I’m sure we all wish we had a looking glass that could have predicted how our lives would be changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. With rules and restrictions changing every day, it looks like we’ll have to get used to being on our toes, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “the only thing constant is change.”
One of the hardest-hit industries was travel and tourism, which came to a screeching halt last March. As the industry adapted to comply with new safety protocols, its transformation has been covered extensively in the media. In the first quarter of 2021 alone, travel coverage grew by 6% and overall travel stories exceeded 2019 figures for the first time since the pandemic began. Communications and marketing professionals have pivoted countless times to disseminate important updates and are now being tasked with kicking promotion of tourist destinations and attractions into high gear as they aim to resume normal operations. The bottom line is this – people are eager and ready to travel again.
What type of stories can we expect to see as the wave of travel news rises? Anticipate continued coverage of safety precautions, contactless experiences, health and safety efforts when traveling and at high-traffic tourist venues, luxury and personal travel, leisure travel focus, and an emphasis on a return to “bleisure” travel (business trips turned extended vacations).
Experts from Cision’s 2021 State of the Media Summit foresee ample coverage on budget travel, in particular, as employment rates recover post-pandemic. Of course, these are just some of the trends expected this summer and fall. For more, I recommend reading this report from Priceline on how Americans will travel in the months ahead.
Now that we’ve considered the many directions travel stories will take, how are you going to stand out in the sea of email pitches?
Derived from Cision’s recent State of the Media Summit and C&P’s own proven best practices, here are several tried-and-true tips to help your story earn the media coverage it deserves – starting with how you frame your pitch:
Subject Line and Introduction
You’ve just started your draft and there’s a lot you may want to share about what’s new for your destination or attraction; now, where to begin? Pitching is a bit like fishing – share just enough bait to get a bite on your story. Unless you are connecting with a journalist who is well versed on what you offer (but even the closest relationships require a reminder from time-to-time!), consider that they may not have the same background knowledge or proximity to the material as you do. They also have less time and an overflowing inbox. So, it never hurts to simply present the journalist with your idea, especially if you already have a strong one locked and loaded. You’re making their job easier and most of the time, they’ll appreciate that. Sometimes all they need is a taste of the piece. Once they show interest, you can provide the full details.
Another way to make sure you nail your delivery is if you step into the journalist’s shoes. Think about how the story benefits the journalist’s audience AND your client. From there you can produce your hook – which most likely will become your first sentence! Keep it brief, don’t bury the lede and get the facts out right away. (Bonus points for answering the inevitable “so what?” question in the headline!)
One of the most common pieces of pitching advice you’ll hear is: Keep it concise. This is perhaps even more key in the body paragraph where you may be tempted to reveal all. Here are a few other tips to follow that will keep the body of your pitch flowing nicely:
- Share details sparingly. Give them enough for a nibble. If they’re interested, they’ll come back for seconds. Note: Be prepared to provide further details when they do!
- As for language, feel free to keep it conversational, write in present tense and whenever you can, try to make it personal to the outlet or journalist you’re trying to reach. In doing so, it will become clear that you have done your research and have an understanding for the type of stories that the journalist covers.
- Reporters have shared openly the initial annoyance of “fancy” and overly flowery language. Many warn, “avoid the kitsch.” They don’t want to go searching for the information or decode what you’re trying to say.
Most journalists scan pitches rather quick, so using these tactics can improve readability.
At Cision’s 2021 State of the Media Summit, journalists shared that including multimedia assets in news releases is extremely valuable and can even be the deciding factor for moving forward with your story. Multimedia elements increase the odds of getting coverage. If given the choice between two pitches, the one that includes a photo will almost always win. Even if a journalist can’t cover something in an article, if the photo is “Instagram appropriate,” they may decide to share it on social media. Include links to photos or other assets when possible either within your pitch or packaged with your news release that you attach or copy below.
Travel and tourism journalists also appreciate connections with top industry leaders and influencers. While this sometimes may fall to the C-suite, ultimately, the reporters are looking for well-informed experts who can speak extensively and knowledgeably on the topic and are close to the news due to their roles. Generally speaking, media are less concerned with rank and more interested in interviewing someone who can truly speak to the topic.
After you close your pitch, you may want to consider attaching a news release or media advisory. A media advisory alerts the media, in a succinct manner, to upcoming events (such as a press conference). Think of it like an invitation that answers only the important questions: Who, What, When, Where and Why. A news release is ideal for a more detailed overview.
From there, you’re ready to hit send!
No matter the focus or industry you’re trying to pitch, if you build pitches with these tips in mind, you’ll increase your chances of catching the eye of your target reporter. If you have a story to tell – and it’s timely, newsworthy and distinctive – you’ll keep journalists (and audiences) engaged.