How to Get Your Public Relations Efforts Noticed by the Nationals

The Florida International Air Show in Punta Gorda, Fla., Holds a Media Day Every Year Prior to the Showopens IMAGE file
The Florida International Air Show in Punta Gorda, Fla., Holds a Media Day Every Year Prior to the Show

Have you ever opened up Southern Living magazine, MSNBC.com or USA Today and wondered how a travel article born? I hate to burst your bubble but they just don’t magically happen. In most cases, a publicist is behind the effort.

Last month the opens in a new windowCentral West Coast Chapter of Florida Public Relations Association and the opens in a new windowLakewood Ranch Business Alliance invited me to lead three roundtable discussions on how public relations campaigns can gain attention from national publications.This was part of a marketing workshop jointly organized by the two groups in Lakewood Ranch (near Sarasota, Fla.). I was asked to lead these discussions because of my experience in the tour and travel industry.

If you don’t work in the tourism industry, that’s okay because the following tips can be applied to almost any industry. When you think about it, just about every business and organization has some component of marketing. Ever watch NBC’s opens in a new windowApprentice? Every task involves marketing. Heck, even dating is about marketing.

The Silver Bullet for Making it in Trade and National Publications Is…
*POP!* That’s the sound of another bubble bursting. There isn’t a silver bullet and if someone is trying to sell you services guaranteeing placement, proceed with caution. Based on my experience, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

Have a Great Story
The best way for gaining attention is to have a great, newsworthy story. I mean, a really, really great story focusing on what’s unique. A favorite example I like using for this is several years ago opens in a new windowThe Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota partnered with opens in a new windowMote Marine to offer a shark tagging vacation package. The package included overnight accommodations and a day on the water with a shark tagging expert from Mote. The price? $10,000. I’m not sure how many of these packages were sold but I do know it created a LOT of publicity about the hotel and Mote.

Bill Nye the Science Guy Speaks with Tweeps, Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Nov. 26, 2011
NASA is the Leader in Bringing Together Ambassadors to Share a Message. Bill Nye the Science Guy Speaks with Tweeps, Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Nov. 26, 2011

Get Social! Draft Ambassadors.
Word of mouth is still the best way of marketing so identify potential ambassadors to tell your story. This can be both in the actual world and in the social media realm. Do you have a frequent visitor program? They can easily become your ambassadors because they’re already loyal to your product. In my day job, I have a group of local and regional online influencers who will come together to promote something specific when asked. I hold at least one in-person Tweetup opportunity a year so I can bring these influencers, or ambassadors, together.

As a travel blogger, I’ve collaborated with different brands to share their message. Connect with your local bloggers and users of other social media channels. Don’t pigeonhole yourself in thinking if you’re a tourism business that  you need to work only with travel bloggers. Everyone travels! As a travel blogger, many of the brands I’ve collaborated with are not related to travel but those brands recognize my reach is beyond the travel blogging community.

Although your online influencers may be local they have national and international reach by nature of the Internet. Some may be nationally recognized. When you have people chatting about you online, others will notice and join in on the buzz.

Also, use your Facebook page to comment and make posts on other Facebook pages. I’m not referring to your personal page but to your business/organization page. I was successful in gaining coverage for Solo Travel Girl on opens in a new windowBudgetTravel.com by doing this. Of course, don’t be spammy and do this sparingly with a plan.

Keep Your Local Connections in the Loop
While it’s nice to aim at receiving placement in nationally recognized media outlets, it’s important to focus locally, especially if you’re not a nationally established brand. In addition to your online influencers, continue to build relationships with members of your local media. Pitch them story ideas, send them pertinent media releases and invite them to press conferences. Plus, most local news agencies are affiliated with a national agency which can sometimes lead to national distribution.

Also, reporters tend to move onward and upward. If you built a relationship with a reporter who moves on, keep in touch with them because you don’t know where they’ll land next.

Backstage Tour of CBS's The Early Show, Oct. 5, 2010
Backstage Tour of CBS’s The Early Show, Oct. 5, 2010

Make an Appointment, Ask Questions and Listen
One of the roundtable participants asked me how they can get on a network television show. The first question I asked her was, “Have you asked to be on the show?” I realize it’s not as simple as that but the first step is making a connection.

A great example is a colleague in a nearby destination had an appointment with a national publication. When she sat down with the travel writer, rather than rambling off what’s great about the destination, my colleague asked the writer what she is working on. She was working on putting a list together of the country’s best pies. When my colleague returned home, she went to a local pie shop, shipped a pie overnight and it ended up in the writer’s article.

Be Reliable, Quick and to the Point
Members of the media will soon be reaching out to you once you prove yourself as a reliable source. This means providing accurate and succinct information by deadline (usually 5 p.m. that day) and staying on point.

Tampa Bay Rays Spring Training Press Conference, Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte, Fla., Feb. 12, 2013
Tampa Bay Rays Spring Training Press Conference, Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte, Fla., Feb. 12, 2013

Be Persistent, Not Pest-istent
Be mindful of a journalist’s time. Just think, if you’re reaching out to them think about how many other entities are doing the same. It’s a good idea to follow up but not to do so everyday with various forms of communication. Don’t stalk them online, such as using Twitter to constantly bombard them.

Be Patient.
You’’l look like a rock star when you see the fruits of your labor published in a national publication or in a 30-second spot on a major network talk show. But, keep in mind the process can be a slow one that takes relationship building. With a small budget, it took my three years and several appointments to get my destination placed in a national publication.

HARO
If you’re charged with marketing and promoting your organization or business, register for Help a Reporter Out (HARO). There’s a free option and I chose to receive an email three times a day with leads from journalists working on specific stories. It’s important to follow the rules of HARO in order to continue receiving the invaluable leads. Visit opens in a new window www.helpareporter.com for additional information.

Read the takeaways of one the roundtable attendees in opens in a new window this post on the CWCFPRA Chapter blog.

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Jenn

Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, SoloTravelGirl.com with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

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