Last week, the Travel Bloggers Unite conference landed in Innsbruck, Austria and Four bgb was the event's official PR partner. Following an exceptionally successful debut conference in Manchester in March 2011, the event has been gathering speed and reputation with incredible pace. With a schedule of travel blogging-centric debates, workshops and raucous networking sessions, the debate has firmly grasped the attention of some of the world's leading travel bloggers and journalists as well tourist boards, travel companies, SEO, digital and PR agencies alike.
We spent last week in the Austrian city of Innsbruck where the hectic schedule of events was eclipsed only by the jaw-droppingly beautiful Alpine scenery ...The conference hashtag #TBUIBK achieved a staggering 14 million twitter impressions, but for those who missed it, here's our roundup of the key issues, outcomes and ideas for the future.
We joined the debate panel on day one alongside Innsbruck Tourist Board, The Austrian Tourist Board, Melvin Boecher of Travel Dudes and Isabelle of Isabelle's Travel Guide, to thrash out just how bloggers should be viewed in the eyes of the travel industry and what we can both do to capitalise on this relationship. It got pretty heated, but here's how we see it:
- Bloggers and journalists are different, not better, not worse, but different. We need to start considering talented and passionate writers and not becoming overly concerned with labels.
- The question of whether bloggers should receive payment remains a contentious issue, but what is clear is that bloggers are more than just writers, they are marketers, community managers, advertisers, SEO strategists, brand ambassadors and content planners and should be valued as such.
- Bloggers hold a huge amount of power in having reams of statistics at their fingertips to prove their ROI - an advantage not as available to traditional media outlets; however bloggers do not always know how to demonstrate their value.
- The media pack is, and will increasingly be, one of the most powerful tools for bloggers to negotiate relationships with commercial partners. The power to educate travel organisations is in the hands of the blogging community.
- Transparency is key when entering into plans for blog trips, from both the travel organisation and the blogger. Objectives of both parties need to be clear ahead of any agreements being made - discussing desired outcomes before agreeing a trip is far more likely to result in a positive ongoing relationship.
- The main thrust of coverage and buzz from a blog trip is generated during the trip, meaning it is essential that itineraries are flexible and include enough 'downtime' to allow this to happen - as well as consistent wi-fi!
- Return on investment is one of the leading priorities for travel organisations when considering a relationship with bloggers, especially those with public accountability. This requirement for quantifiable outcomes puts the onus on the blogging community to provide statistics to support their publication.
- Although unique site visitor figures are a key indicator for travel organisations in evaluating opportunities with bloggers there is no 'magic number' to be considered 'successful'. Other factors to consider include audience demographic, online influence, reader engagement and the more qualitative attributes of branding. It also become clear that successful bloggers are willing to host guest posts from smaller bloggers, to support blogger trips, adding to and increasing the reach of editorial.
- The travel industry remains anxious about the impact of a bad online review, causing reluctance to engage. Although the question of how to deal with bad experiences on a press trip remains hotly debated within the mainstream media, the key message for bloggers was one of professionalism. It is possible to deal with a complaint in a professional manner with the organisation/ PR involved without sacrificing editorial integrity.
- The blogging community is vast and includes a huge disparity in terms of quality and influence, travel organisations need to ensure they are well researched when approaching bloggers to work with, even the blogging community admits that quantity (of followers) does not always mean quality.
- Engaging with bloggers is all about real life connections. The industry may be moving online but bloggers are people not avatars - picking up the phone and attending networking events like TBU are deemed key to forging long term meaningful partnerships between bloggers and travel organisations. Follow @tbloggersunite for details of the next TBU conference and @bgb_news for the latest London meet ups and tweet ups.
To watch a full video of the panel debate check out Alistair McKenzie's You Tube channel Propodservices
As the TBU Innsbruck PR partner, Four bgb hosted a number of workshops at the conference, working with bloggers at various stages of their blogging career to discuss some of the best strategies to build relationships with travel organisations, a full overview of which can be read on the Four bgb website.
We met a huge range of top notch bloggers this week, writing on topics from solo travel to budget travel, ex pat life to hitchhiking, adventure to luxury... big blogs, small blogs, girls only blogs, corporate blogs, syndicated blogs, photo-led blogs, video led blogs, apps and aggregators, podcasts and vodcasts... We are exhausted but ever-enlightened. Now we'd never pick favourites but here's our list of ones to watch...
The host destination for the third Travel Bloggers Unite has just been announced as Umbria, Italy for 2012... All we can say is; we are practicing our Italian already.