Better Blog Writing & Storytelling – The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10]

Better Blog Writing & Storytelling - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10] || The Travel Tester
Have you always wondered how you can turn your blog into a business? Then this series is for you!

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In the past 5 years, I’ve visited over 30 (travel) blogging conferences and workshops. That is hours and hours of inspirational and practical advice that helped me turn blogging from a hobby into a full-time business. In this series, I finally open up my notebook to the world and share the insights that I personally found most valuable with you, so you can use them to hopefully make your own blog bigger and better. 

Today, we’re diving into the topic of writing better and storytelling. Enjoy!

 

BETTER BLOG WRITING & STORYTELLING

 

Better Blog Writing & Storytelling - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10] || The Travel Tester

 

WHY STORIES ARE IMPORTANT

 

Stories are one of the first pieces of information technology

– Joshua Johnson (TBDI Italy – Oct ’13)

 

Stories are important, because we absorb more information in this format. They are part of human culture and have been since the caveman.

– Mark Richards (TBU Nantes – Sep ’14)

 

Stories allow people to make better sense of the world as we can identify with situations we’d never experience otherwise. They provoke emotions, so people are engaged with them.

– Mark Richards (TBU Nantes – Sep ’14)

 

Honoring travel experiences through four acts:
1. The What (writing about the actual experiences)
2. The How (how do we tell stories?)
3. The Who (don’t forget who you write for!)
4. The Why (travel can be trans-formative for travellers, for local communities and local businesses, so what is the real reason for you?)

– Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

The passion for travel gets lost a little when you work in travel, but don’t forget we’re also in the business of experience, inspiration and differentiation

– Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

Story helps to cut through noise, it builds trust and gives depth of impression, it provides transparency.

– Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

Better Blog Writing & Storytelling - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10] || The Travel Tester

 

Show, don’t tell, involve characters, seek emotion, write about crux & conflicts, write multi-dimensional and multi-sensory

– Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

People respond to emotion more than reason.

Abigail King (Traverse Cardiff – Apr ’16)

 

Reason leads to conclusions. Emotion leads to actions.

– Sara Meaney (TBEX Stockholm – Jul ’16)

 

Not only do good stories describe the world and the engagement you have with people, they build our culture, morals, national and personal identities. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

– Joshua Johnson (TBDI Italy – Oct ’13)

 

Stories are the vehicle for values, break through receptivity barriers, transmit data (gives it an ‘emotional language’) and makes it referable. The best stories replicate and can even go viral, because people love to share cool content.

– Joshua Johnson (TBDI Italy – Oct ’13)

 

What I learn about a place illuminates what I learn about myself.

– Don George (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

Better Blog Writing & Storytelling - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10] || The Travel Tester

 

Writing is important for the people around us.

– Joshua Johnson (TBDI Italy – Oct ’13)
 

Stories benefit children from a young age and increases their brain activity.

– Mark Richards (TBU Nantes – Sep ’14)

 

Blogging is two stories in one: the overall story and the episode.

– Mark Richards (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

 

The power of a good story will overcome the quality of the writing.

– Mark Richards (TBU Nantes – Sep ’14)

 

Dealing with travel brands, hotel chains and corporate messages can be creative suicide. The travel industry does not know how to tell authentic stories.

– Joshua Johnson (TBDI Italy – Oct ’13)

 

Tell a story that people can relate to. Hopefully you’ll find brands that relate to your story too.

– Kash Bhattacharya (Traverse Newcastle – Feb ’14)

 

Better Blog Writing & Storytelling - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10] || The Travel Tester

 

WHAT MAKES GOOD STORYTELLING?

 

Once you begin to tell yourself what happened and how you feel about it, you have a story.

– Joshua Johnson (TBDI Italy – Oct ’13)

 

 

A story is all about the history of a person (real or imagined) and the world. Experiences physical and psychic are the raw material for stories.

– Joshua Johnson (TBDI Italy – Oct ’13)

 

Story is a car, the value is the driver.

– Joshua Johnson (TBDI Italy – Oct ’13)

 

Storytelling is NOT a bullet list of sites, activitites, amenities and statistics, it’s NOT a mass distribution of press releases and it’s NOT fiction, making things up.

– Daniel Noll & Audrey Scott (ITB Berlin – Mar ’14)

 

People read about travel to feel something or to learn something that will help them travel.

– Abigail King (Traverse Cardiff – Apr ’16)

 

Know your audience, know who you are writing for (“85% of all my readers are 100% female”)

– Mark Richards (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

What readers really want is practical advice, money saving tips and to ‘get it right’. They only go on a holiday 3 weeks per year and saved up. They want the blogger stopping them from making an mistake.

– Mark Richards (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

 

The 1940’s psychologist Abraham Maslow studied top achievers to chart what makes exceptional people stand apart. He discovered the structure of human needs that seem to follow basic progression.

– Joshua Johnson (TBDI Italy – Oct ’13)

 

Better Blog Writing & Storytelling - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10] || The Travel Tester

Recreational travel is a top-of-the-pyramid activity and people love to broadcast this self actualizing value. It is important to understand your own values as a blogger (as a brand) and to have that build into your personality, expressed in your media and have that resonate with your audience. Which values fit best with your brand?

– Joshua Johnson (TBDI Italy – Oct ’13)

 

Better Blog Writing & Storytelling - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10] || The Travel Tester

 

 

Write about what interests you, don’t try to be the next Lonely Planet.

– Aygelina Brogan & Michael Hodson (TBDI Italy – Oct ’13)

 

Use the “angle and peg” approach. The ‘peg’ is something like the ’10th anniversary of…’ that you can use as a story angle. In a short story, you can add an angle to be punchy and witty.

– David Farley (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

Don’t travel like a local – travel in the company of locals.

– Robert Reid (TBEX Athens – Oct ’14)

 

Storytelling is an account, a telling of an experience. It demonstrates via characters and their changes. It does not need to be long-form.

– Daniel Noll & Audrey Scott (ITB Berlin – Mar ’14)

 

Create characters of people you meet in your life, characters that people want to read about over and over again.

– Mark Richards (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

 

Better Blog Writing & Storytelling - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10] || The Travel Tester

 

 

THE HERO’S JOURNEY

 

In Joseph Campbell’s book ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’, Campbell held that numerous myths from different times and regions share fundamental structures and stages. In short, a hero goes on a journey, encounters fabulous forces and a victory is won. Then the hero comes back from his mysterious adventure with the power to pass this gift/wisdom on his fellow man… The journey is a trans-formative act and the treasure of the journey is of great collective and personal importance.

– Joshua Johnson (TBDI Italy – Oct ’13)

 

Basic set-up of a story: normal world > inciting incident > hero reacts to it > quest > climax.

– Mark Richards (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

Better Blog Writing & Storytelling - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10] || The Travel Tester

Better Blog Writing & Storytelling - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10] || The Travel Tester

 

The hero is the embodiment of your core audience that you seek to reach, your ‘ideal reader’. The mentor is the embodiment of you and your brand. You are not the hero, you are the force that puts the hero in motion and you will empower you audiences to act. The allies are secondary character that aid the mentor and the hero.

– Joshua Johnson (TBDI Italy – Oct ’13)

 

The Hero’s Journey:
1.  Call to Adventure
2. Supernatural Aid
3. Threshold Guardian
4. Threshold
5. Challenges (Helper, Mentor, Temptation)
6. Revelation (Abyss, Death & Rebirth)
7. Transformation
8. Atonement
9. Return
1. Call to Adventure
2. Etc.

– Joshua Johnson (TBDI Italy – Oct ’13)

 

In every story, have a ‘quest’. Go out into the world to explore, learn, find something to make sure the story has a specific angle and stays interesting.

– David Farley (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

Take the trivial from life and turn it into something significant.

– Mark Richards (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

Better Blog Writing & Storytelling - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10] || The Travel Tester

PRACTICAL WRITING TIPS

 

There are four main pillars that should interweave when creating content: 1) audience 2) yourself 3) place 4) the work you create.

– Don George (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

Never ever, ever let an idea escape. Write it down right away.

– Mark Richards (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

 

Your notes are the portal to a place. What did you See, Feel, Think, Taste and Hear?

– Don George (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

The passion points in a place are the stepping stones of a story.

– Don George (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

I dont believe writers block exists. Just sit down and after 25 minutes inspiration will come.

– Mark Richards (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

 

A blog post of 600 words takes about 2-3 minutes to read. This seems to work best. But make sure to fill it with links to provide your reader with even more value.

– Mark Richards (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

 

Better Blog Writing & Storytelling - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10] || The Travel Tester

 

THE PROMISE – Start with a strong headline that is reinforced by the introduction, carried throughout the piece and delivered at the end.

– Abigail King (Traverse Newcastle – Feb ’14)

 

Be clear on the purpose of your post and make sure it fits the promise, then add spice to it.

– Abigail King (Traverse Newcastle – Feb ’14)

 

People love to learn, but you are not Wikipedia, so deliver facts in your own way, or gather them in a fact box at the bottom of your post. Always check your facts!

– Abigail King (Traverse Newcastle – Feb ’14)

 

To keep your narrative tone and still provide practical information, add a fact box to the bottom of the article that covers essential information.

– Carol Driver (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

 

Most people read aloud in their head, as there is a rhythm that pleases us. Usually this is rhythm of 3 (‘yes we can’, ‘education, education, education’, ‘just do it’)

– Abigail King (Traverse Newcastle – Feb ’14)

 

Read your work out loud to hear the music of your writing. Then put the piece away for a while.

– Don George (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

Speech engergizes text and provides local flavour, but you don’t have to include everything someone says. Is it relevant? Does it tie in with your point and promise?

– Abigail King (Traverse Newcastle – Feb ’14)

 

Interview people. Try to set up this interview before you make the trip so you can prepare!

– David Farley (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

In interviews, always start with an open question to make someone at ease. The first 2 minutes is for them, after that you go on to your question without being apologetic. Avoid ‘best of / favourite / top’-questions, instead let people pick 3 things so they don’t just answer with ‘ehhhhhm’.

– Abigail King (Traverse Newcastle – Feb ’14)

 

PLAY GOD – Put someone in the scene, bring inanimate objects to live and mention all the senses. Also make sure to use power words like: death, love, passion, money, power, mother, baby, child, life, living, ghost, free, trust… and YOU.

– Abigail King (Traverse Newcastle – Feb ’14)

 

You are unique, so share your experience and stand out from the crowd. Writing badly hides your voice.

– Abigail King (Traverse Newcastle – Feb ’14)

 

Better Blog Writing & Storytelling - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10] || The Travel Tester

 

People travel for emotional reasons, not for fact checking. What is the theme of your story? What is relatable for readers?

– Abigail King (Traverse Newcastle – Feb ’14)

 

AVOID things such as ‘very unique’, ‘only in Italy’, ‘the best’, complaining too much (always give perspective), national stereotypes and too much slang

– Abigail King (Traverse Newcastle – Feb ’14)

 

At the end of your post, you have to deliver satisfaction, so don’t just stop at the end of the story. Bring your reader back to the real world and echo from the start. End with a teaser, quote or question and a CTA (Call to Action), for example: subscribe, read more, share, buy, join a tour. Make sure to pick just 1 CTA and keep it to the point, again, don’t be apologetic!

– Abigail King (Traverse Newcastle – Feb ’14)

 

Know your point. What do you want your readers to take away? Everything in your story should lead to that point. End with a paragraph that tells the reader: ‘this is what I want you to know’. Focus on emotion at the end.

– Don George (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

Still afraid to write and edit your own work? Then remember: You can always edit bad writing, but you cannot edit a blank page”, so keep trying and improving your writing as you go!

– Abigail King (Traverse Newcastle – Feb ’14)

 

1. BE CLEAR – What is the point of your post? (you should be able to tell this in 5 words or less)
2. CLEAN CLUTTER – Trim out adjectives (he said in a quiet voice v.s. he whispered), eliminate adverbs, banish the passive voice (the ball was kicked by him v.s. he kicked the ball), avoid word repetition
3. BE RUTHLESS – Remove at least 10% of your first draft

– Abigail King (Traverse Cardiff – Apr ’16)

 

Creating Content:
* Create a process
* Think outside the box
* Explore your culture
* Inspire wonder (inspire future)
* Use your phone a lot
* Use apps
* Be innovative, there are always new things
* Announce your values
* Be extremely visual
* Join a team

– Joshua Johnson (TBDI Italy – Oct ’14)

 

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.

– Brooke Schoenman (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

 

Better Blog Writing & Storytelling - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10] || The Travel Tester

Better Blog Writing & Storytelling - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10] || The Travel Tester

 

WRITING STORIES DURING A BLOG TRIP / PRESS TRIP

 

BEFORE THE TRIP:
* research destination
* ask yourself: what excites me about a place?
* ask yourself: what makes me want to go there?
* the passion points in a place are the stepping stones of your story
* what might be grabbing me?
* create a skeletal itinerary / blue print to create a sense of purpose of you being there
* a quest is a nice framework

– Don George (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

DURING THE TRIP:
* what is the story?
* essential characteristics
* what is the secret?
* vacuum up information (brochures, hours of operation, etc.), handy for when you’re writing the story
* record dialogue (phrases, accents, information)
* make notes on the group
* what is the portal to this place (see, taste, feel, hear, smell)
* write down details that reveal something essential about the place
* write down 3 small truths that illuminate the big truth
* gestures, scents, etc. choose one that fits in the story to bring it alive
* what am I learning here?
* what is the story? > cornerstone

– Don George (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

AFTER THE TRIP:
* what did I learn?
* how did I learn that?
* identify and isolate critical stepping stones
* relive your journey through details that bring those steps alive,
* know your point: what do you want your reader to take away?
* everything in your story should lead to the point you’re making
* humor enlives a story
* make fun of yourself, not others
* read work out loud to hear the music of your writing
* then put the piece away
* are you starting with a quote?
* ending of the story: this is what I want you to know – like a pebble in a path
* being vulnerable is important
* what I learn about a place illuminates what I learn about myself
* keep the readers / your audience in mind
* your story doesn’t have to be chronological, but focus on the emotion in the end
* photo engages people in a different way

– Don George (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

When you write a travel story, you’re editing an experience.

– David Farley (TBEX Dublin – Oct ’13)

 

Don’t try to tell the whole story of a destination, instead crystallize moments that were important to you.

– Penny Alexander (WTM London – Nov ’15)

Better Blog Writing & Storytelling - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10] || The Travel Tester

 

EDITORIAL CALENDARS

 

Cover your basics and people will stay on your blog longer, up your game and you will become an authority.

– Carol Driver (TBU Rotterdam – May ’13)

 

Keep a content calendar, so when opportunities arise you can see if it’s priority.

– Erik van Erp (STS Kitzbuehel – Sep ’17)

 

Make your editorial calendar work for you: think strategic and increase traffic/improve SEO, unify your brand voice and tone, sync up social media plans, build marketing strategies and build stronger business relationships.

– Louise Bastock (TBEX Stockholm – Jul ’16)

 

Add recurring events in Google Calendar, or use tools such as Trello, Coschedule, WordPress Editorial Calendar

– Louise Bastock (TBEX Stockholm – Jul ’16)

 

Calendars/Google Calendars: ready-made layout, colour coordinate events, repeat events, easy to share, limited design, need gmail for added functionality.

– Louise Bastock (TBEX Stockholm – Jul ’16)

 

Spreadsheets/Google Sheets: flexible design, colour coding, multiple tabs, google sheets are easy to share

– Louise Bastock (TBEX Stockholm – Jul ’16)

 

Lock down the definites (holiday plans, networking/PR events, public holidays, important events/anniversaries, campaign/ebook launches) – then brainstorm content ideas from those events.

– Louise Bastock (TBEX Stockholm – Jul ’16)

 

Better Blog Writing & Storytelling - The Best Insights from Travel Blogging Conferences in the Last 5 Years! [8/10] || The Travel Tester

 

 

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I hope you read something interesting that you can turn into an action step for your own blogging business. Let me know what your favourite insight was!

 

 

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