News & Views

The Travel Press Release – Useful Tool or Waste of Time?

With references to “digital media” and “digital marketing”—plus digital-everything-else—like the throbbing beat in a noisy bar, is the venerable press release dead? Is travel public relations now all about mobile and SEO?

Well, how often do you see a newspaper or magazine? They’re everywhere – from a whole shelf in the airport convenience store to a rack beside every supermarket checkout line. In fact, there is a revolution going on in print publishing, too. Specialty magazines are proliferating at the same time newspapers are making print and digital synergistic. Although it is undeniable that print and digital have segmented their audiences, including by age, almost every publication today if offering travel PR professionals a two-for: print and digital coverage. That means there is a definite need for content to fill the define space of print publications and limitless space online.

Yet the pressing question remains – is there a place for the press release in pursuit of editorial placements that help to position a destination in the minds of travelers, talent and potential community investors?

The omnipresent media push for “now” and “next” has made the evergreen PR release an anachronism. Today’s press release needs a hook, a reason for now. It also needs a headline (and a lead) to snag attention. The message should be “coming soon.” That makes the press release ideal for a raft of jobs that involve announcing what travelers can see, do, and expect next.

It is a rare magazine, today, without a rapidly growing front-of-the book section: All those timely tidbits of breaking news, updates, “happenings,” and “gee whiz” snippets. Press releases provide a steady stream of content for these sections, and just might inspire an editor to consider a feature story if you get the lingo right.

So what types of content should be included in press releases? Here are a few examples that suggest the range of good PR content that can be fodder for a press release.

Promoting upcoming festivals and events. These listings are perfect for the online version of the publication or the front-of-the-book in print. When Barbados‘s signature festival, “Barbados Crop Over” (formerly the “Harvest Home” carnival), was the subject of a press release, the release focused on highlighting the scheduled events taking place during Crop Over. With that lead, the release also talked about the history of the August celebration going back to the days of sugar cane plantations worked by slaves. It then outlined what travelers could expect during the time of the festival, special packages for sale and where to stay. The release was picked up by a variety of calendar editors, package deal editors and wooed a few assignment editors looking to assign a culturally relevant editorial feature.

Launching new air lift, tourism experiences and groundbreakings. Aiming mostly at online and front-of-the-book coverage, VisitScotland Business Events successfully lauded new direct service from Logan International in Boston to Edinburgh, Scotland. The release allowed the destination to tout a new flight schedule as part of a growing capacity from Scotland to the United States being achieved by Delta Airlines. The story found a home in both the travel trade and meetings press.

When CityPASS sought to make a splash, it leveraged the press release to promote the newest CityPASS destination, Orlando, FL. The press release highlighted a new way to experience the well-known destination, while outlining what was distinctive about this CityPASS ticket in terms of featured attractions, pricing, and savings. Online and print outlets captured the information in a variety of “what’s new” summaries.

Visit Seattle leveraged the press release to call attention to the groundbreaking for the Washington State Convention Center’s addition, the Summit Building. With key details such as the $1.7 billion investment in the center and the anticipated economic impact to the city for hosting more events, the release made real what the facility could mean for convention center business in the city.

Promoting new packages. When the Tahiti Tourisme wanted to promote its new guest house offerings, it turned to a press release that documented the travel packages that allowed visitors to experience this dream destination at a more modest price-point. The counter-intuitive concept garnered both short-lead coverage online and stimulated interest from editors in pursuing the cultural angle of local immersion as feature stories.

Explaining organizational success to local media. When the Greater Palm Springs Convention Visitors Bureau (CVB) wanted to showcase results from its biennial study documenting the positive impact of tourism on the local economy, they turned to the press release. To tell that story, including the role of these takeaways in shaping regional planning, the findings were revealed in a press release to local media outlets whose readers benefit from what the destination organization does for local business.

What such press releases have in common is announcements of specific information. The releases work because travel lives by transportation schedules, events, pricing packages, new destinations, and new major facilities and these releases supplied those hard facts. These “now” and “what’s next” hooks then carried natural explanations of background of all sorts.

Press releases packed with specific information and permanently relevant background–an event’s historical roots or a major new facility’s economic impact —can go straight into a reporter’s or editor’s reference folders. Then, when a media alert arrives with three sentences about what is happening next, the background comes out to provide context and explanation.

The truth is that reporters and editors are under more pressure than ever to get the story, get it fast, and get it published or posted. When genuine information or stories arrived unsought, they are a gift of time saved.

So, is the press release dead? No – it’s alive and well. It just looks differently than it did in the late 1990, when long-length evergreen content was still in vogue.

 

Development Counsellors International works with clients to create effective press releases, explanatory infographics and the range of other media materials – including videos.

Written By

Kayla Lynskey

Kayla is a senior publicist in DCI's Tourism Practice. Prior to joining the DCI team, Kayla managed public relations and marketing initiatives for a variety of travel and hospitality accounts, specializing in Caribbean travel brands. She earned her BA in Public Relations at SUNY Oswego.

More Articles by Kayla Lynskey

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