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.


Travel Bucket Lists – Love Them or Hate Them?

You know what a travel bucket list is, right? It’s a list of all of the places you’d like to visit and global adventures you’d like to pursue before you kick the bucket. Writing such a list seems like an innocuous and personal endeavor but some serious travelers have passionate opinions for or against such lists.

Colleen LaninWalt Disney said, “All dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” I I have a little plaque with this phrase on my desk to remind me of these words every day as I clack away at my computer, dreaming and pursuing big dreams. Post-it notes scrawled with encouraging words like this populate the cabinets, fridge and coffee maker in my house. I’m a believer in the power of visualizing your dreams into reality. I’m guiding an interactive session on building vision boards at TBEX Cancun. So, you can probably guess where I come down on travel bucket lists: I love them!

There is a whole group of travel lovers out there, however, who think bucket lists distract from real travel experiences. I recently asked a bunch of travel bloggers to share their thoughts on bucket lists and was not surprised to find very opposing views on the topic.

Margherita Ragg, of the Crowded Planet blog, is against bucket lists because, “travel is a lot more than ticking boxes for me.” This sentiment was echoed by other travel enthusiasts who seem to think that people who write travel bucket lists are simply traveling for the joy of placing a checkmark next to an item on a list.

The implication is that bucket list writers merely want to brag about where they’ve been; they don’t care about connecting with the culture or having a meaningful experience. Amy Truong, author of the Generic Dreams blog, said, “I think having a bucket list is fun and a good way to decide what some of your goals are (travel-related or not) but it shouldn’t be just about ticking off a check list or bragging rights.”

Everything Everywhere Founder Gary Arndt seemed to poke fun at the idea that bucket list makers are only in it for ticking off items when he said, “I don’t think people should shop for groceries just to check stuff off a list.” (Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.)

Talon Windwalker thinks that a bucket list can distract travelers from living in the present moment. On his blog, 1Dad1Kid.com, he said, “When you have a bucket list, there’s that constant sense of ‘I haven’t done everything yet! This is the main reason I don’t have this kind of list. I don’t want to spend my time focusing on the things I haven’t done yet. I’d rather focus on what I’m doing.”

Shawn Achor, author of the book, Before Happiness, explained in an interview with Oprah Winfrey on the OWN Network’s “Super Soul Sunday” that travelers actually enjoy their vacations more before leaving home than they do during their vacations. It is the anticipation of travel that brings so much joy. He said, “Our brain can’t tell much difference between visualization and actual experience. So if you’re visualizing something positive that’s going to happen in the future, you’re literally doubling the positive effect upon your life.”

My Itchy Travel Feet Blogger Donna Hull also believes travel dreaming is good for you. She said, “There are many once-in-a-lifetime trips. Want to make them happen? Start a list. Keeping these special trips on a bucket list (or whatever terminology you choose to use) is a good way to set goals to make the trips actually happen.”

Amanda Kendle would rather reflect on her travel accomplishments than create a list of travel goals. On her blog, NotABallerina.com, she said, “I’m not really a fan of the bucket list craze that seems to be sweeping the world (and travelers in particular!). I don’t mind a spot of travel daydreaming, but the idea of making a really long list of things I must do before I die is a bit overwhelming (especially since I have no idea how long I have until then – ten years or fifty?)…” Instead, she decided to write a reverse bucket list to revel in dreams fulfilled.


As the creator of a bucket list and reverse bucket list, I see value in both exercises. Writing down your achieved goals gives a sense of gratitude and pride. It is important to celebrate our accomplishments by pausing to look back and be thankful for how much we’ve experienced.

According to Gretchen Rubin in her book The Happiness Project, “Gratitude is important to happiness. Studies show that consistently grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives; they even feel more physically healthy and spend more time exercising. Gratitude brings freedom from envy, because when you’re grateful for what you have, you’re not consumed with wanting something different or something more.”

Anti-bucket list blogger Windwalker feels that travel bucket lists can serve as a distraction. He said, “I think people get so focused on the list that they lose out on other things, other places, and other parts of the places they’re visiting.”

I believe the key to successful bucket lists (and vision boards) is being flexible with the results. Set goals, but be open to how they manifest in your life. Robin Roberts, sports newscaster and Good Morning America host, talked about being creative in how you reach your goals on the television show, “Master Class”. She said, “I used to dream about one day being at Wimbledon. I could taste the strawberries and cream. I could see myself curtsying there on center court. And I didn’t make it there, obviously, as a tennis player, but let me tell you, even though I had a mic in my hand instead of a tennis racket for ESPN when I went to cover it for the first time, to me it was like, “Check. Wimbledon.”

Be willing to rewrite your bucket list if a goal no longer appeals to you. Add new wishes to your list as needed. To come back to Arndt’s grocery list analogy, just as shoppers may purchase some impulse buys that aren’t on their lists while in the store, bucket list makers shouldn’t be afraid to stray from their defined travel goals either.

As poet Ursula Le Guin said, “It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

What do you think about travel bucket lists? Let us know in the comments below!

Bio: Colleen Lanin is the author of The Travel Mamas’ Guide and the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. She teaches blogging classes and gives presentations on how to travel with babies and children. She has given travel tips on television, radio, and as a paid video blogger. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. Her stories have appeared in such publications as the “Today” show’s travel section on NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, Working Mother Magazine, and more. Colleen will be leading an interactive session at TBEX Cancun on creating and using a vision board to remain inspired and focused.


7 Phrases That Make Me Ignore Your Guest Post Query


This post about guest post mistakes was previously published on the NMX blog, but I wanted to share it here as well, since travel bloggers aren’t immune to HORRIBLE guest post inquiries!!!

Doesn’t it just make you cringe when you see a subject line in your email inbox about a guest post?

computer keyboard

No, don’t get me wrong. I love guest posts. The world of guest posting might be changing, but here on the TBEX blog and on the NMX blog, we’re guest-post-friendly! But the problem is that 9 out of 10 people who send me queries about guests posts are unoriginal and off target. What can I expect from a guest post if you can’t even write a 100-word email properly?

I do try to reply to everyone, even these poorly-written emails, but there are only so many hours in a day. So, if I don’t reply to your guest post query, it probably included one of the following phrases and made me wrinkle my nose. Don’t make these guest post mistakes in your next email!

“Our writers will create…”

If you’re not the person who will be creating the guest post, I probably don’t want to talk to you. I want to talk to your writer. Now, occasionally, I do work with agencies and others who relay information to a writer, but most of the time, people who email me regarding what their writers will do submit horrible posts from a team of “writers” (I hesitate to even call them that) who clearly do not have a grasp on the English language.

For a guest post to be beneficial to me, it has to be your BEST work. Your best work. If you’ve hired a team of writers to create 100 guests posts a week, I’m not going to get something high-quality from you.

“We are offering this to you free of charge…”

I didn’t come to you asking you to post on this blog. You came to me. Noting that what you’re offering is free sounds extremely arrogant, almost like you expect me to say, “No, no. Let me pay for it.” If you approach me, you aren’t doing me a favor by guest posting. I’m doing you a favor by giving you access to my audience.

Some blogs paid for guest posts, but it’s our philosophy that guest posts are freely traded in exchange for promotion. If you think you deserve to get paid, apply for a freelancing job or find a blog that pays guest posts. No hard feelings. We all gotta eat.

“All we ask is…”

If you’re asking me for a guest post spot, please don’t make demands. That’s like asking a neighbor to feed your fish while you’re out of town and then saying, “In return for getting to feed my fish for a week, all I ask is that you also clean his tank.” Yes, I know that there are benefits to having guest posts on my blog. But you are approaching me. You don’t get to make demands.

Furthermore, we have rules. If you cared enough to read my guidelines, you’d know that. Most of the time, what the person is asking for breaks the rules. No es bueno.

“Please reply in…”

I receive this “threat” all the time. If I don’t reply in x number of days, then they’re taking their ball and going home.

Listen. I’m a busy gal. I try my best to respond to all guest post queries in a week. If I don’t respond to you, by all means, follow up with me, and note that if you don’t hear from me you’ll be pursuing other opportunities with the proposed guest post. But giving me a deadline in your initial email when you have no idea about my schedule is just rude. I almost certainly won’t reply if you make a demand like that. It just tells me that working with you will be too stressful, and I hate stress.

“Let me know what you’d like me to write about…”

I have no idea what you’re an expert on. The biggest advantage of having you guest post is that you’ll provide insight into a topic that I haven’t covered (or perhaps don’t have the skills to cover). If you don’t know what you want to write for your guest post, it tells me know of two things:

  1. You aren’t really an expert on anything in this niche.
  2. You haven’t reviewed the blog at all to see what kind of content we publish.

Usually both. If you’re pitching me on a guest post, PITCH ME on a guest post. Don’t half-heartedly ask if you can write something for me and then expect me to tell you what you are capable of writing.

“…high-quality, well-researched article…”

First of all, they are blog posts, not articles. Second of all, if you have to say something is high-quality and well-researched, it usually isn’t. The vast majority of the emails I get regarding guest posts include this phrase (or something very similar) and it is always a red flag for me. It’s the biggest of the guest post mistakes, in my opinion!

“Dear sir/madam…”

This is ridiculous, but I get it all the time. If you can’t be bothered to find my name, am I really going to believe that you read through the blog to see what kind of content I publish? Half the guest post queries I get don’t even know if I’m male or female. Come on, people.

Beyond telling me that you didn’t care enough to read my past posts, it also tells me that you’re taking the “spray and pray” technique to this whole guest blogging thing. Which means you are probably writing crappy, quick posts for everyone and maybe even “spinning” low-quality copy to take one piece of content and create dozens of versions, each worse and more generic than the last.

So those are my seven most hated guest post email phrases. What would you add to the list?

Photo credit:

What I Learned about Storytelling from a Cheesy Ghost Tour in Ireland


Who knew that a somewhat corny night full of screaming at ghosts could teach me something about blogging? You can’t walk very far in downtown Dublin without seeing some reference to their ghost bus tours. I signed up to have a little scare-yourself fun. I walked away with some important blogging tips about storytelling. The tour itself was a mixed bag. I know some people who loved it, and I know some people who didn’t. But the storytelling made the experience well worth my time.

It was a dark and stormy night

It was a dark and stormy night

In the United States, most of the “ghost tours” I’ve been on have been all about the fright factor. Around every corner, there’s someone waiting to jump out at you. You can’t walk two steps down a haunted trail attraction without shrieking. A town in Pennsylvania even tried to host “Shocktoberfest,” where you are naked the entire time you go through their haunted house (yes, really…though it’s since been cancelled).

The ghost tour here in Ireland was completely different. It was all about telling ghost stories, and building up the suspense. It was about history and folklore, not about cheap jump scares. Well, it was a little about cheap jump scares. It was a ghost tour after all.

But I digress. What I really want to tell you about is the techniques our guide used to make his stories extremely effective, and how you can use these same storytelling techniques on your travel blog to captivate readers. It seems rather fitting that I learned so much about storytelling while in Dublin, as this really is the City of Storytellers.

A Story doesn’t have to be Loud to be Exciting

The charismatic social butterfly making people laugh at a party tends to be loud, not just in voice volume, but also in storytelling technique.

But sometimes, the quiet moments matter too. Our guide was a bit corny, it’s true, but he was an expert at knowing when to lower his voice, making everyone lean in  to listen closely. Some of the most emotional parts of his stories really hit home because he wasn’t shouting; he was almost whispering.

If you have a podcast, this is definitely a technique you can employ…but what if you’re a blogger. How can you “whisper” when story telling via text? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Allow a captivating image to stand alone, without comment.
  • Keep the tone of the story subdued.
  • Tell the story at a slower pace.
  • Avoid distractions, like links, during the meat of the story.

Of course, this “quiet” storytelling technique doesn’t work for every single post you write, but it can help your “loud” moments stand out in comparison. On our ghost tour, this translated to jump scares, but on your blog, this can translate to calling attention to specific details.

Repeat Yourself

Repetition can also be a very effective way to bring attention to a specific detail. On our tour, I remember standing in the graveyard and our guide mentioning, in a somber voice, how many people had died during a specific time period in Dublin – and how many people’s bodies were never claimed. He repeated the number several times for effect.

It brought chills to my spine.

At another point in our tour, he told the story of a Catholic priest caught having mass during a time period in Dublin where this was not allowed. His punishment was execution (and a particularly gristly one that I won’t repeat here in case any of you have just eaten). He repeated the gory details several times to let it really sink in.

Usually, we’re taught to edit ourselves when storytelling, but editing doesn’t mean that you can’t use repetition. Use it sparingly, or you’ll start to sound like a broken record, but don’t shy away from it completely. If you can give your readers those same chills I had, they’ll keep coming back for me.

Set the Stage

Before every story, our tour guide gave us a scene to imagine. At one point, he even had us close our eyes to imagine it. The drizzle of the rain. The whip of the wind howling in the night. The distant crying of a mother who is burying her dead child. The shuffling of feet through the puddles.

These details were not important to understand the story he was going to tell, but by setting the scene, he brought the tale to life. We felt like we were there. We could see and feel what he was describing.

The small details matter. You can report the facts or you can tell the story. Storytelling is an art as much as it as a skill. So paint that picture with your words. Make your readers feel as though were there, standing beside you, having the same experiences you had.

If you get a chance to go on one of the Ghost Bus tours while in Dublin, do so, even if spooky stuff isn’t really your thing. Go for the storytelling experience, and examine what the guide does to bring you into the tales he or she is telling. Take those lessons back to your own blog, so you can use your unique perspective to keep readers hungry for your travel stories.

The Priceless Lesson I Learned About Interviewing Technique


Okay, I’ll admit it. I talk a lot.

I’m kind of introverted and definitely deal with a bit of social anxiety, which I mentioned on a recent post about becoming a better blogger by taking risks. But once I get to know you, I will “talk yer ear off” as my mama would say.

While being friendly has opened amazing doors for me, during one press trip, I learned a really important lesson about interviewing technique: sometimes, to get the best interview, you really need to just shut up.

John Minihan and Alastair McKenzie

More Questions = More Content

When I was in high school, I took a journalism class where we learned the basics of interviewing other people. We talked about formulating interviews so we got answers to the “W Questions.” The interviewing technique our teacher drove home most was (and I’m paraphrasing):

“Always ask as many questions as possible. More information is better than less information. You don’t want to sit down to write a story and realize that you don’t have a crucial piece of information, and you really don’t want your competitors to have the edge on you because they asked a question you didn’t.”

So, when I started interviewing people for blog stories, I took that same approach. Ask, ask, ask. In my mind, more questions meant more content, and that meant more opportunities to tell stories.

I don’t think that journalism teacher told the whole story, though. I love the idea of having as much content as possible for a story, but I do think sometimes it is important to stop asking questions and start allowing people to tell you their stories, the way they want to tell them.

The Art of the Ask

On the press trip in question, I got the amazing opportunity to meet and interview a high-level personality who rarely agrees to speak with press let alone bloggers. I had a notebook full of questions I wanted to ask him, but before I got the chance, one of the other bloggers on the trip asked for the opportunity to record a video interview.

So we all had to take a backseat and just watch while this happened.

Once I saw the interviewer work, my entire philosophy on interviewing changed. Recording more content isn’t about asking as many questions as possible. It is about asking the right questions. This is an art form.

While I was forced to quietly watch the video being recorded, I stopped thinking about what I was going to ask next and instead just listened to the person telling his story. If you are quiet, people will talk. We were interviewing this person primarily about tech and his latest start-up, but he talked about being a young boy in the military, about his struggles as a budding entrepreneur, and about his thoughts on life and the world in general. His stories were fascinating.

The interview asked a question here or there, but his interviewing technique was not not about getting an answer to a specific question. The questions were simply meant to encourage the person to keep talking.

The interview went on for at least 30 minutes, and we were all simply captivated by his tales. Now, was everything the person said going to make it into the final cut? No way. But that half hour was filled with gold.

Shaping an Interview

What I also realized was that because I was going into interviews trying to ask as many questions as possible, I was shaping an interview based on my perspective. When you only ask the questions that pop into your mind, you’re potentially missing valuable information that the person you’re interviewing just doesn’t have the opportunity to tell you. This interviewing technique might get you answers, but will it get you the whole truth?

Stop to listen, and suddenly they’re giving you answers to questions you never asked, and you are allowing their perspective to shine. This is truly authentic content at its best.

Shaping your interviews structurally is important because what you present to your audience has to make sense. However, when you have pre-set questions in mind, you run the risk of presenting a somewhat skewed or dishonest story. This kind of shaping is no good! You’re almost coaching the person to give you the answers you want to hear, instead of the truth. I don’t believe that most interviewers, including myself, go into interviews with those intentions, but that’s the result.

Bottom Line: This Interviewing Technique is About Have More Conversations

Instead of continuing to think about interviews in the traditional sense, I want to encourage you to instead have conversations with people. Tell them about your experiences, and then ask them to share theirs. On camera, this is a little trickier, because you want to be able to edit together a video that makes sense, but it isn’t impossible.

The key is to ask questions that make the interviewee feel comfortable. Smile and allow them to speak. When there’s a pause, don’t jump on asking the next question. Be a friend.

The less your interview feels like an interview, the more people will tell you, so focus on just talking with people instead of a formal interview where you’re throwing question after unrelated question their direction.

Above all, remember to always have fun. Interviews used to stress me out, but more and more I’m realizing that when you’re having a good time with it, the person you’re interviewing will be more at ease and willing to tell you their story.

What is your best interview tip? Leave a comment!

How to Connect with Your Travel Blog Readers on a Personal Level


If you’re interested in learning how to write blog posts that really resonate with people, Christine Cantera is the teacher you want. Not only has she written for several travel publications, but she’s also ghostwritten dozens of ebooks, articles, and blog posts.

Christine Cantera at TBEX Dublin

Christine was part of an excellent workshop at TBEX 2013 about tone, voice, and direction. She said something that really resonated with me, and that can help you as a blogger, no matter what your specific travel niche:

“Write specifically to someone as if you were sitting and talking to them across the table. I find that is how you get people the most excited and get people to come back and read more about what you have to say about a destination, because you’ve made that connection with them on a very personal level.”

Some of the best tips Christine gave to help with this process include:

  • On press trips, try to negotiate daily social requirements instead of daily blogging requirements. Being able to sit down and write your blog posts afterward helps you organize your thoughts about the experience so you’re writing to that specific audience.
  • Don’t write for someone. Write to someone. It can even be someone you know, like your mom or a certain friend. Keep that single person in mind and pretend you’re writing your post just for him or her.
  • You can’t be all things to all people, so don’t try to be. Your voice has the best chance of being heard if you find your niche within the world of travel and write to the people who respond to your unique personality.

When you write, do you have a certain person in mind? If not, it might be the time to start! Or do you disagree with Christine’s advice? Leave a comment with your thoughts.