Public Relations for Travel Professionals: Volunteer Work and Events
In most communities, volunteer opportunities abound – so you should be able to identify at least one to which you relate and about which you are passionate. From the local animal shelter to charity work or participation on committees for organizations such as your local United Way, PTA, Hospice, and more, you contribute and thereby widen your circle of acquaintances. By joining others for good causes or civic committees, you not only work toward a positive goal in your community, but you also earn the opportunity to let new people know about your travel practice, your attention to detail, and the personality behind your skill set. As the other participants get to know you in a volunteer setting, their understanding of you in a charitable context serves to create a bond that can translate in a very positive way into a personal or business relationship. Importantly, you will discover that much of the pressure is off of you to “market” as you provide your services to the community. Knowledge of you and your business is a happy by-product of your central mission of giving to others.
One of the best ways to accomplish the heavy lifting requirements of a publicity campaign is to leverage a local not-for-profit organization for which you have a real, authentic affinity. As an example, what if your travel agency sponsored a weekend in conjunction with the local animal shelter to increase the number of volunteers? For your part, you would agree to develop the campaign, invite clients, give interviews and sponsor a local award to the individuals who have contributed most in the past year to the well being of animals on a volunteer basis. Your actual cost would be the expense involved in a plaque or trophy from a local supplier (who should be an actual or future client of yours). Your upside would be the enormous number of people who would read the press releases, work at the shelter, or who would be attracted to the event. Participation with a not-for-profit organization carries a tremendous amount of good-will. By giving of your time to a worthy cause, you would reap not only good publicity, but, more importantly no small measure of good karma.
Some agents have had success sponsoring a local award, team or contest. Choose a local community activity with lots of participants in your demographic and sponsor a civic contest and award of $150. For example, most communities have a little league soccer or softball program. Work with the organizers to promote a “Clean up our Park” day. Donate the $100 to the team that collects the most refuse in baggies. Use the remaining $50 to purchase refreshments for the kids. Or you might hold an essay contest among all the six grade students in a school to send essays on a civic topic “The Importance of Voting” and award the $150 for school supplies to the winning class submitting the best essays. It’s a great way to do some good and to get your name out in a community of families!
Volunteering at fund raisers is another way to raise the profile of your travel agency and reap the benefits of not-for-profit good will. For example, twice every year, a public radio station in your community very likely does a fund raiser
of their own where local community volunteers answer the phones. Donate a hundred dollars to the public radio station and offer your staff to answer the phones. The radio station will mention your company name over and over on the days that your staff works, giving you lots of publicity in a very nice demographic.
Exercise: Choose some organizations in your community to which you could comfortably volunteer your services and list them as potential distribution channels in your marketing plan. If you did one a quarter you would have a substantial base for your next public relations campaign.
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