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It’s no secret the media landscape has changed in recent years, and travel publications are no exception. A growing amount of sponsored and paid-for content often overshadows honest reviews and authentic recommendations. Anyone in the industry knows that getting your travel business mentioned in an article often comes at a price. That means small tour operators and eco-lodges are often left behind, beat out by massive hotel chains that can afford the high price tag of hosting trips and inviting journalists to stay for free.
How can you compete to get your travel product the coverage it deserves? Here are six things you can do to get press for your small travel business on a budget.
1. Monitor the Media
The best way to find journalists, influencers, and publications that fit your travel brand is to pay attention to what’s being written, who is writing it, when it’s being published, and where. For some, this means hiring a full-time employee or paying for an expensive monitoring service. For those without an extensive budget, this means learning how to utilize Google Alerts.
To monitor the industry, you need to set up alerts relevant to what you offer. Choose search queries that are specific enough to your business but broad enough to capture the wider theme or trend; not “travel” but “adventure travel.” Consider upcoming events, high and low seasons for your destinations, and reservation deadlines for activities requiring advance planning. You may also want to monitor your competitors’ coverage. This can be a great benchmarking, focused tactic that helps you stay on top of new developments.
Once you set up alerts, emails will automatically be sent to your inbox. Make sure you select the appropriate frequency and region for your needs. You can also narrow your search results to exclude any kind of coverage you’re not interested in, such as videos or books. It will take some time to get a handle on the current travel media landscape, so while you’re “listening,” keep an eye out for targeted opportunities.
2. Be a Source
Journalists are always looking for sources who can add value to the stories they’re writing. Since you have specific and detailed insights into your travel niche, you are already set to share your expertise.
Being a source is often about being at the right place at the right time. It’s your job to make yourself available on the spot. You can do this easily by using online tools that connect journalists with sources. A few popular options are:
Short for Help A Reporter Out, HARO is operated by public relations software giant Cision, but it’s absolutely free. Sign up for an account, check the “travel” box, and you’ll start receiving an email newsletter with journalist requests three times a day. If you offer something that’s also relevant to another niche market, like wellness travel, try checking the ‘“lifestyle and fitness” box for additional relevant requests.
ATTA Journalist Alerts
Hopefully you’re already familiar with your account in the Adventure HUB, but if you haven’t noticed, there’s a special section where media members can post journalist alerts requesting information and advice for upcoming stories. Journalist alerts appear in the sidebar of the main page on The HUB, and members are encouraged to check this member-only site often for opportunities to provide expertise. The best part? These alerts can only be viewed by members of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA). That means there are fewer potential respondents, and your contribution is more likely to be selected.
Another great (and free!) way to offer journalists information is by monitoring Twitter for the hashtags #prrequest and #journorequest. Journalists love Twitter, and it’s not uncommon to see last-minute requests for quotes or supporting information to complement a story they’re already working on. You can even aggregate these tweets into a spreadsheet for easy viewing using the handy service IFTTT. Don’t worry, it’s also free!
However, just because you respond to a request doesn’t guarantee a feature in someone’s article. You still have to make sure you respect journalists’ deadlines, respond to their specific questions, and sell yourself in a way that appeals to them — often with a quote they can use as-is. It always helps to do a bit of background research on the topic if necessary, and you might consider offering to share the published article with your own followers on social media to build affinity.
3. Build Relationships
It might seem daunting to try to build an online relationship with someone you’ve never even met, but it’s not as hard as you think. Keep in mind, the best thing you can do for a journalist is provide value, so think about sharing your recent survey data or the booking trends you’ve noticed over the past year. But how?
Journalists use social media professionally and you should be doing the same — it’s digital networking! Like and follow the travel journalists you admire on all of their social channels, read and comment on their work, and share their articles with your followers. You can even send them emails with clarification or added commentary, if appropriate. This way, a journalist knows who you are and that you are well-informed.
At best, you’ll engage that person in a thoughtful and productive discussion hopefully leading to a mention in the next article, or, even better, a feature story. At the very least, you’ll garner appreciation, respect, and a “warm” recipient for your next pitch.
Pitch an Idea
Journalists are almost always open to new story ideas. This means if you have a great story to tell, there’s a huge opportunity for exposure.
But don’t think you can write a press release about your new trip offering and send it to every journalist who has ever written something travel-related. Pitching takes tact and consideration. Journalists are busy. They have tight deadlines and unique beats. They don’t have time to listen to uninteresting or irrelevant ideas with the sole purpose of promoting your business. Those pitches will not only go straight in the trash but also harm your relationships.
Take the time to develop an angle and avoid common pitching mistakes. Develop a media list, familiarize yourself with travel journalists and the publications they write for, and only pitch those you think would appreciate the story you have in mind.
4. Get Out There
You’re in the travel business after all, so don’t forget to practice what you preach. Get out and explore opportunities for making connections and building relationships with an open mind. You never know where you might meet a budding freelance blogger or seasoned travel writer. In fact, ATTA gatherings like AdventureConnects (informal networking events) and MediaConnects (formalized networking sessions featuring one-on-one meetings with media delegates at the Adventure Travel World Summit and AdventureELEVATE) are great opportunities to meet adventure travel media members.
Don’t be shy about striking up a conversation and delivering your pitch in person. Afterwards, remain available. Your new media friend might have follow-up questions, request an interview, or require images. It’s important that you hold up your end of the relationship with respect for information needs and deadlines.
5. Share Your Expertise
Writing your own story is another great way to generate exposure for your small travel business while also establishing your authority. Wait, you can do that? Yes! And it’s easier than you think.
Guest posting on blogs and websites lets you share your knowledge and positions you as an industry leader. Not only is this great for your customer-facing reputation but it also boosts your B2B reputation, meaning more people will see you as you want to be seen, whether that’s as the most unique glamping experience in the Southern Hemisphere or the most sustainable rafting trip in the Americas.
Once you have a couple great ideas, find some appropriate publications. A quick Google search with the terms “write for us” or “contribute” delivers hundreds of travel websites that are happy to accept thoughtful contributions from credible people. Submission processes and requirements vary from site to site so be aware of what they’re looking for, follow their submission instructions, and make sure your idea fits. Do your due diligence by reviewing the site for similar content, following the word count, citing any research, providing expert sources, and including sourced images — all without being promotional. This requires quality writing and a compelling story, but once you’ve established yourself as a knowledgeable voice, the momentum will keep on building.
6. Above All, Tell A Good Story
Your existence and your products are not a story. You may think you offer the best trekking trips through the Andes but so does every other small group tour operator in South America. Describing your company and what you sell doesn’t have any viral potential because it’s just not that interesting. And it usually won’t make you any friends in the media.
You have to position yourself within a story that teaches a lesson, gives actionable advice, shows knowledge about industry trends, or provides new insights. What do you do differently? Where can you provide value? Why should people care about you?
Think of your business from an outsider’s perspective and don’t be discouraged by how hard it can be. Everyone has a story to tell; go deep and find out what makes your travel business significant, interesting, or new. Then, think of ways you can make that story sound extraordinary or timely. For example, are you eliminating single-use plastics from all of your tours or sponsoring local guides in their education? Maybe you can even leverage an exceptional guest or passenger.
You can still say your company is great, but make sure you do it in a way that shows how great you are. If you can connect to audience members on a deeper emotional level, you’ll stay with them long after they’ve stopped reading.
Go ahead and start getting yourself some affordable travel media coverage! In theory, it’s simple, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy. Making an impact in the media comes down to creativity, consideration, and targeted persistence. Over time, ongoing effort and thoughtful adaptation will yield lasting changes.