How To Pitch: Kit Bernardi, 2018 IPW Travel Writer Award Winner & 2017 TravMedia Journalist of the YearMay 30, 2019 | By: Karyl Leigh Barnes
Sometimes you just bump into stories. Like when I was recently at a travel media reception on the hunt for journalists to interview for DCI’s “How to Pitch” column, a resource for travel public relations pros at destination marketing organizations. That’s when I literally ran into Kit Bernardi. Her cold, clear beverage doused the back of my blouse.
Our initial surprise at the soaking encounter turned into delight when we started up a lively discussion about how publicists can best work with her.
Kit Bernardi of KitTravels.com is an award-winning travel journalist, author and photographer. During her more than 25-year freelance career, Kit has explored 57 countries on six continents and 46 states in the U.S. Her articles and photography have been published in USA TODAY, USA TODAY GoEscape Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, AAA Publications, South China Morning Post, SmarterTravel.com, CruiseCritic.com, FamilyTravelForum.com, and many other media outlets worldwide.
So, between sips at the reception, here’s what I learned about Kit.
You cover solo, family, adventure, culinary and luxury travel experiences. As you look at what editors are asking for in 2019/2020 – which of these niches are going to be most requested and why?
I believe editors are interested in stories from all of these niches now and in the future. They want a balanced, accurate story told responsibly that offers fresh insights. Stories told through different lens addressing diversity, women, multi-generational, sustainable and responsible travel get traction. No matter the niche, the story must answer a travel editor’s premier questions: “Why is this story important, and why now?”
In your bio you talk about your interest in writing about architecture, art, golf and shopping, topics we can struggle to find a home for when we pitch. What advice would you give to a publicist who is trying to package and pitch stories about these topics?
Package story pitches as themes. For example, bundle the pitch to include not only the physical architecture sites, but restaurants, lodgings, museum exhibits, etc. This multi-faceted approach offers visitors a diverse, immersive architectural experience. And, always include expert sources for interviews and state availability of high-quality images and video footage. Let me stress the importance of interviews. Real people authenticate the travel experience. Strong quotes often engage readers more than descriptive paragraphs.
What do you wish publicists (in general) did differently – what would make us more effective?
Honestly, I don’t need more trips. I need more stories. Here are ways to help me find them:
When designing FAM trips or a journalist’s individual itinerary, more is not better. Including only CVB or Chamber members on my itinerary does not ensure coverage of them. Instead, craft thematic story gathering tracks. Build free time into itineraries so I can talk to people and truly dig into stories I discover along the way.
If you require a confirmed letter of assignment before awarding a trip, say so right up front. It will save both of us time. In my experience, the stories I would pitch editors emerge during the trip, not before it.
When I ask for more information, please don’t just refer me to a public website that my readers peruse. I’ve already scoured it. What I need isn’t there, and that’s why I’m reaching out. I want to go deeper. Let’s get on the phone.
How important are individual publicist or destination social media feeds to you? (As in, do you ever find inspiration or story ideas in them, or is it just a lot of white noise in your world.)
A social media feed’s immediate relevance depends upon what’s on my editorial radar. But when I come across information nuggets, photos, press releases and social posts that loosely fit a story idea, spark a new one or address an editor’s call for pitches, I file it. You never know what stories these will eventually inform or possibly trigger.
What industry resources or media platforms do you personally reference for story inspiration?
Generally speaking, travel trends, hotels, products, services, transportation, culinary, beverage, tech and destinations reported in travel trade news foreshadow what consumer travel outlets eventually cover. I review material generated by Skift, Travel Weekly, TravelPulse, Hotels Magazine, Hotel News Now, Lodging Magazine, Virtuoso, TravMedia, Successful Meetings, Nation’s Restaurant News, Center for Responsible Travel, World Travel and Tourism Council and the U.S. Travel Association. I also read fellow writers’ work, travel books, literary travel and multiple consumer travel outlets.
What’s still on your personal (yet editorial) bucket list?
Often places choose me based on what’s happening in my life at the time. Wherever I go, I want to be challenged intellectually, emotionally and physically; to question what I believe is “true” and “right;” and learn what it means to be a thoughtful, respectful global citizen. If you travel with an open heart and mind, every place in the world — from a street corner in your hometown to a mountain village in Nepal – can teach you these things. That said, trips I take mesh with my interests and knowledge base. This is when I produce my best work and a single trip has the potential to yield several sellable stories.
In these thoughtful responses, it’s clear to see why Kit received the prestigious 2018 IPW Travel Writer Award for Best U.S. Travel Destination Article from the U.S. Travel Association & Brand USA, and was named the 2017 TravMedia Journalist of the Year. Her work and website KitTravels.com have also earned accolades from the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA) and Midwest Travel Writers Association (MTWA). While working 20 years as a contributing editor for Meredith Corporation’s Midwest Living Magazine, the regional publication won multiple Society of American Travel Writers Foundation Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism awards.
All these shout-outs are simply intended to endorse why all travel PR professionals need to get to know Kit. So check her out at KitTravels.com (http://www.kittravels.com/) or follow Kit on Instagram and Twitter at @KitBernardi and on Facebook @KitBernardiTravels, her Kit Travels Facebook page.