The Modern Travel Media Summit was held in Sydney on Friday 22 Sept 2017.
This podcast episode brings you highlights and key takeaways from The Modern Travel Media Summit. Although below is the podcast transcript, it is designed to be listened to, so pop on your headphones, press play and enjoy!
Lauren Bath: Hi. My name is Lauren Bath and I’m a professional Instagrammer.
Liz Carlson: Hi. My name is Liz Carlson and I run Young Adventures, which is one of the biggest travel blogs in the world, and I’m based in Wanaka, New Zealand.
Georgia Rickard: Hi. My name is Georgia Rickard and I’m a travel editor and co-founder of The Modern Travel Media Summit.
HollyG: So, there you go. You just met the three people involved in the Modern Travel Media Summit, an event that was held in Sydney, run by a Blogger, an Instagrammer, and a journalist. Three interesting people to be putting on a conference. So in this podcast episode, you’re going to hear my top takeaways from the conference. These will be practical things that you can implement if you’re looking to further work on your content marketing strategy, if you’re looking to work with Bloggers or Instagrammers, or if you already are, things that you might not have though of that you could possibly implement. So, I hope you enjoy this episode. You’ll be hearing from me and a couple of other snip its from the conference, as well.
So we’re here today at the Modern Travel Media Summit. Can you tell me, just really briefly, about what you hope people get out of today as one of the key organisers of today?
Liz Carlson: We really hope that people will take away key things that they can do to help share the story of their brand better through new media, blogs, social media, online. You know, this conference is sort of bourne out of the idea that we’ve all been going to travel trade shows and events over the years and not really taking away things that you can actually learn and put into practise. You know, sort of the same thing that is repeated over and over again. So, for us, our big point of difference is that we want to give concrete advice, tips, and practises that you can take away and use to help create a better brand online.
HollyG: Great. And one of the things that you spoke about just in your first presentation today, the difference from micro influences, niche, and just being small. Can you just talk a little bit to that?
Liz Carlson: Yeah. I think that its really easy to mistake being niche and just not having influence. And I think people aren’t really digging in deep enough when they’re vetting people to work with and distinguishing that. This is just because I’ve been on so many trips and campaigns with people that say their niche and they actually just don’t have a following but they’ve managed to sell themselves well enough that they can work with clients. And then at the end of the day, the clients don’t get a good return on it. So its not good for anyone involved. So I think, while there is definitely niche blogs and influencers out there, it takes a lot of vetting and research to make sure that they still have influence and they should be able to accurately demonstrate that in an easy way to understand.
HollyG: So, just stopping the chat right there, that was Liz Carlson and I thought that was a really interesting point she made about asking bloggers, before you work with them, to demonstrate how they actually influence. Plus, she goes on to say that influence should be repetitive.
Thought that was interesting that you were saying so many times clients don’t ask you how you’ve demonstrated influence or to show influence. And, I guess, from being on the other side working with travel destinations and things like that, I’m not sure if that’s something I would even think to ask a blogger.
Liz Carlson: Yeah. For me, I think it’s the only thing I should be asking because we all know that numbers can be bought, numbers don’t really mean what they could mean. You know, you could work with someone who as 10 million readers a month and they have no engagement on that post through that those readers are from a place that’s not relative to your market and then its just pointless, you know. So, I think the only thing people should be looking for is examples of where a blogger can demonstrate that they have real influence and just ask, you know. I have case studies and campaigns and examples and feedback and screenshots that I can show people, you know. And be like, “Hey this is how I can show that when I publish something, this many people are listening. This many people convert into buyers. I direct this many people to your website.” That kind of stuff.
HollyG: And then this leads into what Lauren Bath was talking about, which was what is a digital influence? Is about trust plus reach. So its having a trusted relationship with raters, which is then amplified by reach. And then importantly, what do influences do? Why would you engage one? And this is something that I’ve talked about with destinations and clients in the past. And although, it sounds really simple, I think it’s a really good point. I would say the top reason is, and this was also what was reflected in the conference, is to create awareness of your brand to the influence’s audience. That’s really why you’re engaging an influencer is to reach their audience. And then, secondly, the influencer to create content around your brand for your social media assets. And thirdly, Lauren says also to drive traffic. So the conference talks about influence but also influence of limitations so saying what we can do. We can create awareness, we can start conversations, we can drive traffic, we can produce engaging content, and achieve valuable touch points in a campaign.
What we can’t do is provide measurable return on investment in the travel space, drive substantial traffic outside of the Instagram, substantially increase your following on Instagram, give free commercial image rights, and perform miracles, of course. And, again, I think that’s really great points that they raise about being clearer about what an influencer can actually do for your campaign and what they can’t do and making sure you’re all on the same page before you go down this path of working with influences.
Okay. Pushing on with a few other key points from The Modern Travel Media Summit. One thing that Liz Carlson, blogger from Young Adventurers, was saying was that we really need to remember the value or the long term value of working with bloggers and this is something that I totally agree with.
Sometimes I think we get caught up in the hype of Instagram and have really started to under value what bloggers can actually do and yes, especially that longer term value. They’re content hangs around for a longer period of time and can really impact your SEO. The good ones are great story tellers and they really do come with a trusted audience or a trusted community. And people really seem to be able to relate to bloggers on that personal level, which can be really good and necessary for your brand or destination.
The other thing that Liz talked about is things to look at when deciding, which bloggers you’re going to work with. Look at their google analytics, which maybe obvious but then other things are about the demographics of their audience.
As we touched on earlier, ask about how they demonstrate influence. Look at their work to see if it matches your brand. Talk to them about what previous experience that they’ve had. And even references from other destination or people that they’ve worked with because you don’t want to necessarily be putting really difficult people on your blog trips, so making sure that they are easy to work with and they’re going to deliver what they promise, and that they’re going to be able to contribute to a famil, contribute positively to a famil.
Finally, Liz also talks about the professionalism of bloggers and also of brands. This definitely came across about the whole Modern Travel Media Summit day and was something that was felt passionately from these.
Liz Carlson: Ask for that. One of the things that really came through for me in your presentation was just really about wanting to raise the level of professionalism. From not just the bloggers perspective but also the brand perspective and to be talking about the question that we should be asking. And also, what we should be expecting back from bloggers.
Yeah I think there needs to be more standardised numbers within the industry and that is only going to happen if we talk about it. You know, everything has always been so closed doors about what’s worth what, who charges what, you know. I think that needs to stop if we’re going to have any kind of standard in the industry because you get influencers who don’t know and throw out a number. And then you get a client that really has no idea either and they are like, “Okay.”
And then it just doesn’t work, you know. That happens so often. I’ll work with people that they’ve used all their marketing budget on a blogger who has a twentieth of my following and influences just because the blogger was ballsy enough to ask for that much money and they just assume that was okay. So I think, there’s a lot of talk where it projects badly on bloggers right because there’s bloggers that going out or influencers and pitching things before they’re ready. Or over selling their influencer, not accurately demonstrating their influence, but also at the same time, you also need to do the research and look through. And I know that’s hard because you probably get so many requests or whatever.
But straightaway, you should be able to find ones that are good versus not good and then take the time to dig through the ones that are good and see and evaluate, you know.
HollyG: Yeah. Yeah. I agree. And look you said something that was also really simple that everybody jotted down, which was set up a form for them to fill out with you a few standing questions. At least initially for a first [inaudible 00:11:18] and then the other thing, which was something that I have always harp on about in my podcast is about building relationships with bloggers, going to events and being part of the industry, how important that is.
Liz Carlson:Yeah. Until I have the time to set up a blogger accreditation association, which I want to, but when is that going to happen, that is good enough and universal and can worldwide. There is none, so you’ve got to do the work.
Liz Carlson: And I think all of my [inaudible 00:11:51] campaigns come out of relationships that I’ve built with people, you know. And I don’t want to say, do what I do, you know. I feel like I did that too much in my presentation, but I really take the time to get to know people. I almost never like meet someone and pitch to them straight away. You know, I meet someone, “Oh lets go get coffee, lets have a call, you know, tell me about what you’re working on.” And then, maybe a year later, or whatever, if something lines up and they remember of Liz loves writing about this and I’m doing this campaign. This is such a good fit. And that’s happened to me so many times. And also because I’ve just taken the time to get to know people like I don’t just see a person and then see the word Mercedes over their head. You know, I see them as a person and I always treat people like that first, as opposed to what can I get out of this.
HollyG: And yeah, that is good advice in life and business isn’t it ?
HollyG: Now, I wanted to move on to some of the points that Georgia Rickard talked about. So Georgia, as a journalist, wrote a travel editor, and she did raise a very good point of the fact that media has changed so much but the media release really hasn’t. The fact that sometimes they use very uncommon words, very lengthy words, sentences that are too long, ridiculous headings, often you’ll be talking about something very visual and there won’t be any images in the media release. There’s a lot of really great points that Georgia raised in relation to media released mistakes. And just rethinking the way that we do these, to reflect modern media.
And one of those points was around how we are looking now for shorter content, content that is more visual. And she broke it down into looking at Nugget News so that’s a snack able, bite size media, or micro news, that although that might not sound that exciting people are actually reading it. Looking at a trending news and also the fact that photos can be news in itself and have galleries, photo galleries, can really generate a lot of traffic and interest and clicks. So I asked experienced PR manager Jill Collins what she thought about Georgia’s points.
Jill Collins: I’m Jill Collins with Barking Owl Communications.
HollyG: Now I wanted to grab you now, we’ve just heard a presentation from Georgia around really the new way of the old media and I wanted to get your opinion on a couple of things that she said. She talked about the way that we’re delivering media releases and how its pretty old school. I guess I’ll just start with that.
Jill Collins:Sure. I think that certainly we do have to constantly evaluate, you know, how we’re presenting content to editors and making sure that it is in the right format that meets their needs, not our needs or our clients needs. And I think, you know, making sure that we’re giving them really great sound bites, things that they can work with easily, is really, really critical. One of the things that we do find, though, is that editors because they are [inaudible 00:15:10] still need the written word to back up the story because they don’t have time to raise go and write everything themselves, research everything themselves.
The other thing that Georgia talked about today, was of course, about imagery and how important that is. She is absolutely right. Many, many, many years ago when Instagram wasn’t even a thing, she approached me about a photo lead story and I remember at the time being rather shocked by that because we always typically sent a journalist on trips before. But I went with her because I loved the way Georgia was injecting new style into the magazine and it did pay off beautifully. The story was photo led and it was amazing and it really did tell a great story. And I guess, I’ve always been a real fan of images. I love Instagram now. And I have been an Instagram follower and advocate from the start. So, she’s absolutely right about the use of imagery.
HollyG: Yeah and I think it was a really good point and putting back for when I actually worked in marketing in hotels, we would need to do a photo shoot every couple of years and its not something that we did on a regular basis. And now, I just look back and go why. Why did I do that? I mean, why. I mean one of the reasons was budget, was the cost was such a big deal, and I can see now why what having those up to date images would be just so valuable.
Jill Collins: It is. It’s really, really valuable. I’m away working with a new hotel client right now and constantly even trying to get good images before their open because everybody’s asking for images.
Jill Collins: But, I think one of the really interesting things is that there are some creative ways of getting good images without spending $20,000 on a photo shoot. And that is working with influences to creatively tell a story through photos. Not actually, kind of sending out the brand shots that we all like to think are important and to a certain extent, of course they still are. But influences see it with a different eye and they see it through the eyes of their followers. And I think its really important that they’re providing what their audience needs. I think it all comes back to the audience and just making sure that we’re constantly giving them what they’re looking for.
HollyG: Yes. And just quickly. There’s some good case studies out at the moment about how using generated content in hotel blog posts really does convert to, you know, better sales so I think there’s a whole nother argument when we’re starting to look at how using generated content converts.
Jill Collins: Well that’s right. And I mean, you look at TripAdvisor now and you know that’s a great example because not only are they providing the hotel brand shots but they are also publishing the readers shots. And I look at those as much as I look at the hotel brand shots now because some of them are quite different really.
HollyG:Yeah. More realistic.
And finally, one of the hot topics of the day was around working with or avoiding working with frauds and fakes especially in relation to Instagram and how there is so many ways that people can buy followers, getting to pods, all sorts of ways that really are taking away from the way, the real way, that Instagram can influence. And Lauren especially talks about how we really need to be diligent in our vetting and hiring of influencers to ensure we don’t fall into these traps. We need to be making sure we’re using tools to see that they haven’t bough followers.
Things like Social Blade are a good one, Instagram account age checker is another one. But for me, I think it does come back to looking at relationships and working with people like Lauren who have worked on so many campaigns and have great connections with all the Instagrammers in the travel space as well.
- Asking influences for the Instagram analytics
- we need to be comfortable with the quality of their images.
- And we need to be looking through the comments to see how they engage with their community to get an idea of who is actually engaging.
- Obviously, we can check their numbers on Instagram but also checking it on other social platforms
- asking around about them, seeing if they’ve got any references and making sure that all their work behaviour has been really professional.
Lauren Bath: Yeah. I think because the industry we work in is so amazing there are a lot of people trying to get in and trying to take shortcuts to do so. And I notice it a lot in my industry. I’m really passionate about giving people the tools to spot it and hopefully avoid working with these people because overall I see it as being really damaging to the industry.
HollyG:So a big thanks to Lauren, Georgia, and Liz to allowing me to come along and to be able to put these podcast episodes together. And share with people that weren’t there some of the key takeaways.
I guess, just top line going over some of those takeaways again, I would be saying,
- remember the value of working with bloggers,
- making sure we’re asking for demonstrations of influence and campaign reports and things like that
- Being aware that influence should be repetitive over time.
- I loved the point from Liz about micro influences versus nation influences versus just being small and to making sure we’re not being bamboozled with the terminology.
- Really understanding what a digital influencer does and what they can offer and how they can enhance our campaigns.
- Looking at how maybe our press releases need to change to be more in line with the way that people are consuming content.
- And understanding that travel editors are so very busy, so how can we make their jobs a lot easier.
And one final point that I actually forgot to include, which I loved, Liz Carlson said that one of the best famils she’s ever been on with the destination, she was partner with a local blogger and that local blogger could really take her around and show her things that she wanted to as opposed to maybe just being partnered with a host who isn’t in tune with what a blogger needs. And I loved that idea of partnering your guest blogger with a local blogger so something to remember.
And there were plenty more key tips and takeaways. I would encourage you to reach out to Liz, Georgia, or Lauren with any of your questions as they are really open to sharing information and really improving the way that our industry, in the travel industry, works with bloggers and influencers and connects with media. So thanks very much. I hope you enjoyed this episode and talk to you next time.