My mind is abuzz after Travel Bloggers Unite in Italy.
From our side of the weekend’s events, we can state that it was a rousing success. Spending the Saturday leading and attending sessions for Industry professionals was one of the highlights of the event. Now, two days later we are more motivated than ever and have come away with the feeling that the future looks bright for Travel Blogging in Europe.
So, let’s get started on our round up of the sessions we attended during Travel Bloggers Unite, 2012.
The conference kicked off with a bang during Jeff Jung’s (of Career Break Secrets) opening Key Note Speech. His energy was intoxicating and he is a natural key note speaker. He’ll go a long way baby! Jeff started with so much energy; my energy was lifted with each word he spoke. He stated that it is time to monetize your expertise and start thinking about yourself as travel experts.
By referring back to his pyramid of success ”Influence, Relevance and Expertise” he showed different ways that travel bloggers are achieving success by leveraging these three points. In our opinion a Key Note Speech should be about motivating and inspiring the audience and Jeff did exactly that. We were all pumped to start learning from the experts throughout the weekend.
It was then on to a panel discussion with Industry and Bloggers. Katy of Intrepid Travel and Ryan of House Trip were true leaders in the community. They know the value of working with travel bloggers and offered valuable insight into developing relationships to work with social publishers on a long-term basis. The biggest round of applause came when Ryan stated that they don’t give any bearing on the measurement of Klout and have their own standards by which they measure travel influencers.
We had a very different day than the rest of the delegates and spent the afternoon discussing possibilities with industry. We hear that we missed some awesome presentations, and hopefully other’s will be able to give you a round up of their experience.
The brilliant Andy Hayes of Sharing Travel Experiences kicked off our day, he talked to the tourism industry about different ways to find travel bloggers and how to make sure that they find the right travel blogger to suit their needs. As someone who has run a successful online business for years, he really knows what he’s talking about. I found it very informative for myself, as there were industry measurements that I had never thought of before.
We then took the stage to talk about all the different ways that brands can work with travel bloggers and then were followed by an interactive session led by Janice of Solo Traveler and Keith of Velvet Escape on working through the pain. I loved Janice and Keith’s idea of making the session interactive and talking with the floor rather than at the floor. This session created a dialogue between bloggers and pr that has never happened before. There was a small mix of Travel Bloggers such as Abigail King of Inside the Travel Lab, and Melvin of Travel Dudes and Yvonne Zagermann of Just Travelous to listen to the industries concerns and discuss how we can work together.
Excellent ideas came from Debbie of FourBGB, Juliane Fischer of Wilde and Partner PR and Pleasance Coddington of Cheap Flights about building relationships, creating a spreadsheet of case studies and working on communicating at a higher level with the travel blogging community. Budgets need to start shifting to online media.
Ryan of House Trip and Katy of Intrepid Travel led the way once again as the people who are already working with bloggers and know exactly what they are willing to give and what they expect from us all. Having come from a background in both marketing and pr Ryan raised the point that PR companies don’t handle the money and that there needs to be a dialogue between them and marketing. PR has to prove to the client the blogger’s value before they can allot the budget. Ryan is ahead of the curve coming from different industries that have already embraced online media such as food and fashion. Katy believes in the value of building a relationship and then discussing partnership. Unlike other companies that don’t value or compensate their bloggers, Intrepid takes their time to find the right fit and work on a long-term commitment creating a mutually beneficial partnership.
The biggest problem industry has with bloggers are how they feel entitled to receiving money when they have yet to prove themselves and the biggest problem bloggers have with the industry is they aren’t being compensated for what they deserve. We feel that we are all pioneers in online travel media and it takes time to build relationships and trust with companies. We worked with Intrepid Travel for 2 years before signing corporate sponsorship deals and American Express and Expedia.com approached us by doing their own research as to us being a good fit with their brand. We have never sat down with a company that didn’t approach us first and demand money before building a relationship, and yet Travel Bloggers are doing this every day.
If companies don’t know who you are, how can they possibly know what your value is? When a company approaches you with a press trip, it is their way of getting to know you and learning your value. An organized blogger will keep track of their page views, tweet reaches and interactions and should be sending the company a package once the trip is over to help them measure success.
It is time for Travel Bloggers to be proactive and give these brands and agencies the tools that they need to sell them to their clients. Debbie of FourBGB has never received a pitch from a blogger before!
What the final consensus was is that PR Companies and Brands do want to work with travel bloggers and pay them money, but they have a lack of knowledge regarding measurement tools and how to sell the Blogger to the marketing department.
As we said in our presentation, it is up to the blogger to give them the tools that they need by including successful case studies, statistics and endorsements in their media kits so that the pr department has the ammunition to sell you to their marketing division. It is also up to the blogger to make yourself known to the PR Agencies and brands and start building those relationships early.
We didn’t have the chance to see a lot of day two because we were presenting an intermediate and advance session, but we had the privilege of sitting in on Beth Whitman’s informative and inspirational talk. We have admired Beth from afar since starting in the travel blogging business and respect her business mind, corporate empire and outstanding work at Wanderlust and Lipstick. Now that we have gotten to know her, we love her fun attitude and sense of humour too.
This woman is a natural speaker who is engaging and entertaining and can really hold a room. Discussing all the different ways that Travel Bloggers can make money, she gave me more information in one session than I have learned in 3 years of working in this business.
I took countless notes and came up with so many ideas, that I need a month off just to start implementing her suggestions!
Kirsten Alana – Lucky for us, we had the honour of spending 3 days in Rome with Photographer extraordinaire, Kirsten Alana of Aviators and a Camera. She is the leader on iPhone photography (albeit an outstanding photographer as well) and not only that an incredible woman. She is so open with her knowledge and willing to share everything about all that is possible with taking amazing photographs on the iPhone. We are seriously considering only using the iPhone for our photos in Florence as a experiment to see if we can come up with as great of shots as she takes!
Rachelle Lucas – Coming from a TV Background, Rachelle of The Travel Bite knows what she is talking about. She set up interviews at local markets with local people so that her students of her video walk could practice their ever important on camera interview skills. Unfortunately the tourism board of Umbria highjacked her session and ended up taking her group up a trolley instead of all the super places she had lined up, but to pick her brain and listen to all her information and ideas regarding video and travel blogging is inspiring. She is leading the way in making video blogging, more than just vlogging.
Abigail King – Unfortunately our sessions were going at the same time as Abi’s but we had the chance to talk to her outside the conference and pick her brain. Coming from a journalism background, she is the leading travel writer in the industry at Inside the Travel Lab and I would have loved to sit in on her session, to learn from her expertise.
We heard excellent things about Mike Snowdan’s writing workshops, Chris Richardson’s WordPress talks, Yvonne Zagermann’s video sessions and super stuff coming out of the speed networking sessions although most of the PR professionals we talked to said it was too much and too long. How can one-person listen to a solid 4 hours of pitches and give the proper focus and attention that they need? Great idea though and something to work on for the next TBU.
Note: There were so many other great speakers that we didn’t get the chance to either see or pick their brains and I know other people will give a round up including those that we missed. I wish I could have sat in on everyone’s session and really meet and strategize with them all, but alas, we could not but there is always next time!
All together, I think that Oliver did an excellent job bringing together to travel blogging community and travel industry of Europe. He choose his speakers wisely and for the sessions I sat in on, I was impressed with the information shared.
There was some lack of information and communication so most people were going through the weekend wondering what was going on. I think that the schedule should have come out all at once on the first day rather than in piece mail each day. Instead of thinking that everyone would rely on the sketchy Internet to look up the day’s events, we should have all been presented with a welcome package outlining the schedule for both PR and Bloggers.
We never did receive a Saturday schedule for the Blogging talks because we were on the PR panels,and I know that PR never did receive a schedule for blogger discussions. They had to ask us when we were speaking to sit in on sessions. Plus, I think that the more advanced bloggers could have really benefited from sitting in on the PR talks had they known that they were going on and that they could indeed sit in and contribute.
The location was fine, if not a little out of the way and spread out but other than the grumpy restaurant manager who seemed to dislike travel bloggers by not even allowing us a glass of water, the staff of Valle di Assisi were extremely friendly and helpful.
I think that the future is bright for travel blogging in Europe and that we are going to see a huge surge in brands working with bloggers in the year ahead.