Travel bloggers are at the frontier of the travel industry. A passion for travel often shows in their thoroughly researched content and extremely engaged readerships. If you work at a travel service provider or brand looking to increase reach or brand affinity, developing relationships with travel bloggers can be very worthwhile.
The Travel Weekly Industry Survey of 2015 found email, social media and websites to be the top ways to market travel businesses and attract new customers. There’s one common element which binds all of the above together – content. Top travel bloggers consistently produce high quality content and media about unique places. As a product of this, their email lists and social media followers are strong.
But, don’t take our word for it. We asked some of the world’s keenest travel blogging professionals to share their thoughts on how brands can work with travel blogs for successful campaigns.
Interview with travel blogger veteran – Jonny Blair @ Don’t Stop Living
Jonny Blair is a prolific travel blogger, globetrotter and the chief content creator of dontstopliving.net. After leaving home in 2003 and on the road ever since, Jonny’s journeys have taken him to more than 120 countries. Jonny has written about some of the world’s most remote destinations. With a background in PR, Jonny offers his thoughts on how brands should work with travel bloggers and writers.
1. What has been your best experience working with a brand and what value was delivered to your client?
Before I was working as a professional travel blogger, I did PR in London for Sonos, an excellent Digital Music Systems company. The company was superb to work with and I helped them on some campaigns to get reviews of Sonos in UK national newspapers and magazines. I remember working hard on outreach and in the space of two months, secured 20 articles on this brand in newspapers, magazines and online reviews.
The client and I have kept touch and it gave me a head start when I turned my travel blog into a business.
2. For aspiring travel bloggers or writers wishing to work with brands, what do you offer to stand out?
To be real. There are too many fakes. Go out and travel relentlessly and write about it on the move as you go. Don’t go on a two week trip and then write about it when you come back – that’s too easy, anyone can do that.
Be writing on the journey and keep moving. It’s a travel blog remember, you don’t work in an office. Show your passion for travel and brands will love you for it.
3. How long does it take to research a great piece of advertorial or travel content?
As long as it takes to deliver what you need. For example I only spent a day in Nukus (Karakalpakstan) recently but for me that was enough to write about my experience of going there. In other places I stay a lot longer. Research is ongoing – before the journey, during the journey and after the journey.
For an online travel blogger, the research never really ends. I read about 50 articles a day to keep tabs with where I am.
4. Any strange requests from companies for promoting their products or services?
Yes I’ve been offered to review coffee makers, escort agencies and Australian Rules football. In all cases, as long as I can incorporate it into my travels, I will do it. Coffee stories on the road, strip clubs in Amsterdam and Belarus and I watched Aussie Rules and reviewed it when I lived in Australia.
5. Are building relationships with other publishers / editors / writers important to increase your reach?
They can be useful, but I don’t like to concentrate on it. We can be guilty of trying to make too many friends, friends with people we don’t really need to associate ourselves with. In truth, there are only about 20 professional travel bloggers that I have met in real life and respect. The others are wasting their time and my time.
I also don’t agree with clicking like on something on Facebook or Instagram. Normally those blogs with the most likes are the ones that are the most fake. They’re easy to see – they put up fake photos, memes and pretend they’re backpacking. Get a rucksack on and a visa for a country you’ve never heard of!
6. Why should a brand engage a travel blogger or writer, instead of using the reach of social media?
Because we are real. Social media can be bought easily through marketing and advertising agencies. Anyone can be a good marketer. Anyone! But not everyone can be a real backpacker or traveller. The only legitimate travel blogs and stories are by those long term travellers who are really on the move in their daily lives for a prolonged period.
7. How important is content in building brand affinity or loyalty for consumers?
For me, it’s number one. I’d rather have lots of heavy, well written content and zero followers than the other way around. I concentrate on content and real life travel. If people follow it, even better. If they don’t at least I’m true to my roots.
8. For travel writers wishing to work with brands, is it wise to target a niche?
Not really. I don’t like limits. I want to be able to work with every company in the world in some way. Targeting small niches can be time consuming. I have a few niche projects I work on with China, Hong Kong and Northern Ireland and I run a community website in Bournemouth (England). They are all niche websites, but they are harder work and less rewarding.
Ultimately my main work comes through Don’t Stop Living, which has a much wider “niche” – long term real life backpacking. There are no limits to what brands I can work with – sausage companies, boating tours, condom makers, breweries, football teams, flower sellers. I can cover it all in real life travel.
9. You have been on the road for a long time to some amazing destinations. Is it really a life of leisure?
It’s a life of being busy, being on the move and loving every day. It is tiring, stressful, exciting, rewarding, scary, happy, sad. It’s a whole lot of things altogether if it’s real. So far I have visited exactly 111 real countries and a further 20 disputed regions and to me, it’s the only life I know so it is my leisure, it is my lifestyle and it is what keeps me going day to day.
But it’s not for everybody. You have to sacrifice a lot to live this life – friends, family, football, kids, stability, weddings, paying bills, owning cars etc. There are ups and downs in this lifestyle like every other lifestyle and none of us are right or wrong and none of us are better or worse than anybody else.
10. Please tell us your favourite travel destination and why you loved it so much.
There are too many places to mention and I often do top tens for cities, countries and villages. My continent was Antarctica. I loved it. I lived my dream by visiting the cold continent in 2010. Since then I have also loved my trips to Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Suriname, Moldova and East Timor.
The craziest places I have been are those with zero other tourists and for that reason, I’d probably side with Gorno Badakhshan, Karakalpakstan, Transnistria, Nagorno Karabakh, Uzupis, Ladonia, Adammia and Lagoan Isles. They are all completely crazy and inspiring places away from the normal travel circuit.
But if I had to pick just one country to travel in, I’d probably go for China – it’s huge, it’s diverse, it’s a place for real life travellers to experience the pure ups and downs of this lifestyle.
Follow Jonny’s adventures on the Don’t Stop Living Facebook page.
Thanks for your time and safe travels, Jonny!
Key takeaways for travel brands:
- DO – engage travel bloggers who are out there on the road and living their passion. It will show in the content they produce.
- DON’T – approach a travel blogger based on social media numbers alone. Look for fresh, high quality content on a consistent basis.
- DO – look beyond the ordinary. The road less travelled is often a more interesting journey. Look for travel blogs that stand out from the crowd. With millions of pieces of content published on a daily basis, unique content is important.
If you’re a travel company or a brand looking for the optimal way to engage travel bloggers, contact us to speak to a Content Marketing Expert.