Woman’s Day and Public Relations

Posted on by in Publishers Corner

I’m betting Meredith Bodgas, Senior Web Editor at Woman’s Day, is hoping this week is better than last. In response to an inaccurate and poorly edited and researched article 10 9 Things Travel Agents Won’t Tell You, the travel professional community descended on Woman’s Day like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. What was remarkable about the ensuing Woman’s Day roast was the spontaneous, unified and generally well-spoken reaction of the travel professional community.

The list of those who contributed included leadership from associations, consortia, franchises, media and, importantly, suppliers. Be sure to let them know how much you appreciated their responsiveness.

The WD article is certainly not the first time travel professionals have seen inaccurate and unfortunately slanted information fed to consumers as either entertainment or journalism.  However, it IS the first time I can recall a travel professional flash mob so completely swarm and overwhelm a negative article.

Good for our side. But I ask you, is it enough to be continually in a defensive and reactive mode? Is it possible instead to be pro-actively involved in shaping public opinion and in educating the consumer on the role of the travel agent?

There is much to be done.  The travel profession’s public relations efforts have been spotty at best. As the WD Article betrays, the public  does not understand what a travel agent does.  The prevailing image  positions travel professionals as retailers of travel, not as advisors. The widespread opinion held by the average consumer would indicate it is more expensive to use a travel agent than to “do it yourself.”  After all, Priceline and countless others spent years and millions of dollars convincing the public to “be your own travel agent.” As an industry, we cannot afford to merely react each time a publication writes an article with a more or less degree of accuracy.  Taking a pro-active marketing position will help ensure the next time a consumer thinks about travel, they think about a travel professional.

iStock_000008264503XSmallThe problem with large, national campaigns, of course, is the tremendous expense involved in funding them. Perhaps it makes better sense for the national leadership of ASTA, Travel Leaders and others to provide agents with materials to be used at the local level.  Producing materials at the top and handing them down for local use maintains high production values and a consistent message.  Television commercials, press releases, articles, slogans, travel events and other tactics could be developed by leadership then handed off to local travel agencies to implement in their respective markets.

Consider the possibility of working with other agencies in your local communities to help shape public opinion. Cooperating with other travel professionals on public relations issues makes tremendous sense, and takes a bit of courage. But there is much to be gained in the effort.  Certainly the idea of cooperating with your “competition” is sometimes daunting, but the truth is your real competition is not the agency down the street but rather the ignorance of the general public about what you do and how you do it.

A grassroots campaign in your own community, collaborating with other agencies in your area makes good sense. A centralized nationwide campaign to educate the public is a very expensive proposition, but smaller, localized efforts make for easier lifting. The cost of a small, local ad campaign split between a dozen or more agencies is affordable and smart business.

Ask your leadership to continue their excellent response to the Woman’s Day article by leading you into a pro-active public relations campaign locally.  There is everything to gain.

  7 thoughts on “Woman’s Day and Public Relations

  1. 1Barbara Oliver says:

    “Perhaps it makes better sense for the national leadership…to provide agents with materials to be used at the local level. Producing materials at the top and handing them down for local use maintains high production values and a consistent message.”

    I have been saying this for years – hopefully someone will listen soon!

  2. The video started then suddenly vanished and went black. Now I’m getting a “this video is unavailable” error message. I would really have liked to have seen it!

    And this article presents a great proactive suggestion.

  3. 1John Picken says:

    Here’s what I told my clients via my blog.
    The most recent online issue of Women’s Day magazine published a story entitled “10 Things Travel Agents Won’t Tell You” http://www.womansday.com/life/travel-tips/should-i-use-a-travel-agent#comments . It contained things like “…they’re making commissions”, “…they may not have been to the hotel they’re recommending” and “…travel insurance may not be necessary”. As you might imagine, this caused a massive uproar from US and some Canadian travel agents. At last count there were more than 1400 comments added to the end of the article – none that I saw were supportive of the writer’s point of view; the vast majority being from … you guessed it travel agents. In truth it was a very poorly researched article, it lacked balance and perspective and is a stain on journalism. In my experience there’s not a lot that travel agents won’t tell you! Rather than get into a long winded rebuttal of a poorly written diatribe I believe it’s more important to tell you what I will tell you. Here are a couple of truths about planning travel with a travel agent.
    I’ll tell you that there are some things that I do really well and some where I don’t know much more than you do. I know where airlines fly. I’ve spent the better part of 30 plus years researching flight itineraries for clients. On the other hand, while I’ve probably planned more trips to Asia than you have, I don’t know the area well as it’s not my specialty. I do know Europe. Generally outside my specialty I can help, but nowhere near as much as a true specialist agent.
    I know value in travel. Can I find the best price? Usually by this you mean the lowest price. But even better I can find the best value for something. Take air fares. The lowest price from Buffalo to Las Vegas can involve 2 stops in each direction. I also know that Southwest flies non-stop once a day to/from Buffalo to Sin City and that the flight times are pretty good for people looking for a getaway weekend. It can cost $20 to $50 more on the direct flight. By the way, Southwest doesn’t appear in Expedia! Which is more valuable to you – a savings of $20 or the most time you can get for your weekend splurge? The vast majority of clients choose the time!
    I know that if I make a mistake I have to fix it and pay for the fix if necessary. If you make a mistake you pay for it. I know I make very few mistakes because I can’t afford the cost of too many boo-boos! The business doesn’t pay enough to cover a lot of problems.
    I know that it’s not a good idea to plan your flights to catch a European cruise so that you arrive the day the cruise departs. If you don’t arrive on time – it’s your problem to catch up with the ship. When planning an itinerary I always want to allow a little margin for the unexpected. Do you know what kind of “unexpected” you might run into on your trip?
    I haven’t been to every hotel, B&B or rental property in Italy. But I do know a number of good ones and I ask my clients what they think about where they stayed. I also spend time and money on researching the type of places I think my clients might like. I travel a lot and I spend my own money (and enjoy the travel) and time finding places that I like and that I think my clients might like. I know one apartment in the middle of Antibes’ old town that is a perfect place to explore the Cote D’Azur. A couple who just returned agreed with me!
    As a final point I know it’s criminally stupid to leave home without some sort of out of country medical insurance. And, if you ask I’ll tell you my answer to any of the 10 Question that came up in the Women’s Day article. Just ask.

  4. 1dcta says:

    I’ll bet Ms. Bogdas woke up on Monday and immediately thought, “Good Lord, let it be over…”

  5. 1Richard Earls says:

    Give the video another try!

  6. Well said! We have been talking about this very thing on the Travel Agent Community Forum.

  7. 1Richard Earls says:

    Tina – TRO will be releasing a series of videos for agents to use like the one above very soon! Let everyone know! Richard

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