How To Work With Travel Bloggers & Influencers – and When You Should Pay.
I first created this page as a response to the overwhelming positive feedback I received after giving this presentation at the WTM Ski Conference in Austria way back in 2016 – when travel brands were just beginning to navigate working with professional content creators and the concept of influencers was still in its infancy.
Today we may be talking about influencers rather than bloggers but the advice is as valuable and relevant as ever.
Scroll down for the working with influencers cheat sheet.
Note: The slides from the presentation are available to via this page – password wtmski:
As promised here’s a ‘Working With Bloggers / Influencers Cheat Sheet’…
Here are a selection of questions to ask yourself when working with bloggers and influencers …
Would this person seem like a natural consumer of your brand if they were not a blogger/influencer? If someone has never purchased a product like yours in their life with their own hard earned cash, how can they judge it?
It takes more to impress a blogger/influencer who has already tried this form of travel: while it’s great to work with a blogger/influencer who loves everything, you want constructive, educated and useful feedback on what differentiates you from your competitors.
Who are today’s travel bloggers/influencers?
- Blogging has been going for a few years now and has matured into 2 distinct camps; hobby and professional. There’s nothing wrong with both but don’t mix up the two.
- Just a note on being measured by metrics – be careful of numbers.
- Of course everyone wants a nice easy way of measuring if something is good or not – but we know from life that it doesn’t always work that way.
- A blogger’s numbers may be great but is their content actually any good? Use common sense – look at their blog or socials! Trust your own judgement, if you’re not impressed by it why would anyone else be?
What role have bloggers/influencers fallen into in today’s society?
- In the good old days of media pre-digital there were 2 or 3 newspapers, TV channels and radio stations in each country or region and if you wanted to advertise that’s where you needed to be.
- The job of a media salesperson was to explain the different audiences for each media and you then chose the right one for your brand. They were simpler days.
- Of course once digital TV and radio took over and with the rise of the internet, the way media was consumed changed beyond all recognition and fragmented to the point where it is today.
- Where once women’s magazines were the trusted best friend a girl didn’t have, today if you’re looking for a beauty product you’re more likely to turn to a blog now to find out if that expensive face cream really works.
- In today’s highly impersonal world consumers are looking for personal recommendations and connections.
- The same goes for holidays – most travel bloggers started travel blogging because they were sick of giving advice about where to go to their friends and friends of friends, once they’d been identified as the ‘travel expert’ in a group so they wrote about it so more people could benefit from their experience.
- In today’s global market as consumers we think, ‘why should I be the guinea pig who finds out if this place really is any good? – someone somewhere has been and tried it first I might as well ask them!’
The Glamour of blogging/influencing
- Mine isn’t even the most glamorous or exotic of lives compared with people who are permanently nomadic, but it’s pretty fun and this is why people like to follow along.
- Travel used to be so glamorous – then with Easyjet and the rest of the low cost carriers it became far more accessible, less glam, and blogger/influencer inject that glamour back into travel.
Journalist versus blogger similarities and differences
- You’ll see that I am IN a lot of my pictures. This isn’t because I love myself but this brings us onto a very important distinction about what makes the difference between a blogger and a journalist.
- Journalists are to be impartial and not be involved in the story. blogger/influencer are the opposite – people want to see them doing things because then they can easily imagine themselves doing these things too.
- The journalism vs blogger debate is constant. You don’t need to know the politics behind it but you just need to know that lots of traditional journalists are threatened by bloggers – and annoyed they don’t have proper training in grammar / spelling etc.
- Bloggers learn from trial and error. Any blogger will tell you that if they look back at their first blog post they now think it was awful. That’s why the first question you should ask is ‘how long have you been blogging/posting.’ Because unless they’ve been blogging or working as an influencer for a while they probably haven’t found their voice yet.
Susan Grossman – Journalism Lecturer
- Susan points out some interesting ways in which a travel writer and a journalist are one and the same beast.
- Don’t try and get a good blogger/influencer or journalist to come and cover something next week. Plan AHEAD. The good ones are booked up at least a couple of months ahead!
What does a blogger/influencer want from you?
- So we’ve established that a professional blogger/influencer will probably want the same as what a journalist wants – and if we go back to the old truths about journalists remember that if a journalist has a request for information the sooner you send them that information, the more likely you are to be put in the piece.
- I asked a bunch of people for quotes for this presentation, two were a bit slow to come back to me so they were replaced – and they’re my FRIENDS! We are cut throat like that because we are on DEADLINE.
Abigail King – Blogger: Inside The Travel Lab
- What makes it hard to work with bloggers is that blogger/influencer reached the professional through a totally different pathway
- Professions like medicine have a clear, defined pathway for medical students to follow.
- That pathway gives the public trust. They trust that the hospital has vetted the doctor and that the doctor knows what they are talking about.
- In blogger/influencing it’s more complicated. Someone needs to vet the blogger/influencer, either the in house marketing team or a PR company or a blogger-specific authority like The Travel Mob or iAmbassador or Captivate – 3 organisations who help you find the right bloggers for your campaign.
- Where most blogging projects fail (or at least don’t hit their true potential) is when companies try to override the bloggers they’re working with. The key reason to work with a certain blogger/influencer is to reach a certain audience, one you haven’t managed to reach before.
- The blogger/influencer is the expert on reaching their audience. They know what language, material, hashtag, format, and spacing of publication to use. Those may be different to what the company is used to using but that’s OK. In fact, that’s probably for the best as it means that you will reach new people.
What does being a blogger/influencer entail?
- You may not know what blogger/influencer do. And knowledge is power.
- Now you know the list of expenses and tasks bloggers have and that we are investing in our business every single day in money and time you can see that for hobby blogger/influencer who have a day job doing all this after work shows how passionate they are.
- But you can also see that it is a full time job – and just as you wouldn’t want your plumber or accountant to be doing it on the side for free if you want a good blogger/influencer you ought to pay them.
What will you get from a professional blogger/influencer?
- Professionals will guarantee a certain number of tweets, Facebook mentions and Instagram posts not just see how they feel, they’ll work hard to include as many as possible. They’ll create a hashtag and use it and their positive words will remain online and on social media FOREVER. It isn’t tomorrow’s fish and chip paper anymore.
Adam Hernandez – Social Media, Southwest Airlines
- Southwest is the world’s largest low cost airline – they have 2 million twitter followers and 5 million Facebook fans so who better to ask about social media.
- Adam said this: Studies show that Customer behaviour is most greatly impacted by messages from fellow consumers, even more so than by messages directly from brands. In other words, a Customer is more likely to be drawn to your product or service if they hear a review from a fellow customer. In today’s digital market, a great way to leverage that peer-to-peer influence among your potential Customers is through the words of bloggers.
- This is about storytelling. It’s about sharing experiences and you don’t always need a professional to do that. Anyone can be an advocate for your brand, whether it’s through a blog, a tweet, or a photo with a caption.
- At Southwest, we devote a lot of our resources to finding Customer stories to help drive our reputation, impressions, and even bookings.
- Adam’s advice is Scour the inbound conversation from Customers on your social channels to find what makes you unique to your competition. Your social media presence is going to garner impressions for your brand, but how will you use those impressions?
How to blog proof your brand
- Adam talks about scouring the social media conversation and influencing it and there are a number of ways you can make your life easier here.
- Do it right and you can sit back and let blogger/influencers find you.
- Keep social media account names consistent. Be the same exact thing on all channels so people don’t have to sweat to find you.
- Don’t have social media accounts that you haven’t posted on for months making people wonder if you’re still in business.
- And in travel – make it clear where you are. The name of your nearest town or village isn’t enough. We need to be explicitly told what continent you’re on, and which country you’re in too!
Duncan Rhodes – The Travel Mob
- ‘I often get the impression that companies who work with blogger/influencers either have zero expectations, and are just doing it because they’ve been told working with blogger/influencers is a good idea, or completely unrealistic expectations in that they think are going to get 100s or 1000s of referrals from a couple of posts.
- Working with bloggers should be a professional relationship, and whilst I would strongly advise against pushing a blogger/influencer for specific things (we hate that – we’re all very protective of our brands and the way we work), it is 100% ok to ask the blogger/influencer what they are putting on the table in return for what they’re asking for.
- Paying a blogger/influencer does wonders for their attitude. Instead of your story/coverage getting stuck somewhere in the middle or bottom of their things to do list (under all the jobs marked “required to pay the rent”) it will become a top priority.
- Not only that but you can negotiate more than the basic coverage that offering a mere freebie will get you. And whilst bloggers do take pride in conveying their own unbiased opinions to their readers, them feeling good about the cooperation, rather than feeling taken advantage of, won’t do the nature of the coverage you receive any harm.
- Be sure to share the content that the blogger/influencer created! It never ceases to amaze me how a company could fail to share the stories that give their business life, create engagement and show them in a new light. The blogger/influencer is the story teller, but sharing their tales is the responsibility of both parties.
Free Vs Paid
- Many tourist boards and travel companies understandably do not see where the distinction is because the genre is so new.
- Is this more than just a blog post – do you want the blogger to get involved in your PR and marketing program and get under the skin of your brand? If so that’s a professional job and should be treated as such.
Lessons from BC Winter Ambassadors
- A lot of destinations don’t embrace their local bloggers. They think someone from overseas is a lot more exotic and interesting than a local travel blogger but really locals who are passionate about travel are your BEST asset.
- The benefit of working with local bloggers is that you don’t have to fly them in, because they are already here – and if they love travel they probably go all over the world and tell people about their home destination, so they’re already doing PR for you.
- We all know, is that nothing sells a destination like its people…
Sandra Kadel – Mount Seymour
- Sandra works at Mount Seymour, the place Donavan (featured in the above video) learned to ski .
- She makes a very important point here about the way ski destinations can work digitally – you have a lot more information to convey than a lot of holiday destinations – ski conditions, which runs or chair lifts are open, latest weather reports, last minute offers and changes – and social media and blogger/influencers can really help you spread those messages through their networks fast.
Blogging should be fun
- You’ve seen videos which are about people more than anything else because that is the whole point of selling your destination or hotel using a blogger/influencer.
- Think about it, if you want information about something or somewhere what would you rather? Read an impersonal press release or see what a real person experienced when they went there?
I really hope this has been useful and that you’ll go away with a clearer understanding of what working with blogger/influencers involves, and will now incorporate blogger/influencer into your digital strategy in a more confident way.
I’d love to keep in touch…
You can follow me on social media to keep up with my travels – I’m @savoirthere on all channels (because I follow my own advice and keep it consistent!) – so Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest – you can also find me as me Jaillan Yehia (Jai for short) on Google+ and Linkedin.