What are the best examples you’ve seen for content marketing in travel?
British Airways have been producing some incredible campaigns recently. I often think the term “content marketing” is thought of as an online campaign, but I wouldn’t restrict it just to that.
The #Lookup campaign BA have produced is very effective, firstly because it’s a very clever idea and it gets people talking – and secondly, because it does a great job of integrating offline advertising with online marketing, encouraging people to share via the #Lookup hashtag to generate additional promotion via social media too:
They really understand their audience and make high-quality consumer-led content, which is why it works so well. A common mistake is that content is made by marketers to marketers – it should be made for your customers, that’s the target audience.
BA’s a ticket to visit mum video is another great example of how they’ve made their content about the customer, which is an incredibly powerful way of telling their brand’s story online.
BlueGlass are well known for throwing some great travel events what have you learnt during the process?
It’s been a real eye-opener for us, despite the fact that we’ve worked on a large amount of travel brand campaigns over the years – it’s always as a client-agency relationship.
The events we run are not about BlueGlass at all, we just facilitate the conversation. That has allowed us to really get a feel for what people are really talking about and the challenges they face within the travel industry, both on the digital marketing side and travel bloggers.
What are your tips for approaching travel bloggers?
Get to know them. It doesn’t matter how good your templates are, no-one likes being cold-pitched to. Pay a real, genuine interest in them – if you can understand what makes them tick, what interests they have, what content they write and help them out.
The real results are the long-term relationships you build – so make it win, win. It’s not about getting a quick link or tweet, it’s about building a mutual partnership that can pay off both ways for years to come, not just days.
How are travel bloggers different from other bloggers you’ve worked with?
Every industry is slightly different in terms of bloggers, but like any others, they’re trying to make a living.
That can sometimes be difficult to understand for marketers – and travel bloggers are often thought of having an inflated value of their worth. Yet there are two sides to every story, just as we don’t want to be seen as paying for links, travel bloggers rightly need to be valued for their work.
Also, free gifts and travel trips only go so far, as great as a 3-night break in an all-expenses-paid hotel sounds – just like anyone else, bloggers still need to pay the bills.
This again highlights the need to make it a win, win relationship – whether it’s traffic and promotion you can send them, or help and support (we’ve had travel bloggers in our office where we gave them Google+ training – it improves their authority, for both them and us!) – you need to find a situation where you can provide value with both ways, instead of making it a transaction.
What is your advice for small brands trying to compete in travel?
Add value, focus on customers and create content to help them through their journey. It’s no longer about the ‘ABC’ (always be closing) techniques that perhaps used to work. We’re now in an age where we should always be educating.
The travel buying cycle can be very long, you want to make sure you have valuable content available at each stage:
Renaissance Hotels are a great example of a brand who really gets this. Pitching their content often where it’s most valuable to them – at the consideration phase. Take a look at their content, it doesn’t try to force you into booking a hotel room, instead, it makes you want to jump in the pool or drink a cocktail on their rooftop!
This is great content marketing, again perhaps not in the sense we’re familiar with. But persuasive content can be extremely powerful and conversion rate optimisation isn’t just about increasing the booking rates of a page from 4% to 5% – if you can influence the 95% who are undecided about staying there in the first, answer any fears and inspire them to book, that’s where your content can really add real value to your business.
Renaissance Hotels have thought very hard about this – as quoted on Forbes by their VP of Global Marketing:
“As a global brand with limited awareness and limited marketing budget, we have to find ways to be relevant and drive consideration. Content is critical for us because it’s the currency that drives our relevance and therefore consumer consideration for our brand. And content for us lives first and foremost in the offline world through our hotel guest experience. This is how we ensure that what we do and say is authentic. Then we extend it to online to continue the dialogue with existing guests and their network (our prospects).”
What is the best strategy for travel brands who are discovering digital late?
There’s no silver bullet – that’s the key. The brands who are winning are those who accept it’s hard work and realise the pay-off is long-term.
Content marketing is all about using/developing your own assets to tell your brand’s story online. Big brands have an advantage in their power – not just from an authority perspective in Google, but also in being able to leverage their knowledge/data, people and relationships.
Many brands are now starting to realise this potential and are likely to pull away from the rest of the pack in terms of online market share as a result.
The main digital strategy I see working in 2014 and beyond for travel brands is the investment of the whole business into digital.
So it’s not just about siloed activity – it’s the integration of all channels into a solid marketing strategy.
What is the most successful SEO campaign you’ve ever run or seen?
I’ve been working with Audley Travel on their SEO since 2007, they’re a great business and our SEO has really evolved back from the early days of converting an offline brochure into an optimised website.
One project we’ve been working on them with has involved developing a content hub of information, targeted at the research/awareness early stage of the buying cycle.
From an SEO perspective, this is incredibly valuable because this is the type of content that can be shared and linked to by bloggers, journalists and social influencers. So we can use this to leverage weight from great informational content towards the more transactional destination/tour pages which are less likely to naturally acquire links.
It also uses the strength of the company – Audley provide an excellent experience, and rather than having a call centre of full of salespeople, they have a team of travel specialists with huge knowledge on the destinations you are talking to them about (they’ve normally been on the exact holiday you’re talking to them about, and are often from that location!). It can be difficult to get this value across without speaking to them, so this is where content plays a key role in sharing that expertise, history and local knowledge with their customers earlier on in the buying cycle.
What are the biggest digital mistakes you’ve seen in travel?
It’s normally reputation based – providing bad customer service offline is normally the biggest mistake anyone can do. This is an old one, but United breaks guitars had a huge negative impact on United Airlines share price. Especially in the age of social media, with brands quite often subject to playing out their challenges in the public eye, social media mismanagement can be very detrimental.
When content marketing fails, it normally means no-one sees it. And you have to accept that not every piece of content will be a roaring success, and you have to learn from the failures as well as the successes along the way.
How does travel content differ from content marketing in other industries?
Travel is a great industry to work in, and it really is endless in terms of the content ideas you can come up with. It’s also very seasonal – so the biggest challenge is often prioritising these into a solid editorial calendar.
It also allows the freedom to be creative with your projects – and to really stand out you have to put the effort in, but travel is a topic that a huge audience of people are interested in. It’s not as if you’re trying to find too many angles to broaden the appeal for people outside of your industry.
Why do you think social media has a more significant role in travel as opposed to other industries?
Mainly because people love to use social media while they travel. The impact of sharing photos rather than text on Facebook is huge, and people love to share information as they are visiting new destinations.
That’s a great opportunity for travel brands, especially given the impact of mobile – holidaymakers are now searching for places to go and restaurants to eat in while they are in a specific location. So you now have to consider providing content at the right time, in the right place – as well as the research in advance from home before a journey.
What is the role of emotion/psychology in creating great travel content?
Going back to the British Airways and Renaissance Hotels examples, they do a great job of playing to the emotions of their audience. If they can make you want to go someone, or see the emotional side of why you would book a holiday, flight or hotel stay – there’s much more chance of converting that visitor into a customer, because you’ve got them onside.
Content is a very powerful way of doing this at the consideration phase.
Who is executing multi-channel campaigns the best with their content?
Within travel, I think there’s still a big opportunity here to really tie together multi-channel campaigns into an integrated strategy.
The bigger brands are of course all doing multi-channel, in the sense of their running online and offline campaigns, SEO, PPC, display, affiliate, social etc. But those who are really centralising this and thinking about their customers first are the ones I would predict will win in 2014.
This means you need to put your CRM first, and then think about how you can get your whole marketing team behind a single strategy, with content at the centre to maximise the impact from all channels.
What travel content are you seeing generate the best social signals e.g. tweets, likes, shares?
In travel, photography and video are huge. I think blogging is becoming over-saturated, certainly for outreach you’re likely to face disappointment in traditional outreach tactics, as travel bloggers are very savvy and you’re likely to have to pay your way in, which becomes a risky game.
But travel allows you to be so creative, that you shouldn’t need to do that – you should be creating outstanding content that people can’t help but share. You still need blogging and in-depth articles, but add it to the mix, rather than putting your whole budget behind it. Don’t just think of your content team as copywriters – perhaps you’ll find hiring photographers, creative designers and videographers is a much better investment on your spend.
And as always, building relationships is key.
What are your opinions on integrating campaigns across all digital channels?
It’s essential. Simple as that!
There’s so many efficiencies and synergies in having an integrated strategy, that if you’re not doing this you’ll risk that your competitors will and they’ll catch you up.
We ditched the silos in our team a long time ago – mainly because in just SEO alone you need a mix of skillsets, between SEO strategists, content production and digital PR – it’s no longer a one-person job. Add in all of your other digital channels and it’s clear to see why having one clear, focused strategy is a much more sensible and manageable way forward.
The key focuses would be: 1) integration of multi-channel, and 2) consumer-led marketing:
Integrated – because in order to get the best results from digital you have to be able to be agile to move faster than your competitors, analyse what works and have the flexibility to make decisions to allocate budget where it works best.
Consumer-led – because search is becoming much more content and data-driven. The power that brands have is their knowledge, data and people – giving them the ability to leverage internal assets to targeted audiences.
Thanks for reading, and we’d love to hear your examples of great travel content marketing in the comments!