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Why Travel PR Pros Should Influence Digital Content Calendars

At PRSA’s Travel & Tourism Conference in Philadelphia, DCI released its third edition of Development Counsellors International’s (DCI) Best Practices in Travel Public Relations study. The findings of this study are designed to aid U.S. and Canadian travel media relations specialists in accurately presenting information to travel journalists in both countries.

For years, we have heard from travel writers and producers that social media is influential in their story identification process. So, in this study, DCI once again asked respondents to discuss which social media platforms are the most helpful in generating new story ideas. At the heart of this question was a need to answer an inquiry that DCI’s travel publicists often receive from our travel destination clients – “Should I be involved in curating our consumer-facing social media calendar?”

In short, the answer is “YES!” Yes, travel public relations professionals should be at the table when social media content is being curated for your travel destination’s social media feeds.


So why should travel public relations professional have a seat at the table?

  • Well, for starters, travel journalists, who are influencing the content that is written and produced for newspapers, magazine, television and digital platforms are perusing social media for story angles. If a destination marketing organization is simply living in the moment by promoting experiences that are happening “now” – particularly with a heavy emphasis on user-generated content – it is missing the opportunity to influence future editorial coverage of the destination. Seeding angles about experiences and openings that will take place in the future – even up to a year in the future – provides an opportunity to influence editorial while also inspiring consumers to consider the destination for a future visit.
  • Additionally, having a seat at the digital table will allow destination public relations professionals the opportunity to influence the balance of content toward platforms which are most likely to been seen by travel journalists.

Since 2014, U.S. and Canadian travel journalists have broadly used the same social media platforms to help them generate new story ideas; however, the relative importance of the platforms has changed. For both sets of journalists, Facebook continues to be the dominant platform, but its lead has shrunk significantly. Alternatively, Instagram has surged in the last five years, replacing Twitter as the No. 2 platform. YouTube has also gained in popularity, vying with LinkedIn as the fourth-most preferred platform.

This guidance will help travel PR professionals prioritize their curation efforts when time is of the essence. And let’s face it, in the world of public relations, when is it not?


Which of the following social media platforms is most helpful to you in generating new story ideas?


Rank by Usefulness of Select Social Media Platforms

Travel journalists say Facebook



Visual platforms continue to rise in importance, as demonstrated by the growth of Instagram and YouTube in their relative importance to story-idea generation. This rise means that destination public relations professionals should be lobbying for a seat at the table when visual-content calendars are being curated for a destination’s social media platforms, particularly Instagram. Doing so will ensure someone is focused on advancing the brand story, rather than simply providing evergreen content.

For travel public relations professionals who often fall within the millennial generation where Facebook usage is declining, it’s important to remember that many traditional travel journalists who are not a part of this generation still rely on Facebook as a platform for generating story ideas. Befriending media on Facebook that you meet at such industry conferences as NATJA, SATW and TMAC will provide you with direct access to understand their personal interests and to tell your destination stories in an informative way in the social space. The success of a Facebook strategy among media relies on the relationships you curate with media on your personal page, not on your destination’s official Facebook page.

That’s not to say that publicists should rely solely on the effectiveness of social media platforms in reaching travel media.

Although the power of the pitch has gained traction since 2014, little change has occurred since 2016. According to 2019 data, 96% of U.S. travel journalists and 94% of Canadian travel journalists use pitches to originate some of their stories.


What percentage of your outlet’s stories began with a pitch from a publicist?

Figure 3:

Percentage of Stories Originating From a Publicist Pitch



So, travel publicists, the time you invest in developing thoughtful story angles is worth it!

And what is the best place to build personal relationships with travel media? Consider this study finding:

In 2019, U.S. and Canadian travel journalists were asked for the first-time about which organizations they participate in at least once during a three-year period. The top three organizations for U.S. travel journalists are SATW Chapter Meeting (40%), SATW Annual Convention (33%) and IMM New York (25%). The top three for Canadian travel journalists are TMAC Annual Conference (48%), SATW Annual Convention (17%) and SATW Chapter Meeting (16%).


Which organizations do you participate in (at least once every three years)?


So, our advice for destination publicists is ramp up your activity on your destination’s social media platforms and your own social media platforms (if you are engaged with media on those platforms), but don’t forget the power of a personal relationship and a really, really great pitch angle. In the end, it’s all about great content.

To download a free copy of the 2019 Best Practices in Travel Public Relations research study, click here.

The summary of the survey findings is based upon the analyzed responses of 160 U.S. travel journalists and 130 Canadian travel journalists – seventy percent of respondents identified as freelance writers who contribute to multiple media outlets; 30% identified as staff writers, editors and producers.


For more tips on who to know in the travel media, view these “How to Pitch Profiles”:

Kit Bernardi, 2018 IPW Travel Writer Award Winner & 2017 TravMedia Journalist of the Year

Travel Blogging with Natalie Preddie

Kim Foley MacKinnon, Boston-based Freelance Travel Writer



Written By

Karyl Leigh Barnes

Karyl Leigh Barnes is President of DCI’s Tourism Practice. Since joining the firm in 1998, Karyl Leigh has led destination strategy and created marketing communication programs for destinations on every continent except Antarctica.

More Articles by Karyl Leigh Barnes

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