By Joanie Ogg CTC, MCC
Publicity is an underused marketing tool in the travel industry. Whenever I present on the topic of PR and how powerful it can be to building an agency’s identity in their local market, I always feel like I opened a new door of opportunity to many in the audience. I typically start out the session asking how many in the audience have tried reaching out in their local market through newspaper press releases and general interest stories. There are usually a handful of folks who enthusiastically wave their hands in the air with great pride and self-assurance because they KNOW it works. If you are a home-based agent, you might think your chance at being recognized is not likely, but I beg to differ. It is all about the content and the relevance to the general public interest level. Let’s get deeper into this…
I bet if I polled a group of home based travel professionals and asked them which areas of their marketing they would really like to improve upon to help build their businesses, most of them would say: “I want to increase sales within my market reach and I want to enhance my credibility and loyalty with those customers.”
Would it not be amazing if you could accomplish both of these objectives without spending money on advertising, but instead you get it for free through publicity for your travel agency?
The media is a business. I think we often forget that they are not just reporting and writing stories. They are in business to make money, just like you are. Reporters and writers create their product by producing stories. In order for them to write a factual (well let’s hope it is) story, they need experts to share information about that subject. Without that credibility, the story would have no real value to them or to the reader. They need experts to tell the story and create their “product.”
You are the Expert. You are an expert on travel. A hair stylist might be an expert on styling do’s and don’ts; a realtor should be an expert on the housing market in their specific area, etc. Whether you know it or not, you are an expert on the travel business and travel trends in the eyes of the media. You can help them tell factual and relevant stories and provide them with the material and most importantly the credibility they need to build their “product.”
Does Publicity Really Work?
Being part of a news story that involves your travel agency is viewed by the market as an endorsement of sorts from the newspaper or whatever media outlet you work with.
Publicity is generally viewed as more credible than advertising. In fact, an old industry rule of thumb is to consider any media appearances to be ten times more valuable than an equivalent amount of advertising.
Three Steps to Publicity
So how do you take advantage of this significant small business marketing opportunity? For starters, you can and should approach a reporter with a story that you think the public should know about. The answer their phones and emails just like you and I. Remember, you are helping them create their product. They are always looking for good stories and you may have just what they are looking for. You will never know until you try. This is not the time to be timid. Be confident and secure in your ability to be the expert.
Use a Hook
When preparing to contact a reporter with your story idea, it helps to have a “hook” to show the reporter how your travel story idea somehow ties in with another newsworthy event that will make the story interesting and timely for a wide array of readers and viewers.
Here is an example. Tom and I just recently obtained our Global Entry /Trusted Traveler Identification. Now that I have used it returning from a recent trip from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego, I can sing the praises for the value it holds as a frequent international traveler. I know I could write a compelling story as to its value that would not sound like and advertisement, but instead would be a very interesting story for our local paper. I am not a travel agent, so I will leave that to you to try in your market. This is a great hook and timely as we will soon be entering the holiday season when airport lines are long and frustrating for so many travelers. Why not share how they can take steps to beat those lines by applying for the program? I actually think this story would bode well for local TV news media as well.
Here are some questions you might ask yourself when you are creating your “hook(s)”:
• What’s new in your business, and why would people find this interesting?
• What’s happening in the world around you, and how does it affect your customers and potential customers?
• What’s changing in your market or in the travel industry, and who might the change have an effect on?
• How can you inform people about an aspect about the travel industry or related to the industry that is poorly understood or unknown?
Express Your Idea Briefly and Succinctly
You should have a quick 30-second pitch for your idea all figured out before contacting reporters – writing it down helps. You should get right into the idea, and tell the reporter how you can help them put the story together. The easier you can make it for the reporter, the more likely you are to get coverage.
Make the Call
Deliver your 30-second idea. If the reporter doesn’t seem interested ask them if they might be interested in another type of story that you could help with. Remember, you are the “Expert.” If they don’t have any time for you right now, offer to email them your pitch, and move along. Some will call you back. Some won’t. Don’t be afraid to try the same reporter again with a different idea in a few weeks. While they may not need your story this time around, I bet if you continue to let them know you are there at the ready, they will think of you first when the time is right.
In closing, there is simply no time like the present to get some free publicity. Best of luck to you and be sure to share your good news story with us!