Five Secrets to Successfully Pitching Freelance Travel WritersDecember 20, 2019 | By: Bryan Pirolli
You need coverage. Travel writers need material. It should be a no-brainer to send a novel idea out and let the stories roll in – but it’s a bit more complicated. Your pitches will, more often than not, find their way to the trash rather than blooming into viral stories.
You can, however, give them a better chance to thrive.
Journalists, bloggers, and even influencers are all looking for essentially the same thing – content that will correspond to and captivate their readers. Most travel writers are pickier than you’d think. With so many emails rolling in each day, freelancers will barely give a few seconds to read your pitch. If it doesn’t grab them immediately, it’s essentially DOA. A few small touches to that pitch, however, could make all the difference between successful returns on a media blitz and radio silence across travel media.
1. Travel writers need the news
A travel writer must always justify to their editors why they’re covering a topic, but more importantly, why now. It’s Journalism 101 to identify a newsworthy topic and being “new” is hardly enough. Journalists learn early on that the headline “Dog Bites Man” won’t gain traction, but “Man Bites Dog,” well, now we’ve got a story.
A new restaurant or hotel opening in a destination is rarely enough anymore to deserve coverage. There are openings each day. What’s special about yours? It needs to wow with something unexpected. What’s the real story? Let the writers know what’s unique or different upfront, immediately in the first line of the email, and there will be a better chance that they can sell it to their editors.
It may not seem like the main selling point to you, but a small detail or anecdote could make all the difference between an editor taking the bait or not. Be bold. Be daring. Give your freelancers the chance to develop a story around what’s new.
2. They need multimedia support
Don’t just tell a travel writer that photos and video are available. Make them immediately available. If they have to ask for it, and then wait for it, and not be sure that they’ll receive it, they’ll be less inclined to pursue the story, especially when they have no other way to obtain images. While stories and good writing are paramount, audiences still want photos and videos, according to Skift, so help your writers respond to these expectations.
Share a YouTube clip or a link to high-res photos that writers will inevitably need to publish a story. Remember to promote quality multimedia, with clear captions and attributions. Any chance of avoiding needless back and forth will increase your chances of landing a story, especially for writers who are looking to file stories under quick deadlines. The fewer steps to producing the story, the more likely it is they’ll be willing to take the walk with you.
Need more info on multimedia storytelling? Take a crash course here for some of the important highlights.
3. They like contacts and humans
No one ever wrote a story without a character in it before. Imagine Snow White without the dwarves, or Les Misérables without a bunch of French people, or Moby Dick without a whale. People – and animals, sure – make stories, and travel reporting is no different. This is something that Airbnb recognized, building into the strategy behind their magazine, Airbnbmag.
Mention who is available to speak with the writer, that an interview is possible, or that somehow a contact is on the horizon. Give a sample quote, but know that many freelancers will want something original, their own quote, so be ready to respond to requests. A new hotel is only as interesting as the voices that can speak about it – a designer, an architect, an artist providing the décor.
Searching for sources in a destination isn’t always easy, especially in foreign locations, so anything you can do to make it easier will be appreciated. Having an English speaker based in another country to use as a source is always helpful.
Try and give them someone interesting, an actor on the scene, a business owner, a chef, an individual who is challenging the norms. These are the people that writers will inevitably seek out, so if you help them out a bit, chances are they’ll be more likely to pursue the story to generate coverage.
4. Travel writers will not pay for anything
Freebie culture has eroded quite a bit with so many content providers reaching for their share of the freebie pie. Freelancers know you can’t give everyone a free stay, a free meal, or a free ride. Especially with some $15 million projected to be spent on online influencers, according to Business Insider, there’s not a whole lot of money left for traditional writers.
But most freelance writers aren’t going to pay to try out your destination, hotel or restaurant and write about it, either – at least not often. While some publications might still pay a writer’s expenses, most freelancers won’t waste time paying $70 for a meal to write an article that might land them $100. The returns just aren’t worth it. Instead of a general press release for everyone, hoping someone will bite, consider being picky.
Consider targeting the outlets or travel writers you want and invite them to your destination, then have your restaurant partners offer them a tasting, if not a whole meal, to give them a taste of the place – literally – without having them spend their earnings before they even invoice. The gesture, however small it may be, is usually enough to seduce freelancers. It gives writers a unique experience while also providing more firsthand reporting they can use in a story, allowing them to produce something that is beyond just copying a press release. There’s little interest in writing about a destination or venue that a writer has never visited. Be mindful of this before sending out that announcement.
5.They have names
“Dear Travel Writer,” “Dear Journalist,” or even just “Dear [NAME],” – writers have seen it all. Starting your email off without any personalization is not going to help your cause. It’s even worse if you mess up their name. It immediately undercuts any credibility your pitch may have held in their eyes, and they will inevitably delete the email and move on to the next. We’re not the only ones saying this – there’s plenty of research to back it up here.
Freelancers know when they are just an email address on a list and when a marketer has singled them out purposefully. You’re much more likely to achieve results by taking the extra few minutes to take a personal approach. Don’t we all want to feel special? A freelancer will keep reading if the email seems more, well, human.
It might take more time to write a personal email, to research a travel writer to say, “Hey, this seems like a good fit for you because you wrote about a similar topic before.” But it also takes a lot of work to justify to a client why media placements have been so sparse following a campaign. Maybe it’s worth it to put in a little work at the beginning, no?
Of course, none of this is a science. There’s no surefire way to be sure to attract freelancers. Deadlines and expectations change all the time, and maybe your pitch was perfect, but the day and time were wrong for a particular writer. It happens. Still, being sure to optimize every pitch for the increasingly competitive freelance market will help increase your odds of achieving the results you want.
DCI has been working with travel destinations since 1960 to help tell their stories to national media including destinations as close to home as Texas and as far away as Peru. If you would like to learn more about DCI’s ability to place destination stories in national travel media outlets and how we might partner with you, contact [email protected]