Increase the visibility of your travel agency and of the profession in general by getting to know relevant media sources. // © 2013 Thinkstock
Experiential travel may describe the way travelers today like to travel. But actively participating, rather than passively watching, is not new when it comes to effectively engaging with and learning new information.
During the ASTA Global Convention in Miami, ASTA’s Young Professionals Society dedicated a session to teaching skills identified as important for travel agents.
Recognizing the need for better visibility of travel agents in the general public, YPS brought in Lynne Farber, a professor of marketing and public relations at Florida International University to teach the young agents the basics of dealing with the press.
Following are Lynne Farber’s tips for travel agents aiming to increase visibility for themselves, their agencies and the profession in general.
Best practices for developing good relationships with the press:
- Create a media list. Every organization needs a media contact list and agents/agencies can possibly share this with each other. Ensure that the list is continuously updated to account for staff changes.
- If a journalist contacts you for information, respond quickly and accurately because they have contacted other people as well.
- Someone at your agency needs to be the designated media or public relations person in order to keep messaging consistent.
How to get to know journalists: Farber stated that her good relationship with journalists “kept them from eating me for breakfast when there was a crisis.”
- She added that “you have to be your first client,” so sell your expertise and your value to the journalist.
- Make a note of how they like to be contacted for future engagements.
- Introductions can be casual.
Best practices for writing pitches: “It is extremely important to sort out what is news,” said Farber. “Will it affect a large group of people?”
- If your news is special, pitch a major story to one source as an exclusive.
- If your news is more routine, such as an announcement of a promotion or an event, write up the ‘who, what, when, where and why’ into a press release. Keep releases pithy and short.
- If you’re going to write anything for the media, use the Associated Press style.
- Always include contact information in your press release, for the media as well as the public.
- Write press releases in the inverted pyramid style, with the best information at the top.
- Figure out which media outlets are pertinent to you. Is your message better for a local newspaper, a trade outlet or perhaps a national consumer publication?
Track and Analyze
- Social media is a great tool, but be sure to analyze and quantify engagement.
- Always ask new clients how they heard about you, and track that.
- Know what people are saying about you online by setting up Google Alerts.
Be Prepared for Press
- Recognize that once you release a press release, it is uncontrolled information. You don’t know what will be done with your information.
- Strategize: ask for an approximation of when the story will be published and then look out for it in case you need to do damage control or deal with the positive consequences of increased traffic.
- Keep your expectations at bay: It may run or it may not. You have no control over that.
- With social media, your news can morph and change very easily so be careful. For instance, tweets and Facebook posts can be taken out of context, and your news may be abridged or rewritten.
Working With the Press: What Not To Do
- Don’t skimp on details: you don’t want anything reported that is incorrect
- Don’t put out content that is not interesting
- Don’t promise something you cannot deliver
- Don’t say ‘no comment’
- Don’t pitch to the wrong media