After a great start on the first day of the Travel Bloggers Unite Conference, better know as TBU Rotterdam, all themed ‘INSPIRE’ (morning session – afternoon session), it was not too hard to see that the rest of the days would have more exciting speeches in store for us. The Saturday was themed ‘LEARN’, and boy did we get some great blogging tips!
There were four different tracks to choose from: Content, Business of Travel Blogging, From the Travel Industry and Key Skills. All bloggers got to choose which sessions to attend to match their own learning needs.
I found out I was pretty serious about blogging, as most of the talks I went to seemed to be in the room about business blogging. Hopefully you will see everything I learned helpful too!
How Brooke Rocked It
First up was Brooke Schoenman from Brooke v.s. The World and Her Packing List. I happened to already like her before listening to her story, as I’m part of the Her Packing List Pinterest Team and she gives me tons of traffic & great content, but after her talk I liked her even more. She rocked her first presentation -ever!
Brooke talked about ways that bloggers can look beyond their blogs to create new opportunities for themselves. She used her own blogs and those of others to illustrate that. And illustrated it was, as her slides were literally the most pretty I’ve ever seen in presentations.
The key thought from her talk was that your blog really is a stepping stone to other things. And that you should definitely look for other possibilities when you feel like there is a gap between what you’re currently doing on your blog and what you’d like to be doing, but feel like your blog isn’t the right place for at the moment. She said from own experience that it can be hard to move onto a new blog or other projects, as your first blog might feel like your baby sometimes, but it will free you and make you more focused. If you want to run ads or sponsored posts, that don’t really fit in with your personal style on your blog, a second blog might be the best place to do this.
Brooke took her second blog, Her Packing List, pretty serious too. “It’s a business”, she said and so she treats it like one. She looks for advertisers, hires writing staff and uses stock images to create a professional look. She is constantly looking at what works well for her audience and isn’t afraid to try new things, such as her next move: starting to sell her own products. Another advice was to cut down the amount of blogs you put up on your blog (or to outsource to guest writers), so you can spend the rest of your time promoting your work.
Besides a second blog, there are other ways to get yourself out there. Brooke mentioned writing guest posts, building expertise by starting a themed newsletter, FB Group, Google+ Group or Twitter Chat, gain eyes to your work by using other audiences (for example writing on food websites or magazines about food you’ve tasted on your travels) and to gain income by freelance writing, consulting or working on social media campaigns.
Action Point: Is there a Gap between what you currently do on your blog and what you would like to do? Think about a creative way to start bridging that gap!
How Oliver Sold It
Oliver Gradwell’s talk ‘Sell Yourself – Techniques from a Career in Travel Sales’ was a great way to prepare for the upcoming speed dating session. Here you sit in front of people from PR-companies and tourism boards and basically promote yourself.
The most important though I got out of this session was to ‘stop selling and start giving‘. Oliver means by this that not only is a cooperation between you and a company beneficial for you, but for them too! The best way of selling yourself is to find the need of the other party.
Oliver’s advised strategy was divided into two parts, after which we practiced our pitches on a partner in the room. Scary, but good to think about it seriously!
1) It’s all about you
Do your research and find out what the need of the Tourism Board (for example) is. What do they want? Now be the one to take the action and initiate a conversation.
Call them (Oliver said we shouldn’t hide behind email) and ask in your opening question right away if they’re willing to work with bloggers. (‘Would you be interested in….?’) You can get a no, in which case you won’t lose any more time. Or a yes, and then you can continue to introduce yourself.
2) Features and Benefits
You want to make a connection between the features of your blog and the value it can provide (this depends on the situation) to a company. So Ask yourself: Who are you? What do you write about? What do you do? And find the benefits for the Tourism Board or company.
Now, Oliver said that features have no inherent value on their own. Meaning (at least that’s what I think he meant), these features will only become valuable when you connect it with a certain benefit for someone. The he said that benefits can be both tangible (and measurable) and intangible (like a feeling you get from it). Think about that when you contact someone.
A final remark he made especially struck me, He said: “It doesn’t matter if you have little visitor numbers, especially when you’re in a niche.” That really gave me something to think about as having a strong and focused niche could mean a lot more doors opening!
Action Point: What company/tourism board would you like to work with? Write down what your features are and what the benefits for the other is. Prepare a pitch (and… use it!)
How Sarah Handled It
I had met Sarah and her husband Terry from LiveShareTravel during the opening party in the Maritime Museum and they turned out to be two of the nicest people at the conference. They’ve got a great luxury travel blog (online magazine) and are quite successful at that. Sarah’s talk ‘Is Content Really King’ gave us all the insights about making money from our content.
Sarah’s presentation started with an inventory of blogging skills, covered outlets for skills and content and a way to devise an outline business strategy to make money from content.
According to Sarah, “Just as variety is the spice of life, diversification is the key to success in business”. And she added the so very true “Work for a living. Free does not pay.” She recommended to take your skills and to take them elsewhere, but also to never give your content away for free.
Now, first of all try and think about all the blogging skills you might have. You’d be amazed. We not only write and publish, but we know about SEO, video, podcasting, photography, social media, marketing, translation, PR, community building and management, (web)design, coding, curation…. And how about being an ambassador, being an expert, consulting, strategy, expertise, branding, creativity, research, negotiating, sales? Maybe you can even think of other things.
So as a blogger, you’re a multimedia strategist, sales person and, importantly, business person. Think about whether you are a ‘blogger’, or a ‘publisher’ or ‘writer’. Do you say you have a blog, or an ‘online magazine? (with also a blog on it)? It might make the difference between being an amateur or a pro.
With those skills, there are so many more things to do than just writing a blog.you can sell to print publications, online publications, in-flight magazines, business/special interest magazines, stock libraries (photos/videos), tv channels, companies/tourism boards/DMO’s and directly to the consumer (PDF guide, app, ebook, etc…)
As an example, Sarah spoke about Janice Waugh from Solo Traveler. She wrote a book for newbie travelers, when her site got to over 500 posts. She became a recognized author through that.
Being an author can do multiple things for you: it can position you as an expert in your field, offers other opportunities to market your site, give companies another reason to work with you rather than another blogger, or even provide a platform for speaking engagements. Think back to Brooke’s presentation and remember what she did herself. Build yourself a business portfolio on multiple platforms.
When pitching to travel editors, try and go for unique stories (a strong angle), unusual takes on destinations (something new), transporting readers to a destination (rich, detailed descriptions) and a rich (first person) narrative (with a thread of an idea running through your story).
To appeal to companies, Sarah suggest to put your own voice aside and to consider the company you’re working for. Target a company’s need. What are their challenges? How can you help them overcome them? Research the company and see what they’re producing already. This is a great add-on to Oliver’s presentation too. Pitch the company after researching the right contacts, to get in touch and be professional. Also include links to your work in your pitch. Think about the reason why this company should commission a story from you.
Now when it comes to charging, you have to get it right. And that is not to charge in Indonesian Dalasis. About 0,35 cents for a word is about right, or just use a day rate (recommended), such as $400. Charge like a consultant. Frankie from asthebirdflies.com adds to check the site freelanceswitch,com for their freelancer rate calculator.
Working in a package (text+photo+video) can also make you charge much more. And don’t be afraid to do that. There is usually always a budget for this!
Action Point: Write down for yourself: What are your skills? What is your market? Then Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Who is your competition? Where are opportunities? Look at what you do different and what your USP are (Unique Selling Points)
Again, I hope these blogging tips are useful for you, I know for sure they were for me! I love the idea that I’m not limited to 1 blog and that -with some time management- I can pull off starting a second blog or even my own product. And practicing my pitch made me realize I’m still not as focused as I wish I was. Time to do some good thinking!
You can read all tweets from TBU Rotterdam back under the hashtag #TBURTM
Stay tuned as the final round-up (day 2 afternoon session) will be online soon. In that ‘Adventurous’ Kate and ‘Runaway’ Jane talk more about working with tourism boards and companies. Let me know what your favourite tip was so far!
Read all my posts about TBU Rotterdam 2013:
- Visiting a travel blogging conference as a newbie: TBU Recap
- Why my brain exploded at TBU Rotterdam – Day 1 Morning Sessions
- Why my brain exploded at TBU Rotterdam – Day 1: Budget Travel
- Practical Blogging Tips From TBU Rotterdam – Day 2 (Before Lunch)
- Practical Blogging Tips From TBU Rotterdam – Day 2 (After Lunch)
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