Is your tourism business worthy of press but has gotten little? Have you been thinking about starting a travel media and Public Relations program but don’t know where to begin? Does PR even still make sense in 2020, with the rise of social media and influencer marketIng? If you’ve been on the fence with tourism PR, here are six compelling reasons why you should make a plan to kickstart your media program for 2020.
It used to be that most businesses treated their PR and marketing as two separate things. They may have had both a PR firm and a tourism marketing agency and they likely did their own thing and probably never spoke to each other unless they had to. And this probably worked just fine. But today, with the rise of online marketing, everything is integrated and must work together. Think of social media, content, tourism SEO, paid advertising and PR as different branches on the same tree, with your website being the trunk.
The size of that PR branch will vary business by business, but in some cases I’ve seen tourism operators become so successful with PR that it’s literally the only thing they do. Though not a tourism business, the car company Tesla famously spends $0 on marketing and advertising. Their only investment is PR.
As part of the tourism marketing strategy work I do for tour operators, I often interview their best clients to find out why they chose to book with them in the first place. It’s usually one of two reasons: they were referred by someone or it was a story they had read somewhere, online or offline. They may not remember the publication or the article and usually don’t tell the business owner about it, but the point is, a large portion of your ideal clients are probably finding you based on something they have seen in the press. Only then do they take the time to begin searching on Google or social media.
I often see tourism businesses focusing so narrowly on their niche market that they fail to see great opportunities to reach entirely new audiences. If you’re a high-end ski lodge you may be interested in reaching ski media, but you may also have great prospects who are strong resort skiers, that are way more likely to read business magazines than ski journals, and not even know you exist. By crafting relevant stories for these other publications, you can get that awareness started.
Begin by doing some surveys with your existing customers and ask them what media they consume, and not just the publications from your niche. You’ll begin to identify other targets that could be valuable. For example, if a lot of your customers tend to be doctors, is there a publication for this group that would be interested in a travel story? Believe it or not, these do exist.
Once you’ve gotten some great press, use that strategically on your website and in your marketing to warm up cold traffic and get conversions. We call editorial publications ‘trust and authority’ elements because they are a great way to increase trust with your audience and show off your expertise in a destination or an activity. Think of it this way, let’s say you were planning a trip to Mexico and were booking an excursion with a local tour outfitter. If there were two companies and they both had similar tours, and similar websites, but one had ‘As seen on CNN Travel, The Boston Globe, and Afar Magazine’ which company would you trust more? In this case, even if the tour only costs $100 you could ruin a vacation worth thousands of dollars, so the one with the press seems less risky.
Few people realize how important press is for improving your search engine rankings. In the SEO world, we call this ‘backlinks’ and out of over 200 ranking signals that Google uses to determine what page and position you show up on, high Domain Authority backlinks are the most important.
And here’s the thing: editorial sites have very high Domain Authority, and when they link to you or even mention your business name, Google picks that up and your Domain Authority goes up as well. Think of it like getting a helping hand for your travel SEO. So the more great press you get, the more important Google will see your website and the higher you’ll rank against your competitors.
Another important thing about those backlinks, is most publications archive everything and those links can last for years, so the staying power can far exceed other digital marketing tactics.
A while ago I did a story on a rafting company in Golden, BC for The Globe & Mail. Running MOZ Link Explorer I can see my article shows up as the 4th most valuable backlink on the web. When I click on the link you can see it was originally published in August 2012, almost seven-and-a-half years ago. And it’s still out there helping their SEO.
Begin by finding a strong hook to get the interest of a journalist or editor. Here I recommend looking at your tourism business through as many different lenses as you can. Is there a cultural, food and beverage, historical, current events or newsworthy angle to what you do? Is there an industry trend you are on top of? Begin with this.
Once you have your hook, then think about incorporating story elements such as character, challenge and resolution. Since your pitch will only be a few hundred words, you won’t be writing an actual story here, but a journalist should be able to look at your pitch and see that when they take your 300-400 word idea and expand it into a 1500+ word story, all the elements are there.
An inspiring travel story has power. It can create awareness and excitement for a totally new audience and can even move a purchase-ready customer who is trying to decide between your operation and a competitor’s.
As you go about creating your tourism PR program, you’ll soon find it can pay long lasting dividends and might even become your most successful tourism marketing channel.