The world of travel writers, journalists and travel bloggers is ever-changing. So how do public relations & media relations experts in the travel industry deal with them?
Speaking at the 15th Conference on LGBT Tourism and Hospitality at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, I addressed this issue. The video here -- and the text below -- is the fourth and final installment of my presentation, specifically about how to measure the value of press coverage -- and how travel organizations can add value by capitalizing on the coverage they receive and do a few things themselves.
So what's it all worth? How do you measure the value of editorial coverage you get in a magazine, newspaper, website or blog?
Buying an ad is easier to figure out. You pay a set amount and you get an ad, and you can measure the response from there.
When it comes to media coverage, the process of measuring the return on investment can be a bit murkier. But that, of course, is not a reason to ignore the opportunities that media coverage presents.
The Value of Traditional Media Coverage
In traditional media, many people use something called Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE). That means that you can measure the amount of space dedicated to your organization or destination in the publication or on the Website, and then compare that to how much you'd pay for an advertisement of the same size.
But a lot of people say this doesn't quite make sense. Advertising and public relations are two very different things. People respond very differently to advertising compared to editorial coverage. So you can feel free to check out ad rate cards and use that as a point of reference, but don't expect it to be a foolproof measurement.
The Value of Coverage in Social Media and Blogs
Using AVE is even more difficult with blog posts and social media.
Instead you'll want to monitor traffic to your own website. Google Analytics can help you do this.
You can also use tools like GroupHigh, which has created blogger intelligence software that helps you identify influential blogs, automate research and measure engagement. You can use their tracking feature to see how many times a specific blog post has been liked, shared and tweeted.
Regardless of whether it's a blog or the website of a more traditional media outlet, you can add value yourself, by sharing, liking and tweeting the coverage you get. This is a very important thing that I find a lot of travel and tourism folks forget about. You've invited us as writers, we've created the content, you wait for the coverage to come out, but then you don't do anything with it yourself.
Sharing a journalist's content about your product, destination or service brings added value to your own social media strategy, by infusing it with more credibility since it's coming from a third party. You can even ask for permission to include the writer's coverage on your own website, complete with a link back to their site. This helps everyone -- and it essentially gives you fresh, noteworthy new content to promote yourself with.
So what are you waiting for? Share those articles! Tweet and retweet! "Like" those posts and photos! It's in your own best interest.
Custom Content and Sponsored Posts
Another option to consider when it comes to coverage is sponsored posts, which are also called custom content or native advertising. You might also call it an advertorial.
In addition to my journalistic travel writing, I've also been writing and managing custom content for travel industry clients since 1994. That's way before people were using the Internet, of course, so at first I was only writing and putting together special supplements and advertorial articles that ran in publications like Travel Weekly, TravelAge West and Meetings & Conventions.
I still do that and I still work with those media outlets (among others), but I also increasingly put together web-only sponsored content and posts. I even write and moderate webinars that help to promote specific travel industry clients. This content runs on the websites of traditional trade media, and it also runs on the travel site I manage, LatinFlyer.com.
You can weigh a variety of options when it comes to custom content -- and the world of blogs has made it increasingly easy to find cost-effective ways to reach highly targeted audiences. Some custom content is pure promotion, and it focuses solely on the advertiser's product or service. Other content prominently features the advertiser, as part of a more general story -- which can often attract more attention, since it's more likely to appeal to the public. Whichever you choose, you should work closely with your media partner to create the content that best serves your needs.
Quality versus Quantity
Editorial and blog coverage isn't just about hard numbers. It's an ever-changing formula of weighing quality and quantity, targeting the right audience and working successfully with writers and editors.
Here's what Karla Visconti, director of corporate communications for the Caribbean and Latin America at Hilton Worldwide, says:
"We recognize the inherent value that blogs and social media represent today. We look at the quality of content, combined with the overall social media following and engagement. Social media is very important and has to be part of the strategy. I don't think you can choose based on one area alone; I prefer a combination of quality and quantity."
Veronica Villegas, senior account executive and International Director at Cheryl Andrews Marketing Communications in Coral Gables, Florida, uses a variety of tools to measure effectiveness:
"There are some measuring tools that are available to PR folks such as compete.com and Klout. You also have to do your research on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. It's not just about the number of followers one has, but the level of engagement/interaction one is able to generate. In order to quantify this, we look at the number of shares or comments that a particular article/post garners, not just the amount of likes or views/followers the page has."
So we're back again to the idea of quality versus quantity. As Veronica says it:
"You can have millions of followers and no engagement. That is not valuable. It's valuable when you can start a conversation and generate interest. Having a following is also important, but the quality is certainly more significant."