You can be a “thought leader” in your community. The public has a keen interest in all things related to travel. If you seek them out, you are likely to find many opportunities to interact with hundreds, perhaps thousands of consumers in your community through an intelligent public relations campaign. This week, we are going to investigate some of the easily accessible aspects of public relations for travel agents.
Publishers and editors of magazines, newspapers and newsletters in your community need your assistance. Each day, or week or month, these hard working souls have to fill their periodicals with timely, interesting content. If you have some writing skill, or you are willing to learn, writing feature articles for other publications is a terrific way to establish your reputation as an expert and to add another important tactic to your overall public relations strategy. The authors of feature articles carry an inherent authority. By publishing articles in community newspapers, letters and blogs, you become the “local expert.” Look at the “Point to Point” articles on TRO‘s home page and you will get the idea.
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Travel is an area of wide appeal for the public, and ideas for feature articles are easy to find. One of the best ways to create a feature article is to place a local slant on a national story. If the national news is “Airline Declares Chapter 7“, your article is “Protect yourself against airline bankruptcies.”
The purpose of your feature article is to inform and entertain. Avoid being promotional in the article. However, the fact that you are writing the story will help to establish you as a local or even national authority on the topic of travel. Newsroom editors look for stories that have an interesting, local slant to them. Make their job easier by providing a story already styled in that manner.
When all of the national news is bad, use it to your advantage. The dollar is off, the economy is bad. An airline declares bankruptcy, stranding travelers. A couple books online only to arrive at their destination to find no hotel room, ruining their honeymoon. A travel agent is jailed for defrauding a group on a cruise that did not exist. Left unanswered, the headlines at times such as these convince some not to travel at all or to ‘do it themselves”. Bad headlines provide the perfect opportunity for a strong travel consultant to step up and do their job: help the public understand the travel industry. When the news is bad, offer your local news outlets, social organizations and clients an explanation. Write articles for the newspaper and letters to the editor. Use your insight into the industry to assist the public to understand how to mitigate the impact of these events:
- Yes, the dollar is off in Western Europe, so now is the time to see Mexico or use B&B’s in Ireland or to see Europe without crowds. Here’s how to achieve value…;
- Yes, the cruise ship hit a rock and sank. Yet, cruising remains safer statistically than driving. Here is what travel professionals recommend…;
- Yes, the airline declared bankruptcy, which is why you advise your clients to use a credit card to book;
- Yes, the couple booking online needed the assistance of a good travel agent;
- Yes, the public should investigate the credentials of their travel agent. Here’s how you do it.
The reading public likes lists. That is why you so often see articles with numbers in them: “The top five reasons to go to Europe off-season.” National newspapers and websites like MSNBC, USA Today and Budget Travel can provide you with excellent resources for article ideas. TRO’s Travelgram is a very good source for a daily exposure to what the public is reading.
If you are going to be a good writer, you must read a great deal to study the many styles and pitfalls of feature story writing. Start small and work your way up. Look to the local newsletters in your community such as those published by neighborhoods or retailers for their clients. Write the story and then put it aside. Compare it to other feature articles written by professional writers. Re-work weak areas of your article, edit it several times. A good, strong headline is a must. The headline grabs the readers attention and pushes the reader into the article. A good headline summarizes the importance of the article to the reader in a few short words. Polish your headline to perfection.
Concerned that you don’t have the writing skills? Find a co-author and double your marketing efforts! Hire a local English teacher to tutor you. You will set yourself apart by writing useful articles in your field.
Send your article to the person responsible for your target publication. Expect rejection – it comes with the territory. But don’t hesitate to find multiple uses for your articles. Create handouts for clients or for tradeshows. Use the same article in your blog.
Writing takes work, but with practice and persistence you may find your name on a by-line and you will soon find people seeking you out as a local expert!
Here’s how to get started – Make a list of some local publications to which you can submit an article. Look hard. Your local yoga studio, dress shop or neighborhood association probably publishes a newsletter and is in need of feature articles. Next, start a collection of articles from popular travel newsletters, websites, and newspapers. Grab one of the articles and re-write it as an exercise. Put your own slant on the article. Embellish it, add to it. Change every word. Give it a better headline. If you are happy with your story, have your toughest critic read it for editorial purposes while you go to a bookstore and purchase a book on writing. Once you have an article with which you are satisfied, approach the owner of one of your local periodicals with the article. Once you are published, you will have the confidence, and the resume you need to build on your success.