The Great Travel Media Swap: Travel Influencer to Journalist and Back

February 24, 2022

Alexander-Julian Gibson knows the travel media – as an influencer and a journalist. A stylist with clout on Instagram, he made the move to publishing bylines and travel stories in Travel+Leisure and GQ, among other publications. And he’s not the only one to make the transition.

Destinations need to be aware, when approaching someone for a collaboration, if they are working with them as a travel influencer or as a journalist. While a publicist may often treat them similarly, let’s be clear that they don’t see themselves as the same.

Increasingly, many travel influencers are making the transition to writing for major publications, requiring destinations to be more strategic when engaging in partnerships. It is essential to be clear if you are looking to work with a travel influencer or a journalist, because they both offer something different.

With social media continuing to gobble up advertising dollars, it makes a difference where you put your resources and which audiences you want to reach. Sometimes the same individual can play multiple roles in your strategy. Sometimes they are best just serving one. It’s not likely, however, that you’ll be getting a two-for-one deal.

What’s important is that destinations understand the difference between digital content creators and traditional journalists. When travel influencers make the shift to working for travel press, there are changes for them that destinations need to be aware of in order to work efficiently with them as a journalist and to understand what that means for your control over the messaging.

1. Disclosure

Content creators are accustomed to taking things for free, but not all publications are OK with that. The very act of disclosing a sponsored post is required by the FTC in the United States. Without crystal clear guidelines, the waters are murky, as some studies show, but influencers are making strides at being clear and upfront with their followers.

But once they shift to writing for a publication, they’ll have to disclose – clearly – if they received something for free. Editors will ask. Some publication guidelines will restrict them if they can receive invitations and free stays at all.

For destinations, this means understanding what the desired result is and how you’ll get there. If you’re looking for top-tier publications to write about your destination, be aware that the travel influencer-turned-journalist may not be so open to comps as they may have been previously.

2. Compensation

If your destination has never worked with a travel influencer, you are forgiven for not knowing that they work for a project fee. The destination pays them directly. It’s pretty straightforward.

Once they become journalists, however, they are quite literally no longer in your pocket, earning compensation from the media outlet instead. It means less control for the destination, but hopefully strong placements in top-tier media.

Be aware, however, that they are probably taking a pay cut from their travel influencer days to have their name published as a byline instead of as an Instagram handle.

3. Editors

When working with travel influencers, yes, they are autonomous and will post whatever they want, but you can have a discussion about the goal of the partnership. You can tame the message or direct it as needed to make sure their output echoes your destination’s messaging.

Once they make the leap to journalism, however, they are no longer working for themselves. Having an editor will affect the final product and you are one more degree removed from control of the messaging in the story.

It’s not always a bad thing. It could even be a good thing, but the point is that you need to prepare to trust the writer, which requires extensive vetting before engaging in these sorts of partnerships.

4. Publication Guidelines

As stated, publication guidelines can restrict what writers can and cannot accept. Travel influencers only work for their own brand, but if they are commissioned by a legacy media brand, they have new rules to follow.

For destinations, this means being aware of the publication guidelines in question and to remember that your writer is no longer just a content creator, they are a journalist, and the rules are stricter for all of you. It’s not just their reputation at stake anymore. The travel influencer-turned-journalist now is part of a team and that means respecting the guidelines to maintain the publication’s credibility.

5. Multiple Hats

Whether they are a travel influencer or a journalist, these individuals are wearing multiple hats at the same time, especially as the pandemic upended all they did. This is an important consideration for destinations to remember. If someone is on a press trip working as a commissioned writer, it’s tempting to ask them to share something on social media, to capitalize on the travel influencer side of their work.

That’s not always going to be well received.

Respect the hat that they are wearing when you are working with them and respect boundaries. It might seem easy for someone to put up an Instagram story as a travel influencer, but the time and effort they put into cultivating that image and audience is what you’re paying for when you collaborate with them. If they are just there to write a story for a big-name publication, instead, be careful asking for more without remunerating them.

Travel influencer or journalist – it’s a big wild world out there. At DCI, we’ve been keeping up with these changes for the past six decades. Get in touch with Daniella Middleton at [email protected] to learn more about how DCI can help you navigate the world of partnerships and collaborations with today’s content creators and journalists.