Press Trips | Techniques to Score Sponsored Trips
I want to preface this article by saying, I am currently actively negotiating my very first press trip. With that said, you might be wondering what makes me qualified to write this article. First of all, my degree is in marketing, with a focus in social media. This has helped me immensely with growing my blog and social following. In addition, I have almost 4 years of sales experience, from knocking on doors, to cold-calling, to managing multimillion dollar accounts. For one of those years, I worked exclusively with small to medium-sized local businesses. Basically, I was calling and chatting with restaurant owners, tour operators and activity directors, convincing them to advertise with my company. Doesn’t sound much different from asking hotels, airlines, and tour companies to advertise with my blog, does it? That’s because it isn’t! Negotiating press trips relies on classic sales techniques, and any of you with sales experience should consider yourself experts.
I love travel bloggers, and reading about how they are able to travel the world “for free,” but I have yet to find a post about how they actually do it. Sure, you can find the occasional post explaining that they work with sponsors to cut their costs, or they talk about pinching pennies to extend their travels, but no one ever tells you how to acquire said sponsors. Maybe it is because they don’t want to saturate the market with travel bloggers. Maybe there is some rule within the travel blogging community that says that you cannot reveal trade secrets, but I haven’t received my copy of the rule book yet, so I want to share my knowledge with all y’all. Now that you know why I consider myself an expert in this subject matter, I will breakdown what you need to do to secure your first press trip.
Always Try to Hook the Big Fish First
One of the first things I learned in my sales roles was that social proof is king. If you want to work with huge brands like Hilton or American Airlines, what would impress them more, experience working with a little no-name hostel in Colombia, or experience working with one of Marriott’s hotels? You are probably wondering, okay B, why would these big brands want to work with little ol’ me? My answer may surprise you, but it shouldn’t. For hotels, for example, it costs them nothing to let you stay in a room that would have otherwise been empty. The way they view the transaction is that they are getting free advertising for their brand, and at least one loyal follower. Even if your social media following is small, and you have low traffic on your blog, you will be posting about their brand to whatever following you do have. This is a chance for them to expand their reach, for free. When you look at it from their perspective, it makes much more sense as to why most brands will be willing to work with bloggers.
Determine What Companies Align to Your Personal Brand
Assuming that you have at least a basic idea of what your personal brand is, you need to choose companies that align with that idea. If you have no idea what your personal brand is yet, check out this article from Forbes. How do you know whether a company aligns with your brand? Well first step is to identify their ideal customer base. For large hotels, the target audience is anyone with enough money to stay there, so that makes things easy. You must always keep in mind specific interest groups they are trying to target as well such as millennials, business executives, frequent travelers. How do you know who the company’s target audience is? The best way to find out is to ask them. You can probably get a basic idea of who they are targeting by looking at their website and social media pages, but if you want to know more specific information, it is always best to ask. If your audience does not overlap with the company’s target audience, it probably isn’t the best match, no matter how much you would like to work with them. This means that you need to know who your audience is as well. If you have no idea who your audience is, you need to figure that out first before trying to negotiate press trips. Plain and simple, know your brand and know your audience like the back of your hand. You can’t sell a product without knowing the benefits, and the same goes for your brand.
How to Connect with Companies Once You Have Identified Them
How to Find Contact Information
It is 2015, and access to information is getting easier by the day. How many of you have Facebook stalked an ex? Finding contact information for a company is exactly the same as finding out who your ex is sleeping with now. Most companies will have a general email address on their website that goes to an inbox monitored by someone who cannot help you organize a press trip. We salespeople like to call this inbox monitor, a gatekeeper. They are hired by larger companies to prevent people like us from speaking to whomever it is that we need to speak with. Your first goal is to impress this person. This could be through a catchy subject line, a witty comment in your email opener or anything you think will impress the person who may or may not forward your email to the correct person. For a while, I used the subject line “Hello there…” Be creative. You can bypass this person by finding the contact information for the person you actually want to speak with. How do you know who the best person to speak with is? Call the company. Ask whomever answers who is in charge of media relations or marketing. If it is a small business, ask for the owner. If you can get that person on the phone, and they speak your language, organize a time to chat with them for 15 minutes about your proposal. DO NOT TRY TO PITCH RIGHT AWAY. It is very likely that you have caught this person at an inopportune time. By offering to schedule 15 minutes to chat, it shows that you respect their time, but that you are still very interested in discussing the opportunity. Some people will agree to chat right then, but many will thank you for scheduling the additional call. If you are terrified of reaching out over the phone, you will have to dig a little deeper in your online stalking to find out who to speak to and how to reach them.
- Check their website for contact information. At a bare minimum, send them an email through their website contact form.
- Check their Facebook About tab. Often smaller businesses will list a contact email here.
- Google “Company Name Marketing LinkedIn”. This is hit or miss, but sometimes for larger companies you will be able to find the name and contact information of the right person, so it’s worth a try.
- If all else fails, call the company. You can do it. I believe in you. (Before I started these jobs, I couldn’t even call my dentist to schedule an appointment, it just takes practice.)
How to Pitch a Press Trip
The first step in any sales process is to identify the needs of the company. Just because you need a company, doesn’t mean that they need you. Look at their social media accounts, their website quality, the photo and video quality. If you can provide, guidance, assistance, or content, they will likely at least be willing to hear you out.
This goes hand and hand with identifying needs. Once you have found out what the company needs, you can provide them with a solution to their problem. The company I am working with currently has a very limited following on Instagram. I have a decent sized following on Instagram. I opened my pitch with “I noticed that your Instagram account has been slow to build momentum, maybe I can be of assistance?”
People hate to be sold to. It is just a fact of life. Think back to the last time you were in a store with commissioned sales people. The best example I can think of is the Apple Store. The minute you walk into any Apple Store in the world, you are overwhelmed by salespeople trying to get your attention. This is exactly how marketing and pr people feel every day. Chances are, you are not the only blogger, travel blogger, or even female solo travel blogger emailing them for a press trip. They will be prepared with a list of reasons why they don’t have time to talk to you and why they can’t afford what you are asking for. Be prepared for the no, and come up with a solution to overcome the common objections listed below:
- Your services cost too much.
- I’m satisfied with my current advertising options.
- I don’t want to participate right now.
- I’ve never done this kind of advertising before and I have been doing just fine.”
- Why should I trust you?
- This sounds like too much work
They may not provide you with these objections verbatim, but these are the underlying reasons that people don’t buy, assuming you are speaking with the person who has the authority to make these types of decisions. If you have a way to overcome each objection, you will be able to move to the final step in the process, which is to ask for their business.
The hardest part about this step is overcoming the fear of rejection. When you have reached the end of your conversation with the decision maker, you have answered all their questions, provided value, and overcome their objections, you simply must ask to do business together. When soliciting press trips, I believe that the best method for closing is the soft-close. That would look something like this:
“If I have answered all of your questions, I would love to move forward with organizing the details of the press trip I suggested. I think this will be a great partnership, and I look forward to promoting your brand to my audience.”
Things to Remember
- Everyone likes their ego stroked. Tell them why you chose their brand over other brands. Tell them that they are awesome and unique, even if they really aren’t.
- Ask as many questions as possible in all stages of the process. You want to make sure that both you and the company know exactly what to expect from the partnership.
- Underpromise and overdeliver. Always give them a little extra something, whether that be an extra Facebook post, Instagram photo or simply a permanent space on your blog.
- Rejection is natural, and you need to learn to deal with it.
- Sales is a numbers game. You will likely have to send out 10+ emails to get 1 response. Do not get frustrated.
- Statistics aren’t everything. If your blog and social accounts don’t have huge followings, don’t worry about it too much. Any publicity is good publicity.
Press Trip Pitch Email Templates
Please feel free to take a look at the templates I have created for pitching a press trip over email. Please adjust them to fit your experience and do not just copy, paste, and fill in the blanks. Thanks!
Information overload! I know that I covered a lot of information very quickly, and I know many of you will have questions. Please reach out to me if you need help with any of the above information, if you would like me to review a pitch email, or if you simply want to bounce an idea off of me. Also, if you think I forgotten anything that you have learned in your quests for the elusive press trip, please add it below.