How To Work With Digital Influencers: Kate McCulley, Adventurous Kate

September 7, 2017

Kate McCulley on a boat in front of a mountain background

Adventurous Kate founder, Kate McCulley

Branding herself as a solo female travel blogger, 32-year-old Kate McCulley, founder of popular travel blog Adventurous Kate, has spent the past 7 years traveling to more than 65 countries, and partnering with numerous Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) on marketing campaigns.

Recently, McCulley was named a Forbes’ Top 10 Travel Influencer of 2017 – and it’s not hard to see why. Her loyal fan-base knows her for her honest and relatable commentary, her in-depth content and her solidified brand as a solo female traveler. These distinctions are what make her such a sought after influencer for DMO’s, but as McCulley explains, there’s much more that goes into her decision to work with a travel brand than simply a paid partnership.  

In 140 characters or less, explain Adventurous Kate?

Showing women how to travel independently, with compassion, feminism, and understanding, from a woman who’s been there.

 What makes a partnership opportunity with a DMO appealing to you?

I personally only work with brands that I think would be a good fit for me. That’s why at the end I create content with which brands are smitten — it shows their destination in a beautiful, fun light and encourages other travelers to follow in my footsteps.

What do you wish destinations knew about you or your work before approaching you?

I wish destinations knew that they can hire bloggers to create creative work for their use exclusively! We are writers, photographers, videographers. We’ve already done the hard work honing our skills to create beautiful, engaging work for our audience. Why not hire us to work for you?

These materials are professionally done, unique and persuasive to consumers. We’ve been doing this for our audiences all along; let us do it for you!

How do you as an influencer define a successful partnership with a destination?

The best partnerships begin with a long conversation between the destination and me. Ideally, we’ve both researched each other: they are familiar with my work and I am familiar with their destination. We find points of common interest and work outward from there.

The best trips I’ve had have been based on what interests me personally the most. Farm-to-table cuisine? Fabulous. Unique activities hard to find elsewhere? Awesome. Quirky, small, independent businesses? Excellent. Abseiling? Hell no, that’s my nightmare! I once turned down a trip in Australia where I found out later the bloggers were surprised with skydiving not once but twice. You don’t surprise people with skydiving!

What’s your most engaged platform and why?

In terms of numbers, it would be Instagram, but in terms of thoughtful comments and interaction, I actually think Facebook dominates!

How do you ensure that the content you create for destinations is aligned to your brand and wants of your audience?  

My brand focuses on independent travel for women, which is quite broad and gives me a wide bandwidth. Always lurking in the back of my mind is, “Do I feel safe here? Do I feel welcomed here? Does a restaurant host make me feel awkward for dining alone?”

Additionally, these days I like to showcase sustainability whenever possible and part of that is economic sustainability, so I like to promote small local businesses in my destination whenever possible. Most of the destination-based posts I write involve promoting small businesses.

How do you as an influencer establish trust with your readers while still creating sponsored content on behalf of a DMO?

The single most common feedback I hear from my readers is, “You’re so honest.” I make an effort to share my honest opinions about my experiences — but they are always fair. I don’t write about mean waiters; I do write about if the hotel is on a loud street or if I got frequent harassment from men on the street. I want my readers to have a thorough review of what they will experience in the destination.

For that reason, they know that if I write it, it’s true. I have a level of trust with my readers that most bloggers don’t have.

Fill in the blank:  I wish DMOs would ____________  when working with me as a digital influencer.

“Understand that a free trip is not a draw for me.” Today, most brands that contact me understand that my work is worth financial compensation; still, some brands think that a comped trip or some merchandise is enough. I’m a regular person with an apartment and bills; I can’t pay my rent in backpacks or vouchers.

What’s one destination you haven’t yet gotten the chance to work with, but want to?

I’ve made efforts to partner with various companies that cruise to Antarctica, but got rejected for being too young and too single! Apparently they all want couples who are 40+. I can’t fault them for that; they have their goals and if I don’t fit that demographic, I don’t fit that demographic!

Beyond that, within the United States I’d love to work with Hawaii. I’d love to partner with a river cruise company. I’d love to go to the Galapagos. I’d love to partner with tours based in harder-to-tour-independently destinations like Iran or Madagascar or West Africa, perhaps. I love doing unique adventures that you don’t hear much about — the stranger, the better!

Want to learn more about working with digital influencers, send Kate a Tweet at @adventurouskate, or Tweet us at @aboutdci.

Written by Hannah Khan

As a social media maven who loves to travel, Hannah uses her experience with social media and content curation to work on all things digital for DCI’s tourism practice. Get in touch with Hannah by sending her an email at hannah.khan@aboutdci.com

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