Working with Media and Influencers
Notes from our Webinar with Amanda Ensinger from Inspire PR Group
American travelers report they will feel comfortable getting back on the road and into your doors when they see other people doing so. Adding earned media strategies back into your marketing toolbox is one way to spread the word.
But how has the pandemic changed effective earned media strategies? What story ideas are most sought-after right now, and how do you get your travel experience featured on blogs, as well as national, regional, trade and local media?
PIVOT AND PITCH
As with anything else right now, your approach to earned media must pivot.
Throw out your old editorial calendar and start anew. Editorial calendars are available from most media outlets and outline what types of stories they are going to feature and when. Many of these outlets have had to scratch pre-pandemic plans, so reach out to them and ask if they have new calendars available.
Focus your story idea pitches on new and unique experiences you are offering, as well as what consumer surveys are telling us are hot right now. Amanda shared the following list of what media is responding to right now. (Look back at our summary of the webinar featuring Meredith Corporation’s Melissa Luebbe for additional ideas on the types of experiences consumers are seeking)
- Outdoor recreation
- Interesting and dramatic menu changes
- New experiences you are now offering
- Roadtrip ideas (check out our notes from Thunder:tech’s recent webinar for ideas on how to make your drive markets unique)
- Staycation ideas (local media might respond well to this pitch)
Proactively reach out to freelancers and media outlets, particularly in the following: Ohio Magazine, AAA Ohio, Midwest Living, USA Today, CNN Travel, Budget Travel, Today Show and today.com.
Understand that simply saying you are reopening isn’t a unique story idea when nearly everyone else is saying the same thing. While your safety plans are essential for opening and for restoring consumer confidence, look at unique ways you are implementing social distancing to create enhanced visitor experiences – maybe it’s creative and clever signage, new VIP experiences you are featuring because of reduced capacity, etc.
TO HOST OR NOT TO HOST BLOGGERS? THAT IS THE QUESTION.
Before you start extending invitations to influencers to visit your attraction or destination, Amanda recommends asking yourself the following questions. If you can’t respond “yes” for all of these, you may want to wait until you can.
- Is there enough open for them to have a full experience?
- Do you feel all your safety measures are in place enough to put them in the spotlight with the media?
- Are you comfortable opening up your business, destination, attraction, etc. to potential criticism?
- Are you seasonal and need to attract attention ASAP or could you wait a few weeks before hosting writers?
Start by working with bloggers you know and trust. Who has covered your experiences before?
Consider creating written agreements outlining expectations for both parties, such as whether you are requesting use of images, how many stories will result, whether or not you will pay them, how many friends and families they can bring, etc.
Even if you may have paid influencers before, are you able to now? Reach out to partners to look for opportunities to work together to elevate awareness. Now’s the time to re-think any pre-existing policies and develop new approaches.
“NO COMMENT” IS A NO-NO
How do you handle a media inquiry that you feel might go the wrong way? Amanda recommends never saying “no comment.” Don’t feel pressured into responding right away. Let them know you will investigate and get back to them as soon as possible. Then do so. You may even want to respond with a written statement, as that prevents you from rambling and for comments to be taken out of context.
Another great piece of advice Amanda offered was to pay attention to your online reviews. If there are negative comments appearing, proactively work on statements so you have responses ready.
OTA recommends using the same concept presented by Madden Media at a previous marketing webinar – create a long-term plan when thinking about your earned media strategies. As our world is changing constantly, so too will the needs of journalists and freelancers. By thinking about these shifts in content needs, can you look ahead while also generating some immediate coverage?