THE BLOG
12/18/2014 11:30 am ET Updated Feb 17, 2015

How to Deal With Travel Writers, Part 2: What Writers Want From PR People


The world of travel writers, journalists and travel bloggers is ever-changing. So how do public relations & media relations experts in the travel industry deal with them?

Speaking at the 15th Conference on LGBT Tourism and Hospitality at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, I addressed this issue. The video here -- and the text below -- is the second installment of my presentation, specifically about what travel writers need from public relations people -- and what goes into making the perfect press and media section on a website.

A big part of securing ongoing coverage is about relationships. Journalists and travel writers need to know who you are, and you need to know who they are. If you have a personal connection -- even if it's just via e-mail interactions -- that's a great way to cement your brand further in their minds.

To do this, it helps to know what we -- the writers -- want and need from you.

What Do Travel Writers Want From Public Relations People?

Before I tell you my opinion, based on my experience as a writer, journalist and blogger, let's hear from some of my friends on the public relations side. Veronica Villegas, senior account executive and International Director at Cheryl Andrews Marketing Communications in Coral Gables, Florida, says this:

Freelancers, bloggers, vloggers, influencers are all the norm nowadays, and their needs are all different. The strategy is giving them each what they need. A traditional journalist could write a story from a press release, but nowadays, it has to be more than that. We have to be able to provide an authentic story-telling experience that can be shared. Messages today have to be more concise, and listicles have become popular. They are easy and provide the 'whys.'

Now there's a vocabulary word for you if you don't know it already: a listicle is basically a list that has enough copy to run as an article.

But how do you compare the different types of writers? Is there a difference between what traditional journalists want and what bloggers want? I can tell you, as someone who writes for traditional editorial media outlets as well as for blogs, that there is increasingly less difference.

Veronica adds the following:

There is some overlap when providing content, news and images. Traditional journalists typically want to use resources (through interviews) to authenticate their stories. On the other hand bloggers, vloggers, social media and influencers want to experience it for themselves, so you have to provide that access to them. Sometimes, the hard part is not so much distinguishing the difference between all of the online media opportunities and messaging, it's convincing the client that social media outlets are important. And they are very important, because you can often reach your audience directly.

Rose Capasso, account manager at Carolyn Izzo Integrated Communications in Nyack, NY, says that her way of communicating with writers, journalists and bloggers has evolved:

Over the years, my approach has become much less formal. I find that traditional journalists -- much like the bloggers I've been working with in recent years -- appreciate a short, targeted note as opposed to a longer, more formal pitch. I don't think anyone likes to feel as if they are being pitched, but rather respond better to a note that says 'Hi there, I thought this might be of interest to you.'

I'd like to add a bit more about what we journalists and bloggers look for. Here's a quick list of things that attract our attention:

• Hot trends
• Useful information
• Real news
• Cool visuals
• Offbeat stories
• Unique experiences
• Shareable moments

So how do you create shareable moments -- the things that appear on social media and get passed around?

Here's what Karla Visconti, director of corporate communications for the Caribbean and Latin America at Hilton Worldwide, has to say:

We try to look at trends and angles that will interest readers, doing what we can to move away from solely promoting offers and services, and looking at ways to deliver more authentic and creative elements. For example, for the holidays, instead of sending out a press release about our holiday offers, we share holiday cocktail recipes that readers can recreate at home, and personalize them with the name and face of the creator.

That tactic definitely worked on me -- I've run cocktail recipes from Hilton on my travel site, LatinFlyer.com, including a photo of a rather hunky bartender!

This is the kind of content that attracts attention because it's info that people can use even if they're not traveling to your destination right away. It's a way to get your brand into their minds.

Karla also notes the importance of providing ideas for "larger" stories that transcend just one hotel or destination, as well as the need for multimedia resources -- with the ability to provide photos, video and social media-friendly content.

Here's more of Karla's insight:

We find that larger mainstream publications seek larger stories, trends, an angle that's larger than one hotel. Those looking for offers want real savings and demonstrated value, whereas before, many looked for creative packages or offers with interesting elements; it seems today it's more about simplifying and showing value to the consumer. The other change we are seeing is the need for multimedia resources, i.e. not just a press release, but content with a story, complemented by photos, videos, social media access, etc.

Here's another thing that I like: A great Website that's journalist-friendly and useful for journalists and bloggers.

Here's are seven things that make a website useful for travel writers:

1. A separate press section: Don't make journalists jump through hoops when they want to give you free publicity. Maintain a press section on your site, even if it's just one page. That's the place for news updates, press releases, factoids, story angles and interesting tidbits that could spark a story. And don't forget to include a phone number and e-mail for reporters to get more information. A well-planned online press section can work wonders for even the smallest business, serving as an automatic publicist.
2. Easy-to-find information: You should have a friendly little place to click that says "Press Relations," "Media Center" or something similar. If you have a completely separate Website (with a different URL) that serves as your online newsroom, include easy-to-find links throughout your main Website.
3. Up-to-date information: Press releases and news should be organized in chronological order, with the newest first (and be sure each release has the date it was issued).
4. No forced forms: Don't force journalists to register to access the press section. You can offer them an automated form where they can register to be placed on your mailing list -- but don't make that mandatory.
5. A real, live human being: Include a contact name (a real person), a phone number, e-mail and the address of your organization. A "submit" form for questions is not sufficient, as often journalists need to speak by phone, or send an e-mail from their own e-mail address.
6. The ability to search: Include a search feature within the newsroom or for the site overall. This way, journalists can find the specific information they need.
7. Great visuals: Include a section with low-resolution stock images -- and perhaps video too -- depicting your product, destination or service. Be ready to respond promptly to requests for higher-resolution versions for publication (you can include watermark on each low-res image with your copyright to protect against misuse, but the high resolution images must be watermark-free).

In future posts, I'll address how to plan the perfect press trip.