Public relations are a particularly hot topic within our community at the moment. The impact it’s still very much in its infancy and as witnessed by the interest it elicited, with some of the strong opinions generated at the recent Travel Bloggers Unite conference will continue to do so for some time.
Success will be achieved with collaboration; we will be stronger when we stand united.
There are a couple of points which are of particular concern and maybe need some serious consideration, one of the main ones being retaining editorial integrity if a particular press trip was not of a high standard.
The PR companies prime concern is their client, an analogy is that they are a little like letting agents. They may rent a property to a tenant, but their loyalty lies with the landlord as it is them that ultimately pay their wages. This however should not necessarily be a cause for concern; a good company will wish to make sure that the blogger enjoys a rewarding trip. This will mean they can genuinely write an honest review which reflects favourably on their client, ensuring their needs are also met.
Any service provider that is not completely confident of their product would be crazy to invite anybody to write any sort of article about it. Additionally the PR Company is responsible for ensuring potential issues are resolved prior to any press trip.
This does not of course guarantee that there won’t be any issues, it is unrealistic for anybody to expect every trip to be completely problem free, but if a writer is continually telling their readership everything is perfect they will lose creditability. However any serious problems should have already been removed, leaving the blogger able to publish an article of genuine interest which is honest and entertaining.
Of course the blogger has responsibility to their readership and advertisers, so editorial integrity is of paramount importance. Readers need to confidence in the website, be able to trust the editor, and their opinions or they will stop visiting the site. A serious drop in figures will impact on advertising opportunities and ultimately revenue, therefore when dealing with this sensitive issue site editors need great care that they do not alienate their readership.
The benefit to clients, and PR agencies is obvious; if the readership trusts the website editorial it is much more likely they will consider recommendations for destinations, accommodations or restaurants as for their next vacation.
Ultimately dealing with any potential conflict of interest will come down to the common sense, diplomacy skills and integrity of the individual.
There will be many avenues and directions this ‘new media’ of blogging will go in, but to sit back and wait to see what evolves maybe an error. Travel bloggers will need to be proactive developing these relationships, otherwise the direction may not head the way we want, or we may lag behind in the exciting times ahead.
A point alluded to, which is definitely something of great interest to me is developing closer links to fellow bloggers. Building a small network of writers/photographers from within the travel blogging community, which have skill-sets and knowledge that complement each other, in effect a blogging co-operative.
For example if offered an all-inclusive trip to a five-star hotel in Abu Dhabi because I am a crazy kind of guy, it would probably be suitable to thank the agency for considering me, but that it is not really my cup of tea. However my good travel blogging friend Keith at VelvetEscapes would fit it like a glove. He does a great job of covering it and both his and my kudos is greatly enhanced.
When Keith is offered an opportunity to travel to Concordia, in the Karakorum as a high altitude photographer with experience of climbing, I am sure he would reciprocate and put my name forward.
This is already happening on an ad-hoc basis, Melvin Traveldudes mentioned he has passed press trip opportunities to others he was unable to attend, this would be merely taking it one step further developing the theme, formalising it slightly and establishing better links between each blogger.
As the travel companies and their PR agencies come to terms with the benefits bloggers offer more opportunities will present themselves. The fact is some will not suit the individual that receives the offer. However if there is another writer within the particular co-operative that has the correct skills set, it should be passed to them.
Even if there is not, the chances are somebody will know the perfect blogger to fit the assignment, client happy, PR company happy, blogger happy, win-win. The majority of bloggers are both friendly and helpful, they have integrity and most would reciprocate when the situation arises in reverse.
The odd one that decides to just accept and then completes a less than successful commission will undoubtedly be extremely lucky to work with either that PR company or their client again.
However if another more suitable candidate fills the vacancy, this should be remembered. Trust is established between the agency and the blogger, a rapport formed, and it is almost certain they will return with further opportunities in future.
It is possible that several members of one single coalition could attend a press trip together providing several different and specialist perspectives of one destination and trip. Cuisine, adventure, wineries, photography, art and culture could be just a few niches. This may also make the trip of greater benefit to the client as the resulting articles produced will have different slants due to the particular niches, and prevent too many ‘generic’ pieces being produced from the same trip.
I am relatively new to the amazing online travel community and still very much finding my way. It has been a steep learning curve since last November, Social media, SEO, linking are still quite alien to me, but there are so many great people out there that help is never far away. It is developing this great sense of community and these links still further that will ultimately decide how successful we all are.
This is an avenue I am very keen to pursue, it is certainly not the only way forward, and there are many further opportunities and doors about to open to us the ‘new media.’ The time to act however is now; it is up to each blogger how they perceive themselves, hobbyists, full-time professionals or even blogging celebrities. If we want a slice of the cake and some control over our direction however it is imperative we take action and are proactive in developing our own futures!
Experience does not always guarantee the best advice, sometimes a new perspective is just as useful.
Have your say, leave a comment do you agree with my assessment, have you already started collaborating with other editors or with PR companies, what is your experience of this? PR agencies why not take the opportunity to have your say?