Many tour operators provide free experiences in return for exposure. It’s simple. Every operator wants to reach a wider audience of potential customers and blogs have the online readership to help make this happen, especially as the majority of people these days research their vacations online before booking.
Travel blogs are a better means of investing in the future with their potential to influence the millennial age. Wordstream Report “10 Stats That Will Make you Rethink Marketing to Millennials”, 2016 study reveals that millennials are 24% more likely to be influenced by blogs and social media than advertisers. However, with the majority of bloggers jumping on the “free experience” bandwagon, tour operators are becoming a lot more selective regarding who they give free experiences to.
As marketing and PR manager at Italy tour operator The Roman Guy, when I receive an email from a blogger, there are certain questions that always run through my mind: Does the blog have strong SEO? Does the blog reach our target market? Do the blog have a substantial following on different social media platforms? How many unique visitors does the blog get each month? But there are occasions where these questions are not the be all and end all when responding to a request.
There is a perfect way to ask a tour operator for a free tour and here it is in 4 and a half easy steps.
Step 1 – Know Who You’re Talking to
If you’ve ever been pitched before, then you know how important it is to have someone be personable. A good pitch is sent by someone who does their homework first. Remember, you’re suggesting a partnership, something that both parties will benefit from. i.e Find out who they are and what they need.
When pitching tour operators, it’s important you know:
- The name of the person you’re emailing.
- The company’s character and personality (check out their about us page on their website, social media pages and youtube videos. You can also check a press page to see who they’ve worked with before.)
- What you’re planning on writing about (make sure the topic appeals to the type of audience they want to attract.)
Step 2 – Social Media
The person you’re pitching is most likely either the same person or has a close working relationship with someone in their department who manages social media for the brand. So, “Like”, “Follow”, comment on their posts and get your name known. Take the extra step and even tag the operator in a post, retweet them, regram or share their posts with your own social media following – even just once or twice! It makes huge difference. You’re promoting them before you even work together.
Step 3 – Be Human
When proposing a partnership, it’s almost human instinct to write a formal email (“Dear Sir” etc.) Relax. Remember you’re talking to a human being. Be likeable! Crack a joke. Pay the tour operator a compliment (“I loved your video How to Order Pizza in Rome, you’re definitely the sort of cool company my readers would like to learn about”). Compliments go a long way.
Step 4 – DON’T Step Over the Line but DO Step Over the Line
Think about what you’re requesting. Perhaps you’re offering coverage in one blog post in return for on one of the more expensive tours on their website. Think about what was mentioned in Step 1 – find out what they need too and reach a middle ground in your pitch. Group experiences tend to sell the most and are widely affordable, so that’s most likely what the operator spends their time promoting.
This doesn’t mean you can’t write about a luxury experience, however, as many tour operators pack VIP value into their group tours to make them stand out as being worthwhile. For example, The Roman Guy offers Rome Tours, Vatican Tours and a Colosseum Dungeons Small Group Tour. It’s the same price of a group tour, but your group is limited to maximum 13 people and you get to go behind locked gates and into restricted areas of the Colosseum that the general public and even private Colosseum Tours don’t have access too. VIP without the price tag – who doesn’t want to learn about that.
Also, the more you offer, the more you can get. Writing more than one blog post, live social media updates and tagging during your experience and a short video about your time spent with the tour operator uploaded onto Youtube wins you MEGA brownie points. When you step over the line in this way, you can find yourself getting 2, 3 or even more free experiences – that’s all the sites on your bucket list ticked off in one vacation!
Step 4.5 – Statistics
It’s not 100% necessary, but if you’ve got them, flaunt them. For your own self promotion, hook up your blog to google analytics and create a Media Kit that outlines qualities about your blog traffic. Gender, age, geographic location and how many unique visitors you get per month. You can also include your social media analytics in here (Post reach, likes etc). Think of it as your shop window. Get creative and show off how good you are.