Tbex 2013 Toronto Creative Pitching for Experienced Travel Bloggers

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Tbex 2013 Toronto Creative Pitching for Experienced Travel Bloggers featuring Ryan Levitt

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  • Is the company being pitched new to social media? Or have they been operating for a long time? If the company is new, don’t overwhelm them with Klout Scores, measurement numbers and industry analytics. Chances are they won’t know what you are talking about. Stick with what every company is familiar with and go with Facebook numbers and Twitter follower counts – but be prepared to back yourself up. Your 8,000 followers might look like a big achievement, but it won’t look like much when a newbie is analysing the like numbers for a more mass-market publication. And remember – when pitching for dollars you aren’t just in competition with other blogger. You are also in competition with newspapers, magazines, TV and search marketing for a slice of the overall marketing pie. So you need to prove your worth. A company new to social and blogging will traditionally be more focused on transactional sales. They want direct ROI. So be sure to have case studies available that show a clear relationship between your work and sales figures. On the other hand, an ‘old hat’ will be more open to branding campaigns. Adjust your pitch accordingly. Showcase your access to a distinct target market. Research where their activity has been focused previously. Chances are they aren’t going to stray much from it. If they target adventure travellers then pitch something that shows how the company can increase brand awareness with this market. Same goes with foodies. If the company is not new, give them the basics of your reach and let them do their own analysis. Don’t be patronising. Chances are they have someone in house whose analytics tools are very focused and can read through any exaggerations you put in. So whatever you do don’t add too much numbers cream to your sundae.
  • Start with general sector research – find out what issues are affecting the sector that the company operates in. Mass market operators often face issues regarding customer service and ‘personal touches’ – use Google to read latest news updates. Find out what the company is concerned with and pitch an idea that will help them address it. Read their press centre and latest releases – this is the biggest key in determining what the company thinks of as important. How can I determine the market? Research booking trends – The Phocuswright report on holiday rentals shows that over 60% of this market is in Europe. My focus is likely to be on Europe. Go to the news section of Google – find out what the latest releases have been and try and determine a theme.
  • Look at the homepages – what are the images? Read between the lines? What’s being featured? Who are the people in their ad campaigns? Are they young? Old? Female? Male? Groups? Couples? Families? The images will tell you everything you need to know about who they are targeting. If your blog profile doesn’t match the images and text of what is being presented, then don’t pitch.
  • I am not here to help fund your dream holiday. I am not here to assist you in getting around the world for cheap. If you pitch me for a accommodation (or anyone else for that matter), we will want…. Long-tail success (so global nomads funding a one year break – no matter how great your writing is, if your trip is limited time only then I am not interested) Something accessible to large numbers of people (My family of five are doing a dream trip cycling from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego and would love accommodation along the way. I don’t think so.) When I was a travel journalist, my editor said that when times were tough, the travel section was the first to go because it’s the section the least number of people ever read. Same goes with traffic on travel specific sites. I need an angle – yes – but it needs to be one large numbers of targets are attracted by. I personally don’ t care if Jimmy got saddle sores on day two of the ‘ ultimate journey ’ . It ’ s only going to work for me if I am a cycling holiday company that has tours along large parts of your itinerary and/or a cycling manufacturer who wants to showcase the durability of products. I can probably count on my hand the number of people who will ever do a journey like this so why would I – as an accommodation provider – be enticed by this? Global nomads – you’ll have to prove your staying power. I need to know you have staying power and aren’t just going it as a gap year between gigs. I’m investing in the power of your link and word. If you drop the website a year from now, then I will not be very happy. To be honest – unless I am an adventure travel tour operator or hostel-style accommodation provider, I believe that global nomads are going to find it increasingly hard pitching and securing gigs unless they have a specific niche that they focus on. There are just too few people who enjoy reading this kind of ‘escapism’ text and too few people who will ever have the opportunity to do it. Global nomads who have been on the road for a long time have as step up because they can transform their blog from a first-person chronicle into a more tips-packed destination website using first-person advice and examples. Think of tying in your pitch with a key date, festival or search term. Do I have a lot of properties in Paris? What’s going on there this year for an extended period? An art exhibit? A festival? Christmas markets are a great example. HouseTrip has lots of properties in Germany. But I’m going to want information about the markets up in September when people are making their bookings – not in December when the booking period has been and gone. Plan ahead. Go to the market in December and run it when people actually look. Make me know that you have this kind of information. Start reading the papers (sorry). Newspaper journalists have to think of creative ways to repackage familiar places. They do angle pitching all the time. I can commission 100 bloggers tomorrow on Paris. What idea do you have that is pertinent to my consumer base, appealing to read, offers good link options and stands out? And if I get another top ten pitch I might scream in agony – unless you are a global expert in the topic.
  • If there’s one thing companies hate – it’s bloggers who pitch great angles, have great readership and then say ‘I don’t do that’ to every suggestion that is brought up. Having limits is good. We respect that. Having limits that ensure that a relationship is a one-way street is a fast-track way to blacklisting you and potentially every other blogger out there if a company feels it’s ‘too much hassle’. I have a theory that bloggers have one of four end goals in the travel sector: The ‘I do it for pleasure because it’s fun’ blogger – usually first-person, happy to get the occasional press trip, no real focus but enjoying themselves…often tips based which can be good for SEO linking. The ‘I’m trying to make a living out of it for life’ blogger – the best kind for us brands to work with…call me please The ‘I’m doing it to fund my dream trip’ blogger – don’t call us, we’ll call you The ‘I want a book deal’ blogger – I would run away fast. They might be dazzling writers with huge followings but they will trash my brand in a second if they think their comment boxes will be filled with ‘LOL’s’ If you don’t want to compromise your blog and your end goal isn’t for long-term success or career focus then look at alternate ways to fund your work. Brands need people with flexibility. I hate quoting Thatcher as a rule but she once said ‘Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions’. Brands will want this perspective on things.
  • Don’t send a link to coverage – a brand decision maker will need proof of success. If you are pitching an idea to generate sales, then provide me with a case study that shows that click throughs and sales transactions went up as a result of your project. If it’s brand awareness, then I need to know page views, retweets and comments. And if I’m smart, I’ll also analyse how much of that was among the blogger community and how much was generated by the general public. A link to a piece of coverage doesn’t cut it.
  • Sponsoring you costs us money. The typical press trip for a journalist is 3-4 days. This will get me a piece of coverage with a circulation of anything from 200K to 1M in the UK. It will also get me coverage on their online portal which is considered more respected than blogs(by Google) with more ‘importance’ in my Google search rankings than any current blog. I know bloggers need more time for exploration. I know bloggers need to immerse themselves in their destination to provide the best content for their readership. I know that bloggers do constant tweeting updates, etc while in a destination – but when all is said and done, am I going to want to comp four nights at $100 a night for a paper and their website or $1,400 nights for two weeks in a destination for a blogger? Unless your blog is the most authoritiative in its sector with an amazing target market, be prepared to pack lots of stuff into limited time periods We constantly hear that bloggers have special needs, that a blog trip is unique. This is going to sound tough but get over yourself. We know you have to constantly update, maintain your blog etc on the road. But we simply don’t have the cash to turn 3-4 days into a two week immersive experience.
  • Journalists are the laziest people on earth. I know because I used to be one. And I know that this is going to sound controversial – but bloggers are just as bad. And the ones new to the business are even worse. When a journalist is putting together a pitch, they will weave together numerous partners who reduce the cost of their travel. This might include an airline, accommodation provider and tourism board. To date, I have only been pitched by four bloggers who have put in their pitches: ‘We will also talk to x, y, and z to see if they can help out with this story suggestion. And guess what – these are the same four bloggers who are currently working with HouseTrip on paid contracts. Don’t expect the brand to do all the work. You need to put some effort in too. The more I see a blogger is prepared to shoulder some of the burden of making the project happen, the more likely I am to support that project.
  • Don’t be late submitiing copy…..ever. If you’re sick, I care as a person but I don’t as an employer. I’m not your mate. I’m not your confidante. I am someone who hired you for a job to be delivered on spec and on time. What does this have to do with a pitch? Lots. Brands talk to each other all the time. I’m going to let you in on a secret. You know all those times you’re chatting here at TBEX with other bloggers? We brands do it too. If you are difficult to work with or consistently late or tell me you are sick but proceed to post live Instagrams from Venice with your boyfriend– I remember. And just as you use social media to keep your blog going – I use social media to tell my mates in the industry who to work with and who not to. Hit your deadlines, suck up the headache and tell your partner to look after the kids for the night. Because your pitch might be stellar but your attitude might be what is holding you back.
  • Have you heard the story about the teacher who posted drunk pictures on Facebook and got fired? Or the one about the guy who made racist comments and lost his job? Well, as a brand, I’m going to do some fact finding of my own. So if you get past hurdle one in the pitch process and secure my interest, be prepared to defend any negative comment, trash talking post or rant you have done. Because I will see it. And it will make me question if I can work with you. I don’t want sycophants – so a smart brand will know the difference between constructive comment and absolute negativity. But they will want to cross their ‘ ts ’ and dot their ‘ I ’ s when defending their choice of working with you to their bosses.
  • Know standard business terms, ask for what is fair. Here’s a guideline. Usual terms of payment are net terms 30 days in the UK. When the pitch process goes further down the line, don’t expect payment any time before this. Blogs might be different from media, but my bosses will not pay for something that has yet to be delivered. If you are asking me for accommodation, don’t expect me to cover food, tours and other sundries unless it’s needed to fulfil the content. I am based in Europe. My focus is on European accommodation. If I need to get a blogger to a specific destination to cover it, then I am more likely to hire a European-based blogger to cover my needs to reduce my costs. Where will you be? How can we reduce costs to allow you to do the content production? Tell me this in the pitch. And be aware that the 3 month European grand tour dates you want might not match my needs for deadlines. Either be prepared to change your dates or lose the contract.
  • This is the ideal
  • Tbex 2013 Toronto Creative Pitching for Experienced Travel Bloggers

    1. 1. Creative Pitching for Experienced Travel Bloggers Ryan Levitt, PR Director, HouseTrip @ryanlevitt/@housetrip
    2. 2. Every day I get at least one pitch – and they all look the same
    3. 3. Dear Ryan Levitt, I'm (insert name), a travel blogger of (insert blogsite with slightly cute name), where I feature my favorite spots from around the world. •Brand name misspelled three times in email (Housetrip, House Trip, HouseTrip) •Pitch for completely irrelevant destination (HouseTrip have 4,000 properties available in Paris and 44 in Kuala Lumpur – where do you think my priorities will be) •Request for ridiculous amount of nights (2 weeks to ‘immerse in a destination) •Patronising information about what social media is and/or how bloggers can help •NO discussion of long-term effects or how working together will benefit my brand •Links to previous coverage with no discussion of how brand benefitted •No comment on what specific thing about my brand they particularly like
    4. 4. Think more like a journalist, publisher and media salesperson Journalist: ORIGINAL angles to secure commissions – yet relevant to readership Publisher: ORIGINAL ways to package content that engages readers – advertorial, event sponsorship, think outside the box Media salesperson: Make your website the one I NEED to invest it – targeted readership
    5. 5. Question One: Is the company experienced working with bloggers?
    6. 6. Question Two: How can I research the market?
    7. 7. Question Three: What is the brand currently featuring on their website?
    8. 8. Statement Four: STOP pitching free travel – unless there is a twist or USP
    9. 9. Statement Five: Know what you want from your blog – and what your limits are
    10. 10. Statement Six: Case studies, case studies, case studies
    11. 11. Statement Six: Be prepared to cut corners
    12. 12. Statement Seven: Put some muscle in it
    13. 13. Statement Eight: No excuses
    14. 14. Statement Nine: Know that I am going to research you
    15. 15. Statement Ten: Don’t be greedy
    16. 16. Dear Ryan Levitt, I'm (insert name), a travel blogger of (insert blogsite with slightly cute name) and I focus on (this niche sector). •Correct brand name with specific example of what you like about us •Example that you know my brand inside out – pitch me content I am missing but related to a destination or experience you know I am pushing •Reasonable request for assistance – and show me you are willing to reach out to other brands if required •Basic, verifyable information about your analytics in plain English •2-3 options of how we can work together, how my company will benefit and how you have done it in the past with relatable case studies •Information on travel dates – so we know what you are up to and when •Details on what your limits are (if you have any) – but done in a way that shows solutions to these obstacles

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