While there has been a gradual evolution in the blogging industry towards becoming professional, has blogger outreach evolved and improved over the last few years?
My personal observation after attending TBEX Costa Brava is that while there has been a definite improvement in blogger outreach, there is still huge room for improvement. A fact echoed by my fellow speakers, is that educating the brands and sponsors remains a key priority.
The rise of blogger collectives and networks like iAmbassador, Captivate, Navigate, Travelator Media and the PTBA has made the lives of those doing travel blogger outreach a lot more easy. However as said, there is plenty of room for improvement. On both sides. Bloggers need to up their game too but that is a topic for another post. My personal thoughts are summarized in the following points:
1. THERE NEEDS TO BE AN EVOLUTION IN BLOGGER OUTREACH FROM A PR PERSPECTIVE
There needs to be an evolution in PR. I feel that most PR agencies are currently not setup to deal with the key influencers. While there are some agencies who are investing heavily, attending travel blogging conferences and spending time to get to know the bloggers personally, there is still a feeling that the majority of agencies do not know who the real influencers are for their brand and are unaware of how to maximize their potential. Some of it is really simple. Like actually taking the time to read the blogs. Monitor how they are interacting with readers. I know that PR agencies are stretched resource wise but these are the basics of blogger outreach.
There was a controversial observation made by Alastair McKenzie at the recent Traverse travel blogging conference about whether the PR agency model was in danger of becoming extinct. Alastair’s observation sounds far-fetched and outrageous to some, but there is an element of truth in his comment.
The limited scope and budget that PR agencies have at their disposal mean that the true reach and potential of bloggers is not being realized. This is directly not the fault of the PR agencies. Modern blogger outreach sits somewhere between PR and marketing.
Something needs to change. PR budgets need to expand to improve the quality of blogger outreach. Or does the blogger bypass the PR agencies and speak directly with the marketing directors? The days of earned media are coming to an end so we need to rethink the role of PR in this brave new world of native advertising and branded content.
2. DON’T DEPEND ON AN SEO AGENCY TO DO BLOGGER OUTREACH
This leads onto the second point. While PR agencies still have a handle over blogger outreach in some form or another, I clearly think the majority of SEO agencies do not have a clue about blogger outreach. Download the MOZ toolbar. Research keywords for your client. Identify bloggers who rank high in those keywords. Craft an email that you can send to all bloggers. Just to make life easy for you.
Here is an example on behalf of a hotel chain in Ireland. “My name is John, I work for X Hotels Ireland (xhotels.ie ) a hotel chain in the country. We are promoting tourism in Ireland and found your website budgettraveller.org would be ideal to share bespoke and unique content about things to do when visiting Ireland.
Are you interested in receiving and sharing unique and relevant travel content for budgettraveller.org?
The content provided is written by our in-house professional writer and the featured piece would be tailored to your website and relevant to your readers and their interests. If you prefer you could suggest a topic for our content writer to create and we can get that unique piece of content to you for you to share. If you would like to see examples, you can find several on our blog at xhotel.ie. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me back and work something out”.
What is it with SEO agencies and the word ‘bespoke and unique content’? The moment I see these dreaded words, the email is in my trash. Bloggers are the experts at producing fresh, unique content for their readers. What would be my advice for SEO agencies? STICK to SEO. Communication is not your forte.
Also in case you didn’t know, the practice of buying links and manipulating search engine rankings of a brand are clearly over so don’t approach bloggers with sponsored posts. Bloggers beware of sponsored posts. There are better and more sustainable ways of working with a brand, than posting sponsored content on your blog.
Just as there needs to be evolution in PR, there needs to be an evolution on how brands treat SEO. SEO still has a huge role to play in destination marketing. Focus on the quality, not the quantity of links. Build more on organic links. The only way you can do this is by building long-term relationships with bloggers who are truly passionate about your clients’ brand. Look after your brand advocates. For me it has to be a mixture of financial incentives and also giving bloggers the complete creative freedom to engage with your brand.
3. HIRING BLOGGERS = INCREASED NUMBER OF TOURISTS TO MY DESTINATION?
I often find DMO’s somewhat obscure when starting their blogger outreach: they are inviting bloggers left right and center with little forethought of how bloggers and content sits in their marketing strategy. Blogs are not direct sales engines. There are examples of bloggers like Planet D’s Outdoor Ontario and iAmbassador’s Melbourne and Royal Brunei Airlines campaign which have had huge success in helping generating sales for a brand. However, there are many key areas where a blogger can start and influence the conversation around a brand. It is also no point inviting a blogger to write a review about a hotel when the brand in question has not optimized their booking pages or their website is not mobile friendly.
4. PRESS RELEASES DON’T WORK WITH BLOGGERS
Just as much as travel editors don’t respond to press releases, majority of bloggers will rarely respond to or choose to publish press releases.
Besides the problem of duplicate content that may arise from publishing press releases, I just find alarming the number of brands introducing themselves to bloggers via a press release. Most bloggers are on Twitter or LinkedIn. Connect with us there and send us the link to your press release. I am far more likely to respond to a tweet, than an email. Plus if you do want to send a press release via email, try and add some value to the press release and have a personalized approach. Remember that personal stories drive the most engagement on blogs. Think how your client’s story can fit into the story of the blogger you are reaching out to. Find a hook of how the blogger can introduce the brand to their audience.