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Travel Public Relations Must Change


In his very successful book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, social media guru David Meerman Scott sounds the death knell for public relations as we have known it in the last hundred or so years.

In fact, until the advent of social media, public relations hasn’t changed much since the 18th century when its use was first recorded. The term actually appeared in 1897 in the Year Book of Railway Literature.

Then and mostly now, PR professionals simply “shouted” their message. Or to use Meerman-Scott’s term, they still use the “Spray and Pray” approach: spraying a message by sending out random, untargeted press or news releases, and praying some journalist somewhere will take notice and publish the material.

Unfortunately, the “spray and pray” approach no longer works in today’s New Media marketing and public relations campaigns.
Unfortunately travel PR professionals are among the slowest to realize that, as are the schools that train the travel PR professionals.

The “new rules” unequivocally state that un-targeted press releases are spam. Period. That’s revolutionary, by current travel PR standards.

On any given day, I receive a huge number of text-heavy, word-dense releases addressing me as, “Hi There” or “Hello” or “Hey,” or “Good Morning.” Often they come with several images and a PDF file attached, and I don’t even know who the sender it. Nor do they know me.

My name is not “Hi There.” And why send a press release about a destination, property or piece of travel news without knowing who I am or, worse, the kinds of travel content I write about?

Merman Scott asks how difficult is it for the PR specialist to read and comment on a blog or article a journalists or blogger has written, or at least to know the name of the author, and pitch an idea based specifically on knowledge of that blogger or journalist’s work.

Some travel publicists get it. They only send relevant, specific, brief and to the point queries, inviting dialogue and further discussion.

Granted, PR professionals are at the mercy of their clients who often dictate what should be in a release. But in travel PR (or any PR) it’s not about getting the boss’ face on TV, or a post about the boss published.

It’s about identifying and getting to know those specific media people who can get the boss’ destination or property on TV or in a post or in a mainstream media article.

The new rules of travel PR are about engaging the media, having a conversation with them and creating a content partnership. Call them by their names and discuss ideas that will excite the public, the actual customer for travel. Create a lasting relationship.

Please leave the “Hi There” to the spammers.

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About Kaleel

4 comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I have been a fan of DMS ever since his Real Time Marketing and PR book came out last year.
    However when it comes to travel PR , those of us trying to do things via blogs and social media still find ourselves up against a closed shop. Most of the big papers use TravMedia to hunt for destinations, hotels and stories. But if you can’t afford the huge fees charged by these services then the hidden gems remain exactly that – hidden.
    I would like to see more travel journalists welcoming approaches from small operators whether it is via press release, tweet or blog comments. If anyone agrees and would like to know more about a gorgeous child friendly place in Cornwall then lets chat! http://www.Lucythorpe.wordpress.com

    • Yes, of course, Lucy, you’re right! We’ve been fighting this battle, the battle of generic press releases and a stubborn print-orientation for years. The battle has occurred on line and off, through SATW and beyond.
      At this point, we don’t pay attention to the papers/print, big or small.
      Our on-line services to the industry include video, LBS (Foursquare, Gowalla), Tweet Chats, Tweets, Facebook pages, blogs, etc and we receive in a day more responses and views than any 2-3 years in print.
      Most of the editors whose favor I sought as a writer are out of jobs. Things change, fast.
      We are happy to post something on your Cornwall location on Family Travel Forum (familytravelforum.com) perhaps the leading family travel site and community on the internet
      Who represents the destination/property?
      Please also look at our video channel (www.youtube.com/travelvideo; follow us on Twitter in the meantime, and many thanks for writing in!!
      Kaleel

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