11 tips for sustainable tourism companies wanting to host bloggers… from the bloggers themselves

11 tips for sustainable tourism companies wanting to host bloggers... from the bloggers themselves

Travel bloggers can have a huge influence over the success of your business. So how best to maximise their visit, and make sure you and they get the most from their time with you, meaning you are most likely to get your story told the way you’d hope to hear it when they come to share it with their followers? We spoke to several leading bloggers writing about sustainable tourism, and asked them to give us their top tips.

1) Be clear on the terms of the relationship

11 tips for sustainable tourism companies wanting to host bloggers... from the bloggers themselvesWhen it comes to communicating to (potential) customers about responsible tourism practices employed by hotels and travel companies, one thing stands out. we need to do more of it. On many an occasion I’ve stayed at a hotel that communicates nothing about its responsible or sustainability efforts, only to find out (by accident) that they’re actually doing a lot. Responsible Travel bloggers can play an important role in helping to communicate to customers about this, and raising general awareness amongst the travelling public about responsible practices in accommodations.

Check that their interpretation of Responsible Travel is aligned with yours

When working with responsible travel bloggers my tip is to be clear on the terms of the cooperation: Firstly, check that their interpretation of Responsible Travel is aligned with yours. Be clear on what you expect the blogger to deliver – is it a whole post about staying at your accommodation or participation in your tour, or a mention in a more general post about the destination? If they will be covering you on social media how many posts are you asking for? Lastly, do ask for a report at the end of the partnership showing social media / post reach. All professional bloggers will be happy to provide this information.

Ellie Cleary, Soul Travel Blog

2) Find out what makes their readers tick

11 tips for sustainable tourism companies wanting to host bloggers... from the bloggers themselvesSo much of responsible tourism blogging is about educating the consumer that many times we may forget to ask what the consumer really wants. Travel companies and Hotels should ask bloggers what makes their readers tick and have a candid conversation about how they can best frame their offerings in a way that will not only appeal to a responsible travel-aware reader but also influence a reader that may be open to making that change. It’s also engaging for a reader when a positive change is highlighted – for example, announcing an animal welfare policy, green innovations, etc that act as a hook for a story that appeals to the consumer.”  

Mitali Mahajani and Namrata Bhawnani, Ecophiles 

3) Build a long-term relationship

11 tips for sustainable tourism companies wanting to host bloggers... from the bloggers themselvesInstead of providing a few nights stay or a short trip in exchange of blog posts, build and develop a long-term relation with travel bloggers. This can be done via creating successful campaigns or ambassadorship programs.  

This way bloggers will be able to follow along the progress of your work throughout the years, understand the core and vision of your business better, and enhance it via creating different content (e-books, videos, professional photographs) and social media management.

Moreover, a long-term campaign would help to build a trustworthy relation between you and your current and potential customers who would recognise the campaign as credible thanks to the reputable bloggers you decide to work with.

Ivana Greslikova & Gianni Bianchini, Nomad is Beautiful

4) Make sure your brands are aligned

11 tips for sustainable tourism companies wanting to host bloggers... from the bloggers themselvesDo diligent research and focus on brand alignment as much as (if not more than) stats. Numbers such as page views and social media followers can be bought for less than the cost of a fast food meal. But true influence over travel purchase decisions is more important, and much more difficult to measure.

The question isn’t which bloggers reach the largest audience, but which ones reach the right audience

Some bloggers write about responsible travel from time to time, but it’s not really their main focus. Others write primarily for the budget travel/backpacker audience, which may or may not align with a given brand’s marketing goals. The question isn’t which bloggers reach the largest audience, but which ones reach the right audience to provide serious ROI on your marketing investment?

Too many brands make these decisions based on traffic stats or name recognition alone because they don’t have time to do the research. In this case, it pays to work with agencies whose job it is to sort the wheat from the chaff. Because when brands work with bloggers who are ill-suited to their campaign or don’t produce solid results, it’s bad for everyone’s business.

Bret Love, Editor-in-Chief, Green Global Travel

5) Don’t just look for RT bloggers, look for specific topic niche

11 tips for sustainable tourism companies wanting to host bloggers... from the bloggers themselvesRT may be thought of by companies as a niche, but within this category there are sub-niches where bloggers have more of an interest or expertise (e.g., environment, animals, people/culture, socio-economy, etc.). Companies should be sure to do their research thoroughly (i.e., read several blog posts, about page, etc.) to be sure that the RT blogger they are contacting is the right fit — values, message, core topics — for their company’s offerings and services.

Audrey Scott, Uncornered Market

6) Get honest feedback… and act on it

11 tips for sustainable tourism companies wanting to host bloggers... from the bloggers themselvesTake honest feedback – and put it to action. Responsible tourism bloggers and writers main objective is to not only highlight areas of responsibility in which a company excels, but to also shed light in areas for improvement. Everyone loves a good pat on the back, but we usually cringe when we hear about things we could, and in some cases ‘should’ be better at. As the world gets more focused on what it means to be responsible in our travels, it is becoming increasingly important for companies to change with the times. This is especially true with so many user generated review sites coming to the forefront of the sales funnel. Often when working with bloggers, many assume that it will result in fluffy stories about how wonderful everything is, but that does nothing for a company’s personal growth or development.

Try to dig in to the blogger’s insights during their time with you, and see what concerns they may have, if any. You may already be working on a solution, and if not, see if these responsible tourism experts have any ideas. on what can be done differently. You’ll likely get a better review for empathizing with their concerns, and it could lead to some fantastic new innovations or procedures for your own sustainability with the evolving marketplace.

Ian Ord, Where Sidewalks End

7) Be clear on the message you want to promote

11 tips for sustainable tourism companies wanting to host bloggers... from the bloggers themselvesCompanies looking to work with responsible tourism bloggers should always have a very clear understanding of the message they want to promote, and how that will help benefit their company and tourism overall. As more companies turn to ‘eco’ initiatives it’s important to remember that responsible tourism isn’t just a marketing gimmick, but an opportunity to actually make the world a better place.

Remember that responsible tourism isn’t just a marketing gimmick, but an opportunity to actually make the world a better place.

Real people, animals and environments are in danger of misdirected campaigns, and therefore both company and blogger should have a shared understanding of how a company benefits everyone. In order to ensure this is done correctly the companies should spend that little bit of extra time consulting with bloggers about how they can maximize their message, impact and marketing reach. In the long run it’ll not only benefit tourism, but also help increase audience engagement and authenticity for the company, which ultimate drives more customers to to the company.

Jules and Christine, Don’t Forget To Move

8) Help challenge greenwashing

Understand that greenwashing is a threat to RT and bloggers need to experience a company’s services/work to vet it. We get contacted by many organizations and companies wanting us to promote them because of shared values. However, how can I be sure that the actions/work of the company matches their words unless I see if for myself?

We’ve long had a policy on our blog that we will not write about or promote an organization/NGO/company if we haven’t experienced it ourselves or personally know the founders/people working there (and really trust them). This may sound harsh, but the reason for that is that we’ve seen firsthand how there can be a big divide between an NGO’s (or company’s) marketing materials/website and the work they actually doing/how they spend their money on the ground.

The work that RT bloggers will do will be so much stronger if they are writing from personal experience and can say that they’ve vetted the company’s RT work

Why is this relevant for companies wanting to work with RT bloggers? For RT bloggers, they need to ensure that they don’t inadvertently align themselves with a brand/company that is greenwashing or isn’t living up to the copy on their marketing pages. If they do this, their brand gets diluted.

For the companies, the work that RT bloggers will do – whether it’s promotion, writing, advocacy, etc – will be so much stronger if they are writing from personal experience and can say that they’ve vetted (ie put on their BS-detector) the company’s RT work. Also, the RT blogger may find story or promotional angles about the companies RT work/projects that the company had never even realized. This happens often when we are on projects.

Audrey Scott, Uncornered Market

9) Appreciate that bloggers need to make a living

Often when we’re contacted for RT-related work/projects the assumption is that we’ll do it for free (or a much reduced rate) because it is a “good cause.” Even through RT bloggers may be seen as having “good hearts” for the advocacy work that they do, they also have bills to pay and need to stay sustainable for that work to remain valuable.

Audrey Scott, Uncornered Market

10) Consult relevant Facebook communities

Several of us within the responsible travel space started the Responsible Travel Blogger group on Facebook with the aim of forming an active collective of travel bloggers, writers and industry professionals working together to better promote responsible tourism (beyond the echo chamber). So, any representative of a travel company who wishes to learn from or contribute to the group is welcome to join. These individuals can engage with the group by posting questions (anything related to blogging), opportunities, advice or to seek a blogger that matches a company’s ethos or story.

Ben Salt, adventure traveller and storyteller

11)  Get it all in writing

11 tips for sustainable tourism companies wanting to host bloggers... from the bloggers themselvesMake sure you have clear objectives for your campaign that you can measure, so that both sides know what you are trying to accomplish. define both the deliverables and compensation. Don’t leave any gray area or make any assumptions. Include these items in a contract that is read and signed by both parties. This will minimize the potential for misunderstandings.

Matt Gibson, President, Professional Travel Bloggers Association • Blogger, XpatMatt

Do you have any further suggestions for more tips for working with bloggers? If so we’d love to hear them, and if they add to the information provided here, will add them to this article.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smithhttp://www.jmcsmith.com
Jeremy Smith is the editor and co-founder of Travindy. He is a writer and communications consultant working for a more responsible and sustainable tourism industry. He is the author of two books, writes a fortnightly blog on responsible tourism for World Travel Market, and provides consultancy to a wide range of companies and organisations, ranging from National Parks to individual hotels and tour operators.

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