Tough Travel Blogging Choices – The World is our Oyster but….

This year has seen a huge leap forward in the progress of ‘new media’ publishing travel websites and using social media platforms to promote destinations and products. New opportunities to travel and to forge partnerships with related organisations are being discovered and harnessed not just by the ‘rockstars’ of this media but by all those ably marketing their talent.

However some of the avenues being explored by the high profile luminaries of social media are mind blowing. Presenting on the ‘Travel Channel‘, a weekly daytime television discussion slot, sponsorship by large corporations and one has even taken her site back to traditional media, now being published as a magazine!

Fishing boat near Iviron Monastery Mount Athos, Halkidiki in Greece on Mallory on Travel adventure photography

Mount Athos was a recent trip clash

“pioneers that achieve the greatest success”

We should not feel envious of their success; they have worked long and hard to reach the current pinnacle of our profession, they are an inspiration to us all. Their success should be a catalyst to spark our own success stories. There is not any short cut; it requires hard work, producing great content in writing and images, understanding SEO, learning to market through social media and directly to companies. Inevitably it is usually the pioneers that achieve the greatest success, so finding a new angle or pitch is also likely to increase the opportunities for success.

This is ‘brand’ building. A successful blogger is no longer merely a website publisher, they are a brand name that companies feel are viable vehicles for achieving their own goals.

Windswept sunshades on the beach at Essaouira in Morocco on Mallory on Travel adventure photography

I was still invited on their next trip however!

Ultimately success will be dependent on reach, either through websites or social media profiles. This does not necessarily mean a blogger needs a six figure readership but they do need to be accurately targetted. A website aimed at an extremely specialised niche may only have several hundred readers, but if that is the majority of participants in that niche, it is a hugely successful blog! This is nothing new; it has been discussed by others at some length already.

There are other extremely important issues; professionalism and reliability which as the number of opportunities increase so will their importance.

Sand yachting on an Île-de-Ré beach in the French Charente-Maritime region

Melvin (Traveldudes) demonstrating just one opportunity

As the travel industry sits up and takes notice of personal travel websites and realises they are a viable marketing tool the number of opportunities for blog trips will undoubtedly increase. At present there are still a relatively small number being offered to high profile bloggers, inevitably as more trips are offered there will be increased clashes.

The manner in which these potential clashes are handled will possibly determine whether the blogger is offered further trips from these agencies. If none of the trips offered have already been accepted it is not an issue and pure preference for destination can be the criteria for acceptance.

Problems will arise if a trip has been accepted and then an invitation for a possibly more advantageous or ‘sexy‘ trip comes along. Personally for me it is not an issue, if I have already committed to a trip, then that commitment will be honoured.

There are several examples of this; I recently accepted a trip to Catalonia but subsequently received invites to two other trips which clashed. One of these involves a very forward thinking tourism board, a team of high profile bloggers, is organised by a man I greatly respect and consider a friend. However even though I would have loved to have attended this prestigious trip which would be highly advantageous, provide plenty of great content, the right thing to do was decline.

Bloggers at the Phare des Baleines, Île-de-Ré Poitou-Charentes, France on Mallory on Travel adventure photography

Bloggers making the most of opportunities

” travel bloggers need to demonstrate; reliability”

I have also accepted a trip to Latvia and will soon be travelling on behalf of Traveldudes but recently was offered a trip to Mazatlan, Mexico which unfortunately clashed. What a fantastic opportunity, but again felt it necessary to decline.

The intention is not to boast about opportunities but to highlight what I believe we as travel bloggers need to demonstrate; reliability. If a place is accepted on a trip it needs to be honoured, failing to do so and subsequently cancelling because a better opportunity presents itself will damage the reputation of ‘new media’ for promoting destinations.

If the reason for cancelling an accepted invitation ever came out it is unlikely that the agency involved would invite the same blogger again but worse also the reputation of website publishers as a group would be tarnished.

Declining a particularly exciting trip maybe a difficult decision, but most agencies work with specific clients promoting their destinations. Another chance to visit the same destination on another trip is likely to present itself soon.

There maybe some concern that the new ‘better’ offer if refused may result in future offers from this quarter drying up. This seems unlikely as if the reason is explained fully, any reputable agency will recognise that the individual is trustworthy and that they can expect similar reliability in future dealings.

Incidentally agencies, getting invitations out sooner maybe a way of ensuring the desired publishers are able to attend and not already committed to another trip.

This trust can further be enhanced by some blogger collaboration. If unable to attend, recommend another that can, one that can be trusted to do a great job, be professional and impress. This will keep all parties happy, I have long advocated this approach and have used it recently. An improved working relationship has been forged with the agency involved, resulting in further invitations.

These are exciting times for all of us; we all have an important part to play in influencing the direction ‘new media’ goes. The one factor that is common in all bloggers is passion but only those that are able to effectively convert this powerful tool into tangible results  will prove successful. Companies need to be able to relate to the benefits of working with a particular blogger, effective marketing is therefore essential.

It is time to take stock, look at what we have to offer, great content, relevant, targeted readership, excellent social media reach and therefore a viable brand. Consider carefully what it is the company you wish to ‘partner’ with needs, can you meet these needs? Before pitching to their head of marketing ensure you can offer several ways in which you can collaborate and which can easily be identified as beneficial.

So have all that, then what are you waiting for? Go pitch it tiger!

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  1. Jim O'Donnell

    Iain, here is another thought-provoking and well written post. As you know, I’m pretty new to this business and you’ve given me things to think about and chew on. Much appreciated. Jim

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      Iain

      No worries Jim, not been at it that long myself but despite the steep learning curve, keeping my head above water and sharing what insights I pick up as I go along 🙂

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  2. T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries

    Spot on, with many elements.

    Something I wrote for my newsletter group and blog a few weeks back was the importance of working relationships and collaborations. There’s nothing wrong with having a competitive spirit, but I honestly believe that everyone doing this together makes up the greater Human Experience, which is something that is better shared than undertaken alone. Not to mention it’s a win-win for everyone involved on financial, spiritual and emotional levels.

    And also spot on about how brand building is skill that requires many different facets, ranging from knowing how to utilize SEO and backlinking, how to leverage social media to your advantage, how to utilize marketing space, use your traffic to your advantage for sponsorship, which leads to more backing for additional products you can create to benefit your target niche and your joint ventures with your working relationships…

    It’s a truly amazing time to be living in right now. I just had a long talk about this very same topic with four of my good friends here in Cancun; we all have several different online enterprises between us, and while I’m the only full-time blogger and writer in the group (the rest of them have tour agencies, rental agencies and health and wellness products), we still all work together on business as well as travel. For example, we have some upcoming expeditions back to Colombia (where I’ve been but they haven’t, so I’ll be going as a guide), a planned trip to Santiago in 2013 as well as Rio de Janiero to start prepping three different joint ventures that we are developing to push into the market with the upcoming World Cup and Olympics in 2014/2016.

    The cool thing is that while you can gain recognition along the way, and more sponsorship, you can also do all of it completely on your own; once you’ve developed your target niche and some successful working relationships the sky is literally the limit and there’s no place to go but up.

    Great piece.

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      Iain

      Building relationships and being reliable is the way forward for blogging in many ways, we need to prove that we are a viable means of promoting a destination to the agencies involved. If we are not professional then it is unlikely bloggers will achieve the potential that we most definitely can with hard work and building a brand a reputation agencies can rely upon.

  3. Laurel

    Agreed with everything written here. As bloggers if we’re trying to establish our value and professionalism we must demonstrate this – like not backing out of agreed to trips in exchange for “sexier” trips, responding to requests in a timely manner etc. I find some of the things the top bloggers are doing to be very inspiring and try to channel the energy in a positive way rather than into jealousy, which is useless.

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      Iain

      Thank you Laurel and I agree with your comments too jealousy is pointless collaboration and relationship/reputation building is not

  4. Lily

    Great post, and I agree with all you said. As a relatively new blogger, I’m learning a lot about how to stand out and have my own voice. I don’t think there are many “minority” female photographers/travel bloggers either, and I’m hoping to see more of the PR Agencies paying attention to that market, which is also quite large. And one day I hope to be in a place where I have to decline all those “clashing” sexy trips! 🙂

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      Iain

      Having your own voice is extremely important as a blogger Lily, don’t be afraid to speak your mind, people appreciate that you have an opinion. Make the most of your unique talents and those sexy trips won’t be too long in coming your way.

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