HOW TO PITCH TO BRANDS AS A TRAVEL BLOGGER OR INFLUENCER
If we compare pitching a partnership to a pair of jeans, then you already know that when it comes to pitching yourself, there is no “One Size Fits All.” Even if there are sizes you can squeeze into, there is nothing better than a custom pair of pants – that are made especially for you.
So if you’re sending out the same generic email and media kit to everyone you want to work with – we’re begging you to stop. We’re not suggesting that you spend hours creating completely custom materials for every single pitch (because that would be a total time suck) but they should absolutely “speak” to who you’re pitching too.
The key to pitching is not really about what YOU want…it’s understanding what THEY want (brand, destination, tourism board) and being able to demonstrate how you will be able to make it happen for them.
Let’s start from the beginning…
Working With Brands: How to Reach Out to them.
If you’re on the hunt to work with travel brands, getting to the right person is half the battle. Yes, you may strike gold with a generic email address you find on their website but there is nothing like your pitch landing in the decision maker’s inbox right away.
While we don’t have psychic powers to help you find the brand’s direct contact in a split second, we do have some creative, “out of the box,” ideas to get you started:
1. Ask a fellow friend / influencer buddy for an introduction.
If you’re in any Facebook groups, comment pods or even have formed relationships with others on social media and have noticed them working with a brand you would like to approach – ask them if they’d be willing to make the intro. Then of course, make sure to thank them and pay it forward when you work with a new brand down the road. Remember, no one likes a mooch.
2. Sign up for SocialRank.
SocialRank is a great tool that lets you analyze your followers. What if a travel brand is already following you and you had no idea? It allows you to pitch to warm leads versus cold ones. We highly recommend this tool!
3. LinkedIn is your friend.
LinkedIn is where you may be able to find the exact name of the person working with your target brand, tourism board, hotel, etc. Once you get their name, you can play around and try to figure out their exact email address. For example – if on the brand website it lists a company email as:
NZadeh@brand.com – now you know that the company’s emails are most likely firstname.lastname@example.org. (We know, Nancy Drew would be proud!)
4. Pick up the phone and ask.
We know this is a totally obvious idea but it’s definitely not done enough. When you call, be prepared to be transferred directly to the person you’re looking to speak with because the company may just put you on the spot.
5. Industry events.
There are so many travel conferences and trade shows around the world where travel brand representatives go to mix and mingle so these events may be a great place to meet contacts in real life. There is nothing like that human connection and hitting it off with someone, right?! For example, at the New York Times Travel Show, tourism boards from all over the world come together in one room. How’s that for being productive! Note to self: BRING CARDS.
How to Pitch and Land Brand Partners.
Now that you have found your direct contact, the next step to seducing a prospective client or brand partner is doing your homework. If we use a tourism board as an example, you can easily visit the country’s website and see what exactly they are promoting and how that relates to your personal brand. Basically, you need to figure out how you can you help them promote their key messages and incorporate that into your pitch.
It’s like when you’re interviewing for a job and they ask, “why should I hire you” or “why would you be the best for the job?”
Pitching yourself to a brand, destination or tourism board is no different. Ultimately, it’s all about perfecting the pitch and convincing them why they should choose to work with you over anyone else!
Here’s an example of how to perfect your pitch:
Let’s take the Islands of the Bahamas as the target brand/destination for this example.
When you scroll half way through the tourism board’s website, you’ll see 6 big “buckets.” This leads us to believe that these topics are the country’s designated key messages/niches.
Photo courtesy of the www.bahamas.com.
As you can see, they are:
- Kids & Family
- Local Culture
You now know that the Bahamas promotes these 6 categories and you can highlight a certain topic (or more) in your pitch to them. This means including a special slide in your media kit or even mentioning the topics in your email.
Of course, don’t feel like you need to cover all topics listed. A lot of the time, PR professionals just need you to focus on one thing and do it well. So sometimes it may be better to show multiple examples of one niche (especially if you’re a beginner) instead of spreading yourself thin.
If this information isn’t readily available on the destination’s website then another idea is to call or email the PR agency on record and ask them directly for some of the key messages or categories the country actively promotes.
And if they can provide a fact sheet, even better! Once you have that information, you can really tweak your media kit and pitch to speak directly to what they are looking to achieve.
Just FYI, most countries hire Public Relations firms or professionals to handle their PR efforts so sometimes these agencies hold the keys to the castle, not necessarily the tourism board staff themselves. Also, tourism boards often have a PR firm per region. So for example, one PR firm could handle all of North American media (which includes bloggers) where as an agency in Europe can handle a totally different region of the world.
So if you’re Italian and speaking to the American PR agency and you don’t get selected for a press trip it may be because you’re not talking to the right person, not because you’re not good enough. Make sure to always ask which areas the agency represents and if they don’t cover your location, to please refer you to the agency that represents the specific geographical area where you are based.
Also, it’s good to keep in mind that sometimes landing a partnership means there was some luck involved. For example, let’s say that Tourism Board X is targeting the American cities of Houston, NYC, Chicago and San Francisco. If you are coming from one of these specific destinations then you may have more luck getting through because you’re based in the tourism board’s “target market.”
Tip: Make a note to ask the tourism board or PR firm you get in touch with if the city you are based in is a “feeder market” to their country.
Don’t forget to customize your pitch!
We totally understand that creating an epic media kit can take A LOT of time. We suggest putting in the upfront work to make an evergreen media kit with standard slides that include all the general information that any brand, destination or tourism board would want to know about you. We also think it’s a good idea to create another set of themed slides that you can add to your deck depending on who you are pitching to (i.e. hotel vs travel brand vs tourism board).
For example, if you are pitching to a hotel in Hawaii, it would be a great idea to include examples of your work in tropical destinations rather than in cold climates. On the other hand, if you are pitching to a hotel in Iceland, it would be better to have examples of your work in colder climates than pictures of you on the beach. Making sure your pitching materials “speak” to the client’s destination or goals is a great way to help them envision what you can do for their product/service/destination.
It’s a good idea to think of your media kit as a resume and your initial email pitch as a cover letter. The more you make your pitching materials tailored to the “company and position available,” the better chances you have of getting the job. Same goes for partnerships, press trips and collaborations.
How to Email Pitch To Brands As a Blogger.
It’s important to remember that when you’re pitching via email your media kit isn’t everything. Why? Because just like you, tons of emails come through the brand or PR representatives inbox daily so you have to make sure they open your email in the first place.
There are some simple things to think about when getting your pitching materials together (that most people don’t think are as big of a deal as they are) so let’s go over them quickly:
- Email Subject Line: Out of a sea of emails, what is going to get someone to open yours?
- Email Content: Ok you’re in, now what are you going to include in your email to make the reader want to learn more about you?
- Media Kit: Woo hoo, final step – what do you have in your media kit that will set you apart from the crowd and entice the decision maker to want to work with you over someone else with the same if not similar credentials and skillset?
As you can see, just drafting a generic email and pressing send isn’t all that it takes to land a partnership- there is a lot of strategy involved when it comes to email pitching.
We also believe that sometimes it’s a good idea to “court” a contact, rather than asking for something right away (especially if you’re just starting out). It may be in your best interest to think long term and work on developing relationships instead of jumping the gun.
For example, if you send a generic trip request to a PR agency you may not hear from them again, especially if they are not looking for someone that fits your credentials at that time. Since PR professionals get so many emails daily things can get lost in the shuffle, especially if they receive a cold email with a generic message from someone they’ve never heard of or spoken with before.
On the other hand, if you were to email a PR company asking a few questions about their client’s key messages and took the time to draft a post that talks about the client (even if you haven’t been to the destination or country) then the PR professional would know that you’ve put in a good faith effort to start a working relationship and your chance of a future partnership is that much better.
PR professionals and brands want to see that you’ve done your homework. The more tailored your approach is, the less work for the person/agency organizing the partnership (which is always a win)!
Of course, we’re not saying this approach will work for all brands or PR reps, but if you think about it logically, if you do something for someone for free (for example, creating content without asking for compensation) you’re opening the door of conversation that isn’t just one-sided.
Besides, you’re the one in need of something, doesn’t it make sense that you start off by offering something first?
Let’s go back to our Bahamas tourism board example and to really demonstrate this point, play a little game! Which statement do you think will open the door of conversation- if you were on the brand side:
Option 1. Hi, I’m X and I’m based in Los Angeles. I have 115,000 followers on Instagram and a great engagement rate. I would love to be included as part of your press trip as I have worked with many brands. Attached you will find my media kit. Thanks!
Option 2. Hi, my name is X and I am drafting a blog post on the Bahamas. I noticed adventure is one of your key messages. Do you happen to have a press release or fact sheet on adventure in the country? I would love to include it in an upcoming article I am drafting on adventure in the Caribbean. Thanks!
If you chose Option 2 – you are right! This is what we call thinking “long term” and opening the door of conversation. If you’re expecting a response from someone, Option 2 is the way to go. Otherwise your email just may end up lost in all the other influencer emails they receive daily.
Also, if you’re able to email with the direct contact (let’s call her “Natalie”) about something not related to you wanting something from her – money, free products, free trips – this may lead to other opportunities and be clutch for your future pitching efforts.
Then, once you publish the article on adventure in the Caribbean (which included the Bahamas) you can send it back to Natalie, thanking her for the information. She’ll most likely write you back – thanking YOU for sending it over and now you’ve received some more time chatting with her.
This is where you can follow her on Instagram, perhaps connect on LinkedIn, and engage with her to stay top of mind. Then when you want to email Natalie in the future (regarding a press trip) you now have a rapport with with her which can increase your chances of getting selected. This is how you can turn a relationship from COLD to WARM.
In order to work with brands as a blogger, you need to know what THEY want.
Another thing to consider when pitching is knowing and understanding the goals a client is looking to achieve. Even if they are giving you a free trip, it’s money they are spending on you so of course they are seeking something in return to meet their business goals and objectives.
We’ve broken out the majority of clients’ goals into three main categories to help you better understand where they are coming from:
1. Content Creation.
When it comes to creating quality content, it doesn’t matter how many followers you have, your work speaks for itself. Some of the most insanely talented content creators we know don’t have huge followings, but are true visionaries and creators. When a brand is looking to create content, it means they could want video, photos, graphics, gifs etc. of their product, service and/or destination. Most of the time, they want this type of content to use on their social accounts and/or in their marketing efforts.
2. Brand awareness.
If you don’t have a huge social influence (that is authentic), this category is most likely not for you. In order to truly help a company or destination reach its brand awareness goals, you must have a large reach and influence. Of course, you can supplement content creation with brand awareness (posting and mentioning them) – but if their goal is to get what we call “eyeballs” and increase their brand awareness, then it’s best that you only apply for partnerships with the goal of brand awareness if you can truly deliver.
3. Driving purchases.
It doesn’t matter if you have 1 million followers or 1000 followers, the ability to drive purchases depends on the quality of your follower base and how influential you really are. As we discussed in the article “How To Tell If You’re Ready To Earn Money On Instagram“ the theory of “1000 true fans” really puts things in perspective. “True fans” and in your case “true followers” are those that will take every recommendation you have, buy anything you promote (or at least click and reshare) and will go above and beyond to support you. They are loyal to the bone. The more proof you have of your ability to drive purchases, the better!
To wrap things up here, let’s briefly go over what you can do to improve your chances of landing a partnership.
Step One: Find the exact person you need to speak to so you can pitch to them directly. Consider creative ways to find that contact and remember, if you’re speaking to a PR agency make sure they cover the geographical area in which you are based.
Step Two: Figure out a brand or tourism board’s “key messages” to create a custom pitch. When it comes to tourism boards, common key messages and niches include:
- Weddings & Honeymoons
Of course, you should do your homework and find out exactly what they are looking to promote so you can demonstrate how you will be able to help them achieve their goal(s).
Step Three: Understand the brand or destination’s business goals and objectives. Just like understanding key messages, if you understand the business goals of the client you can pitch your services in a way that makes sense for them, not you. For example, if you know they need photos for their social media pages (normally just by looking at a client’s website or social pages you can tell if they hire professionals or not) – you can reach out and position yourself as a content creator and start landing partnerships this way (even with a smaller following).
To successfully pitch your services you need to know what brands and destinations are looking for – no one wants to pay for something they don’t need or want. All successful relationships (even brand partnerships) are not one-sided so get to really know your audience and up your chances of sealing the deal!