The surfer sits patiently on her board, bobbing on the waves. The she spots it, a distant swell on the horizon, growing, coming in fast. She knows immediately that this is the wave she’s been waiting for. But she’s not alone. Some surfers are too far out and can’t catch it, some are too far in and must dive under for cover, and still others are sitting on the beach, nowhere near the action. The surfer paddles hard, times it perfectly, thrusts herself upward and surfs the wave.
This story was told to me by a veteran travel journalism instructor more than 15 years ago. The surfer, of course, is a travel writer, and the wave is a trend. Over the years, this little tale has proved invaluable in finding stories that sell. Editors are addicted to trends like surfers are addicted to flawless breaking waves. One of the best ways to generate media interest in your adventure business is to tie into a trend.
Ever notice how many travel stories you see about host countries in Olympic years? Or about Olympic winter sports that tourists can try in the lead up to a winter Olympics? There’s a good reason for that. There’s enormous interest in the Olympics, and any link, however small, can be enough to grab a journalist’s attention.
The same goes for World Cups, Stanley Cups, and just about any other major sporting event. Major historical events, particularly anniversaries, are also a great hook. A few years ago, the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic resulted in a media boon for just about any place with a thread of a connection to the doomed ship.
What are the big news stories of the day? Do any have a potential travel element to them? Way back in 2007, just as global warming was gathering momentum in the media, I read a story about shrinking glaciers in the Alps. I quickly pitched a story on the Haute Route, the iconic backcountry ski traverse, to the Globe & Mail, and got the assignment. The idea was ‘see it before it’s gone’ and I received full support from Tourism Switzerland.
Last summer I received a press release from the Oahu Tourist Board promoting film locations for Jurrassic World. Editors are always on the lookout for upcoming movie blockbusters and travel story tie-ins. In the early 2000’s, when Lord of The Rings was hitting theatres, I discovered a mountain biking operator in New Zealand that took riders to some of the film locations. New Zealand Tourism sponsored the fam trip, and I spent two weeks riding around the country. For a while, ‘Mountain Biking Middle Earth’, was one of my best selling stories.
I can’t count how many times I’m told a destination is the best spot for this or that. Really? Says who? The fastest growing sport doesn’t mean much either. How fast? Exactly how many people and what are your sources? Having solid growth numbers behind your pitch will get attention, and sell stories. Hyperbole will get trashed.
Are you the news story? A new tour or product can be a story in itself or enough of a hook to sell the piece, especially if it’s unique and not offered anywhere else.
Obviously, there’s a lot more to a great travel story. A human-interest element, strong storytelling and characters are all key. But when you’re trying to grab the attention of a journalist or editor, who sees 50-plus press releases per day, a trend is the surest way. I think of trends like a surfer’s perfect wave—that’s what brings them there. After that you can tell them about all the other great stuff you have to offer, like the resort, the delicious seafood and amazing beaches. These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about pitching to the press for your adventure travel business or destination. For more ideas, please contact us.