How to Pitch: Forbes TravelJanuary 17, 2020
Sending a travel pitch? Do your research. Please.
Travel writers want to drive home this message as much as possible, so, destination marketers, listen up! We spoke with DeMarco Williams, managing editor at Forbes Travel Guide, about what he looks for in a travel pitch. We might sound like a broken record, but writers are telling us what they want. Why aren’t you listening?
Sending out a generic blast to a list of writers? No.
Pitching a writer something that he or she has never covered before? Why?
Packaging a travel pitch without any images or multimedia content? What year is it?
Attracting journalists and writers is more difficult than ever, with email boxes flooded daily with travel pitch after pitch. Most end up ignored or deleted, but it’s not impossible to maximize your chances of getting viewed.
If you’re still wondering how to grab a writer’s attention, Williams shares his thoughts. Now it’s up to you to listen and act.
DCI: How would you qualify the topics that you cover in travel?
DW: Forbes Travel Guide is the rating system for the top hotels, restaurants and spas around the globe. When it comes to topics that we cover, they generally need to have direct or indirect connections to these rated properties. We can center editorial around destinations, too. But again, the city/country needs to have FTG-rated properties to be considered for coverage.
DCI: Does a lot of your writing stem from travel PR pitches?
DW: I wouldn’t say a lot. Maybe 20-30%.
DCI: Why would you be enticed to respond to a travel PR person?
DW: If the PR person did his research on FTG, if he looked at the types of stories that tend to get published by us, he’d know that the best ideas for us center around high-end hotels, dreamy experiences and unique getaways. If a travel pitch were tailored to hit those things, we’d at least listen.
DCI: Why wouldn’t you respond? What would turn you off?
DW: If the PR person didn’t do his research and approached me with something that wasn’t luxury travel-centered. A new mid-sized family hotel opening in Oklahoma City is great but it’s not right for us. But at the same time, getting a pitch about a fancy new watch wouldn’t really work, either. We don’t write about products very often…and if the PR person did his research, he’d know that.
DCI: Have you ever found a great story indirectly from a PR team or event?
DW: There are times when I visit a place for one thing and come across some other story. You can be at dinner and be befriended by a charismatic rock-star of a young chef and immediately want a Q&A. Or you could be shooting clay pigeons in the middle of the woods and realize your instructor actually designed the course. There are good stories everywhere. You just have to listen out for them.
DCI: What’s the weirdest pitch you’ve ever received/can recall?
DW: I get pitched odd food items, interviews with magicians and all sorts of things in between.
DCI: Do you think travel journalists should be obliged to disclose when they receive subsidized travel?
DW: I don’t think that should be mandated. What I do think is important, though, is honesty with their words. Don’t say the service was great if it wasn’t. Don’t hype up the sirloin if you’d never eat it again. Be truthful.
DCI: Are influencers the future, or just another outlet for travel information?
DW: I think they’re another outlet for information.
DCI: Do travel PR representatives do something repeatedly that really bugs you as a writer?
DW: Yes. Two things: 1) When reps take longer than 24 hours to get back with me about something, that’s a little troubling; 2) When they’re excited about a client/news/promotion but don’t have any pictures to go with said pitch. Pictures should be included in the press release… or the photo shoot should be happening VERY soon.
DCI: Do you wish they’d do something else that would help you in your career?
DW: Pictures, pictures, pictures.
DCI: Is there a destination you would refuse to visit?
DW: Besides places with active wars happening, I don’t think so.
DCI: Do you have a dream destination you’d nip off to right now?
DW: Kenya, Greece and Australia.
Get in touch with Williams if you think your pitch matches him, but, as he said, make sure you’ve done your research. And share a few pictures for the story to make his life easier.
He’s not the only journalist who knows what he wants, and we’ll keep highlighting these voices because the ever-changing media environment makes it nearly impossible to stay abreast of everything. Knowing how travel media works and how journalists operate is totally our thing, and we make it our business to stay informed on the latest trends and practices that impact the media world.
The biggest takeaway from all of this? Writers have choices. You need them more than they need you, so put in the extra effort to create a quality relationship with a few key writers instead of trying to get everyone to talk about you. That first domino might just tip over the rest, and won’t you feel happy if that happens, leading to viral content?
Feeling overwhelmed? We feel you. At DCI, we’ve spent 60 years marketing places globally, tapping into our network of North American press contacts. If you want to discuss how to maximize coverage for your destination or how to approach the media with a travel pitch, contact Kayla Leska at [email protected] for more information and insight.