Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Björn Reckewell, head of the tourism and retail development department in Wolfenbüttel in Lower Saxony. The city has around 53,000 inhabitants, 160,000 overnight stays, and 1.2 million day visitors.
Local tourism players attach particular importance to marketing in digital media. This blog post will inform you why Wolfenbüttel is very active in working with bloggers. So, without further ado, here are 5 reasons why Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) should consider guest blogging.
1. The travel press is dead, long live the travel blog.
2. Content is king – but which guest believes the local leaders?
3. Bloggers take the view of the guest if you let them.
4. What about Mystery Checks?
5. Meet great people and learn.
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1. The travel press is dead, long live the travel blog
The first thesis sounds like thunder and calls for contradiction. No, dear journalists, of course, the headline is not about black or white, nor is it 100% correct. A headline should lure you into the text. You know what I mean. But are we honest?
How many “real” travel journalists still exist in Germany? How many publishers and newspapers/magazines still “afford” a professionally qualified department with “professional vacationers” who write about it for their readers? And do it regardless of the respective destination or the hotel visited, with outstanding photos and close to what their own readership also appreciates?
I dare to shoot into the blue and say: very few. And how many of them are interested in a destination like Wolfenbüttel, for example?
If we wanted to wait for it, we’d grow old and gray without kissing. So in recent years, we have worked together with corresponding press services such as the German Journalist Services (djd) and will continue to do so in the future.
The djd does an excellent job and helps hidden champions like our city to get coverage in the press. And this is especially the case where there is no longer a travel department with its own staff. The responsible editorial offices are grateful for good photos and journalistically well-written texts.
But we DMOs have become more and more professional in the last years. It is not just a matter of doing public relations work and then being happy when we achieve a good quota as a circulation. We have worked through brand processes, analyzed target groups, described personas and located ourselves on the Limbic Map.
All this and much more leads to the fact that we (think) know our guest quite well and know what he or she likes and expects from us. And this is where the diverse and numerous travel blogs enter the scene and offer themselves as cooperation partners. Because as different as the travel areas and the guest interests are, so are the bloggers who tell about it on their blogs.
2. Content is King – but which guest believes the local leaders?
Since the first SEO workshop a few years ago, all of us who run a website has been carrying the sentence “content is king” as a mantra in front of us. Especially clever marketing people among us supplement this with the sequel “… but context is god”.
If you now combine these formulations with the daily demand for the topicality of the website, you will have a lot of work to do. Because, if we are honest, the DMO with all its offers and providers usually does not change so rapidly that new content is constantly being added, let alone well-written. And every now and then, there is also the problem of credibility. We, local tourism managers, are in love with our offers and always talk about them in the most flowery ways. So the guest always deducts a few percents from what he reads about us.
So how do we solve the dilemma of constantly new (or differently narrated) content? Very simple: We like to work with bloggers who do this job for us. We can also take into account and influence which target group(s) serve the respective blogs during the selection process. In most cases, this results in exactly what we want to produce.
Outstanding travel bloggers tell their faithful readers a beautiful story about our city and the feedback brings our public work a good step forward. And because the blog posts become more and more valuable over time on the web thanks to Google & Co., as they rise in the ranking, there is also a good long-term effect.
3. Bloggers take the view of the guest if you let them
When we are honest with ourselves, we often lack sight through the eyes of our guests. Who of us has ever stayed in a local hotel or in a holiday flat? Who can go out to dinner as anonymously as a guest and visit the cultural and leisure facilities to experience a real guest experience? In a medium-sized city like Wolfenbüttel, we are only able to do this to a very limited extent, as we have known all our partners for a very long time and are familiar with each other.
Here the cooperations with the bloggers help us again. However, it is important to choose the right blogs for your target group so that everything is right in the end. If the bloggers reflect the target group well, they experience the city and all offer exactly the same and write and/or photograph exactly as our guests like to read and see it themselves. It sounds simple because it is.
However, it is important to give bloggers the necessary freedom. We must not take them by the hand and look after them every second with a tightly timed program. Because then they experience everything the way we would like it to be. So my plea is: Dear DMOs, give them time and space and trust your service providers to do a good job.
In the end, you will be rewarded with great insights about your destinations, which you yourself might never have seen. And what happens if a planned experience doesn’t pick impress the bloggers times or knocks them over? Or if the performance of the service provider was not really good? Then the next point comes into play.
4. No need for Mystery Checks
From the very beginning, we openly ask bloggers for feedback about what they have experienced, how they have experienced it and all that goes with it. And of course, we leave it up to the blogger not to write enthusiastically about anything that didn’t inspire them. There are also sentences like “… Castle Museum at first glance does not really open up to me. Maybe I should have taken a tour after all…”
We find this honest and appreciative, leaving room for people to form their own opinion. The blogger, in this case, did not have to bend and praise a museum which did not inspire him. But it helps us to know each time what was good and where there’s room for improvement. And sometimes, the direction signs may not be good enough to find the right place, a meeting point may not be located correctly, and so on.
These are all things that help us to keep an eye on the entire guest experience within the scope of the service design methodology and – where possible – to adjust the quality.
5. You meet great people and learn from them
Of course, you can find blogs on the web, email the bloggers and make the first contact. We want to establish long-term relationships and have been following various blogs and their creators on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for some time. The intention to cooperate is not always the same, but it often comes about through regular contact.
Sometimes something is liked here, then commented on there and very slowly a contact is established that is honest and at eye level. So it’s all the nicer when you finally meet up in person. This is possible at trade fairs like the ITB but I personally like BarCamps above all.
These refreshing non-conferences without a big program and fixed topics simply leave much more room for the thematic exchange and also for personal encounters. The Niedersachsencamp der Städtekooperationen is a very good example and of course Tourismuscamp von Tourismuszukunft.
Don’t have a BarCamp nearby? Then simply organize one yourself or make or invite a blogger community. This way you can directly contact bloggers. Most of them are very well connected and help you to organize and connect with other blogs. For us in Wolfenbüttel, there are always great contacts with interesting people, which we would not want to miss.
This blog post is part of our series on destination marketing. You can find the rest of the articles below:
- 10 Destination Marketing Strategies to Help You Grow Quickly
- 8 Tips for Successful Destination Branding
- How to Use Social Media for Destination Marketing
- The Top Destination Marketing Trends in 2020 and Beyond
- How to Get Destination Marketing Right in a Digital World
- 4 Destination Marketing Campaigns to Inspire You In 2020 and Beyond
- The Most Useful Destination Marketing Tools for Any Budget
- How Destinations Should Position Themselves in the Tours & Activities Market
- Storytelling for DMOs: Make Your Destination Come Alive