If you haven’t already realized, there’s a very eager and knowledgeable community of writers ready to spread the good word about your hotel. The concept of the travel blogger is yet another to evolve from the Internet, and I’ve witnessed their numbers grow leaps and bounds within the travel world. If you look at how well they leverage the web and social media, you’ll quickly grasp how making friends within this cluster can be beneficial.
Yet opinions on their true influence seem to be greatly divided. Many traditionalists adhere to courting only those writers who represent a major publication with sizeable reach. On the other hand, I’ve known hoteliers who hold them to the same esteem as journalists for prominent magazines, fit with comped rooms and free meals. So, which stance is right? Are travel bloggers just your typical guests who write about their journeys from time to time, or should you go out of your way to give them the red carpet treatment?
I side with the latter through and through. Travel bloggers are a niche set of writers who can be a valuable asset to expand your market awareness to new sectors. But, let’s first assess what is it that these Internet writers do.
Acclaim from a travel blogger doesn’t usually translate into a glossy four page magazine spread, but rather a five to ten paragraph web editorial. Such blog entries typically don’t have as pervasive a reach, nor are they scribed with the same whimsical panache that underscores their printed ancestors. Such travel bloggers might not even grant you the opportunity to court them; they’ll show up unannounced and soak in the natural vibe. As well, their articles will likely feature some not-too-heavily-photoshopped images, but they’re real and authentic.
And here’s the kicker: travel bloggers love what they do. Starting a blog is relatively simple, but filling it with a constant flow of new articles requires commitment and passion; especially when dealing in travel, which can entail a lot of additional cash expenditures to voyage from spot to spot. Most of the bloggers I’ve met start with other jobs to sustain their hobby. They’re a vocally positive group and very enthusiastic about any and every travel opportunity, even if it isn’t attached to comps.
Building a support network for travel bloggers within your organization can be a powerful vessel to express your brand. Blogging also delivers the benefit of immediacy. Print has a lead time of three to six months, but blogging can be done on location or soon thereafter, affording you an outlet for faster results if you know that you are entering a lull in your media coverage. Along these lines, travel bloggers are all fluent in social media, which will translate into more tweets, better cross-chatter and heightened SEO.
The advantages are clear, so how then does one go about attracting these ambitious, and largely independent, writers to stay and endorse your property? The answers are aplenty.
Start by maintaining your existing relationships as you would for any other media contacts. Talk with your writer friends via social media and promote their blogs to your fans or followers (reciprocation is all but a guarantee). Don’t be afraid to ask them if they have any other press friends who might be willing to stay at your property or perhaps consider opening a dialogue with their colleagues on Facebook.
Once you’ve reached out to your established contacts, extend your social media savvy out to other less-acquainted writers and build new relationships. Get involved in travel chats on Twitter and travel blogger groups that congregate on a monthly or semi-frequent basis.
Then comes the real meat of the courtship. Organize breakfast, lunch and dinner presentations in larger population centers to drum up some avid awareness. These have always gotten a positive turnout for me. Besides, who’s going to say no to free food? Next, offer specials or complimentary goods to bloggers when they are on site, much like you would for other travel writers. Beyond this, consider hosting travel-blogger-focused media trips, or arrange to include at least one blogger on regular press visits.
There really are a variety of options here, and the key is to be proactive. Garnering support and property buzz from travel bloggers is yet another way to gain that market edge, and it is crucial to build lasting relationships with this sect of people as their prominence is only going to grow.
(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published on eHotelier.com on September 15, 2011)