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5 Questions to Ask Before Pitching Travel Media

Pitching story ideas to get coverage in the press or on social media is primordial. It’s what gets travelers thinking of your destination and researching their next trip.

Pitching to the media, however, is more complicated than ever. No longer are a few glossy magazines acting as gatekeepers to audiences. There are more questions to ask than whether or not an editor will assign a story to a writer.

Social media, over the last twenty years or so, has drastically changed the way we all research, book, and share our trips. Understanding that networks like Facebook and Instagram are essential to any marketing plan will make the pitching process easier, and eventually more fruitful.

Here we stand. You the DMO, are trying to catch a media fish. Do you cast your net wide? Or do you use a specialty lure? It can all become very complicated. Our first suggestion is to take a beat, be strategic, and ask yourself the following five questions. They will get you started in ensuring you don’t just produce another lackluster, generic pitch but rather target the right content to the right media partner.

With any luck, you’ll land a white whale that would even make Ismael green with envy.

Is there a story here?

This question should happen every time before you concoct a pitch. Is there something happening in your pitch? Will the writer be scratching their head wondering where to begin telling the story?

A list of events and openings is useful background information, but it’s not likely going to entice a journalist in the same way that a clear narrative does. Imagine making some popcorn and watching a Bond movie where 007 just stands at a podium and lists his dalliances and the villains he has killed. Who’s watching that film?

Instead, be sure to include some sort of narrative in your pitch so the writer will start to see the plot. It doesn’t have to tell the whole story, but a little bit of storytelling goes a long way. It can be skeletal, but you need to provide the journalist at least the minimum if you want them to be able to produce anything meatier.

Are we pitching news?

Journalists nationwide, in a unified chorus that echoes around the globe, are begging you to tell them, “What’s the news?” A pitch that discusses a museum, a restaurant, a hotel, or any other major element of the visitor experience without mentioning what’s newsworthy will ultimately fail. Still, time and time again, journalists receive email after email describing a destination without a clear hook on why any of it is important now. Writers can’t know what’s new just by your enthusiasm, and they don’t want to spend hours searching online for what the news may be.

If a hotel is deemed romantic and you are pitching around Valentine’s Day, that’s not news. It’s not unique. It’s not novel. If a venue is offering a unique couple’s experience like this romantic take on coffee in Chattanooga, now we’re getting something newsworthy. It will take some digging, but interesting things happen in every destination, and putting them at the forefront of a pitch is essential, especially if it means making a journalist’s job easier.

Will this work for a writer in the same way as for an influencer?

Now we’re starting to get deep. Do journalists and influencers require the same sort of pitch? It’s complicated, but in short, no.

Ask yourself who you are pitching to, and what the desired result is. A pitch about how small businesses are booming in your destination is likely a good narrative story for a writer, but imagine it on Instagram. Does that sort of story really translate visually? Chances are slim.

Look to an art event, like Long Beach’s POW WOW, which celebrates murals citywide, and it becomes instantly obvious that social influencers are worth engaging in a pitch. Visual storytelling is sort of their thing, so target them with stories that will translate more readily to the screen. The nuance of social media marketing goes much deeper than this, of course, but that’s a whole other service area we can discuss with you.

Do we have quality multimedia content for it?

In that same vein, ask yourself if your team has the multimedia content that writers and influencers will likely need. While Instagrammers will go out and get their own photos, your pitch should still tease them into wanting more.

For writers, it’s always better to provide multimedia links upfront, because you know their story will require at least an image. If you can’t get a photo or video to help illustrate the story you are trying to pitch, then ask yourself, how will the journalist get it? See the problem there?

Would I want to read this story I’m pitching?

Maybe you’re in too deep into the topic already, but you should ask yourself an honest question. If you saw a story related to your pitch in the press or online, would you want to read it? Or would you skip over it? You may not be your own target audience, but good storytelling doesn’t need to be just about the content. If it’s a good, newsworthy story that’s told right, you will captivate even the most remote armchair traveler. Who knows, you might even convert them to buy a ticket somewhere finally!

If you’re not asking these sorts of questions before writing your pitches, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Don’t spend precious hours toiling on a pitch that lacks the fundamentals just because you think it’s important. Instead, look for the actual stories that you want to tell – and ones you want to read or hear yourself – and work from there.

Now the question is, where do you even begin finding those stories? At DCI, we’ve been mining those sorts of topics for 60 years, helping destinations reach the media with engaging narratives. Get in touch with Kayla Leska at [email protected] to learn more about how DCI can assist with your marketing strategy and create the media pitches that will get you results.

Written By

Kayla Leska

Kayla is Managing Director of DCI's Tourism Public Relations Division. She oversees communications strategy for DCI’s tourism clients and directs the firm’s tourism crisis and recovery communication efforts. Kayla leads publicity teams in the U.S. and Canada. She earned her BA in Public Relations at SUNY Oswego.

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