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How bloggers can pitch to PRs

Travelbloggers Unite Conference Session Innsbruck

Welcome - the heading of this session is how to pitch to PRs. We're taking this a little more broadly - how to pitch to marketers and PRs which we hope will prove useful.

I'm joined by my colleagues Maitha Ahmed and Sarah Andrews in the room today.

And my MD Debbie Hindle is taking part 'virtually' on Twitter from @bgbcomms after a summer accident iceskating. Seems like quite an extreme way of getting out of a presentation but it takes all sorts

For those of you that don't know us Four Communications is an independent, international communications agency We have expert teams in public relations, public affairs, community consultation, design, branding, advertising, media planning and buying, marketing, sponsorship, representation and digital and Four bgb is the team that specialises in Travel PR and representation. There's about 30 of us at Four bgb and we're based in the lovely Leicester Square

So if you're in town, we make good tea and there's usually a serious amount of cake around so do pop in and see us... 

1. Who is making the decisions?

Before we start thinking about how to pitch I just want to touch on how complicated this has become from a client's side so you can get an idea of how things work our end which should hopefully give you more insight and prepare you better for when it comes to pitching.

Just 15 years ago  - most marketing departments would have had a sales and marketing team on one hand involved in any marketing spend on print, TV and radio... And any other medium you can stamp your logo on.

A PR department would have handled relations with that organisation's 'publics" - anyone who had an influence on them from a local neighbourhood group that might be concerned about airport noise, to a local MP or a travel journalist

A 40 year old marketing manager then could be today's 55 year old marketing director, tourist board director and decision-maker.

In just 15 years there has been a sea-change as we all know.

Online activity now underpins everything many organisations do - a new raft of agencies have sprung up to offer digital services to travel organisations. Companies now need to consider a whole other communication stream.

But what's happened to the in-house decision maker? 15 years ago if one of their agencies approached our mythical marketing manager with an opportunity in the Telegraph or the Times that manager knew what each brand stood for, they were presented with reams of statistics showing that publication's value and personal reach to their customers

Now our mythical marketing manager has is likely to be a marketing director with an advertising agency, media buying agency a digital/SEO agency and a PR agency and be faced with a raft of evolving online opportunities as well as traditional media

The marketing director will have internal teams managing those agencies and reporting back separately to him. Companies are slowly adapting to this new model, but blogging has added a whole other entity.

You've all read the debates about which part of a company should 'own' social media.  In the early days it was often the IT department rather than the sales and marketing/PR department. Increasingly in-house PR departments are being asked to look after online communications with no extra resources. This is all so new and overlaps so much that companies have struggled to  restructure to organise themselves to cope with the new flows of information

Consequently a recommendation could come in to support a particular blog or blogger from a variety of sources, be it PR or marketing or SEO.

Regardless of the request our decision maker is far from his or her trusty Daily Telegraph and is likely to be in the dark.

2.  Why do bloggers need a media pack?

The marketing director of today is unlikely to have an understanding of your brand, your audience, your engagement like he or she does with familiar traditional media. The marketing director doesn't know what you stand for and therefore will ask. That's not questioning the worth of blogs (though occasionally they do) they simply don't yet know you and what you can offer and so like any director worth their salt, they want to know more...

So be very clear about what your blog is, what it stands for and what it can offer them. The best way to do this is with a media pack that lays out all the data a decision maker may need

3. What should you put into this media pack?

I've seen some blogs which split this information by PR or advertiser. Frankly the world is so blurred now I'd put it all in one document so anyone can get a full picture of how to work with you and your key statistics at any time

So what do you need to put into this wonderful media pack?

Any statistics you have will be helpful but the more you have the better, remember the person you are pitching to will have to justify return on investment to shareholders or even the public and so anything you can arm them with will make it more likely they are able to invest in you. You can link to some example media packs from this articleTop tips

Demographics are key, decision makers want to know who your readers are. You may have reams of followers but the company you're talking to will ask "are they my customers? Could they be my customers?" If not the likelihood is the relationship won't be beneficial for either party. So include in a media pack

1.   Your brand - what you stand for, what you write about and how. Your personal experience and any awards (bloggys!) or recognition

2.   Your key statistics  - unique visitors, page views, feed subscribers, Facebook and Twitter followers,  Flikr, YouTube or Linkedin

3.   Demographics: In addition to the volume facts do please add demographic data - where is your readership. What age, social profile?

4.   Independent verification of your status - eg Klout score, Alexa, Google Page Rank, Technorati rank and Technorati authority. Be prepared to add a few lines explaining each of these to an inexperienced decision-maker

4. How to pitch to travel organisations

At a recent event we held before TBU we asked a room of bloggers who had approached PRs directly for support before. No one put up their hand

So having your media pack set up and ready to go is a key priority, but it's not enough by itself to secure the attention and investment of a travel company. We've put together a few top tips for ensuring the pitching process goes smoothly and successfully.

4.1   Do your research about the organisation - there is nothing wrong with having a variety of media packs tailored to different business types. Knowing the customers and objectives of a business means your pitch is much more likely to meet their needs and encourage investment. For example

  • SeaFrance would need to know how many of your readers live within the South East of England and so are potential cross channel ferry travellers
  • Many airlines will only support 'priority routes' rather than every route on their networks - so knowing their priority routes will put you at an advantage.
  • Do they have a twitter feed? A blog? Facebook? Could you suggest writing a post for their blog? Many companies account for media travel at standard internal rates, so trips can take chunks from a set travel budget,or they have strict limits on how many media/blogger places can be allocated. You may also not have the time to go away, so thinking of other ways to work together will appear knowledgeable and certainly a better ROI

4.2      Be transparent and clear what you can offer and when and what you'd like from them - they will appreciate your honesty!

  • A lot of this is quite straight-forward and self-evident, but because of the inevitably individual nature of the blogging community it's sometimes hard for travel companies to understand the wave of change and understand what you want. Is your twitter following astronomical? Tell them you'll tweet about it. Is your YouTube channel attracting an avid following, ask them about making a video...
  • I remember a client forwarding on an email she had received from a blogger that was pages long, all very friendly and well written talking about the places she'd like to travel to and why and using words like support and assist and working together to mutual benefit.... And the simple fwd email that landed on my desk "Sounds good - but what does she want?" Ultimately companies are keen to know what you'd like to do and what you can do in return. If you're well researched and well prepared being transparent with what you're proposing could be the key to starting a successful relationship.

And of course the media pack. This as I say this often is the real selling point for our decision maker and can make all the difference in companies deciding to invest or not.

4.3      Do your research about who is responsible for what In the main if you have a PR contact they are likely to be able to put you in touch with their client's SEO/ marketing team directly however if you are pitching 'cold' then there are a few extra things to consider.

  • Who is responsible for the website? - find out the right person to contact
  • Who is responsible for social media platforms? - do they have a separate agency to look after their social media?
  • Who is responsible for advertising? Again this could well be a different agency and so by knowing who does what you can ensure you're pitching to the decision maker and not getting lost under a pile of emails that are irrelevant to the recipient.
  • But don't be afraid to ask - ask the PR who does the SEO/ Ask the marketer who does the advertising... Ultimately it's to our benefit for each division to be on board, if we set up a press trip with you, then advertising with you or working on sponsored posts could then be mutually beneficial to boost your income and draw more attention to the blog posts about our trip.

We don't bite and are usually keen to help in any way we can.

So to sum up... Pitching to businesses really does come down to three things.

  • Research, research, research,
  • Be transparent with what you can offer
  • And provide a clear, concise media pack tailored to the company you are pitching to.  - Statistics to highlight ROI are key.


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