Ugh. There is likely not a sales person for a U.S. supplier in the tour and travel industry nor a DMO who hasn’t dealt with the situation. It could be at IPW, it could be at World Travel Market, it could be at ITB or at any one of a number of international trade show at which it happens.
“It” is having a journalist, a publisher, a tour operator or, more likely, someone who has dual roles for an operator or a publication—online or otherwise—and has more than one business card (one for each role in which he or she is involved) showing up at your booth and, after an exchange of pleasantries and business cards, presenting you with a copy of the company’s latest brochure or magazine with a not-so-cleverly burnished request that you buy a page, or an ad, in the brochure or magazine.
“Wait a minute!” you think to yourself. “This is wrong. I am supposed to be selling them. What is wrong with this situation?”
Just What Do you do? The Answer: We’ll get to the answer following some background information and some preparatory techniques that follow. (Note: your PR person is probably familiar with the following, but the readers targeted here are the travel industry sales professionals who find themselves at a trade show without PR help.)
It’s a Different Playing Field, with Different Tactics: As explained in a presentation at NAJ’s recent RTO Summit in Orlando, Florida by Susan Wilson, president of Phoenix-based Susan Wilson Marketing and a public relations and promotions maven whose accomplishments are many, sales professionals who find themselves in such a predicament should look at the situation and consider it an opportunity, not as an annoying challenge.
Pinch-hitting for the PR professional who isn’t at the show makes you a more valuable asset, said Wilson, who went on to detail some of the basics of PR for sales professionals who are, of necessity, the PR person at the same time. Some of her do’s, don’ts, a bits of wisdom and best practices follow.
—Understand right from the start that there are new media channels of distribution.
—Not only are there new media, but they operate from different locations. They now work at a table in a Starbucks, on the side of the road or during their travel or commute to a shared office.
—With the new media, the nature of the messenger has changed: news distribution is now more streamlined, vertical and personal; trade shows have built-in news sharing platforms; and news is not always disseminated by a publication relations professional—in fact, sometimes it’s you.
— First off, review the dynamics of the upcoming show with your PR person or department beforehand. What do you know about the journalists who are coming to show vs. what you know about the operators. Do you want to make appointments with them? If so, let them know your booth number, as well as what to look for and where on the trade show floor.
—Remember that news outreach tools have changed. Use them. For instance, at IPW, TravMedia is the platform for distributing and reviewing the latest news releases and announcements; the service can deliver yours by region, if you want that done. If you can afford it, your company can hire a PR representative or firm to work the show for you. And don’t forget, if you are an attraction or hotel, those “Big Sister” DMOs who will promote your product.
—Here’s a sample of how one might prepare for an upcoming show by seeking to secure an appointment with a buyer:
—You’ll have to deal with bloggers. Twenty years ago, they didn’t exist. Now they’re major media messengers. Ask them their plans for the show. Do they include a feature on, or a visit to your destination? If you’re already working with the blogger or vlogger (video blogger), what will they accept–hosting, financial support? Talk about the matter of trust, especially with top influencers. Does the content they produce engender trust in the mind of the reader? Readers can detect “copy-and-paste” journalists who merely re-write press releases.
—What about the traditional travel editor? Twenty years ago, when print journalism still ruled, they were responsible for content. Not anymore, but rare as they are—especially outside of the USA—they still exist. If you are selling an attraction, a travel experience or a hotel, find out if your destination will be expected to help house and transport the journalist(s) or travel editors. What is the journalist looking for in meeting with you? Perhaps your destination has a standard media assistance form – Sonoma County Tourism in California has an excellent example of how partners can help in hosting, but be sure, as it might not be the rule in your destination that it should host a journalist you invited.
A final note on preparations: Whether it is via e-mail or in the form of hard copy, make sure your material is in Word format, not PDF. Word can be used right away. Converting material from a PDF takes longer.
The Dreaded Ask for Advertising Dollars—Yep, It is Going to Happen. You Need to Plan on it.
So, you’re talking business to a journalist, a publisher, an in-country rep, or an operator who just happens to mention the availability of space in a brochure, magazine, newsletter or some other medium. What do you do?
The answer, said Susan Wilson is “become more valuable to them than an ad buy.”
Ask them every key question about their product … other than what’s on a rate card. You want to know: the circulation breakdown; the demographics of the readership (are you looking to have them as travelers—for instance, not everyone is seeking backpackers); information on the reach of the publication; do readers or viewers expect your attraction, hotel or tour to speak their language; and has the person making the pitch ever visited you in the past.
Also, ask them if there are any additional “merchandising” benefits to buying ad space such as equivalent space devoted to editorial, an online promotion or sweepstakes they can throw in to maximize your investment. Where possible, ask them if there are ways to tie in tour operators as the call to action.
More often lately, due to tight budgets, you are approached by tour operators who have already included you in their programs and use the appointment as an opportunity to SELL you advertising.
In this situation you lack leverage as their implied approach is that you can be eliminated in favor of someone else. In that case you should try to extract information such as annual bookings/room nights. At least try to obtain circulation of brochures and website views and prepare for your management a “media equivalency” estimate based on a cost per thousand model.
Susan Wilson can help you by answering other questions you might have on this subject. You can reach her by contacting: firstname.lastname@example.org