You’re probably familiar with how the travel media landscape has changed over the past few years – smaller travel sections (or staff) in print publications, a rise in frequency of bloggers and freelancers, and the emergence of social media influencers. These changes in the industry have only been exaggerated by the pandemic. Each one of these travel media types has different expectations and deliverables. That means you and your destination must work with each one differently. To help, let’s take a look at each one.
Traditional Travel Writers
These writers work for a newspaper, magazine, website or other publication. They may have a regular column or specific niche that they write about. But as staff sizes continue to decrease, writers have taken on more beats – broadening their focus from travel to general lifestyle.
An article for their publication published online, in print or both. They publication may also share it across its social media channels. In some rare cases, they may have a photographer take pictures to accompany the piece. The rest of the time, they will lean heavily on your destination to supply high-res photos.
Travel writers are on assignment by their publication. (However, they don’t always have a say in when the article will come out.) This means they have a specific story in mind and unless they are a reviewer, they provide an objective look into a destination. In many cases, their itinerary should be broad. Include the “must-see” stops, best restaurants and most popular activities.
Keep in mind, there may be specific rules from their publication that they must follow. For example, some publications do not accept free products or comped meals, trips and experiences, while others will not cover alcoholic beverages.
Print publications are measured by circulation – the number of copies distributed through subscriptions and newsstands. Online publications and articles are measured by unique visitors per month (UVM) or impressions. You can also track the additional reach of an article shared from the publication’s social media. Beyond impressions, we reference the Barcelona Principles to measure the impact of a placement, including whether it appeared in a KPI (key performance indicator) publication, the sentiment or tone of the article, and inclusion of the campaign’s key messages.
Freelancers are independent writers that get paid per writing assignment or series of articles. They may work for one publication or website, but more often, write for several publications at a time.
When working with a freelancer, deliverables may not be set in stone upfront. Some will pitch the story (or FAM visit) to the publication(s) to get it assigned, while others look to have their piece picked up afterwards. Some are on assignment by a publication while others look to have their piece picked up afterwards. Since freelancers write for a variety of publications throughout their career, your destination has the opportunity to be covered multiple times in different articles. (Even years after a media FAM!)
For most, the idea of an assignment letter has gone out the window. That means freelancers are looking for a unique story, angle or topic that is likely to get picked up. Work with them to identify stops that are both popular and have a special backstory. You may consider including stops that cover multiple angles (such as unique food scene and your historic sites), that can result in placements in multiple publications.
Articles and publications are measured the same way as for traditional travel writers.
Bloggers regularly write content (or posts) for a blog. Some run their own blog while others are part of a network of bloggers, such as Traveling Mom. Most bloggers make money through cost per click advertisements or referral programs.
Bloggers produce blog posts – informal, narrative text entries. Post formats vary but usually have a first-person point of view. Some posts include general overviews or a recap of a trip, while others share numbered lists of the best places to visit, eat, or stay in a destination. Most are accompanied by photographs taken by the blogger.
Because of the story-telling nature of blog posts, bloggers are looking for experiences. They want to get hands-on, knee-deep and up-close-and-personal with your destination. As you choose experiences, be sure they align with the theme or niche of their blog. Mommy bloggers want to see family-friendly stops while craft beverage bloggers would enjoy a gin-making class.
Blogs are measured by unique visitors per month (UVM) or impressions. Bloggers commonly share posts on social media (Pinterest especially!), in newsletters and among niche networks. They may even be able to tell you the number of users that viewed a specific post.
Influencers are the newest content producers to the group. They are known for their loyal social media following that looks to them for recommendations and is willing to take action as a result. Some run their accounts as a side-gig while others focus on social media full-time. In some instances, influencers look to receive compensation for their content. Compensation is becoming more popular since the pandemic, as destinations and brands understand the influence of content creators, and as influencers quit their full-time jobs to focus on their content.
Influencers can offer a variety of deliverables: static posts, videos, ephemeral content (Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook stories), highlight reels, TikToks and going “live.” It’s important to discuss deliverables ahead of time to agree on not only the type of content they will produce but also the angle of it. Set expectations around influencers tagging your or your partners’ accounts, using the appropriate campaign hashtags and geotags. It’s important to have a discussion ahead of time of what works best for your destination, and agree on what they will produce. In addition to their social posts, some influencers also have a blog that they post on.
As you work through their itinerary, think visuals. Skip a world-class museum that doesn’t allow photography. Instead, pick the prettiest view of a park during the best time of day. Unlike traditional travel writers, influencers post from their personal perspective. That means the itinerary process may take longer because influencers want to be sure each spot will spark joy with them (and their followers). Be sure to build in plenty of time at and in between each location. Influencers are known to explore on their own and find a visual you didn’t even think about!
Start with the number followers they have on their social media channels, that’s their potential reach. Then look at the engagement on their posts about your destination: comments, reactions, shares. Ask the influencer for stats on their ephemeral content that disappears after a set time.
Pro tip: For both bloggers and influencers, create packages or promo codes to help track visitation to your destination in response to a post.