HOW TO GET YOUR STORY TOLD
TIPS FROM THE WORLD’S TOP TRAVEL EDITORS
WORDS BY KATIE PALMER
It’s no secret that each year PURE hosts some of the world’s most renowned travel press, and 2015 was no different. This time, though, we decided it was time for them to give us some top travel tips: namely, how to catch their attention and get great media coverage.
So, naturally, we locked ten of them in a room and recorded their conversation… This is what we learned.
TELL A STORY
“The ones that I love are the ones that look at their pitches with [the lens of] story, as opposed to, ‘Let me tell you how many rooms we have and all about our menu.’” – Yaran Noti, Deputy Editor at SAVEUR
The value of experiential travel lies in its ability to evoke emotion and create connections, so when you’re talking to press or PRs make sure your pitch has a human element. A press release full of room measurements or details on the fitting in the bathroom isn’t interesting – the way to catch a journalist’s attention is to give them a great story that’s unique to your product, your locality, or your people. Who started the business? What was their inspiration? Who is the most interesting person on your staff and why? What’s the nicest thing a guest has ever said to you?
Before hitting send, ask yourself honestly: would you want to read this story about another brand? It’s all too easy to get caught up and overexcited about a project that you’ve been living and breathing, but fail to realise that not everyone shares your enthusiasm.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to remember who your readers are. You’ve got to know your readers and remember that you’re not going to pull the wool over their eyes. They’re well-travelled; they’re sophisticated; they’re intelligent.” – Farhad Heydari, , International Managing Editor for American Express magazines, Centurion and Departures
Don’t send the same press release to all the press contacts you have – while this might seem like a time-saver, it’s the fastest way to be marked as ‘junk’. Understand that different newspapers and magazines have different target audiences (and different brands to uphold), so you should tailor the angle or details of your story to appeal to individual publications.
It sounds obvious, but the best way to understand a publication… is to read it! Journalists get hundreds of press releases every day, so one way to make your pitch stand out is to let them know you’re familiar not only with their newspaper, magazine, website (whatever it may be), but also with their work. Taking interest in someone is a great basis for forming a relationship.
PAY ATTENTION TO TRENDS
“People would come to me with fully fledged stories – not just about their client, but about trends emerging surrounding their client, about new areas… They put the thought in, they understood the brand, they knew what I was looking for, and they really, really helped me out.” – Flora Stubbs, Articles Editor at Travel+Leisure
Just because you work in the travel industry, that doesn’t mean you automatically know what’s going on in it. Keep track of what your competitors are doing and stay in the loop with industry news and trends by regularly reading both trade and consumer publications. The more context you have, the better you’ll be able to think of creative new angles to pitch to journalists – for example, you might be able to offer an interesting twist on an emerging trend, which makes your product cover-page gold dust!
KEEP IT PERSONAL
“We write about things that we celebrate and love.” – Yaran Noti, , Deputy Editor at SAVEUR
Remember that getting to know your industry peers on a personal level is the best way to form successful, long-term business relationships – and that includes journalists. Don’t just anonymously fire press releases at someone; take the time to introduce yourself – heck, even go for a coffee. Building rapport will not only encourage them to take more notice of the stories you send them; it also means you’ll be at the forefront of their mind when they’re brainstorming their own ideas (plus, it makes work just that bit more fun!).
So far we’ve talked mainly about in-house writers, but it’s worth bearing freelance journalists in mind, too – not least because they can put your story in several different publications. Many freelancers will have a reputation for writing about a specific region or niche of travel, and they all have their own style of reporting. Read around and find a couple of names whose ethos appears to be in line with that of your brand… Then introduce yourself.
But beware: even if you know a journalist (or anyone else, for that matter) personally, you should still respect their time – being friendly isn’t a free pass to pester them daily. Sure, check in every now and again, but don’t be the overly keen friend who no one wants to pick up the phone to!
WRITE A GOOD SUBJECT LINE
“My inbox is just a gigantic archive of pitches. I get in situations where I literally search my inbox for ‘Patagonia’.” – Darrell Hartman, Freelance Writer
Even if a journalist isn’t instantly interested in your story, that doesn’t mean it won’t be of relevance in the future – when they’re writing a feature on your particular region or niche of travel, for example. So make it easy for them to search for your press release in their inbox: give your email a relevant subject line and pack it full of key words (without sounding like a robot, of course!).
KEEP IT AUTHENTIC
“Our readers are very interested in authenticity, and authenticity is something that you just reframe and sort of put out there.” – Yaran Noti
A great way to get a journalist invested in your product is by inviting them to experience it for themselves. But steer clear of inviting multiple press members on the same trip – their aim is to write original content, so you’re not helping anyone by offering them all the same experience at the same time. You should also be aware that many journalists and publications are mistrusting of so-called press trips because they’re wary of being given the ‘hard sell’; they also want to be able to authentically report on the experience as the guest would have it, rather than a contrived version for press eyes only.
Instead, personalise itineraries for each individual journalist based on the publication they’re writing for, their personal and professional interests, and the particular story they’re writing (which you may even have pitched to them in the first place). And don’t invite more than one journalist to stay at the same time – they want to at least feel as though they’ve got the scoop, which they won’t if they spy the competition at dinner!
EXPERIENCE IT FOR YOURSELF
“My first question to a PR is, ‘Have you been there?’” – Rebecca Misner, Features Editor for Condé Nast Traveller
Offering journalists the opportunity to experience your product for themselves might seem obvious, but have you experienced it? Before you start pitching your story far and wide, make sure it’s authentic – real excitement and enthusiasm is infectious, but second-hand anecdotes are immediately obvious and far less appealing. Looks like you’ll have to endure that massage/tasting menu/scenic trek after all… It’s a hard life working in travel.