New Media; Balancing Promotion with Story Telling

New media‘ is rapidly evolving and the number of opportunities to attend press or blog trips are increasing all the time. These usually involve exciting itineraries, providing excellent opportunities to travel, experience new destinations and to rediscover a few familiar ones.

New media opprtunity, hot air ballooning over the La Garrotxa volcanic region of Catalonia, Spain on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography Iain_Mallory_03742

Once in a lifetime experiences

The trips are usually sponsored by tourism boards or possibly a hotel chain, and organised by their public relations agent. The aim, to promote their destination or product, showing participants the most spectacular sights, offering memorable experiences. Passionate local characters discuss their culture, and the cuisine of the region is enjoyed in the best restaurants.

They often provide several stories worth sharing, numerous beautiful images, plenty of bucket-list worthy experiences and almost limitless memories. They represent fantastic opportunities but they are not merely cheap holidays, and this is not always appreciated by others.

A beggar on the streets of Old Havana on the Caribbean island of Cuba on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography Iain Mallory-300-109

Beggars aren’t perceived as being a positive tourism attraction

Participants attend on a professional basis, this is a job, and whether attending an individual or group trip, bloggers are there to promote the destination. This is not usually difficult, all these places are special, and it is easy to cultivate a positive perspective. It is however, important to retain editorial integrity, if there is genuinely an issue it needs addressing, similarly if the destination has ongoing problems they cannot simply be ignored.

New media press trip, taking a break from dancing the sardana in Setcases in Catalonia, Spain on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Portraits of culture are possible on press trips

An extreme, but valid example would be visiting Greece during the rioting, and strikes last year, completely ignoring this would have been foolish. It is an issue that cannot be ignored. It needed putting into the context of the difficulties facing the country, but not becoming the overriding subject of the posts.

Generally portraying a destination in a negative way is not the remit for attendance on a blog trip. Taking photographs of the homeless or beggars on the streets, run-down areas or protest marches is fine, but are generally sutiable for personal use. illustrating future unrelated posts. Some may disagree, but tourism boards are unlikely to consider them appropriate in an article which is promotional in its context. There is some responsibility to the sponsor of the trip.

This maybe considered as selling out, I do not agree. We must be professional, this is our chosen employment. Portraying destinations in a positive way is not betraying ourselves or our readers, these destinations are special, beautiful and interesting. The overall experience is a positive one, there maybe some minor issues but they are quickly forgotten, and do not reflect negatively on the destination.

The publisher has a responsibility to  provide a flavour of the destination, providing quality content. Storytelling is important to travel writing, explaining the nuances of the culture, such posts will provide their readers with honest insights. 

New media observing a protest in Grenoble in the Rhône-Alpes region of the French Alps on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography Iain Mallory-300-72

Protesting on the streets

A client would be foolish to invite any media to their destination if it does not produce. They must have 100% confidence in the quality of their product. 

However there are other travel opportunities now becoming available to professional publishers; partnering with tour operators. These are a completely different prospect, they are often about cultural immersion, experiencing the destination in a wholly authentic way.

The culture usually has added significance, and can be portrayed in a less sanitised manner. In fact, it is actively encouraged. People sleeping rough, working girls, ghettos and townships, protests or even riots, nothing is beyond the scope of such articles.

This represents a change in emphasis for modern travellers, most are looking for more from their two week annual vacation. Fewer just wish to relax by a pool, or on the beach, more are seeking cultural immersion, genuine experiences, and memories from their limited holiday time.

This freedom results in richer posts, the average media trip possibly provides between 3 and 5 posts. Having attended numerous press or blog trips, but few sponsored by tour operators, the difference is noticeable. A trip to Cuba in particular, a fascinating and photogenic destination, resulted in well over a dozen posts. This can undoubtedly be attributed to the ability to share the full cultural experience.

I enjoy media trips, they are great experiences and often involve some amazing people, creative writers, talented photographers who have their own perceptions, and insights to share. It also seems possible that as cultural immersion becomes even more important to travellers, clients will become more amenable to posts that share the less glamorous side of a destination.

After the storm in Trinidad on the Caribbean island of Cuba on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography Iain Mallory-300-3

Providing an insight into the culture is important

There are several forward thinking tourism boards that may dispute that they are not already open to this. To date I have not had to deal with any tourism professional attempting to influence or restrict the published material. However, equally they do not seem ready to see images of the homeless, or protest marches within posts published from a trip.

It is probable that as new media becomes accepted, and it’s value recognised more tour operators will become open to using it to promote their itineraries or products . Visiting these destinations on an arranged itinerary with a tour operator can offer a more authentic travel experience that allows storytelling from a slightly different perspective.

The last couple of years have seen a huge growth in social media, personal website publishing and the opportunities available to those able to benefit from new media. It is far from exhausted, there are new developments occurring almost weekly, the next few years are likely to provide yet more developments. We live in exciting times.

new media view of sunset over the Panthenon and Acropolis in Athens, Greece on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Travellers want to see more than pretty pictures

What are your thoughts, how will blogging continue to develop, and how should new media professionals balance promotion with story telling?

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Comments 12

  1. Venkat Ganesh @ India Backpack Motorbike

    Interesting post Iain! While I have not gone on any press trips personally, I do understand what you are trying to say here. I believe that there will always be debates and dilemmas as to what to include and what not to in a given post. But then that, to a certain, extent is just like any other post that is written.
    Having said that, I will get to experience such issues if I ever get to go on such trips. And may then I will be able to understand what you are trying to save even better.
    Look forward more such thought provoking posts!
    Cheers
    Venky

  2. Anita Mac

    Thanks for the insight. I too have not done any press trips, although I like to write about experiences in regions, whether they be tours, courses or cultural in nature. I have the flexibility to not write about tours that I did not enjoy, although, at the same time, I wonder if my positive outlook on most everything I do and write about it too much positive. I hope to have a balanced review of the places I have stayed and the experiences I have had and share the best experiences for others who are looking for the same. Guess finding the right balance is something one learns along the way. Looking forward to the exciting times ahead!

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      Iain

      I think it’s important Anita that we remain positive, balanced without unnecessary hyperbole. Travel is supposed to be enjoyable, that’s why we do it in the first place, I’ve also chosen not to write about negative experiences, I think our readers are more interested in good recommendations than bad ones.

  3. Ally

    This is a great post especially for those of us who are new bloggers. To be honest I haven’t really thought about any of these things as I can’t imagine I’ll be getting any press trips anytime soon since my blogs are so new, but its given me something to think about for the future thanks.

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      Iain

      Hi Ally, I’m sure it won’t be too long before you begin to be offered trips if you are professional, hard working and can offer the client what they need.

      Good luck.

  4. Gina SuuperG Stark

    I’ve just stumbled upon this post, Iain and it does not surprise me at all how well you address the delicate issues of maintaining journalistic integrity while respecting the generosity of the host. This same balance and authenticity infuses all of your posts and even your banterings on Twitter!

    I agree that as a passionate traveler, it is hard for me to find fault with almost any new locale, but it is a disservice to our readers if we gloss over any and all potential negatives to someone considering the same destination for their hard-earned holiday. Thank you for this thoughtful article…and I shall TRY not to be green with envy for the abundance of your trips! Happy and rich travels in the new year my friend. Gina

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      Iain

      Thanks Gina, great to hear your balanced opinion as always. It’s important that we remember who it is we write for, our readers. Ultimately, if we lose the respect and trust of our readership, then we are of no use to any potential clients as a promotional tool.

  5. Liz Claire

    Hi iain,

    This is a great read. I love travel, and it certainly comes with good and bad experiences. Most of my paid travel work has been for photography, so the personal commentary is limited. A photo of Las Ramblas in Barcelona captures the dynamics, nice, but not the pick pocket threat.

    For my personal blog, I started a few months ago, I like to balance the commentary. No where is purely perfect, some times it hard to get to, or has an off season. We’ll see how that strategy goes.
    Thanks for this blog entry. Keep up the great work!
    Liz Claire (http://ClaireFromYvr.com)

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      Iain

      Thank you Liz, it’s true a photograph does not always tell a story, and sometimes needs narrative to explain the additional context.

      Good luck with the personal blog.

  6. Greg Oates

    The Greece riots are an extreme example. I’ve participated in 300+ press trips and typically focus on what’s new, unique and compelling about the destination. Everywhere has homeless people/problems. Not sure including that lends legitimacy to a story. Depends on the outlet.

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      Iain

      The riots maybe an extreme example Greg, but an example of an occurrence which it would be foolish to merely ignore. Regardless of the content, we must retain the legitimacy of the story, if homeless people etc are appropriate then these aspects need to be included.

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