This article was originally published in 2014 on the original Travel Massive blog, but has been updated with extra tips and insights for the current travel media landscape. I was a chapter leader of the Berlin Travel Massive at the time.
I gave a talk at the Berlin Travel Massive about working with brands both as a blogger, and also from the company side. As the owner of one of the more successful travel blogs at Travels of Adam. I’ve had countless opportunities to work with companies in the past 5 years. But secondly — and perhaps more importantly — I’ve also helped to develop the blogger outreach and online PR strategy for one of Europe’s leading tour operators Eating Europe Tours.
With the unique ability to speak from both sides of the equation, as a blogger and as a brand, I wanted to share my insight about best practices for bloggers when they decide to work with travel companies.
1. Know Your Audience
As a blogger, you’ll be approached by countless companies. Many of them are looking for free exposure. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If it’s something relevant and interesting for your audience, make sure the company knows and see what you can make work that’s beneficial for not just you and the company, but for your audience.
Example: I was approached by ASOS to promote a contest they were co-sponsoring with STA Travel. Both brands were relevant to my blog’s audience and I was happy to share their newsworthy, interesting, and relevant contest in a small way.
By doing so, I then got the attention of both brands and ended up being paid for the promotion plus I was able to work with both brands again a few months later. See my paid travel video series as an STA Travel insider in 2014:
TL;DR: Sometimes giving a company free promotion or social media support can lead to work in the future.
2. Build Your Content
You need to have something unique on your site, something newsworthy or interesting or something that adds value to the reader. Find your niche, your voice, your style and work it to your advantage. Become an expert on something and use online marketing tools to find it.
Example: A longtime defender of the “hipster subculture,” I decided to adopt the word with a positive spin on my blog, providing my own special hipster definition and a series of guides and blogs featuring the world’s most hipster cities.
Since the day I first published my original Berlin Hipster City Guide and subsequent cities, it helped to set my blog apart in a crowded market.
The series has only proven successful because even those people who wouldn’t identify as a hipster, still find the guides useful, interesting, and shareable. So much so, that the city guide series won several travel journalism awards as the series developed.
TL;DR: Become an expert on a particular topic to stand apart and get noticed by media.
3. Work on Your Marketing
Network like crazy. Always try to say yes to coffee. Don’t be stubborn and think you’re above someone. The person you meet for coffee might end up as a magazine editor the next week. People are incredible and I don’t know why you might want to shut people out.
You should also learn what you can about marketing a blog. It’s an online publication so there are basic online marketing strategies you should be aware of and utilize.
A blog is often a one-man (or one-woman) show so you need to be responsible for it all: the writing, marketing, business development, strategy, and more. Content is important, yes, but content needs to be found and the best way to make that happen is with marketing.
Example: I self-taught myself SEO when starting my blog and then took on several online marketing internships to learn more, plus the occasional online course. I specifically targeted relevant keywords for my blog — not every part of my blog is search-optimized, but as a travel writer, I knew what my areas of expertise were and made them work for me.
By making my site rank for any number of Germany-related travel keywords while living in Berlin, I’ve found myself approached by publications looking for local, on-the-ground experts for additional freelance writing opportunities.
Here are some useful websites for learning more about online marketing for bloggers:
- Google.com – Type in your topic into Google to see what the autocorrect suggests, plus what the top 10 results are already showing
- Semrush.com – Use this software to research potential keywords, checking what sites in your same niche (including competitors) are ranking for
- Buzzsumo.com — Useful to see what content is the most popular on specific domains
- Also check out my Pinterest board of useful travel blogging tips
TL;DR: Content may be king but marketing is its queen.
4. Attend Industry Events
I’ve already written about the importance of networking above, but sometimes the easiest way to network is with like-minded individuals. (That’s why I like Travel Massive so much!) Find events, local and international, that are targeted to your audience, your niche, your topics of interest.
It’s important to prepare before you go. Don’t just go because you heard it was good. Do some research and find out if the companies that will be there are the same ones you want to work with. When approaching these companies, make sure you can show numbers and results from previous campaigns. Have an elevator pitch ready.
TL;DR: Only go to the events most relevant to your needs and prepare in advance to make it worth the cost.
5. Stay Authentic
Remember why you started a blog in the first place. Usually it’s because you wanted to write, to share a story or a photo, or just a place to share memories. Remember that and don’t lose sight of it. I think it’s important to maintain a personality. Brands that lack personality are easily forgotten.
You might even consider creating a community which can help you better connect with your audience. Reddit communities are particularly popular and engaged since the 2023 Google Helpful Content Update.
Thankfully, as a blogger, if you’re the only one working behind the scenes, chances are the voice will always be yours.
Example: I’ve found that by manually updating all my social media and manually following new users, I’ve created an authentic brand. Followers know they can reach out to me because there’s a real person on the other end.
TL;DR: Blog because you want to, not because you have to.