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How to pitch and work with writers

The Adventure Travel Trade Association offers some helpful advice for getting the most out of your relationships with media.

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Your tour company or destination has a story to tell. You craft incredible new experiences, create connections with local people doing positive things for the community, and have a rich history to share. But you need to get those stories out into the world — a world increasingly crowded with messages.Writers are on the hunt for awesome stories. They’re looking for compelling characters, fresh angles on common news, and accessibility for research, photos, and interviews. Selling these stories is their livelihood — so they’re always looking for the right one at the right time that fits the right publication.It sounds likes a match made in heaven. But in order for adventure travel professionals to get those perfect stories published, they need to know how to pitch the writers who pen them.

Working with writers
Writers and destinations and tour operators meet one-on-one at ATTA’s annual AdventureELEVATE conferences.Jonah Grubb / ATTA

What To Pitch

Unfortunately, just because your tour company or destination exists doesn’t make it newsworthy. In figuring out what writers might be interested in pursuing, dig deep into what could possibly be story material:

  • What new products or experiences are you offering?
  • How are your products or experiences unique?
  • Is there a timely or newsworthy angle, such as a tie-in with a significant anniversary, celebration, or trend?
  • What does your company or destination do differently?
  • In what areas are you and/or your employees experts?
  • Does your company do anything exceptional in the communities in which it works?
  • How is your business or destination a leader in what it offers to visitors?

Though every company and destination wants a glossy print feature all to itself, many travel articles today are round-up pieces or “listicles,” featuring several destinations or experiences encompassing a specific theme. Examples include articles like “Adrenaline and Zen: Five Trips of a Lifetime” and “Explore 10 of Macedonia’s Top Natural and Historic Treasures.” Keep themes like this in mind when working to craft the perfect pitch to send to writers, and perhaps suggest other experiences or destinations that could round out such a piece.

Additionally, take stock of any available photography you have available for writers to use. Print publications generally require high-resolution images, while many online stories now take the form of slideshows.

Who To Pitch

Just as your company has certain specialties, so do writers. You’re looking for writers who are a good match for your story, brand, and demographic. Consider the print magazines, newspapers, online publications, and blogs in which they publish. Whether pitching a writer during an Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA)networking event or via email, do your research in advance. Review writers’ websites and social media for an overview of topics, trends, or geographical locations they frequently write about. Read some of the stories they’ve written.

Keep in mind, it is more important to pitch a writer who may be interested in your story than a writer who has published in a popular outlet but is not interested in your destination or experience. “We’re all busy, and I understand that sending out press releases to a list is an easy way to get the word out, but my biggest pet peeve is when folks don’t take a moment to find out what I cover,” said Jill Robinson, a widely published freelance writer and ATTA media member. “I regularly get way off-base pitches for things I’ve either never covered or haven’t covered in years.”

Though there may be some ideal travel publications for your story, think creatively and cast a wider net. It’s very rare to find people who exclusively write for travel publications, but they may have relationships with a number of seemingly unrelated publications that could still a be good fit.

For example, is there an age-specific publication that speaks to your ideal demographic? If there is an airline serving a destination in which you work, perhaps an in-flight magazine would be a good fit. Does your experience fit a particular interest niche such as climbing, cycling, or diving? If so, maybe you should look toward a specialty publication serving that specific audience. Freelance writers are flexible and able to approach multiple outlets with story ideas, and they may have publications or angles in mind you haven’t considered.

You could lead the best tour in the world, but you have to pitch to media the right way to get noticed.Pexels

Crafting the Pitch

Too many industry professionals distribute press releases widely hoping their news sticks somewhere. Unfortunately, those cookie-cutter releases lack relevancy for many writers. Writers receive dozens of press releases every day, many of which do not have a newsworthy or timely angle. The vast majority of these press releases go straight into the garbage.

Your story deserves better treatment, so increase the chances a writer will open, read, and act on your email pitch. Demonstrate you’ve done your homework about the writer by personalizing it and explaining why it’s a good pitch for that particular writer right now. Use a catchy subject line, make it newsworthy, keep it short, and embed a link to other online assets like imagery or documents supporting the story idea.

What does a successful pitch look like? This one resulted in a story in Paste Magazine:Hey JoAnna,Thinking back to our conversation on Friday triggered an idea. I only have very preliminary details from talking with people throughout the years, but if you’re interested, I could help you explore this idea further.Within some restaurants on The Strip reside certain people who have just one ultra-specific job that is integral to the dining experience. They do one thing, only one thing, and they are the masters at it. This talent of theirs has lead to an unusual, yet fruitful occupation for years.Here are some of the examples of “The <blank> Guy” off the top of my head, but I’m certain we can find more if you are interested:

  • The Naan Guy at Harvest by Roy Ellamar – When Sensi closed and was transitioned to Harvest, only a few things stayed the same. One of those things was “The Naan Guy.” Harvest has one man who specializes in making the South Asian Flatbread. His naan is so beloved, that his fans demanded that naan stay when the restaurant made its transition.

(The pitch included four more examples of possible people to include in the piece.)Apologies for the lack of detail and the informal nature of the language, but the idea just came across my mind, so I wanted to run it by you to see if you are interested.Let me know your thoughts whenever you have a moment.

“If a destination or tour operator wants to pitch a story to me, the best way to catch my attention is to grab me in the first paragraph. Why does this place or tour stand out? What’s special about it?” Robinson said. “When I pitch my editors, I have to make an argument: Why this place, and why now? Helping me see that early on in the process allows me to focus and ask the right questions to determine which publication is a match for the story.”

If pitching writers in person, such as at an ATTA event, use the time wisely. A pitch should only be about 30 seconds long. It needs to be factual and catch a writer’s attention right away with that special something only you can deliver. After the pitch, let a writer respond. S/he may have questions or need clarification. If there’s something you don’t know the answer to, make a note of it and follow up at your earliest convenience. Don’t be afraid to ask writers if the story idea fits in with what they’re working on. If the answer is no, it’s not an indication you have a bad story — just that this isn’t the right writer at this time.

Stay in Touch

If you’ve found a writer interested in your story, congratulations! But interest is just the beginning for writers. At this point, they have to sell the story to a publication, write the piece with specific editorial expectations in mind, and juggle this deadline in addition to dozens of others. The best thing you can do is remain available. Writers may have follow-up questions, require sources to interview, and need access to photography. Respond to these inquiries as helpfully and quickly as possible.

Even as one writer is telling a specific story about your product, experience, or destination, keep in mind there may be many other ways to tell your story that other writers may be interested in for additional publications. Look for fresh angles you can continue to pitch to get the most leverage. Can you tie in a new holiday, festival, or season? Is there an interesting person who could be interviewed? Is there a different B2C or B2B way to present the story? Can it be tied to a different trend? Think creatively and keep pitching accordingly.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when pitching writers is they are people too. This is an opportunity for a win-win relationship: Just as you want to find the perfect writer to tell your story, writers want to find the perfect stories to sell to their editors. But instead of thinking of them as the vehicle with which to get your story out into the world, work on fostering meaningful relationships with them. And keep in mind writers are always looking for a pipeline of compelling stories, so even if one story isn’t a great fit, there may be future opportunities to work together.

“Our relationship is much stronger when we focus on those things that I do best,” Robinson said, “because even if I’m working with you on one story now, I’ll remember you in the future, and that one story may lead to more.”

This story was originally published by the Adventure Travel Trade Association.