I got an interesting email yesterday. I really appreciated the honesty of it. And, clearly John who sent me the email 'get's what he is trying to do - that's demonstrated by the way that he includes some pertinent information about his business rather than just asking me 'how do you do it'?

I thought that rather than just replying with a few suggestions I'd share it here on Travelblather and see what other people think. Is it possible to get mentions independently these days despite the stranglehold of PR?

This is not a request for you to review or publish an article about our holiday business, but a request. Would you mind just briefly explaining how we can be mentioned or recommended either printed or online with national newspapers or magazines?

We send press releases but never have anything published, how do we break in?

What is galling is that guests have stayed with us and said how much better we are than some of our  competitors who are always recommended. (No I don’t think they are just being polite).

Brief details about us: We are a small, family business based in the Lot and Dordogne region of France, offering cycling, walking and wine-tasting holidays. Our unique selling point is that customers stay at our very comfortable country home for the whole of their stay and enjoy gourmet-standard food and wine throughout their holiday. There is no need to pack a suitcase every day and move on to a new base – guests arrive and settle in to their light and airy en-suite room for the week and know that they will be returning to comfort and calm and enjoying a 4-course menu every evening. We are passionate about food and wine and we try to source all our ingredients locally, from markets, farms and vineyards, as well as our own garden and chickens, so guests get to experience the real taste of the terroir and French regional cuisine at its seasonal best.

We have received a great deal of positive feedback from guests which appears on our websites at  www.lotcyclingholidays.com and www.winetoursfrance.net

How DO smaller tour companies who can't afford to pay a PR agency get mentions in national newspapers and magazines?

25 thoughts on “How do you get mentions in travel features?

  1. Interesting question. We discussed something similar on SmallFishBigOcean a while back. Advice (see comment 3 on the link below) focussed quite strongly on instead of press releasing your own product - but writing a press release of similar products - and then pushing that list as a ready to go article (without mentioning that you are one of the products featured!)

    (Yeah I know the travel writer discussion about lists!)


    Of course, people like you Jeremy could well be aghast at such an idea. This is much like how people who focus on design of websites think about SEO! Anyway, I throw the idea up for consideration

  2. Agree - very interesting post (and let's gloss over Alex's, er, deception in the comment above!).

    One way to get a mention would be to get onto Twitter, establish a relationship with a bunch of national newspaper travel journalists (freelance or staff) who specialise in writing about France and invite them over for a weekend to check the place out and sample your USP.

    Another way would be to do something unique - anything, really, from doing llama trekking to sticking solar panels on the roof or launching grey-water recycling. Strike up a relationship with a local farmer and start doing one-day courses in pate-making or sausage-stuffing. Buy a horse and trap and offer post-prandial (eco-friendly) jaunts through the countryside. ANYthing that means your press release will catch somebody's eye. A mention is not guaranteed thereafter - but it becomes considerably more likely.

    Another way would be to start a blog - pay to have it designed really nicely, and pay for good SEO - and then religiously make sure you blog short posts every day, with photos. Nothing preachy, nothing PRy. Just a blog about day-to-day life at your idyll in the country. Spread yourself around - comment on other blogs, do a bit of tweeting, build up a following.

    I could go on...

  3. Alex - I actually think your suggestion is quite pertinent. Call me an old cynic but I wouldn't doubt that many of the companies on these lists are there because a PR has pushed them at a busy writer. However, there are so many of these 'round up' (ie list based) pieces around these days - so it would need to be a clever angle/idea.
    Matthew - thanks for your comments too! Might be useful to explain how John would go about 'striking up relationships' as you put it... I'll add some thoughts about this if no one else does!...

  4. They've already launched a blog - http://masdeflory.blogspot.com - and a Facebook Fan Page - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lot-Cycling-Holidays/80794393214

    Does anyone actually read all those press releases that flood into our email IN box? Didn't think so....

    They sound like an ideal place for someone who would love to really get to know one place well. I'd reach out to Europe-focused travel bloggers, cycling/soft adventure travel bloggers and foodies. Start looking on Alltop.com and Google's Blog Search.

  5. They do have a blog, but are not using it to its full potential, only posting infrequently and not posting much information. I suggest they really get the blog going with regular posts, lots of photographs - and possibly get their visitors to post as well. I don't know much about getting press releases recognized but the blog would certainly get their name out their when people do a Google search about traveling to the area.

  6. I actually DO read press releases that arrive in my inbox, although they do get more attention if it's from someone with whom I have a relationship.

    While I use the delete button quite freely (and it doesn't take that long), I find that I get lots of ideas from reading press releases. Now, it might not be the story you're looking to place, but I look for trends, off-beat ideas, something that stands out, or maybe just noting a contact person for future reference. Most emails do get deleted, but I don't get worked up into a lather as long as the press release or pitch is something that I write about.

    I'd recommend taking time to build relationships with bloggers by commenting on a post, sending an email, asking a question, or just starting a conversation. That's what engage means to me -- just an old fashioned getting to know you kind of thing.

  7. Thanks for all your suggestions.
    I am acutely aware that I am not the best writer and that journalists will read this.
    Yes we need to put more posts on the blog, trouble is in the winter in rural France not a lot happens between November and March, most inhabitants round here hibernate for the winter!
    But will start today and put more mundane (but hopefully interesting) things up.
    I have also joined a couple of wine blogs with postings as a “local expert” to help publicize our wine tours.
    Jamie Oliver visited our area in December some of the chateaux we visit. He has made a TV programme about the Lot to be aired in April on UK TV. We have tried to push this via press releases. Also contacted Jamie magazine and his site to maybe place an advert with him to coincide with the programme. After the first email went into their spam folder we got a reply and we said in principle we are interested. No reply back, phone number leads you round in circles and when finally managed to leave message no-one has got back to us. Yet their site has a dedicated advertise email as does Jamie magazine. Pretty sure if we were a large company we would not have a problem. (Sorry ranting)
    Invite travel writers over? Would we have a special week with just writers or have one or two with our normal guests? Do we cover the total cost, as guests would normally pay their own way here?
    We do not have a problem with being found on Google etc, I am an ex IT lecturer in website design and have managed to get us on page 1 or 2 for most relevant keywords. We also have other mirror sites named after popular keywords. This however is ongoing and I spend at least 2 hours every day keeping us where we are.
    We have guests who have reviewed us on I’ve been there (Guardian), Tourdust etc.
    OK that’s enough for now, any more suggestions?

  8. Screw newspapers.

    You are trying to play a game that a) you can't win, and b) is going to end soon.

    Press releases are dead. Don't bother with them. Save your money.

    There are three things you should do, all of which are in your control and you don't need to hire and outside firm:

    1) Contact bloggers and writers directly. Pay attention on Twitter to where and when people will be traveling to your region of France. Invite them to stay with you if the opportunity exists. Start conversations with bloggers and writers. You don't need to sell them, just talk to them. Have a standing "blogger rate" like the Roger Smith Hotel in New York City does.

    2) Make sure your customers leave reviews on relevant review sites like Trip Advisor. Make it easy for them to do so. Give them some free time on the internet when they check out. These review sites are more powerful than a single mention in a newspaper will ever be.

    3) Being on page 1 or 2 for the keywords you want is a failure. You need to be #1 or at least in the top 3. The number 1 position on any given search result will get about 40% of the clicks. By the time you get to the second page, it is close to zero. The blogger relations you develop will help you achieve this.

  9. To answer the question more relevantly than just the "build a relationship with a blogger" malarkey that's already been put out there, why not go to those media portals that connect business and media workers? Meaning, something like HARO or Travmedia or the new one, I think it's called reporter connection? There may be other examples of that which work more specifically connecting European media and destinations. Put yourself on the radar with your local tourism board, culinary organizations and the more general travel sites that exist for individual countries and their regions rather than just the travel blogger sites. Be open to the media that's got a genuine reach beyond a narrow demographic. Resist the new conformity.

  10. Thanks Gary, I have put a special on our blog and set up a Twitter account.
    Plus we already have reviews on Trip Advisor but they have to be Bed & Breakfast as holidays are not allowed. There does not seem to be an equivalent for holidays.
    We are in the top three for about half of our keywords. I also use Google analytics and do not totally agree with your “second page is zero”. Perhaps with lower value items, but with our type of holiday I disagree.
    I have tweaked and changed our site from a starting point of page nine.
    Contacting writers via blogs etc is going to take longer unless someone has a list or suggestions?
    How am I going to know when a writer is planning a visit to France?
    Thanks again for the suggestions.

  11. Hi John
    Hardly surprising that many of the people here providing such useful input (thanks everyone!) are coming at this problem from a new media angle. And broadly speaking I agree. But I don't concur completely. There is still massive value in getting mentions in national newspapers - not just from th perspective of hopefully gaining you more bookings but also from a brand one too... it provides lovely credibility to be able to link to a feature about you on a national newspaper website. And for some of the operators I’ve written about in newspapers there has been a huge spike in bookings (conversely for others next to nothing... it’s very hit and miss)
    So anyway... Here are my suggestions for approaching the old school.
    1) Do your research. Which publications would work best for your product?
    2) Find out who you need to contact. Do some groundwork. Make a few calls. You'll find for example that many newspapers use the same people who specialise in certain areas of the world quite often. The Telegraph is an example. Who tends to write all their France content? Keep tabs on the names.
    3) Call up and ask to speak to them by name. If you don't get through check that you have got your research right. 'It IS John Smith who tends to write about France a lot?'
    4) Keep calling. Add an email as well. 2 possible approaches.
    a) Similar to the email you sent me. Appeal to their nicer nature... and flatter them by asking for their opinion
    b) Come up with some smart ideas... they need to be based on a clever concept, or tied very tightly to a TV/book/movie. The Daily Mail loves these kinds of angles. So a Jamie Oliver tie in would be very nice.
    5) Keep calling. Keep asking the questions - 'John tends to come into the office on Wednesdays does he?'
    6) Keep calling and amend you strategy as needed to find them at their desk.
    7) Keep calling.

    These people get countless press releases in their intrays and sorting wheat from chaff is difficult. They are very very busy.
    BUT that could work to your advantage if you persist and you are credible. Much nicer to have a REAL contact with REAL tour operator doing something smart and unique and interesting than yet another Polly or Kylie paid to bang out remorseless press releases about places they can hardly spell. (OK PRs reading this I am of course exaggerating! - a bit anyway. ;-))

    Alternatively... find yourself a couple of freelancers who write regularly for publications about France and try and work with them to come up with ideas and angles.

    IDEAS are the currency that a Travel Editor can never get enough of.
    And finally. Approach some of the web editors at the nationals and offer them a piece you have written about wonderful wine walks in the Lot or whatever for free (if you can write!?). Web Editors are constantly looking for content and never have enough budget.
    See this post here which I wrote for travel tech site Tnooz - and read the comment from Steve Keenan - previously web travel editor at the Times (unfortunately he's not there any more). (Comment #3)

  12. Hi John - i've read all this with great interest. As a travel PR specialist its really interesting to read everyone's thoughts. I have to agree with Jeremy's last post. I think there is still a place for the traditional PR approach to newspapers as long as the social media arena is also included. Its all about a rounded approach. Our agency specialises in smaller niche clients that do not have huge budgets and for them PR can really make a difference to their bottom line, as well as build their brand.
    I think all the advice given is sound - getting in touch via mediums such as twitter - but from our experience, this type of relationship building can be extremely time consuming for individual companies who, understandably, tend to focus on sales first.
    I know many of you guys are against agencies, but i do believe for many clients we do provide a way for them to get to a wide range of media contacts without the work. Surely we wouldn't be in business otherwise?
    Anyway, If I can provide any guidance please just ask. (and i'm not a Polly or Kylie!! Joking Jeremy!)

  13. Interesting reading as usual Jeremy.

    John, as Matthew suggests, I'd say come up with a strong angle. There are lots of cycling companies in France out there, so for my column or a round up I'm looking for something different and unusual. Not quirky for the sake of it, but different nonetheless.

    I read press releases increasingly less, and get ideas from Twitter increasingly more. I think with press release fatigue, it's just the sheer volume we receive. If I'm not grabbed by what's in the subject box.....delete immediately.

    I do definitely think that there must be lots of great, small companies out there who pass us by - what the perfect answer is to get them on our radar I don't know.

    Perhaps you, John, could come to an arrangement with a PR firm like Maddie's (which is a very good one) and they could do a month's consultancy to get you started on who to pitch to, and you could then see if you think it's worth continuing? I appreciate it might be a fair whack of money but if say £500 spent gets you £1000 worth of bookings, it's a good start. And also perhaps get in touch with Paddy at Abtof (www.abtof.org.uk) and the French Tourist Board (Maison de la France) in London. I agree with the others who say a good blog and a strong following on Twitter are good strategies.

    Anyway, thanks to Jeremy, you're now on our radar.

  14. I have joined HARO and Travmedia and am learning how to use them but they both look useful. The third one is US only.
    The local tourist offices etc are useless – have tried numerous times to have us listed but they are not interested. The Department of the Lot has not discovered marketing yet.
    Thanks for the help

  15. Bit late to the party but here goes...

    As a digital marketer in a travel PR agency, I'd agree with Jeremy, as much as there are some brilliant new media suggestions here there's no need to knock traditional or 'screw newspapers'. But I don't think it needs to be as much effort as is being made out.

    As an agency we promote a lot of destinations. All tourist boards have supporting their stakeholders as a key objective, be they small or large, so I know how much we work to help out businesses like yours (and how much it is appreciated when an accommodation provider actually wants to work with the media!).

    As a hotel and tour operator you are a stakeholder, so get the help of a tourism authority. Obviously there's the French Tourist Office, but you might want to think smaller scale - your region's tourist office. They're likely to have a PR agency, or an in house media relations person, or at the very least a marketing person. Contact them and find out what media visits their working on, and see if you can jump on them, offer to accommodate media in future and send them your news and deals. If you're worried that your releases aren't getting picked up because your name doesn't carry weight with the media, well their's will carry more. If they're worth their salt they'll jump at the chance to work with a good quality accommodation and activity provider, they'll already have exisiting relationships with media taking a lot of the work out for you, and with trips they'll cover off things like flights and transfers so the costs are lower too.

  16. Like Ian I am late to game here - but John - I thought I would just reiterate that pitching in ideas/themes/angles to press is always well received. Even if you don't get pick up the first time, in my experience, you are well along the road to the exclusive "relationship establishment" and they will either [a] remember you better next time OR [b] come back to you for other ideas.

    You have the most important currency when it comes to the media and pitching in stories (and you have some FANTASTIC resource up above in terms of freelance names, twitterers etc) - inside knowledge that no one else has. Only YOU know what makes your offer different - the food, the knowledge, the fact that you hand embroider all your sheets, that the wine you serve is pressed by small children from the family vineyard (well - you know what I mean). Only YOU know the sort of people that come to stay with you - (broad brush thinking here!) and therefore what appeal to them. This is what will appeal to the right paper and the right journalist.

    Some very brief (and probably repeated) top line tips from me (for what it worth) to help with above:

    • Speak to your guests about what they read (if you can)... these spots will probably have best pick up amongst press. Also, if NONE of your guests go online, read The Paper, (which I realise is unlikely) then it is not much point in you being there...
    • Read the papers, blogs, magazines etc your guests read (can you get them where you are?) so you work out the style of stories that paper likes.
    • Work out some stories and angles which you think will appeal, and draft a short, snappy, to the point email to back up any phone call etc you make (which you can obviously do - look at the response your email to Jeremy got).I would have these ready now – they can be used more than once (shh – don’t tell anyone!!!)
    • The best is to get press out to try the story you are selling them - yes costs will have to be covered - but generally media want to come alone (or with partner/friend) not in a gang - and as Ian points out you could work with third parties to mitigate costs. As Will says, the investment might also be worth it. We once arranged a press trip for a niche tour operator. We got it with right person, in right paper (rather luckily) and they had 2000 (yes three zeros) calls and 5000 hits to website! (Appreciate you may not want all this - but a good problem to have). It was certainly worth the investment they made in sending that person!
    • Take all the above as a lesson 101 in getting media interested in your story. I have been doing travel PR (gulp) for 16 years and there is TONNES of stuff in here - lots of it refreshed my thinking too!
    • I would think of speaking to someone like Maddie (Will is right - she is good - and good fun! :)), or a freelance PR professional, who have lower costs that the "big PR agencies" - and perhaps look at them developing some training for you - how to sell in, how to work out stories, who to speak to etc. I am sure they would be willing to do this for a one off fee (I know I would be!! :)) and it might be money worth spending in my book. It will not be as much as you think I am sure! Certainly worth finding out!
    • But I also agree with much of the commentary up here - with a business like yours - the story from the horse’s mouth can be a very compelling sell. You are possibly not looking for huge volumes of coverage, but some judicious pieces in the right space (I guess!).

    Good luck!

  17. I agree with those who say that national newspapers shouldn't necessarily be the end goal and are of diminishing importance. But that doesn't mean that press coverage isn't still helpful right now. Also newspapers all have websites, so it helps your search results too (especially if they include a link on the online version).

    One thing I would suggest for a France-based holiday is reaching out to members of the British Guild of Travel Writers. There is a yearbook and an online version of both, listing all members. You can see who specialises in France and reach out to them directly. I would suggest a personal email, not a press release, as our eyes tend to glaze over when we see press releases in our in-box and many of them don't get read. You would probably have to pay to get access to this information (it's free to members) but it might be money well spent. http://www.bgtw.org.

  18. I was going to agree with Jeremy too... but everybody got there first! Yeah, social media is a wonderful thing, but reports of the death of traditional media are greatly exaggerated.

    I was going to suggest two things.

    1) Another type of content that travel eds are always hungry for - special offers/bargains. Send out a few "£50 off" notices to the mainstream media and online media. It's a good way to introduce your business and/or highlight specific aspects of it.

    2) Don't rule out PR. You might find you can afford a short term contract with a specialist travel PR consultant to get things going. There are 252 specialist travel PR practitioners in the UK. Most are small or large companies but about a fifth are solo PR consultants. There are always a few PRs (I can think of two right now) who have just left their companies to go solo and are hungry for work.

  19. Thanks for all the help; I am overwhelmed by the response.
    I am putting lots of your suggestions into practice.
    Just like to say a big thank you to Jeremy for listening to me in the first place.

  20. Hi John... glad the experience has been useful. I am genuinely quite humbled by the way that everyone is happy to pitch in with useful ideas. Social media for all its hype and waffle is a truly amazing thing isn't it? Thanks again to everyone who was kind enough to contribute - a really fascinating debate with loads of totally excellent input from all kinds of people.
    Please do stay in touch... and how about an update in a few months' time? Let us know which ideas worked best and why?

  21. Gary Arndt - you say that newspapers are not worth bothering with, but a place I help promote has been mentioned twice in the Guardian. This has brought in more bookings than any other single source - much more.
    It also helsp greatly that it is rated very highly on TA - but I think these things need to be seen from the round rather than narrowly focusing on twitter or blogs alone....

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