Travel Editors at PRSA Dish on Consumer Media Pitching

October 25, 2023
Woman sitting at a table in a newsroom with a group of editors at night.

During the Editors’ Panel Luncheon at the Public Relations Society of America travel section conference in June, editors from major travel editors shared their thoughts on how destinations can connect better through consumer media pitching efforts. 

Managing Editor at U.S. News and World Report Erin S. Evans, Associate Managing Editor at Nat Geo Traveler Amy Alipio, Travel Editor at The Washington Post Amanda J. Finnegan, and editor on projects for Nat Geo Traveler Andrew T. Nelson were all on hand. Rather than just give the standard tips for pitching, they provided some insight into what’s new and different for them – and consequently for your destination.

For destinations and publicists seeking better relations with consumer media, these six takeaways are a good start.

1. Big News, Big Impressions

One of the top travel pieces in the Washington Post in 2023 was a story that travelers could bring marijuana through TSA. While not a destination feature, per se, it shows you that big news items can make big travel headlines.

Editors warn that pitches that start, “Everyone is talking about adventure travel, and here are ten ski resorts” will make a swift trip to the trash. There’s no substance, no story, and no exclusivity to that. Some editors also mentioned that increased use in AI will disrupt search engines, but scoops and news items will always have value for consumer media outlets, so deliver it to editors.

2. Remember Relationships Are Key

Artificial intelligence may be a buzzword that is here to stay – time will tell – but it can never replace actual human relationships. Editors want destinations and publicists to reach out in person. Virtual desksides aren’t the only option anymore! They aren’t against meeting in person if you just happen to be in their neighborhood. Editors like to meet face to face, but prefer conferences to spontaneous meetups, so be sure to attend gatherings where you can make these encounters happen.

3. Print Isn’t Dead – But It’s Not Thriving

Editors stressed that destinations should avoid worrying if a story will run in print. While print isn’t dead yet, digital stories shared seamlessly on social platforms tend to get more traction in must publications.

The kind of stories that they like to run are often inspired by what new or interesting thing people are talking about on a group chat –  and those stories translate better into digital platforms anyway. It’s time to tweak your KPIs a bit and insist less on generating print coverage.

4. We’re All Using SEO

Search engine optimization is still an important tool and influences what editors choose to publish. They are looking at what does well in search volume while researching if people are looking for informational or transactional content. They scan Google trends and news to keep up on what people are already discussing while SEO teams craft URLs and meta titles for stories to enhance SEO.

Use this knowledge to your advantage in your consumer media pitching and show how your destination’s stories are worthwhile from an SEO perspective. Show editors that people are hungry for a certain trending topic and make the case for your destination aligning with those trends.

And while you’re at it, adopt the SEO mindset in all communications. Editors receive countless emails and often search keywords in their inboxes to find messages. Include SEO terms to optimize your emails as well, to be sure editors can find your pitch when they want it.

5. Know Who Accepts What

U.S. News doesn’t accept press invites while Nat Geo does without guaranteeing coverage. The Washington Post has strict polling standards and vets data while U.S. News includes rankings from sources like TripAdvisor. The point here? Every publication works differently.

Building on relationships with editors (see #2) and learning about their processes is vital to delivering the right stuff. Make your consumer media pitching more efficient instead of sending press trip invites or research findings to publications who won’t even consider them.

6. Expect Things if You are the News

Editors don’t just follow travel news, of course. Certain publications choose to omit destinations from coverage when they are making news for the wrong reasons. If destinations feature particularly discriminatory or inflammatory legislation or policies, don’t expect these publications to embrace your pitches.

That’s why editors noted that local and diverse voices should cover stories in destinations where less-than flattering news is breaking. Put forth LGBTQ+ voices when anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment or legislation is on the rise in your destination, or promote female leaders and business owners if a destination hampers women’s rights. For you, destinations and publicists, pitching local spokespeople, BIPOC leaders, or representatives from any other impacted community is key if you’re making news for the wrong reasons.

Feeling overwhelmed by the constant changes for consumer media pitching to travel media? DCI has more than 60 years of experience moving with the line. Get in touch with Daniella Middleton at [email protected] to learn more about modernizing your pitching methods.

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Written by

Daniella Middleton