Today’s version of PR places a greater emphasis on looking beyond the traditional media relations campaign, without eliminating it, and developing integrated, forward-thinking communication programs –which often include blogger relations.

The travel and tourism industry has been slow to find its footing when it comes to working with bloggers, but the rapid growth of the Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) conference has provided a forum between bloggers and brand marketers to discuss guidelines for creating successful partnerships.

This year’s TBEX conference, held in June in Colorado, made it apparent that there’s a gap between travel bloggers’ understanding of how PR operates and PR practitioners’ understanding of the business of blogging. After witnessing the panels, I left with insights for both bloggers and PR professionals that may help to close the gap:

For PR executives running blogger campaigns:

• Travel blogging is a business. PR people must develop meaningful partnerships that add value to bloggers’ businesses, while also fulfilling their brands’ communications goals.

• The blogger press trip model has evolved. Find a mutually beneficial partnership opportunity to make the bloggers’ time away from their content calendar worthwhile. Some TBEX panelists suggested paying a fee to use bloggers’ content on the brand’s site after their trip.

• Be true to the brand. It’s less important to partner with the “blogger of the year” with staggering traffic numbers, and more important to find one that shares your brand’s views, has a unique voice and will be passionate about what you’re promoting.

• Invest in bloggers. Working effectively with bloggers has a clear ROI for brands. A blog partnership should be treated as any other brand partnership within the marketing mix with an appropriate budget.

For bloggers who are new to the “brand partnership” game:

• Build your audience. Everything-Everywhere’s Gary Arndt insisted that increasing traffic numbers is secondary to growing an engaged audience. Bloggers should work to create a blog gaining subscribers, comments, and links on Facebook and Twitter to become desirable to brands looking for partnerships.

• Be transparent. Brands want to work with bloggers who are honest about their true reach and can contribute to their business goals. Be transparent about your audience and your guidelines for working with brands when approached.

• Communicate.  The PR industry took a beating at some TBEX panels concerning the blogger/PR gap; but, Nerd’s Eye View’s Pam Mandel acknowledged that PR trips allow her to explore and post about the places she can’t afford to on her own.  At the end of the day, PR professionals are passionate about the destinations, hotels and travel brands they represent and want to share them with bloggers.  By maintaining honest communication throughout the brand partnership, both bloggers and PR professionals can happily reach their business objectives. 

Andrea Skerritt is an account supervisor at M Booth.