How to Pitch: Glynn Pogue, Travel WriterMarch 11, 2021 | By: Symeria Palmer
Inclusivity has become much more than a catchphrase over the past twelve months, and the travel industry isn’t excluded.
Recent reports about the amount of money Black people spend on travel have been eye opening. Destinations across the globe are looking for ways to speak to this community which, until now, has been largely underserved in marketing efforts.
Glynn Pogue is a travel writer, podcaster, editor and speaker. She’s written for National Geographic, Here, Travel Noire and On She Goes. In 2018 she started a podcast with three other women called Black Girls Texting, where the trio sometimes discuss their trips.
We spoke with Glynn about everything from how destinations can make Black travelers feel welcome to what the Green Book means to Black American travelers in the 21st century.
DCI: How did you get your start in travel writing?
GP: I was a Peace Corp volunteer in Cambodia between 2013 and 2015. While there I traveled widely across Southeast Asia, and it was then that I realized how amazing travel writing was. I became inspired by all the places I was traveling to and people I was meeting, so I wrote it all down and started blogging.
Once I had some good ideas, I started pitching them to Travel Noire. I became their go-to person for stories on Southeast Asia, writing about Cambodia, Singapore, Bali and Thailand. Some of the smaller publications I began working with even allowed me to do my own photography.
While in college, I secured an internship and made some connections at National Geographic. I started doing local travel pieces for them about bar culture in Brooklyn. That led to my first commission from National Geographic for a story called Southern Roots – a full spread on traveling to Alabama to follow Civil Rights trail. The opportunity opened things up for me because it put me on the radar of a lot of tourism boards.
DCI: Podcasts have seen an uptick in engagement for years, but even more so since the start of the pandemic. What is it about this platform that makes it unique for destination storytellers?
GP: We talk about travel quite often in our podcast is a segment called Black Girls Traveling. Throughout the series, we’ve partnered with the Marriott for a story on Aruba, Discover LA for a story about Los Angeles and a retrospective on trips to Grenada and Southeast Asia. It’s basically investigative travel coverage with your girlfriends.
As a writer, it’s sometimes difficult to incorporate the interests of all stakeholders into a piece. The publications I work with want stories about the people and culture and sometimes talking about where I stayed doesn’t feel organic enough to be incorporated into a written piece.
That’s the great thing about a podcast, because we have total control of where the narrative goes. We can take an entire segment and just have an honest, casual conversation about where to stay. We also try to do a lot of storytelling through sound. You might hear the water rushing in from the ocean, or a server telling us what the specials for the night are. It’s a multisensory experience that can take the listeners to the place — a whole different experience than with writing.
DCI: What elements influence whether or not you read a destination PR pitch?
GP: I need to hear about the heart of a destination. Being from Brooklyn, and more specifically Bed Stuy, I’ve come to the realization that it’s the people that make a place. Give me all the stories about why a chef opened their restaurant, or about how the dishes are connected to their life story.
After my Southern Root Trail story for National Geographic Traveler, I’ve been pitched a lot of stories on the history-driven beat. I try to make it a point to find stories of Black communities wherever I go, whether it’s the point of that assignment or not, and especially if it’s a place that you’d be surprised to find Black people.
I’m also interested in culture stories, so if you’re holding a big arts festival or an event with music and culture that appeals to younger generations, I want to hear about it.
DCI: How can destination PR professionals present possible subjects for you to consider?
GP: I grew up in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, which is a particularly tight knit community. My parents even own a bed and breakfast there, so I was always meeting new people. It’s good if a pitch has that same kind of connectivity. I once visited a restaurant in Puerto Rico and learned that the chef sourced food from a local farm. The next day I went to another restaurant and the cook there told me he knew the first chef and sourced food from the same local farm!
I love stories about the interconnectivity of people and I’m always talking to strangers — that’s where the magic happens.
DCI: There was a global pandemic of racism long before the coronavirus. How do you find your experiences as a Black woman traveler unique and what do you wish destination PR pros knew?
GP: Black people have always felt safer traveling when they know about the places they are traveling to. I recently did a story called “Life after the ‘Green Book,’” which looks at the legacy of the Greenbook and how the next generation of Black-owned tour companies and family bloggers are filling this need in the twenty-first century. It should not just fall on Black people to create spaces that feel safe for us.
We are travelers just like anyone else, and we should be considered that way. I might be looking for adventure travel, luxury travel, or have an interest in only supporting Black-owned businesses. PR pros should know that we are travelers and travel widely.
DCI: Have you seen any differences in the ways that Black people are treated in other countries versus America, and how does that effect your interest in telling international vs. domestic stories?
GP: I would say that I’ve always had a better time traveling internationally than domestically. Traveling in America has always been tainted by the context of racism. It doesn’t stop me from traveling and doing stories in America, but the travel climate is less loaded when traveling abroad. There is an entire history of Blacks fleeing America so that they can just exist — like James Baldwin relocated to Paris to finish his first novel. This is still the case for a lot of Black Americans.
I recently visited a super remote destination on the outskirts of Colombia. While there, I had an interaction with Black woman on the beach. It was a moment of celebration at a time when I was questioning things. We were both coming from a place of being foreign to one another, and yet wholly familiar. It made me feel welcome and safe in a place that I wasn’t familiar with.
DCI: How important are health and safety precautions from the destinations you choose to visit? Would it ever prevent you from visiting a place? Waivers?
GP: I haven’t traveled much lately, but I did recently take a quick trip to Aruba with my podcast. We ended up taking the wrong COVID test, had to retest at the airport, then had to quarantine at the hotel. I did feel safe because of all the precautions, but I wish process could be streamlined. Travel writers don’t want to have to deal with all the logistics – travel destinations should make the specific requirements clear.
Interested in how to connect with Black audiences in order to not just appear more inclusive, but to truly embrace an inclusive approach to your marketing strategies? DCI would very much like that to be the case, and with 60 years of tourism marketing experience, we’re here to help. Get in touch with Symeria Palmer at [email protected] to learn how we can collaborate.