As much as I love writing about travel, there’s a lot of misconceptions about what it takes to be a blogger. The line I hear most often is: “It must be nice getting all of those free holidays!”. Cue my resting pitch face.
Let’s unpick this a little. Of course it’s nice getting to travel, and it’s not something I take for granted. I’m grateful for every opportunity that’s come my way. Without travel in my life, I’m pretty sure I’d have disintegrated into a pile of dust at the side of the road, long before now! The issue is with the idea of my press trips being “free holidays”.
First, if it were a holiday, I wouldn’t be working. Second, if I’m lucky enough to have secured my trip for free, it’s because I’ve earned it. That’s not big-headedness talking there – it’s experience.
All play and no work?
If you’re thinking of becoming a travel blogger purely for the swag, think again.
Reviewing hotels is a privilege, yes, but doing it well takes professional skill. Getting to the point in your career of being able to secure a press stay takes a lot of hard graft. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to even be able to pitch to potential clients. Learning how to build and manage a website from scratch. Honing your content creation skills to suit different needs. Building a dedicated following across social media. These things all take time. If you were to add up the hours I’ve spent working on my blog and divide them between the professional opportunities I’ve had, you’d see that the deals I’ve secured come at a price that is anything but free.
I’m not trying to scare anyone off here; anything but! Being able to uncover beautiful stays and influence others to have fabulous holidays as a result is a massively rewarding experience. The point I’m making is that if you’re serious about blogging, you should treat it as a business. Your pitch needs to reflect this mentality.
Reckon you’re ready to approach some hotels? Brilliant. Here’s a few tips that I’ve learned over the years about getting that all-important pitch just right.
Before you begin your pitch…
Is your blog ready?
There’s never going to be a perfect time to make that first pitch. I often get asked how many followers a blogger should have before approaching potential clients. Honestly, I’m not sure there is a magic number. I’ve heard of writers securing their first deal with 500 unique monthly visitors, just as I’ve heard of those with 25,000 readers struggling to lock in press stays.
I would always argue that it’s about quality, not quantity.
What clients want to see is that you have a strong platform and a good product that they’re going to want to link to. This means a well-built website which functions easily. Focus on getting any technical glitches out of the way before you even think about pitching.
Hotels will want to see that you already have high-quality content on your site. Interesting articles, well-written copy and great images are essential. The theme of your blog should be clear within seconds.
You should have social media pages already set up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest at the very least. It’s fine to approach hotels while you still have a fledgling following on social media, but make sure that brand identity is clear and that existing posts are relevant.
FYI: I’m going to be posting a series of articles soon on how to start a blog. If you’re not too sure where to begin, watch this space (or feel free to message me in the meantime!).
Have you researched the hotel?
This is essential.
Hotels are often inundated with requests from hopeful bloggers. Make your pitch stand out from the crowd by actually taking the time to read up about the place.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Why is this hotel a good match for my blog? Most successful travel blogs will have some sort of niche, whether that’s a focus on wellbeing, fitness, luxury or budget. Stay true to your niche and readership. Choose a hotel that suits your audience and make a note of concrete examples why it would appeal to them. For example, if you write about wellness and the hotel has a beautiful spa, you should be mentioning this in your pitch. If you’re writing for backpackers and the hotel can arrange budget trips, this would be a perfect detail to bring up.
- Does the price range suit my readership? Check the room rates for different seasons. Are they realistic to your audience? Ultimately, a hotel is going to want to secure bookings from working with you, so you need to think carefully about whether this likely to happen. If your blog caters more towards budget travellers, but the nightly rate starts at £200+, the answer is probably no.
- What are their key identifiers? Hotels put considerable consideration into their marketing and will likely have target customers in mind. Look out for buzzwords used across their website and social media. For example, a hotel looking to draw in families might use words like “family friendly”, “creche”, “kids clubs”. If your blog matches up with this, you should be using these words throughout your pitch.
- Are there any unique events coming up? If these coincide with your stay, this could be an excellent hook and linking opportunity. The more details you notice, the more enticing your pitch will be.
- Why does the location work for you? You need to think about why this setting will interest your readers, and what else you plan to do in the nearby area. If you can show the hotel that your stay with them will be part of a bigger series of articles on your blog, they may see the potential to be linked to other local business and events, giving them even more exposure from working with you.
Is your professional identity clear?
First impressions count, and little details can make all the difference. Don’t fall at the first hurdle when making your pitch. Make sure you’ve got these steps in place:
- Set up a professional email address. On a basic level, you can create a free company email by registering your blogname@ address with any of the free email providers, such as gmail, hotmail etc. If you want to go full professional, use a service such as Google’s GSuite to create a business email address (e.g. email@example.com). This will cost a small fee and is a bit fiddly to set up, but it will look considerably better when approaching clients. Avoid using your personal email address at all costs, particularly if it has nothing to do with your blog or if it was made when you were 13. firstname.lastname@example.org might well be a true reflection of your character, but it’s unlikely to secure you a writing job.
- Register your own domain name. This is such an important one if you want your blog to be viewed professionally. It’s great that there are so many free blogging platforms out there allowing people to share their work online, but to establish your blog as a brand, it needs to have its own domain.
- Set up an email signature. This is free and easy to do, but adding a professional-looking signature to your outgoing email creates a great impression, particularly if you can integrate your logo.
Find the appropriate person to address your pitch to
This might not work for all hotels, but it’s always worth establishing who the ‘decision maker’ is before you get in contact. It might be the hotel’s manager. It might be that they have a team who handle press/marketing enquiries. Or, they might have a PR company in charge of blogger requests.
Do a little research through their website before you approach anyone. Often, in the contact section, you might find an email specifically for these requests, or you’ll quickly find the name of their PR company. If they mention a marketing manager specifically by name (or you can find them through LinkedIn) that’s even better. It gives you someone to address directly in the email, and reflects well upon your professionalism.
If you’re not sure who to contact, there’s absolutely no harm in sending out a brief blanket email through their information address or even through social media. Keep this short and to the point. Mention that you are a travel blogger, and the name of your website. Say that you would like to pitch an exciting opportunity for collaboration. Ask if they can point you in the right direction for the person who looks after marketing enquiries.
Follow the hotel on social media
If the hotel is interested in your enquiry, they’re likely to scout you out online before getting back to you. One of the simplest ways you can show you are genuinely interested in working with their company is to be already following them across social media. Following a hotel takes seconds to do, so don’t let this be the reason you miss out on an opportunity!
Writing the pitch
If you’ve followed the steps above, congrats – you’re ready to start writing your pitch! See what I mean about the background work that goes into blogging?
When it comes to pitch itself, remember that although you want to make a great impression, you also want to keep things concise. With the volume of enquiries hotels receive, the last thing they’re going to want to do is pour over a 1200 word essay on why they should work with you. Often, they’ll make a snap judgement within the first 10 seconds of opening your email. Keep it short and to the point. No more than 300 words, or a few short paragraphs.
As a basic structure, your pitch should go something like this:
- Addressing the client
- Introducing yourself and the reason for getting in touch
- A brief synopsis of your blog and important stats
- Why your blog is the perfect match
- What you are asking for
- What you are offering
- Examples of your work
- A few closing words
Let’s talk through these in more detail.
1 – Addressing the client
As I mentioned before, you should ideally try to find out the name of the relevant contact person. “Hello Mandy” is always going to look better than “Hi there”. It’s your choice whether to opt for the formal “Dear” or “Hello”. Personally, I prefer the latter as it’s more casual, and in general, blogger requests tend to be handled in a more informal way.
2 – Introducing yourself and the reason for getting in touch
Getting started is always the hardest bit, but really, you’re just letting the client know who’s getting in touch and why. Make sure to include your name, location and any major (but only if they’re relevant) achievements, linking this up to the purpose of your pitch. Something along these lines would do fine:
“My name is A, and I’m a travel writer based in B. As well as writing for leading publications such as C and D, I also run the popular/emerging travel blog E. I’m getting in touch today about an exciting opportunity for collaboration.”
3 – Pitch your blog
In this section of the pitch, take a little time to present your blog to the hotel. In short, they’ll want to know what it is, who it’s for and how many people it has the power to reach.
As a rule of thumb, if you’re not able to sum up your blog’s identity in a few simple sentences, it might be worth going back to the drawing board. I know that might sound a little harsh, but in the long run, having a clear defined theme and target audience is crucial to taking your blog to a professional level. It really helps when writing pitches, as hotels want to know what’s unique about your site, and whether it matches up to their customers.
Think about it this way: while it might take a little bit of thinking to get the wording just right, once you’ve got that perfect byline, you’ll be able to use it across your marketing for years to come!
Although I might tailor my wording to suit different clients, I would typically summarise my blog with something like:
“Blethers from Afar is a travel and lifestyle blog with a focus on finding wellbeing through adventure. Idyllic escapes, affordable luxury and meaningful experiences are my key areas of focus, and just some of the topics which have best appealed to my audience. I have a dedicated readership base, with over 2,500 unique monthly views, a social media following of 10,000+, and a monthly newsletter which has over 250 subscribers.”
4 – Why your blog is the perfect match
This is the time to show the results of your earlier research on the hotel. Explain why you are approaching this hotel specifically, and what has drawn you to them. Draw upon those earlier buzzwords to show the links between what you know that they can offer, and why this ties in perfectly with everything that your blog stands for.
While you need to be complimentary, remember that ultimately you need to turn the tables here to prove to this hotel why they should want to collaborate with you. What can you offer? Why will your readers be interested in a hotel like this? What makes you more relevant than the other blogs out there?
5 & 6 – What you are asking for/What you are offering
Be clear. Explain exactly what you’re asking the hotel to give you. They’ll either be able to offer it or they won’t.
Giving the hotel multiple options might seem like a gentler approach, but actually, what it really does is indicate a lack of clarity on your part. That can be massively off-putting. You might even talk yourself out of a better deal!
Keep it simple and make sure to include specifics such as how many nights, the dates (if relevant) and people are involved. Keep the tone direct, but friendly.
“I will be town from the 14th-16th of May. My suggestion would be that in exchange for a complimentary two night stay for two people on those dates (inc. Bed and Breakfast, plus spa access and dinner on the first evening), I will review your hotel and facilities and run a featured article plus targeted social media across Blethers from Afar.
When working with previous clients, I have found that particularly successful agreements included:
- 1 review to be featured on Blethersfromafar.com. This will run on the homepage for at least one month and will be online within one week of the stay.
- Facebook: 1 share of the original article, tagging the hotel
- Twitter: 1 share of the original article, tagging the hotel plus any pre-requested hashtags
- Pinterest: 1 pin, linking to the original article
- Instagram: 2 permanent posts, tagging the hotel plus any pre-requested hashtags. 6 stories showcasing the hotel and facilities.
- A minimum of 10 high-quality digital photographs, which the hotel will have future access to for marketing purposes
Of course, I am more than happy to tailor my content to your requirements. I’ve no doubt that your hotel will stand out to my readers, and would love to talk through the various ways we might collaborate to showcase your gorgeous accommodation as a cut above the rest.”
By giving a clear outline of what you can provide the hotel – with specific examples – it shows them that you are able to offer a professional service to suit their needs. It might be the case that they can’t give what you’re asking, but it creates a great starting point for them to be able to come back with a counteroffer.
A word of warning
Be very careful about the amount of work that you offer to put in. I’ve given a fairly substantial list above, but if you’re not ultra-savvy with social media yet or you have time constraints, don’t promise something which can’t be delivered. It’s always better to under-sell and over-deliver.
7 – Examples of your work
You’re always going to have more luck securing deals if you can show evidence of previous work.
The best way to do this is to show links to already-published commissions. I often get asked how many links you should share at this point. My honest response? Less is more. If you’ve sold yourself enough throughout the pitch (namedropping previous clients is a handy way to do this) then in theory, just one link should suffice. Two if you must, but certainly not more than three.
Clients want to see that you can produce the goods. Being able to scan through an example of your work will show them that the quality of the content is good enough, but also they might be looking to see how well your readers engaged with it e.g. through comments, or social media responses. At the end of the day, the ultimate aim for the hotel is to secure more bookings through collaborating with you. Show them an article that produced good results and great reader interaction and you’re more likely to grab their attention.
If you’re not at this stage in your blogging career yet, you might want to build up your written portfolio by asking local businesses if you can review them. Everyone has to start somewhere. Generally speaking, I’ve found that clients will always pick quality content over post counts.
8 – Closing words
Keep this friendly and engaging; show the client that you’re very keen to hear back from them and that you appreciate their time. Something along these lines would suit:
“I’m excited to hear your thoughts on this, and hope to be able to collaborate with HOTEL NAME in the very near future. Thank you for taking the time to read my pitch.
I’ll look forward to hearing from you.”
After you’ve submitted the pitch
Don’t expect an immediate response.
Hotels are busy places, and quite frankly, handing out complimentary press stays is not always going to be top of their list of priorities. Often companies receive so many enquiries that they handle them in just two or three waves throughout the year. If you don’t hear back, it’s not because they’re being rude. It might genuinely be standard procedure.
Send a follow up to your pitch
It’s perfectly appropriate to send a follow up email. Sometimes it can even work in your favour, as it shows the hotel just how keen you are. HOWEVER, it’s very important to keep get the tone right. Allow at least two weeks to pass before you contact the hotel, and politely suggest that there might be a time reason why you are looking for a response. For example:
“I’m currently firming up my travel arrangements for my trip to X, and was wondering whether you had the opportunity yet to consider my proposal for collaboration. Please do let me know if anyone from your marketing department would like to have a chat and get the ball rolling on this project.”
Don’t be disheartened if it’s a no
There are countless reasons why a hotel might not be able to offer a press stay. Some don’t offer them at all! Others might have a set budget for bloggers which has already been stretched, or it might just be that the dates are inconvenient.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that they just don’t feel the collaboration is the best fit. While it can be hard not to take that personally, it’s important to keep perspective. If they give you specific feedback, see it as a learning opportunity for changes you can implement to your site, or future pitches. And remember…some companies just disagree with blogging collaborations full stop! Thankfully, most do see press stays as mutually beneficial, but at the end of the day, you are essentially asking for a product which might cost or lose the hotel money. It’s important to keep that in mind, and to be grateful for any opportunities which do come your way!
Rejection is absolutely par for the course. Many bloggers will testify to the fact that they often send multiple pitches at any one time – some only hearing back from one out of every ten hotels contacted!
Be polite at all times
It’s so important to represent yourself well when communicating with potential clients – even if that comes to accepting rejection! Always make sure to respond in a friendly and professional manner. You never know who they might be connected to, or how word can spread.
I’ve written a LOT of hotel/product pitches over the years and definitely had to adapt my style over time. These tips have really helped me form some of my most successful pitches. It’s been an absolute joy to be able to review clients ranging from small boutique hotels to luxury chains. The most important lesson I’ve learned over the years? Gratitude. Be thankful for every opportunity that comes your way. Find ways to show your appreciation wherever your travels may take you. Happy pitching!
Some of my favourite hotel reviews to date: