DMOs: 5 Signs You’re Working With the Wrong Travel Blogger

 

Most bloggers have traded “PR fail” stories – the spectacularly off-target pitch, the “dear sir” email to a female blogger, the unsolicited sending of enormous files – but destination marketing organizations (DMOs) have their own set of “fail” stories when it comes to working with bloggers. When forming a DMO-blogger working partnership, it’s critical to make sure it’s a good fit in order to avoid those failures. Sometimes it’s easy to spot a yellow flag early – and sometimes it’s not. Here, one travel PR professional lists five reasons that he says “no” to blogger press trip requests – or that make him vow not to work with a blogger a second time.

Sunset on Kona, Hawaii

Sunset on Kona, Hawaii

1. Ridiculously Short Timing on the Request

Working in Hawaii with great travel-based clients, we get a lot more request for assistance than we can accommodate. Nothing is more frustrating than receiving an inquiry for travel support one week or days prior to a writer/blogger arriving in the Aloha State.

My team and I rarely ever say “No” to a writer and will always do what we can to help make that visit a productive one. However, bloggers need to realize that asking us to drop everything and magically put an itinerary together for you in a day is just unacceptable. Next.

2. It’s Your Way or the Highway

I understand bloggers have an agenda or a point of view in their writing or approach to covering our clients, however, please understand that there is another side to every story – and sometimes it’s more intriguing than the one you’re pursuing.

I appreciate writers who have done their research before contacting me and provide a wishlist of things to experience, people to meet, etc. But please be open-minded to what I’m suggesting as well. Hawaii is a unique place (like many destinations) that’s more sophisticated than sun, sand, and surf. I’m here to help make that story more compelling, more relevant, or correct by putting writers in touch with better contacts, suggesting changes to the story angle to be more accurate, and try to evolve their understanding or perception of Hawaii.

If it’s gonna be your way without any compromise or willingness to learn more about our side of the story, there’s the highway.

3. You’re Asking for WAAAAY Too Much

My team and I gladly consider all reasonable requests for assistance and will try to assist everyone who contacts us, even if it’s just providing information. But once the request for help starts to get excessive or greedy, that’s an instant turnoff to wanting to work with a blogger no matter how good they are.

Covering 100% of a blogger’s travel expenses never happens. Be reasonable with your requests and you’ll be amazed at how much more we’ll want to work with you.

4. You’re Bringing Who With You?

We understand there are some cases where it’s necessary for a blogger to travel with a spouse, significant other, child, or friend – to take your photos, shoot video, provide another perspective for the story, etc., etc., etc. We’ve heard all the reasons.

That’s fine, but what’s not fine is when the additional traveler (or travelers) starts to negatively influence a blogger’s commitment to the itinerary my team and I have labored over for weeks. The unexpected need to cancel the morning snorkel sail because your 3-year-old child didn’t have a good night’s rest and now you’re too exhausted to wake up really isn’t acceptable. Or backing out of an aerial adventure because the friend you’re traveling with doesn’t like helicopters.

My team has worked hard with our industry partners to organize these experiences for you. When you stop showing up for things during a visit, there’s a pretty good chance we won’t be assisting you again unless the terms are different.

5. Things Didn’t Turn Out The Way They Were Supposed To

You flaked out on scheduled activities and we didn’t find out until the provider contacted us. You were rude to our partners who are trying to go out of their way to assist you. You dropped our name for additional freebies and special assistance during your visit without us knowing. And my favorite of all, you failed to produce the content, stories, videos, etc. we agreed on at the conclusion of your visit.

Yes, these are true life scenarios I’ve dealt with. These folks typically end up on blacklists and get no future help from us. And the community of PR people in Hawaii are extremely tight, so there’s a good chance others may not want to work with you either. All we ask is that you behave like a professional during your visit. There’s a saying here in Hawaii that “to get Aloha, you need to give Aloha.”

Follow that and the Golden Rule and we’ll be fine.


Guest Author Bio: Nathan Kam has been immersed in public relations in Hawaii’s travel and tourism industry for more than 13 years and has worked on some of the state’s top leisure destination marketing campaigns. As a vice president at McNeil Wilson Communications (MWC) – a division of Anthology Marketing Group (AMG), Hawaii’s largest full-service integrated marketing company – he’s primarily responsible for managing the public relations activities for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (the state’s marketing agency for North America), Big Island Visitors Bureau, and Hawaii Food & Wine Festival accounts. Nathan is also a lead strategist helping clients elevate their brand presence in traditional and new media channels.

Destinations Working with Travel Bloggers: Q&A with Germany Tourism

 

In early December 2012, the NYC chapter of TBEX got together with Germany Tourism to celebrate pretzels, beer and the great, warm culture of Germany. Tourism officials were on-hand to meet bloggers and respond to thoughts and questions, and they even took the time to respond to some questions from TBEX’s non-NYC social media audience.

Here’s what they had to say about working with bloggers, from a tourism standpoint.

photo by Hillary Richard, used with permission

German beer offerings at TBEX NYC event (photo by Hillary Richard, used with permission)

Is it Social Media Reach, or [do tourism officials] also look at the profile, writing style or niche a blogger offers in terms of strategic fit?
Elena from Creativelena

There’s definitely more to it than reach. While a large reach is great in terms of getting our name out, we want to make sure the people that it reaches are actually interested. We always thoroughly review the blog to validate that it is a relevant outlet before getting involved. Of course it’s important that the blog is well written as well and if possible contains images to showcase a destination.

Do tourism officials welcome new project ideas and suggestions from bloggers? Or do they generally just like bloggers to follow their plans to the letter?
Jac from The Occasional Traveller

We welcome all ideas. With each story, trip or project, we work closely with the blogger or writer to develop a plan that is going to work for them, their readers and the German National Tourist Office.

What topics and content would be in their ideal blogger pitch and media kit they received?
Gary of Tips for Travellers

We love having a solid idea of their area(s) of interest / story angles, types of experts they may be interested in connecting with while in the destination, and timing. It’s also very helpful to provide an overview of readership and details about the reach of your blog and any social media sites that are associated.

Would you elaborate on the number of blogger projects you might be working with throughout the year? What is the best way to stay visible with tourism officials if not chosen at first?
Donna W. on the TBEX Facebook page

It all depends. The best way to stay up to date with everything going on in Germany is to follow us on Twitter at @GermanyTourism. Please also send ideas to Wibke.carter@germany.travel.

How do you locate bloggers to work with?
At various industry events and via relationships held by the German National Tourist Office.

Thanks so much to Annemarie Dooling for asking these questions on behalf of the TBEX community and then for compiling the answers into a post for the TBEX blog!

9 Criteria for Getting Invited on Travel Blog Trips

 

In his first guest post for the TBEX blog, William Bakker of Think! Social Media talked about the challenges of measuring the value bloggers bring to DMOs. In the second part of this two-part guest post, William talks about the nine things he and his Think! colleagues look at when evaluating bloggers they’re considering for invitations on press trips.


Creative commons photo by influenZia via Flickr

Creative commons photo by influenZia via Flickr

Right now, blog trips and bloggers hosted by a Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) are still a bit of a novelty. I expect an explosion of travel bloggers in the near future as existing bloggers realise the benefits a blog trip can offer while new travel bloggers want to join the club.

DMOs need a way to sort through all these requests. We’re not big fans of a one-size-fits-all approach to measuring the value of bloggers but like to match bloggers based on a DMO’s specific marketing goals. We also recommend that our clients take a pro-active approach to bloggers by inviting the ones with the best fit instead of a reactive one by waiting for requests to come in.

We have a good relationship with dozens of bloggers and a database with hundreds more. We have 9 criteria to select bloggers for blog trips and other campaigns, which are outlined in detail below. When developing social media strategies we recommend that our DMO clients also use these criteria to manage individual blogger requests.

1) Value to the blogger

I mention this one first, because if there’s no value for the blogger then there’s no use in working together. A blog trip or campaign needs to be a win/win situation. We’ve learned that it’s important that the DMO and blogger know each other’s expectations. Sometimes a blog trip might not work out for a variety of reasons. And that’s okay. But it’s better to set out the realities and expectations on both sides ahead of time.

2) Reach; the size of the audience

This is an important metric, but not as important as you might think – at least, not to us. We would rather work with a blogger who has a smaller audience and a higher influence. A blogger with 2,000 Twitter followers may be of more value than one with 50,000 if those 2,000 people are passionate, engaged and are likely to be influenced by the person they follow.

We use tools like Compete.com, Quantcast and Alexa to get an indication, or ask the blogger for data. We will also look at Twitter followers, Facebook likes, and other statistics. For bloggers, it’s a good idea to have this info handy as DMOs will ask for this.

3) Audience demographics

This criteria includes things like what language you blog in and what countries your readers are from, their age, education, income, etc. We’re not that interested in where the blogger comes from because their audience might come from a completely different place.

We will use Quantcast and sometimes other tools for this, although a lot of blogs don’t have enough traffic for these tools to provide valuable metrics. We sometimes ask bloggers, but we have had to make assumptions at times.

4) Influence in a niche

This one is more important to us than reach. We’re looking for people who are an authority in a subject matter. That’s the power of the Internet – there’s a community for every passion. It’s safe to assume that a wine blogger has an audience interested in wine. If we’re working with a destination that is seeking to leverage its wine products or experiences, we will pick a wine blogger with a small audience over a general travel blogger with a larger audience in most cases.

In order to determine influence, we look at things including comments on a blog (volume and types of comments) and how the blogger interacts with her/his audience. Why? It’s that personal connection that makes a blogger unique and influential. And we will also look at repeat visitation to the blog. This is an indicator of how loyal an audience is and therefore the influence the blogger has.

What we sometimes observe is that bloggers with a large audience lose the personal connection with their readers. Their blog becomes more like a traditional publication online. That’s to be expected and not necessarily a bad thing, it just changes the types of initiatives we will invite them for, and the approach we take. They may be better suited for a traditional press trip.

5) Connection to other influencers

This one is closely related to #4. Blogging is social. We believe that a blog trip or a blog campaign’s value doesn’t just come from the value as a result of the produced content, but also from the personal connections created. A blogger with a lot of connections to other influencers is more desirable as that means there’s a better chance that their messages are then amplified or retweeted by other influences. A good relationship with one blogger can also lead to a referral to another. We often ask other bloggers for suggestions about other writers.

6) Quality and style of writing, photography and/or video

This one speaks for itself. We prefer blogs with quality content. And sometimes one blogger’s style fits better with a particular destination brand than another. And it doesn’t mean that we look for moderate bloggers only, by the way. We seek honesty and transparency, otherwise a message won’t be credible. The blogger at TBEX who writes critical posts just to make PR people uncomfortable would probably not be invited, though (see #9). Often, quality trumps reach and influence.

7) Speed of communication

We don’t have a specific preference. It varies from initiative to initiative. Most of the time, a blog trip is designed to create a lot of social content right away, and speed is important. Other times, it won’t matter too much if it takes a few weeks for us to see a post (months is pushing it). The longer it takes, the more the details and energy are lost. Plus, the copy ends up looking more like it belongs in a traditional publication.

8) Use of technology and tools

Does the blogger tweet, Instagram, or post to fan pages during the trip? This is obviously helpful.

And it also varies. If we’re working on a campaign where we want a lot of content in the moment, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are important. In some cases, they’re not.

Sometimes we look for quality, influence, and reach for a specific tool or network. We invited a big Instagrammer to Flanders, for example. The Costa Brava even hosted an Instagram trip.

9) Personality

Is this blogger easy to work with?

We will happily sacrifice reach or influence for a nice person when we’re hosting a group of bloggers. Personality type tells us something about the bloggers’ relationship with their readers, and that’s important in social media. Other factors including professionalism and attentiveness are equally important. If it takes weeks for somebody to reply to an email, or if they don’t follow practical instructions we get worried. We often check references as well by calling another DMO the blogger has worked with.


We have good results using our criteria above. In the future we hope to build out our database so we can be a good matchmaker between bloggers and the tourism industry that delivers benefits for both.


Author bio: William Bakker is chief strategist at Think! Social Media, a global marketing agency focussing exclusively on the tourism industry. He is considered a leader in the world of digital destination marketing and speaks at conferences around the world – including at TBEX in Girona. He blogs about tourism marketing at wilhelmus.ca.