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10 Tips for Hosting a Successful Travel Blogger Media Trip


Bloggers like to go on media trips — that’s certainly no secret. And sometimes hotels can benefit greatly by inviting a well-established blogger to experience the property in exchange for promotion via social media and blog posts.

But sometimes it can be difficult for PR reps and hotel staff members to navigate the great divide between hosting a blogger and making sure the trip is well worth the time, effort and cost that the property has to invest.

Big public relation firms with a specialization in planning media trips can be a major resource, but those particular services come with a hefty price tag. So how do hotels know how to pull off a successful media trip? Especially if it’s a smaller property without the deep pockets of a big hotel brand?

Great questions! I’m so glad you asked. As both a travel blogger and an attorney, I can assure you that open communication and proper negotiating are the baseline requirements for both parties to get the most out of the partnership.

I’m writing this article particularly for independently-owned hotels like bed and breakfasts and small boutique properties, but these tips can help big brand name hotels as well. If you are a small hotel and you want to promote your place a lot more, a media-based marketing strategy with a blogger can be a great step to take, but local marketing can assist with this too, for example, if you want to create some booklets or flyers for your business you can go the print marketing route by using print finishing machines as well as other tech machines, to help with creating something unique and central to you and your hotel, so that when the blogger in question promotes your place you can strategically have the print media materials on hand ready for those who are intrigued.

And I also want to add that while these tips are helpful for hosting trips for traditional journalists as well, some media outlets have strict requirements about what their writers can and cannot accept comped.

Bloggers though? Free trips are the name of the game. But when done well, your property can score greater awareness, more engagement on your social media channels and ultimately, more heads in beds.

Let’s go over what to expect…

1. Do your research and make sure the blogger has the right audience for your brand.

Let’s say you get an email similar to this:

Hi, I’m a blogger and I’d like to come stay at your hotel for free in exchange for a blog post.

First, of all that is terrible etiquette. A blogger/writer/influencer/whomever should not ask for things for free. It’s tacky. Even if they have a million followers, it’s still tacky.

Instead they should say something like this:

Hi Lindsay!

I’m looking for a contact at your hotel who handles press requests. Are you the right person to reach out to? If not, would you mind pointing me in the right direction?

I’m a travel blogger and I’ve heard great things about your property! I’m planning a trip to your area on [insert date]. I wanted to find out if it would be possible to negotiate some sort of a media rate in which I’d provide you with a blog post as well as social media coverage during my stay. Please see my attached media kit [if a blogger doesn’t have a media kit, they should give you an overview of their social media channels and the extent of their following].

Let me know if you’re interested and then we could talk about specifics and how I can help promote the hotel to my audience.

Looking forward to hearing back from you!

At least, that’s what I HOPE the blogger says to you. Many won’t. And it doesn’t mean that they don’t have an audience that’s worth tapping into, it may just mean that they need a few etiquette tips.

Instead, do some of your own research. Go to their website and read a few of their articles. Do you like the blogger’s writing style? Does the blogger’s brand fit well with your hotel’s brand?

Next, go to each of the blogger’s social media channels. How many followers do they have? More importantly, how engaged is the blogger’s audience (look for comments, likes, shares, etc.). They don’t need to be a heavy hitter in every single social media channel but take note of the big ones like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Of all these, Twitter takes a special mention, as it is one channel that every blogger should use for tweeting their new content regularly. Try to build followers, or buy real ones with the help of services like Twesocial for better engagement.

Does the blogger also write professionally for other outlets? This is great information for you to research because not only is it possible to negotiate a blog post, but maybe you can negotiate an additional post on one of the other outlets, too.

Unfortunately, some bloggers give the rest of us a bad name. And yes, there are those that buy followers. To check Twitter followers, try using Twitter Audit. There are tons of spammers out there, so almost every account will have at least some followers who show up as spam or fake — this doesn’t necessarily mean that they were purchased. Instead look at the audit score for the percentage. Generally speaking, if someone has a 90 percent or higher audit score, then they’re good to go.

Once you’ve done your research, then email the blogger back with a yay or nay. If you’re not interested, just simply say something like:

Thanks so much for reaching out. Unfortunately, we aren’t hosting any media trips at this time, but we’ll keep you in mind for the future.

If you are interested in working with the blogger, then say something like:

Thanks so much for reaching out. I’ve taken a look at your blog and I think your writing style and audience would be a great fit for our brand. Can we set up a time to chat about what the trip might entail? I’m thinking we could extend a rate of $__ per night (or even better: we can do two comp nights).

If the blogger is worth your while, then typically a hotel will extend at least one comp night. Two is pretty standard and a minimum threshold for most well-established bloggers. And depending on where the blogger is traveling from and how extensive the audience is, some hotel properties will extend the trip further or add in special experiences.

2. Specifically detail the expectations of both parties.

Negotiating the details is very important to both parties, but people rarely do this. We can go around hoping and praying that everyone will meet our expectations, but then you can’t be disappointed when that person doesn’t deliver — especially if you never made your ideas known.

I suggest setting up a phone call. This isn’t necessarily standard procedure. Most hotels organize everything over email. But if you do set up a call, you can talk about some of those details that might be a little challenging to put in writing, especially during the negotiating process.

Ask the blogger what they have in mind in regards to promoting the hotel on their blog and social media channels. If it sounds good to you, then great! If you’re hoping that they’ll post a particular Facebook update and tag your property, then this is a great time to talk about those details. It’s also a great time to ask if the blogger has any particular interests or needs when visiting your property.

3. Confirm the details in writing.

You don’t need to write out a contract or anything like that, just send a simple email that shows what we lawyers like to describe as a “meeting of the minds.” Simply send an email stating that you’re excited for the blogger’s visit, the confirmation number, your hotel’s social media handles and hashtags and any other pertinent info.

4. Follow all of the blogger’s social media channels and ask them to return the favor.

It absolutely baffles me when I show up to a hotel property and I’m sending them all of this social media love, but they don’t even follow me back! Yes, we bloggers think very highly of ourselves and we think you should follow all of our social media channels. But, don’t be afraid to ask us to return the favor!

5. Decide on a hashtag to promote the property.

This is important. You can’t afford to get this wrong, so you might want to generate a hashtag for instagram using an online generator to ensure it’s a good one. Other bloggers who are following your chosen blogger will want to also follow the trip’s hashtag. And so will your blogger’s followers. A hashtag is the easiest way for you to track the social media success of the trip. For Instagram, you can consider using a hashtags analytics tool like Flick.tech to pump up your contents’ reach to the targeted audience.

Not sure how to properly use hashtags? Read How to Use Hashtags on Every Social Media Network by Social Sprout, as well as A Scientific Guide to Hashtags: How Many, Which Ones, and Where to Use Them by Buffer (this article also goes over a variety of services you can use to track the success of the hashtag).

6. Alert your staff members that you will have a blogger on the property and prep them on what to expect.

Big hotel brands have this down to an art form. If there’s a VIP or a member of the press on the property, they make sure every staff member knows who this person is. Why? Because if someone is writing about your property, you want all of your staff members to make a great first impression.

I checked into a boutique hotel recently and went up to the property’s rooftop bar to take a few photos of the view with my iPhone. A staff member stocking the liquor shelves yelled at me for taking photos and told me that I needed to make an appointment with the manager to schedule a photoshoot. I looked down at my iPhone and said, “you want me to make an appointment to snap a few shots with my iPhone?”

I don’t know if that person was having a bad day or what, but you should expect that a blogger is going to take photos of the property. In this case, I was just using my iPhone, but it’s not unheard of for someone to bring a legitimate camera.

But this incident gets worse…

Then when the staff member called the manager to find out if my story checked out (that I was a member of the media staying on the property to write a story for a national outlet) the manager told the staff member that she didn’t know who I was. Yikes. Then I promptly got kicked out of the rooftop bar even though I was staying at the hotel and the manager was comping my stay. Apparently she forgot that she had booked my stay for the weekend.

To this day, the manager never reached out to me to fix the mix up. And this story was for a major national outlet, not my blog. The hotel staff made such a bad impression on me that I haven’t even decided yet whether I’m going to publish a story. I really liked the hotel, but my experience was awful and not to mention embarrassing.

How do you avoid this situation? Tell your staff members that you have a blogger and/or member of the media staying on your property and that they may be interested in taking photos. Or schedule a time to take the blogger for a tour of the property — which brings me to my next point.

7. Upon arrival, properly introduce the blogger to your property.

Arrange for someone in a managerial role to meet the blogger upon arrival and introduce that person to the hotel. A short tour is a great way to start out. Even if you are running a small four-room property, this is your opportunity to set a friendly tone for the entire trip. And as I already mentioned, this is the perfect time for the blogger to snap a few photos while you’re there to escort them through the property.

If the manager of the property I mentioned in #6 would have greeted me when I arrived at the hotel, then she could have properly introduced me to the property and perhaps it would have helped her remember that I was scheduled to be there.

8. Make sure that during the stay, you have someone managing all of your social media channels.

I understand that it can be a challenge for smaller properties to monitor social media channels 24/7. But isn’t that part of the reason why you invited the blogger on the trip in the first place?

Let’s assume that you checked out the writer’s social media handles and you were impressed. Maybe you thought it would be a great opportunity to boost your property’s social presence? Then you need to make sure that someone is scheduled to check all your social media channels and respond in a timely manner.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve showed up to a hotel for the weekend and not received a single response on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Not one! This has even happened to me at large hotels and well-known, national brands.

And then a week later someone finally checks the Twitter handle and realizes that I’ve tagged them in a dozen tweets, so they start responding. It’s too late! I’m long gone by that time. What a missed opportunity! And that goes for all your regular guests, too. People want hotels to engage with them on social media and someone should be managing those channels seven days a week–especially on the weekends.

9. Plan a few special surprises.

If you’re working with a blogger who covers hotels on a regular basis, then they’re probably accustomed to receiving a welcome amenity of some kind. Now I know you probably don’t have a big budget to shower members of the media with gifts, so I don’t want you to think you need to go overboard. You could leave a handwritten note in the room and two bottles of water. Some properties provide a bottle of wine or a gift basket with mementos that represent the property. But again, you don’t need to empty out your pockets. Even just a welcome note would be a nice touch.

I showed up to a hotel one time and they left a wood carving board in my room with my name etched into it. And it was topped with fruit and cheese. Wow, I was impressed! And, of course, I snapped a photo of it and put it on social media.

A friend of mine who is a well-known luxury travel blogger raves about a hotel in California; every time she stays there they welcome her with a speciality cocktail named after her blog. Now that’s impressive.

Oh, and don’t think that you need to plan a day-to-day, jam-packed itinerary for the blogger. Some PR reps will plan itineraries for group media trips, but this isn’t common when it’s just one blogger. I should also add that it is customary for a blogger to bring a +1 with them on the trip. That shouldn’t be any extra dollars out of your pocket because they’d share a room (another great thing to talk about in your initial discussion).

10. Follow up after the trip.

Just send a quick email to see how the blogger enjoyed the stay and ask if they need any more information to help with the story. Remember that you want to help provide the best possible showcase of your property. Every extra detail matters.

I hope you found these tips helpful!

And if you manage a small hotel and would like recommendations of a couple of great bloggers to work with, feel free to shoot me an email: Kara@KaraFranker.com and I’d be happy to pass along a few names.

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  1. This has been of a lot of help,now that i am planning to start a digital media company later this year i need as much information on the media business as possible.The idea is to have a boutique production and photography company that also has a wing that does news in the hospitality industry and interviews with chefs,reviews of hotels,upcoming events hosted by these hotels just everything to do with the hospitality industry,what is the best way to generate some income from hotels as a new entrant in the marketing industry just to run the small day to day operations of the agency and pay my rent as i build trust and reputation for the big jobs,mind you i am in kenya where hotels don’t really put marketing budgets on ppc ads or affiliate marketing.

  2. Thanks for the valuable never heard before advise Kara. Its really great to have a lawyer in the blogging fraternity to help fellow bloggers and interested parties navigate such a subject. Well done! :)

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