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Blogging for love and press trips: 7 Ways to Build Your Reputation - and 5 Ways to Wreck It


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Speaking to travel bloggers - and bloggers who want to add travel content to their blogs - at the Entertainment New Media Network conference in Anaheim (, I focused …

Speaking to travel bloggers - and bloggers who want to add travel content to their blogs - at the Entertainment New Media Network conference in Anaheim (, I focused on the keys to success in getting support and help with your travel from destinations, hotels, attractions and other entities - as well as five easy ways to destroy your credibility.

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  • 1. Blogging for Love – And Press Trips! 7 Tips to Build Your Reputation in the Travel Industry – and 5 Ways to Wreck It! ENMN Conference Anaheim, CA February 15, 2014 Presented by Peggy Bendel Bendel Communications International
  • 2. Peggy Bendel, President of Bendel Communications International, headed the Tourism Division of Development Counsellors International (DCI) from 1985 to 2008, working with more than 50 clients around the globe, including Australia, California, Denver, Dubai, South Africa, U.S. Virgin Islands, Scotland and Tasmania. A principal in the seminal I Love New York campaign, Peggy began her career as a travel writer for the State of New York, and worked in economic development and international trade as well as tourism. She is the author of “It’s a crisis! NOW what?” The first step-bystep handbook for the global tourism and hospitality industry, published in 2012. Peggy blogs on the topic at Peggy received the Lifetime Achievement in Public Relations award from the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI). She sits on the Boards of the Association of Travel Marketing Executives (, Destination and Travel Foundation (, Ecology Project International ( and the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). She is a past Chair of the Public Relations Society of America’s ( Travel & Tourism section. She and her husband live in Tucson, AZ and New York. 2
  • 3. Our Client Experience
  • 4. Thank You to SATW Members: • • • • • • • • • • Tom Adkinson Susan Farlow Jackie Sheckler Finch Elizabeth Hanson Candy Harrington Durant Imboden Susan McKee Maribeth Mellin Diane Lambdin Meyer Toby Saltzman 4
  • 5. 1. Find your voice. • Don't just regurgitate press releases -- put your own personal spin on them. • Let your personality show through in your writing. • Having a specific niche helps, too. Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ 5
  • 6. Follow that blog (or e-newsletter)… • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 6
  • 7. 2. Be professional from the start. Learn how to present yourself as a writer: • Know the data about your readership and reach, Google analytics, Klout score, and more. • Understand how your readers/followers mesh with the destination, attraction, hotel, activity, tour operator, etc. • Make sure your post is letter perfect; original; 100% factually correct; honest. • Do not think of travel writing as an avenue to get "free trips" but rather as an avenue of creative selfexpression. 7
  • 8. 3. Don’t work for free, unless… Courtesy Oliver Emberton: 8
  • 9. 4. ‘Coverage' is not 'promotion' • PR contacts or hosts are not 'clients' unless you're being paid to write for their blogs and not for your own." • Don't offer to "review" businesses in return for admission, a meal or lodging. Your offer to "review" is an offer to trade services, and that's not what you're supposed to be doing. • Know the difference between a journalist and a copywriter, and decide which you want to be. (If you're freelancing and hope to get editorial assignments, think twice about using your byline on 'advertorial.") 9
  • 10. 5. Know what a trip is all about before signing up. • Don't accept an invitation for a culinary press trip if what you really want is soft adventure. Not a golfer? Don’t say “yes” to a golf trip, diving trip if you fear the water, or a horseback trip if you don’t know how to ride. • You'll be miserable…and so will your hosts (they’ll be angry, too!). Images courtesy of Grant Cochrane, vectorolie/ 10
  • 11. 6. Remember, You’re Not on Vacation! • • • • This is a job: approach it as a professional. It's not all fun. It's a job, one that many others would love, so…No whining! Review your notes before you go to sleep and jot down all those things you're sure you'll remember…but you won’t! Images courtesy of digitalart, Arvind Balaraman, imagerymajestic/ 11
  • 12. 7. Bring all of your tools: and backup! No itinerary includes time to hunt for extra pens or notebooks, or stop to buy digital camera memory cards, power cords or a voice recorder for someone who forgot the tools of their trade. Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ 12
  • 13. Now you’ve built it… don’t ruin it! Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ 13
  • 14. 1. Don’t produce results. • Never accept a trip if you aren't sure you can sell a story on the topic. Journos aren't invited just because they are such great company! • Publications – online and off – go out of business, change editors, kill stories: but as a blogger, you control your content. • Multiple stories are the norm, for a multi-day trip. • Tweeting and blogging during the trip are appreciated; if you can add content to Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook or other outlets in addition to your blog, so much the better. 14
  • 15. 2. Be late – for everything! If a writer or photographer is not on time, PR pros should – and often will - leave that person behind. It is very inconsiderate and unprofessional to make others wait and get behind schedule. • If you’re asked to complete paperwork in advance (for a visa, hotel registration, food allergies and other background details), DO IT ON TIME! Image courtesy of photostock/ 15
  • 16. 3. Bring your dog, 3 kids and the neighbors along – without asking! • Every piece of writing, it seems to me, rests on four pillars of engagement: with your subject, with yourself, with your audience, and with your writing. Each of these is essential to the success of a piece. • You have to engage with your subject, to understand its history, character, and heart. • You have to engage with yourself, to understand and mine the deeper connection between you and your chosen subject. • You have to engage with your audience, keeping some sense of their background, knowledge, and interests in mind as you develop your piece and choose what to include and what to leave out. • And you have to engage with your writing, to make it as precise, melodic, and meaningful as possible. 16
  • 17. 4. Be a diva, or a bully! • You may get your way this time when it comes to changes in itineraries, preferred accommodations or dropped charges for personal items at a hotel, but your hosts and fellow travel writers will remember, share their experience and you'll soon find yourself persona non grata. Images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, patrisyu and Clare Bloomfield/ 17
  • 18. 5. Get drunk, break your leg, then refuse to travel home for the next month! Yes, this really happened when one of my staff was escorting a press group to an island destination! Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/ 18
  • 19. SATW Code of Ethics • • • • Code of Ethics Principle I: SATW members shall maintain the highest professional standards. Principle II: SATW members shall conduct business in a professional manner. Principle III: SATW members shall maintain the highest standards of professionalism on press trips and sponsored activities. Principle IV: SATW members shall avoid all real or perceived conflicts of interest. 19
  • 20. Code of Conduct 1. Program Participation 2. Itinerary or Program Changes 3. Respecting Local Customs 4. Online Conduct 5. Alcoholic Beverages 6. Claims and/or Complaints 7. Penalties for Violations of the Code 20
  • 21. Don George Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing Than Fiction @don_george Better Reproduced with permission from National Geographic's Intelligent Travel blog 21
  • 22. Where do you want to go and why do you want to go there? • The why is an essential part of this equation; it becomes the vehicle that moves the story along. So I look for things– festivals, spiritual sites, historic sites, beliefs, rituals, wildernesses, legacies, characters–that excite me in a place, things that stand out as potential passion points and connections. • Finally, if I can, I try to frame my journey in the context of a quest: I’m going to X in search of Y… Why? This approach lends the story a built-in nice narrative arc, a shape, that can make the experience on the ground and in the writing ultimately much more cohesive and compelling–and a lot less painful. 22
  • 23. What’s the story? • I vacuum up all the information I can. Why? Even with the Internet, there’s a wealth of things–brochures, postcards, plaques, bulletin board flyers–that ooze important information about this place that you won’t be able to access once you’re back home. • I know from unfortunate experience early in my career that the last thing you want is to be on the other side of the world three months later, frantically turning your backpack inside out in fruitless search for a piece of essential data that you didn’t realize was going to be essential at the time, and thus left behind. • The other thing I’m always trying to do is to hone my focus. I can’t repeat this enough: Focus; focus; focus. Look for the telling little details that capture a taste, a person, an experience–the small truths that illuminate the larger truths. And, almost more importantly, write them down! 23
  • 24. What am I learning? • This is another version of the question I asked at the beginning of this column–What’s the story?–but with a more personal twist. • What is this place and my experience here revealing to me? What gifts are they bestowing upon me? How are they changing and challenging and expanding me? What, really, am I learning here? • This question will become crucial in the third phase of your journey–when you’re trying to figure out what to write once you’re back home. 24
  • 25. How did you learn that lesson? What were the steps that led you to understand it? • I identify and write down these steps, tracing my journey to the lesson. Then I pick out a few essential stepping stones and try to recall as vividly as possible the experiences, details, and characters involved in each. • Those stepping stones become the map of my journey, the path I’ll follow to write the story. • One thing I always try to remember is that the story is not ultimately about me, it’s about the place. That’s what the reader wants to know about. • My experience is the vehicle that illuminates the place. • My job as a travel writer is to present my experiences in that place in such a vivid and coherent way that the lesson I learned–my own quintessential takeaway–is shared on a profound level with the people who are reading about it. 25
  • 26. How did you learn that lesson? What were the steps that led you to understand it?, con’t. • When you return from three weeks or three months on the road, you often you have a book’s worth of experiences and stories. But if you’re writing just one story, you need to focus. • The beauty of the stepping-stone approach to storytelling is that it lends direction to the writing process. Figuring out the lesson you want to tell, and the steps that led to that lesson, helps you discard all the encounters and events–however wonderful and memorable they may have been–that don’t play a role in that particular lesson. • You need to ruthlessly edit your experience, cutting away everything that doesn’t contribute to the reader reaching the same place, the same illumination, that you have reached. • But the prize is priceless! When you can successfully bring the reader to that same illumination with you, when you can share a place’s quintessential lesson, you create one more connection in the beautiful chain that links writer and reader, traveler and traveler, visitor and resident. 26
  • 27. Image courtesy of supakitmod/ 27
  • 28. Image courtesy of basketman/ 28
  • 29. Q&A 29
  • 30. Thank you! @PeggyBendel