Sheila Guides You to the Good Stuff

June 15, 2009

How to reach out to bloggers, and what makes us crazy

Reaching out; we all do it (courtesy exquisitur at Flickr CC)I recently received an email from a senior executive at a mainstream public relations (PR) firm.  She said that she has clients in the travel industry and they’d like to know how to reach out to bloggers, and specifically how to get a mention on my BootsnAll Family Travel Logue.

You know what’s next (bloggers are a different breed because we’re public, rapid and sharing) so to save myself from drafting an entirely new blog post when I’ve already written what I want to say, this is what I told her, shared here with you….

“In response to your question, the answer is yes, I do get a ton of PR/marketing emails and end up deleting most of them, and blocking those that are totally unrelated to family travel, sent to me 4 times or with giant attachments that clog up my life.

It is too hard (and not worth it for my [travel blog] readers) to keep up with the rising, ever-more-desperate stream of notices (desperate because of the economy) about hotel packages, good deals on ritzy, live-in-a-bubble resorts in Cancun (I’m not a resort kind of traveler, as any reader of my blog knows,) how CVS Pharmacy products can help my family road trip, blah blah.

The flood is really starting to impede my ability to see/respond to important emails that involve actual writing or consulting work for pay.

I want to blog about places I visit and things I do with my kids, not regurgitate, for free, press releases about resorts that I’ve never been to and will never visit.  I write for two travel blogs, two blogs about social media and another about drag racing – I don’t have time to plow through all that junk.

The few emails that resonate indicate that:

  1. The sender actually reads my blog, and not just to get my name to “personalize” their email blast. I particularly like the copy/paste of my name such that the greeting is one font and the press release pasted below is another.
  2. The topic ties into a place that I’ve been to and written about. I’ll admit that the current template on my Family Travel blog is NOT search-friendly and I’m addressing that with BootsnAll, but my topic categories can be found through Archives at the bottom of the front page.  You can’t read my mind to see where I’m going that I haven’t visited before, obviously, so PR might get lucky and hit me with something about someplace I happen to be planning to go (but I doubt it, so why waste your time?)
  3. The email topic ties to my focus of budget, independent, family-friendly travel. I’ve lived in the Middle East as a preteen and with my own kids in Asia and Europe, and have traveled all over the US.  I am so NOT the kind of person to stay in some all-inclusive package place in Cancun or Jamaica, so don’t inundate me with off-topic pitches.
  4. I would much rather support state/county/city tourism organizations than more commercial travel businesses.
  5. I’d rather deal with someone who has already “hung out” on my blog, by leaving a comment or two on some of my posts. Problem is, hardly any PR rep who’s blasted an email at me has ever stopped by and left a helpful comment and participated in the blog’s conversation BEFORE filling my IN box.

When I DO say “y’all come” to tourism organizations, they are often clueless. They’re so used to broadcasting, they don’t know how to interact in a two-way fashion.

For example, I’ve been running the 50 State Series on my family travel blog for weeks now, taking family-friendly suggestions from Twitter and Facebook for each state. I’m giving state tourism organizations a chance to toot their own horn, but I can’t believe how hard it is to get them to respond. Hel-LO!  Here’s the Vermont family travel 50 states post; that is the kind of stuff I want to blog about. Thank goodness for my Twitter followers; at least they know how to respond to calls for tips or I’d never get a post done each week.

Other insights:

  1. I talked about this outreach topic in a podcast with travel writer and blogger Pam Mandel for Canadian tourism tech expert Todd Lucier: A conversation with bloggers about their craft.  Some of your clients might find it helpful.
  2. They should also read this guest post by my Perceptive Travel editor Tim Leffel:  6 ways to improve your destination marketing (and why you’re toast if you don’t)

Sorry if any of this came across as excessively crabby, but there’s no magic bullet for blogger outreach. Good PR has always been about knowing your target journalist or writer, establishing a relationship BEFORE you pitch and not pitching blindly.

PR folks Geoff Livingston, Kami Huyse and Jason Falls have met and interacted with me on Twitter, on my blogs and in person at events like the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) tech conference. I respect their knowledge, count them as friends and would now listen to most anything they have to say to me. They’re the gold standard.”

That’s all you gotta do, really….

Did I miss anything? Am I, in fact, just too crabby?  🙂

April 29, 2009

How to respond to a negative blog review

crayola-state-crayon-collection-courtesy-acidcookie-at-flickr-ccThis morning I Stumbled a post on the Travels with Children blog; it’s a fairly negative review of the Crayola Factory in Easton, Pennsylvania.

Author Linda didn’t feel that the place met her expectations for a creative experience for her kids. There was no “wild blogger” ranting or digital spittle – she was simply disappointed in what visitors get there for their money and time.

Since she linked to the Crayola establishment (they should see that by monitoring inbound links/backlinks) and wrote about them as “Crayola Factory in Easton, Pennsylvania” (which any decent Google Alert should catch) I would expect a sharp PR/marketing person from the company to check out the post and leave a comment.

You know, at least something along the lines of “We’re sorry you were disappointed, we’ll take your ideas into consideration, we have a facility redesign in the works, blah blah.”

Figure the odds that anyone actually does that.

A quick glance would show anyone that Linda’s blog isn’t the home of some pajama’d nutcase. She has active and engaged readers who are interested in her family travel topic.

The business communications world often still doesn’t get it, so the review will probably sit there, unanswered.

To me, that’s a lost opportunity for Crayola to reach out to customers and possibly turn a negative impression into a positive one.

Your thoughts?

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April 27, 2009

The Web is made for the tourism Little Guy

The Little Guy frog (courtesy snappybex on Flickr CC)So I’m invited on a blogger’s tour of a small town in Kansas.

I’d never heard of Hutchinson, and maybe neither have you.

Sure, I reacted with a skeptical, “Um, uh, what the heck is there?!”

So I went, and there’s a LOT there.

All of us on the trip blogged about it, photographed it, talked about it on Twitter and shot video, because that’s what wired writers do.

Here, look at what the WhatsUpHutch blog compiled, a mere snapshot in time….

My stuff (here)(here)(some Twitpics)(Video)(blogpost )(photos)(blogpost)
Bill Genereux’s (here ) (here )(photos here )
Deb Brown’s (here here)(pics)(Twitpics )
Becky McCray’s (here )(here )(here)(here )(some Twitpics )
Patsy Terrell’s (here)(blogpost )
Jeanne Cole’s (Twitpics)(blog)
Naomi Shapiro’s (blogpost)
Todd Vogts’ (blogpost)
Kim’s (Kim didn’t even make it to Hutch, but was excited about the idea and wrote a quick post) (blogpost)

If you’re at all involved in tourism and you don’t represent, you know, freakin’ Paris or New York, you might want to think about how your town, property or destination could benefit from Long Tail coverage by a bunch of blabby bloggers.

Or, keep doing lots of those billboard buys and putting stacks of brochures in the Hampton Inn lobby.

Jussayin’….

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