“In the future, you might not be what you know, but what you share. (Do) Be more entrepreneurial!” There goes word by Andrew Grill, Vice President of the Social Business @IBM speaking to us about “Blogs & Brands: Walking A Fine Line into the Future of Social” at the #STSHamburg Social Travel Summit. After 48 hours of intense conversation, fast-paced conference sessions and happy party nights following the motto “Work Hard, Play Hard”, my head is still swirling days after the Social Travel Summit has ended. All the inspiration. All the people and passion on display. Like at the first ever such summit in the city of Leipzig back in 2014, all of us professionally minded online travel writers, videographers, bloggers, industry leaders & decision-makers have gathered once more this year in order to elaborate practical Do’s & Don’ts in improving industry blogger relations.
To this end, the 2015 Think Tank has focused on “Money & Budgets”, “Knowledge & Understanding” as well as “People & Structures”. Before, however, let me tell you why we should “treasure wild ducks …”!
Not my 2 cents: It is still Andrew Grill talking here. On the second day of #STSHamburg Social Travel Summit, he wakes us up to the notion that … “it is all about managing your own, personal brand. And understanding the notion of influence. Whenever you do something online, ask yourself: How is this going to affect my brand?” He also urges us to “do things differently: Treasure wild ducks!” Niches are the new rich.
“I believe in the power of social serendipity. You do not tell people that you are influential. You become influential by what you do. Make sure you are influential where you want to be. Brands are slowly waking up to the fact that just because you have a ‘high score’ does not mean you are useful to an organisation. As an online publisher, I urge you to become transparent and EARN YOUR INFLUENCE. Don’t just look at the scores – look at what lies beyond.” (Andrew Grill, The Social Travel Summit).
Andrew also encourages us to be more strategic in our thinking: “Where is your influence and what is it that you are talking about?
When you are pitching to a brand, focus on the following: Which is the audience you can bring? That is so much more intelligent than simply saying, ‘I’ve got a 100.000 followers.
Look beyond the basic metrics. Big data combined with ‘social’ now becomes big business! To give you an example: It is as easy as in any kind of human small (or big) talk. You are only allowed into a conversation if you have got something of value to say. Brands as well as bloggers have to consider this. In this new social media age, you just have to be smarter. And more strategic. Do not allow yourself to become a ‘social switchboard’: Think about how you can be holistic in your approach within an organisation as well as within ‘the big picture’.”
I can sense that Andrew could go on and on. He really has got so much to say, sharing from his valuable knowledge and insights and mentioning a very interesting tool called the “online personality insights demonstration“. It uses social data to draw a (psychological) profile of the influencers you are working with. By setting up a mirror to your brand, it tells you about your virtual profile. In doing so, it goes deep into the data (for instance, the words you use to express yourself on your blog) and looks beyond simple numbers and clicks in the analysis. Try SOCIAL.BZ/PERSONALITY to learn more!
“Social is the new production line for the knowledge age. Social businesses encourage networks of people to create business value through systems and culture. Both culture & people are very, very important. Be aware of what comes next: Unlock the knowledge potential around you.” (Andrew Grill, The Social Travel Summit).
Thank you so much, dear Andrew, for a most inspiring morning session at the #STSHamburg Social Travel Summit here in Hamburg!
Pitching & Negotiating Successful Blogger Relations
Before I would like to go into more details concerning the summary of the Think Tank session of this year’s #STSHamburg Social Travel Summit, let me share the results from another interesting session on negotiating successful blogger relations with you. Hands-on knowledge from leading industry & travel blogger peers such as Catharina Fischer (German National Tourist Board), David Arcifa (MSC Cruises), Kash Batthacharya (Budget Traveller) or Abigail King (Inside The Travel Lab) have resulted in the following checklist for successful pitching & negotiations:
- Short pitches win the race. Start with engagement: What is your relationship, past record, affiliation etc. with the brand / business you are pitching to?
- The “brain behind” the pitch: Elaborate on the idea and the concept that sets yourself (and your pitch) apart from the rest.
- Do your homework. Study the brand: What are the key values? Where can you find a match? Which story angle do you intend to provide? Cold emails never work: Be creative and provide your unique selling proposition.
- Think from the partner’s point of view: “Help me to convince my boss to invest more money in YOU!” Be structured. Be educated. Be professional in your approach. Think sustainable, long-term, creative campaign – away from everyone else.
- Measurement is key. Every amount spent needs to be justified. Showing how many of those people you have reached out to keep coming back really shows where the value is.
- Display recent projects on your blog. Consider the planning phase of organisations, which is sometimes over a year ahead of time. Step in at an early stage! Think constant relationship, constant marketing, constant building.
- And finally, know yourself, your brand, your values! Before you approach anyone, know what you want: What is fixed and what is to be negotiated from the deal? As a professional travel blogger, have a section on your blog as to how to work with you. Present your media kit in a range of options – one page, one paragraph, or a power point presentation.
“When you are in the negotiating phase, remember that there is always a goal behind a goal. If you incur a problem, try fixing it in another way. The cliché win-win situation is really the only way a partnership works.” (Abigail King, The Social Travel Summit).
Do not miss watching Caspar Diederik (@StoryTravelers) amaaazing (yes! AMAAAZING!) travel video about Hamburg, filmed in a captivating visual narrative and guaranteed to make you feel emotional – and inspired. WOW. Thank you so much for your fascinating visual storytelling session, dear Caspar!
“Change is something that can be deadly slow – and quite dramatic at the same time.” Let’s hear about “massaging change”: Here are the 2015 Think Tank Results!
“Change …” Alastair McKenzie, whose wonderful words of wisdom I have quoted in the above headline, smiles. “Sometimes, I like to throw in the odd grenade into a stagnant discussion. Like: Do we still need PR at this time and age?”
Ahead of further details, the executive summary of the #STSHamburg Social Travel Summit Think Tank centres around the following three key issues:
Money & Budgets: “Make knowledge your business”!
The structure of the Think Tank is such that each topic is being discussed by a good mix of industry, PR & professional travel bloggers, guided by a moderator encouraging all of our “multiple skill sets” to be put to good use so as to come up with fresh results under each of the three main Think Tank discussion topics. I am proud, and happy, to have been asked once again to be a part in this leading Think Tank committee, sharing what I deem important and worthwhile here.
The first topic, Money & Budgets, has yielded the following results and further food for thought:
- Education to Industry Leaders: “The industry needs (even) more details about your audience – Bloggers, do your homework! Provide comparable figures and case studies for decision-makers.”
- Monitoring & measuring should be made simple for both sides.
- Combining forces, combining budgets. Often, the most cost-effective campaigns have come from a simple combination of existing resources. There is an urge to combine separate marketing & communication departments into one.
- True affinity results in trust results in freedom results in big love! “Trust hosting a person to go out and discover. The concept for destination marketing has to become more creative – at the moment, it is often too tactical and short-term.”
- Money from EU Budgets as a potential outside-the-box opportunity: The EU funds a whole lot of qualification & consultancy schemes, for instance through their regional development funds which are huge across the continent. Tapping into those as a consultant can help spread better knowledge and assist with the empowerment of an entire industry – the professional travel blogging industry within destination marketing, that is.
Knowledge & Understanding: “At the very bottom, there is a huge thirst for more knowledge.”
Once again, the results from this session have yielded the following insights about a better understanding of each other’s evolving industries:
- There needs to be a common ground language with senior decision makers: “We need to create vocabulary so people understand the impact and difference that we, as bloggers, are creating.”
- Longevity is key in this, as it is all about creating assets & longevity in any kind of business relationship.
- Structures are necessary to keep reporting and measuring.
- A proposed reader survey combining questions from the industry as well as travel bloggers may help address feedback from readers.
- The “need for champions“, thought-leaders, people to look up to, is clear and evident – and more so in the young industry of professional travel bloggers: “We all need role models. The type of people who are good speakers, organising workshops, the ones who have been there, done that, and who are able to show real results.”
- Stitching it all together in a creative manner: Try leveraging off the internal communication of destination management companies – hosting workshops, inviting bloggers, gaining support from traditional media, reaching out to senior decision makers through established trade magazines are all existing, viable options here.
- Taking our current level of thinking to the next: Sometimes, people in the industry do not even know what is possible, or where to distribute. This too needs to be addressed.
People & Structures: “We are training people for jobs that do no longer, or will no longer, exist.”
In addressing the fundamental question here (“Is the industry set up to work with professional travel bloggers?”), I have added my 2 cents about “rather than just saying no, it is also up to us to make that change happen. Educating the industry brings an opportunity to move all of us towards new levels of thinking.” And: “If everything is going to be paid for in the future, it needs to be looked at as a business.”
Rather than saying a blogger’s value is “just more visibility”, it is about convincing people that through professional blogs, they can reach markets otherwise unattainable.
- The power of bloggers lies in being “experts in their fields who are full of ideas and have got their finger on the pulse.”
- It is recommended that even more case studies for the benefit of developing the industry should be published in the future.
- A “game changer” of the eternal discussion about being paid could lie in the demonstration of “real results”, i.e. comparisons of opportunity cost or spending money on something else instead
- Feedback loops should encourage smooth networking among industry and bloggers, as well as amongst each other, e.g. hoteliers sharing clients’ emails as a direct response to previous inspiration from bloggers in the destination.
- The Destination Management Company (DMO) as content curator: “The message is owned by everybody.” A campaign is successful when it becomes visible to local partners and makes the ordinary special. When it has power to empower. And drives local revenue with value added.
Thank you sooo much for such an interesting feedback and discussion here at the #STSHamburg Social Travel Summit! See you all again next year!