that during the Q & A (as well as numerous private chats which took place throughout the conference) bloggers and PR pros were most keen to learn more about this facet of my work.

In many ways my presentation at TBEX Athens is a “Part 2” to my culinary tourism presentation in Toronto and specifically offers intermediate/advanced level bloggers a look into branded storytelling with a culinary twist. I’ll be using a case study approach to highlight four of my favourite collaborations, each brand representing a different industry: Canada Beef Inc (agriculture), Canon Cameras (tech), Pilsner Urquell (beverage) and Rough Guides (publishing).

Today I wanted to highlight an aspect of my work that I won’t have an opportunity to discuss during my session at Athens: utilizing instagram video to enhance your culinary content. I embed instagram video into all of my destination guides online and also use the online media platform for stories I write for Metro Newspaper Canada. These quick 15 second videos offer readers an audio visual glimpse into a particular event or experience which adds value to the copy and pictures you’ve provided, the heart of your story.

I currently use an iPhone 5S to shoot, and typically film anywhere from 10-15 video clips during a particular event. Once home I edit my video together using Cute CUT App, exporting to my Camera Roll as one file. I then upload to instagram and share via Twitter, Facebook and my blog. Here are three recent examples of how I’ve worked with beverage brands to highlight a food and drink experience.

Stoli Vodka at World Pride

This past June Toronto was the host of World Pride. I was thrilled to act as the Latvian-based vodka producers ambassador at the festival and produced a sponsored story for the brand, Rainbow High at World Pride Toronto. Stoli hosted an opening night party for the festival at Pravda Vodka Bar featuring a VIP Stoli cocktail party featuring table-top dancing and live Russian band.

Grolsch at the Toronto International Film Festival

Each September I acted as Metro Newspaper Canada’s reporter at the Toronto International Film Festival. Grolsch is the official beer sponsor of the festival and each year the beer brand hosts a fabulous al fresco concert series in the heart of TIFF-town. Beer fans gather for a string of free concerts while mix and mingling through art installations. The brands iconic green bottles with spring cap are served up ice cold at the bar.

Pilsner Urquell at Taste of Toronto

Pilsner Urquell was the official beer sponsor for this summers inaugural Taste of Toronto, which was hosted at historic Fort York in July. I traveled with the beer brand last Fall to Czech Republic and wrote a story for the Vancouver Sun, “Beer Tour: From Pilsen to Prague.”

Pilsner Urquell hosted a special Keepers of the Craft session for VIPs on the Saturday of the festival. Chef Grant Van Gameren at Bar Isabel was recently awarded Canada’s Best New Restaurant by Air Canada’s enRoute Magazine and spent the afternoon inspiring his eager audience to produce the perfect Spanish pintxo.

 

Author bio:  Andrew Dobson is a full time travel writer who has visited over 60 countries. He regularly finds himself on the road visiting two to three destinations a month. Based in Toronto, he manages his blog dobbernationLOVES full time while also regularly contributing to Metro Newspaper Canada, XTRA Newspaper, The Vancouver Sun and Eat In Eat Out Magazine. 
Andrew is known as an expert in branded storytelling working as an ambassador for brands such as Canada Beef, Canon, Rough Guides, DK Eyewitness Travel, Stoli Vodka, Pilsner Urquell and Ford. His blog was acquired by Metro Newspaper in February 2014.

 

TBEX: What’s That?

 

Ironically, the first time I heard about TBEX was just after it had wrapped up in my hometown of Toronto in June 2013. One of the bloggers I was following had attended and written about it. Although it would have been economical for me to attend, since it was in my own backyard, it was too early as I hadn’t yet launched my blog, BigTravelNut, a website about budget travel for women. It wasn’t until the second time that I heard about it , that I decided to seriously consider joining hundreds of other bloggers and travel industry professionals at TBEX.

In the fall of 2013, I was told by Mike Richard of Vagabondish that bloggers’ conferences are a good place to meet lots of people and find business opportunities – even relatively young bloggers (less than a year old) could snatch sponsored activities or trips through speed networking. Soon after, I subscribed to the TBEX newsletter. I looked forward to the announcement of a TBEX conference in 2014, and in early April I decided to lock in the super early bird price and booked myself a spot at TBEX Athens!

acropolis parthenon athens greece

Not only will this be my first TBEX conference, it will be my first bloggers’ conference.

Getting Ready – Plan and network

As the date draws nearer, there are many things for me to do to prepare for a travel blogging conference like TBEX. I’ve already designed new business cards for my blog. My next step is to put together a media kit (both online and in print).

This worries me a bit, as my numbers (from Google Analytics and social media) are not where I would like them to be. They are gradually and consistently inching up, but not fast enough. It is tempting to get discouraged when you see other bloggers’ numbers, but there is nothing I like more than travelling and writing so I have decided to take it as far as it can go!

I also plan to establish clear goals for the conference. This shouldn’t be too difficult: learn as much as possible about the business of blogging, meet new people, and try to establish a few partnerships with people in the travel industry. How often do you get dozens of representatives from travel companies and tourism boards all in one room? Even though you do “meet” a lot of people online through comments, e-mails and social media when you’re a blogger, nothing beats meeting people in person and establishing real relationships. I believe this is the quickest way of becoming known and being remembered: good ol’ fashion face-to-face meetings. Attending a conference also proves that you’re serious about your craft and can help distinguish you from the hobbyists.

Building Anticipation

I have already signed up for a pre-conference day-trip, Cultural and Culinary Sailing in the Saronic Sea. This will be my third time in one of the world’s oldest countries but attending the conference gives me reason to explore a new area of Greece I haven’t yet explored. Cape Sounio is high on my list.

I expect the conference itself to be exciting but exhausting. As an introvert, large crowds and noisy environments sap my energy, so I will need to make sure to get a lot of sleep and find a way to take quiet breaks every now and then to re-energize myself. I have heard many people say that they came out of TBEX buzzing with new ideas and renewed energy. I really hope this will be the push I need to take my blog to the next level, to create better articles, grow my traffic, and monetize.

Athens here I come!

Author Bio:  Marie-France Roy is a travel blogger, freelance writer , photographer, and member of Travel Massive (a TBEX partner). Her blog, BigTravelNut focuses on budget and independent travel for women. Since 1992, she has travelled to 55 countries and seven continents. She officially resides in Toronto, Canada, but now spends about six months of the year abroad. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

The Importance of Diversifying Your Writing Business

 

Writing is a craft; freelancing is a business.

When I speak publicly about freelancing, I recite this sentence at least a dozen times per lecture. Like a personal credo. Or a mantra.

The statement is neither complicated nor controversial. Writing, the creative process of stringing words together to form sentences, is a form of artistic expression. Freelancing—essentially, writing for cash—is an exercise driven by capitalism. You do it to make consistent money over time.

Matt VillanoI usually go on to draw comparison between how we freelancers are no different from any of the small businesses we frequent in our hometowns—the local dry cleaner, the local butcher, the local coffee shop. Like these businesses, we provide our customers with a product or service. In our cases, the customers are publishers and other media outlets, and the product is the written word (and the service is content creation).

When you think about the business of freelancing in these terms—as if each and every one of us is a small business owner—it’s easy to understand why businesses that diversify make the most money: The more products you offer, the more products you can sell, and the more sales you likely will make.

Sure, businesses (again, we) can specialize in one or two products, but simply having supplemental (or, in some cases, complimentary) products ONLY IMPROVES THE BOTTOM LINE. Put differently, the more products you can add to your portfolio, the more successful and less vulnerable to market fluctuation you will be.

Now let’s go back to my mantra. Writing is a craft; freelancing is a business. And, since most of the folks who come to TBEX (myself included) are bloggers, let’s substitute the word, “Blogging,” for the word, “Writing.”

What does this mean for us?

For starters, if we want to make REAL money, it means we need to get serious about ourselves as businesspeople. As much as we might like the process of researching and writing our blog posts (who doesn’t like traveling for a living?), this alone is not activity on which anyone can hang a long-term business.

Instead, to succeed as businesspeople, we bloggers must approach our profession as something more—as freelancers. This, in turn, means it is IMPERATIVE that we diversify to guarantee the survival of our businesses. Put differently, it means we must do more than blog.

There are plenty of reasons for diversification:

  •  Blogging doesn’t pay big bucks.
  • The more bloggers there are, the fewer opportunities there are to earn money blogging.
  • If the travel industry takes another hit, there’ll be even fewer opportunities to earn money blogging.
  • For sanity’s sake, after hundreds of posts on the same general subject, it’s nice to write about something different for a change.

Some of us fundamentally understand the benefits of diversification, and already have branched out into photography, traditional journalism, marketing partnerships and more. Some of us sell our influence on Twitter and other social media sites. For the rest of us, unless we’ve got income from somewhere else (a sugar daddy, perhaps?) diversification is essential in order to survive.

I contend that the easiest and most sensible strategy for diversification is to add corporate writing and sponsored content into the mix. As travel bloggers, we already know what it means to work closely with brands. Heck, some of us likely have penned guest blog posts FOR big companies—bylined or not.

Even if you haven’t worked closely with big brands, you undoubtedly can identify big brands with which you’d want to work. The rest is as simple as cold pitching and selling yourself.

I’m not going to divulge my secrets to diversifying successfully here in this post—for those insights you’ll have to come to my session. The bottom line: For long-term success in this business, in order to earn the kind of money you’ll need to sustain your career into the next decade, diversification is a must. Remember, writing/blogging is a craft; freelancing is a business.

Author Bio:  Matt Villano also serves as senior editor of the Expedia Viewfinder blog. His talk, titled, “In Search of the Cash Cow: Corporate Freelancing and Sponsored Content,” is scheduled for 10:45-11:45 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 13.