While Seattle enjoyed its first balmy week of the year (thank you weather gods) I headed to the extreme temperatures of Palm Springs to bone up on my travel PR intel. While networking with some amazing destination PR folks and meeting many new media contacts, I absorbed lots of best practices, ideas and information. Nine panels, two roundtables and three cocktail receptions later, here are my top five takeaways from the 2017 PRSA/SATW Travel & Tourism Conference
- Have an influencer strategy. Love it or hate it, #instafame is here to stay. The trackable and immediate impact of the right social media post can yield big results. Whether you have a specific budget for influencer content or if it comes from the general marketing bucket, influencer marketing needs to take a piece of the pie. And these folks do this for a living so make sure to develop a contract that outlines expectations and deliverables. Also, make sure to navigate this strategy with a trusted expert. It’s a crowded space and there are many ways to “fake a following.” Finding the right fit and managing the relationship is crucial.
- Leverage locals. Straight from the mouth of George Stone, editor-in-chief at National Geographic Traveler, “entrust people outside of the visitor bureau to tell the story to let us see it from the eyes of locals.” Let the local coffee roaster, kayak guide or winemaker serve as spokesperson to share personal anecdotes and insight into the destination.
- Think beyond a destination feature. While we’d all love a five-page spread in Travel + Leisure, when it comes to daily media outreach efforts think of new ways to pitch a region. Let the park ranger be the authority on “How to Camp Safely This Summer Season” or pitch a local winery as the best place for a picnic roundup.
- It’s about the experience not the destination. Travel editorial has moved away from simply “writing” about a destination, it’s now about the experience. Spud Hilton of the San Francisco Chronicle mentioned things like “experiencing Barcelona by bike” rather than a simple city roundup of where to stay, go, dine. Travel Guru Samantha Brown shared the first thing she does when arriving in a new city is to create a ritual – a morning walk for coffee helps identify the true vibe of a destination.
- What’s next for adventure travel. Where do we go now that stand up paddle boarding trend has run its course? Expert media collectively representing Outside Magazine, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and more seemed intrigued that Extreme Tree Climbing might just be the next big thing in adventure travel (and you can find it right here at Deception Pass on Whidbey Island!). They also agreed that urban adventures think trail running, in-city walking, e-biking or yoga and brewery trips – were still trending. In addition, they encouraged readers to develop counterintuitive angles on a common destination like adventure and recreation outside of Las Vegas.
This hardly scratches the surface of the notes, tips and connections from this year’s #PRSATravel conference. Highly recommended for any and all hospitality marketers – here’s to NOLA in 2018!