After an year of blogging and tons of achievements and failures, I decided to share some ‘gyaan‘ with all of you. I know many of my readers are budding bloggers or want the freedom to travel the world and work remotely. That’s the very reason I wanted to share this whirlwind story of my first press trip with you – to help you manifest your dreams and not allow failures to get in the way.
Table of Content
- The Story of My First Press Trip – How it Happened and Why I could NOT Make it
- Who Else Wants to Land a Fully paid Press Trip?
The Story of My First Press Trip – How it Happened and Why I could NOT Make it
Press trips for travel writers are fairly common but when I first started my blog, I had no idea I could get on one so quickly. I was thinking it takes years of hard work and slogging on my laptop to achieve any substantial goals for my blog. (This does not mean I wasn’t working hard, I was putting in 10-15 hours a day since day 1.) Everything changed when I got this email in my inbox –
“Congratulations! We are pleased to confirm that you have been selected to participate in special „Familiarization trip“ to Bosnia and Herzegovina, which will take place from Friday, 3rd to Sunday, 12th of June 2016.”
I had applied over a month ago via a simple google doc form which was shared on “We Travel We Blog” Facebook group. Ofcourse I wasn’t even expecting to hear back considering the sheer number of bloggers who had applied. However, if you see an opportunity, never pass it up without giving it a go – Surely thats 2 mins extra off your Fb time but isn’t it worth it? The more jobs/opportunities you apply for, the better the chances of bagging one!
Tip – I would totally recommend you all to join WTWB fb group as the awesome admin Meg Jerrard of MappingMegan shares amazing opportunities there from time to time. She is also a real inspiration to my blogging goals and monetization journey.
When I saw that email in my inbox, I was shocked. I wasn’t even sure if it was for real. After verifying the authenticity of the email through experienced bloggers and Facebook communities, I did a little happy dance in my room and googled Bosnia to learn more about the destination.
Till date, it has been my most exciting blogging moment mainly because I wasn’t expecting any sort of success with the blog so early (Since then I have been offered 6 press trips in the span of 6 months). Like they say, you always remember your first love – you will always remember your first invitation to a full paid media trip, I promise ya!
Anyways so next step was to call up Bosnia embassy in Delhi to check visa requirements. There was a lot of paperwork involved but I was determined to do it. I even called up the coordinating agents in Bosnia for a ‘letter of invitation’ to process my visa application quickly. It turned out there was no way I could get a visa within a week (yes it was very short notice – just a week).
That’s when I had to write the most difficult email of my blogging career and politely reject their offer due to visa issues. After that, I was really bummed for a long time – even more so when I saw the pictures of bloggers who were on the trip and it looked like they had a blast. It was a fun filled adventure trip which is exactly the kind of travels I enjoy the most. I kept convincing myself to believe there will be more opportunities but deep down I was just scared. I had self doubts and started thinking I just got lucky somehow with Bosnia and I will never get another chance like this ever. So this rosy moment of pride turned to into depression.
It was very difficult to pull myself out of it and get rid of the nagging fear of failure. I had no idea how a terrific success turned out sour so quickly and my emotions were a roller coaster. At that time, my closest blogging friend – Natasha from LiveLearnVenture, convinced me there will be more opportunities and I need to let go and move on. I am always grateful to her for the constant encouragement, cheerful attitude and support throughout my blogging journey. Now, I have two more pillars of support – Kerri from Beer&Croissants and Sarah of TalesFromaFork to encourage, inspire and keep me focused through the #wins and #fails.
Its a good thing I shook off the depression and did not let this minor drawback pull me down for good because that’s when the “Trip of Wonders” happened. I got invited to a media trip to Indonesia which was simply ‘out-of-the-world’ epic! I wrote about my top experiences from this spectacular 12 days press trip to Indonesia here –
Who Else Wants to Land a Fully paid Press Trip?
In the past one year, I have learnt a lot and I have decided it’s time to spill the beans and share the knowledge. I am not an expert travel blogger, far from it in fact, but I am happy to share what has worked for me and this can help you not just in getting on a press trip but also growing and monetizing your blog (or whatever your blogging goals are).
Join Communities and Engage
This would be my number one advice to anyone who is starting out as a travel blogger. Join as many communities like Facebook blogging groups, discussion groups related to your niche and even social media or support groups. I found out that Facebook groups have been my ‘go-to’ source for tips, seeking advice and networking with fellow bloggers. In fact, that’s exactly how I met my wonderful blogging buds from around the world,without whom, I can’t even imagine getting this far.
Tip – Please don’t join groups just to promote your blog. Few groups will allow you to promote your best posts once a week but on other days, try to engage with other group members. Help them out if you can, congratulate them on their blogging wins, listen to their rants and pull them up if they are feeling dejection – be a “part” of the community and not just keep it as a source for your own personal gains. It is never going to help otherwise in fact you can be blacklisted as a spammer if you only have self serving goals rather than growing together.
Be Professional from Day One
Being professional does not mean you have to spend an arm and a leg on web design or dedicated hosting (By all means, if you have the money, go for it).
Till date, I am using a free WordPress theme but I will be darned if someone calls it amateur. With a little personalization and branding you can come off as a authority in your niche right off the bat.
I started my blog with just $10 and if you are not willing to invest that much even in a hobby (let alone a business), you know you aren’t serious about it!
My first and most important advice to any new blogger is – get rid of the free wordpress/weebly domains and “always” self host. I work as a blogger outreach expert and this is the #1 thing which brands detest. They will reject your blog for any campaigns if you are not self hosted. Period.
So in order to save a few dollars per month, you lose out on thousands of dollars worth of opportunities down the line – Think about it, isn’t it worth investing in hosting? I use shared web hosting (not dedicated) and it is more than sufficient for the amount of traffic I get. I would highly recommend taking the leap from WordPress and move to self hosted blog for just $3.95/ month. My top choice is BlueHost for beginners as they have reliable hosting with easy to use cpanel, great support and tutorials to hand hold you through the process.
Next, its important to personalize. You can either use Canva (Free graphic design software) to design a simple header and logo or if you are lazy, like me, buy them for $5 off Fiverr. If you add 2 bucks for a domain that’s it – you have a semi-professional looking blog at just around $10 to start with.
Have a support group
It is so important to have a blogging support group as these are the people who understand this shit. You can talk all you want to your real life friends and well wishers but they can only help to an extent. I knew I was obsessed with my travel blog since the very first week and wanted to connect with like minded motivated people to share ideas and grow together. That’s how our tiny support group cropped up and it has been my single most important factor for the blog’s success so far.
You might not have time to write everyday but fix a schedule and stick to it. It has been very hard for me to keep up my twice a week posting (Especially because I won’t post crap just for the heck of it!). But, I kept at it! Even when I am traveling, I make it a post to schedule posts. Few top bloggers post 4-6 times a week or even few times a day. I knew I would never be able to keep up to that pace so I fixed my calendar based on my capacities, which is perfectly okay.
Later on, through my outreach process I learnt many brands will seek out bloggers who post regularly and consistently. This is also very important for your followers and factors in to your overall blog growth. My organic traffic has been going up since I started and posting regularly on my blog gives me that many more chances to rank , even when I am not trying to.
Grow your blog
Work on constantly enhancing your knowledge and growing your blog. I read a lot of books, forums and Facebook group posts to increase my knowledge and stay up to date about the ever changing digital marketing world. I invest in my blog by buying courses, ebooks and social media scheduling tools – all to save time, grow and monetize eventually.
Tip – I would highly recommend buying this epic guide on growing your blog traffic from 17k to 400k page views in 10 months or check out this FREE traffic guide first and get your feet wet 🙂
Traffic has been one of the main blogging challenges for me, so I decided to invest small $$ in order to grow and earn big $$$$ down the line. I would say it was a great investment and I already have two pages of notes and strategies to work on. After implementing just few things and making minor changes, I am seeing my traffic grow 3x in just a week. I am waiting to see if this holds but if I can put in the hours, it is definitely going to work. The ebook is geared towards newbies and if you are just starting out, this guide can help you set a solid foundation for massive traffic potential down the line.
Another site which has helped me grow my blog traffic lately is Flipboard so I would recommend you to get started with flipping and read my detailed guide to driving hoards of Flipboard traffic back to your blog.
When you are ready – Pitch
Being ready means different things for different people. Some feel they need xxx,xxx followers or pageviews before they pitch, few might start in their first few months. There is no sure shot formula and no minimum requirements. You will just know when you are ready, trust me on that.
Once you are confident and geared up, prepare a professional media kit (I got mine done from Sarah here). She will send you a file which you can edit as your stats change and tweak as needed but the simple, stylish design helps you attract brands. I still use this media kit and my clients seem to love it – I would think so as I have worked with over 40 brands already and I always send in my simple kit across before we discuss further.
Next, send out those pitches. It is always hard to click send on your first pitch but do it – How will brands and advertisers find you in millions of blogs in the never-ending blogosphere? Easy – you tell them. Now this does not mean you will send out hundreds of pitches a day. Be selective. Approach brands which gel with your blog image and send a soft pitch asking them if they would be keen on a collaboration. This simple one line has been extremely effective for me. I never send out a detailed pitch before gauging interest levels.
If you are wondering how to find brands to pitch to for press trips? Well its easy. Some common search terms to put in Google to help you get stared – FAM trip for bloggers 2017, Press trips 2017, Press trips for bloggers, Familirization trips, FAM tours 2017 and so on, I think you get the drift. Apart from boards/brands actively looking for bloggers, you can cold pitch to brands “you” love and think you might enjoy working with.
Know Your Worth and your Audience
The first rule of pitching to a tourism board, travel agency, DMO or even a hotel is to know your worth. DO NOT think of it as a “Free” stay/tour. Blogging is a lot of work. You have worked hard to grow your blog so when you try to reap the benefits, don’t undervalue (or overvalue) yourself.
Pitch according to what you gauge your influence is worth. I knew I was influential when my post about top bars in Bandung started driving “real” visitors to the bars and everyone followed the “wander with jo pub hopping circuit”, I could hardly believe it. Knowing that, I wouldn’t want to undersell myself as I believe in my audience and know my worth. So for example, if I feel a promotional article and social exposure on my blog is worth $500, I will pitch accordingly – if its a hotel priced at $100 a night, I would hope to get a couple of nights plus all meals and/or a spa session (This is just a hypothetical example to gauge your worth and pitch based on that).
It is extremely important to know your audience well so if you have a budget backpacker blog, you should pitch to homestays, guest houses and hostels rather than 5 star properties or luxury villas – Not only will they not respond at all, this might hamper your brand in the long run.
When you Get an Opportunity – Put Your Best Foot Forward
I have been big on over delivering since the first collaboration. You need to “woo” the brands you work with and show them you have put in genuine efforts. This will not only get other brands interested in working with you, but even those who have worked with you in the past will be happy to recommend others or if its a hotel chain, you can practically work with them in any associated countries.
Sadly, I have seen many crappy property reviews online by other bloggers and it just looks like they clicked few pictures and slapped across a short review – just to get it “over” with. Remember, whatever goes on your blog is a representation of your brand, why would you want anything sub par there? Show brands your best side and that it was worth investing in you. For hotels also, there are costs involved in hosting you – Like there’s nothing as a “Free” stay for you, its the same for hotels/agencies – everyone seeks ROI. Put your best foot forward and make the blogging community proud.
Take loads of quality pictures of the property/food/tour (whatever your are reviewing) as well as yourself enjoying those activities (this adds personalization and your readers can resonate). Ask questions from the property manager/PR and make sure to include everything in a jam packed in-depth guide.
To give you an example, last year I worked with Ascott group to review the classy Metropole Hotel in Bangkok, after a few months the marketing manager wrote to me saying that was the best review they had every received for their property till date – and they have had several bloggers review them. That speaks volumes and it makes all the hard work worth it – just a compliment from a fellow blogger or PR can really make your day. Now, I don’t hesitate to reach out to Ascott whenever I am in a country/city where they have properties, as I feel they would be more than happy to accommodate me.
That being said, you don’t have to be all goody two shoes if you had a bad experience. It is very important to clear this upfront that you will be posting an honest review of your experience on your blog. After all, you must be loyal to your readers if they look up to you for recommendations. I have had few minor drawbacks and I mentioned them in person to the PR/marketing manager and later wrote them under “cons” in my review as well. None of the brands felt offended or asked me to remove them as it is true and being fair is just part of writing a review, isn’t it?
These were just few of the many things that helped me reach my first year goals with the blog.
So are you a new blogger or yet to get your first press trip? Ask me any questions through the contact page or in comments below and I will be happy to help you out. Don’t forget to sign up for more tips on successful travel blogging or just for some travel inspiration and destination guides.
Disclaimer – This post contains affiliate links and if you use them, there’s no extra charge to you but it might add to my travel kitty. This would in turn help me bring more success stories, tips and destination guides your way!