Have you or your hotel’s staff been approached by a travel writer? Is it the first time that you’ve been faced with such a situation? If so, don’t panic. As a retired hospitality marketing pro that’s been involved with such situations, I am more than willing to offer up a modicum of guidance. With that said, here’s a look at the basics of dealing with travel writer requests:
For starters, you’ll want to understand that there are basically two types of travel writers. The main difference between the two is employment status. Staff writers are often considered employees of a particular media outlet. Thus, they tend to have regular columns. Freelancers, on the other hand, traditionally don’t enjoy such job security. They typically have to pitch their travel stories to various media groups or post them onto blogs. Therefore, when you are approached by a travel writer, you will want to ascertain which category he or she falls under. You’ll also want to ask for a copy of their credentials, which brings me to my next tip.
Before you give away the front and back of the house, take a moment to verify the travel writer’s credentials. Based on my experience, verification may be completed in several ways. If you are part of a franchise, there is a good chance that the corporate headquarters’ marketing division will be able to check out the writer for you. That is the method that I used most often. I did it to save time. The contact information for your franchise’s marketing division should be listed in the manuals that came with your franchise agreement. If not, I’d suggest calling the headquarters’ main number and asking to be transferred to the appropriate person. In most instances, there are several people within the division that are responsible for handling media and FAM tour requests.
Not part of chain? There are other options. For example, you could ask the writer if he or she is part of any trade or destination marketing organizations (DMO). Some trade organizations prequalify their members and others do not. As such, once you have the name of the organization, you’ll want to research their membership requirements to be sure.
Respected organizations that you are likely to encounter during the verification process are the Society of American Travel Writers, the Travel Blog Exchange and the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association. Personally, I am also a fan of the National Tour Association, the American Bus Association and various regional organizations (i.e. New York Travel Writers Association).
If the writers are not part of an organization, you could also opt to request links to their previous articles and tear sheets. Doing so will also give you a pretty good idea of their writing style.
Once you’ve verified the travel writers’ credentials and decided on an arrival date, you should start preparing for the visit. Ways to do that include notifying all of the hotel’s staff, scheduling turn-down service, arranging property tours and compiling a customized press kit. I’d also suggest setting up a “meet the managers” welcoming reception for the night of the writer’s arrival. That way, the writer will have an opportunity to sample your hotel’s offerings, talk to other guests and become familiar with key staff members. My welcoming receptions typically included wine, beer, assorted cheese platters and a variety of crackers. They were also attended by all department managers and valued, area service providers.
Lastly, you’ll want to follow-up with the writer and ask for a link or tear sheet of the finished piece. Those items should then be incorporated into your hotel’s publicity file. The expenses incurred during the writer’s visit should also be factored into your property’s marketing budget. Unless you get a lot of travel writer requests, you may want to just add it to your budget’s FAM Tour line. That’s what I would usually do.
Source: Personal Experience
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