By Talia Sinkinson, Editor, Media Relations, Bulldog Reporter
Bloggers are proven to drive millions of consumers (and consumer spending) to the products, services and destinations they write about. If you’re a PR pro in the business or consumer market, blogs will soon be your number-one priority when it comes to coverage—if they aren’t already. What’s more, video bloggers (or “vloggers”) are transforming the blogosphere with eye-catching content that engages Web-surfers in unprecedented ways. Getting your brand featured in an online video is now akin to scoring coveted airtime in a TV broadcast.
Travel blogs in particular are among the most trafficked sites online—with millions of readers turning to them for the latest travel scoops and deals. Diamond Public Relations, a boutique PR agency with one client that craves lots of ink, has been leading the way in travel blog wins. The client is Florida Marriott, a group of 14 unique hotels, spread throughout the Sunshine State and touting different attractions and amenities. In a hard-hitting campaign, Diamond PR tapped top bloggers and vloggers to promote Marriott’s many locations and increase the brand’s reach online. Read below for a step-by-step guide to choosing web influencers, pitching them stories and leveraging earned and owned web content to drive sales.
The Challenge: Give bloggers an offer they can’t refuse. The agency identified a range of influential online media to visit resorts within the collection and subsequently report back to their audiences on their experiences at their assigned properties. Based on a series of criteria—including monthly reach, niche, where they were based (focusing on target demographics) and social media influence—Diamond PR selected eight travel bloggers and vloggers.
“Bloggers should be approached the same way you’d approach anyone in life—in a tailored way, relevant to them,” explains Kara Rosner, vice president of Diamond Public Relations. “There is nothing worse than a blanket approach, painting all bloggers with one brush. They are each unique in their writing style, their audience, their interests, their storytelling methods, etc. and your approach should be specific to those things. When you contact bloggers, you need to be able to demonstrate that you have done your homework, are familiar with their blogs and are reaching out for a reason or with an idea that makes sense to them. The best hooks are then based on that—an idea, trend, trip or otherwise that will spark their particular interests.”
The Strategy: Divide and conquer. Give each blogger a distinct experience. In order to market the 13 participating properties in a cost-effective way, Diamond PR divided the resort collection into four regions by geography, assigning two bloggers to each region. The team then created eight different itineraries, providing a unique experience for each travel blogger.
“Creating eight separate but simultaneous itineraries was probably the biggest challenge of the campaign,” notes Rosner. “There were a lot of behind-the-scenes logistics that had to be coordinated to create an experience tailored to each of the bloggers that also provided a level exposure for all 13 properties that would make sense. Managing rental cars, providing directions for the road trips between properties, coordinating all of the rooms and dates, onsite and offsite activities and dealing with 13 different hotels and their representatives created a big project that required a lot of extreme multi-tasking and organizational skills.”
After much planning and some finagling, Diamond PR let the bloggers loose, offering each one resort credits so they could enjoy the hotels at leisure and explore based on their interests and those of their audiences. In producing the itineraries, the agency worked closely with each of the resorts to include their hottest features—for example, rounds of golf at championship courses, spa treatments and tennis lessons with renowned instructors. The bloggers then documented their adventures, giving write-ups and videos their own personal spins and twists.
Align content channels. Diamond PR made sure earned content was leveraged properly—and didn’t end up in the depths of the wild web. “The two main components in aggregating the blogger content was a designated hashtag and a website where all the posts were compiled,” says Rosner. “To leverage the power of social media, we created the hashtag #BloggingFL to be used by participants when posting about their experiences on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, prior, during and after the event. With each blogger traveling separately, the social media aspect enabled participants to stay connected and establish a sense of camaraderie amongst one another throughout their visit while simultaneously promoting the resort collection.”
“The website www.FloridaResortBuzz.com was created as part of the event where blogger biographies, social media handles and blog posts were aggregated in a ‘live-feed’ format to showcase coverage of Florida Marriott resorts in one designated place,” she adds. “In addition to streaming blog posts from each participant’s outlet, the event hashtag facilitated the aggregation/tracking of Tweets and Instagram posts on the site.”
Savor the moment. Repurpose earned and owned content. Diamond PR bolstered blogger coverage by using www.FloridaResortBuzz.com to house all coverage throughout the campaign. This also kept the ball rolling, even once the bloggers had returned home.
“Creating a dedicated website where the bloggers’ original content was compiled allowed for a second place to share the resulting blog posts and articles that came as a result of the campaign, in addition to their own personal blogs. We also used the social channels—of the hotels, as well as of the agency—to share the content and provide another avenue to spread it,” Rosner says.
“With owned content, using native advertising is another way to repurpose it if there’s a budget for that and it’s been agreed to ahead of time with permission from the bloggers. Moving forward, as a spin off of this campaign, we have launched an ongoing Florida blog, and we will be using this content there as well, providing even greater value and use for it.”
The Results: Agency achieves perfect participation. Eight influential travel bloggers and vloggers make waves for Marriott. Combined, the eight bloggers reached a total of 1,043,400 unique visitors monthly, catering to a wide range of consumers in the brand’s targeted family, luxury, leisure, spa, golf, fitness, adventure, culinary and business travel markets. Within a one-month period, participants produced a total of 39 blog posts that promoted Florida Marriott’s collection of hotels and resorts, resulting in a combined reach of more than five million.
As a result of the #BloggingFL hashtag, all posts generated by bloggers were linked together in one conversation. According to the social tracking tool Hashtracking.com, the #BloggingFL hashtag achieved just short of 8 million “timeline deliveries” on Twitter alone.
The combined reach of the eight bloggers on Twitter was 148,698; on Facebook was 29,695; and on Instagram was 8,489. And these numbers do not include the reach achieved by industry partners—for example state and local tourism boards—who commented, replied to and retweeted content posted by bloggers, providing even more reach and value.
Secrets for Success: Read on as Rosner offers top tips and explains why Diamond PR’s “Blogging Florida” campaign won in “Best Use of Social Media” at the Bulldog Media Relations PR Awards.
- Map out your moves. “Plan ahead as much as possible. And then be flexible. We came up with new ideas to implement or ways of doing things as we went along and adjusted as needed.”
- Do your homework. “Picking bloggers for a project like this had a lot of factors. We were looking for people who had a substantial reach, but more specifically, who would be a good fit from their audience-demographic standpoint. Additionally, we looked at the reach of each blogger’s social networks and included that in our consideration of who to invite.”
- Leverage your content. “By using the dedicated hashtag #BloggingFL (versus just a Marriott-specific hashtag), we captured the attention of third parties (like state attractions and visitors bureaus) who ultimately broadened the social reach of our campaign by sharing our Florida-related content to their hundreds of thousands of followers.
Inaugurated in 2007, Diamond Public Relations has climbed to the top of the list of boutique PR agencies of its kind by cultivating long-standing relationships with a variety of leading travel and hospitality clients and executing PR plans infused with creative ideas that get results. In an era where traditional media roles are shifting and social media platforms continue to evolve, Diamond PR has kept on top of industry trends and has transitioned steadily with them. Due to the firm’s ability to evolve with these trends and incorporate them into their clients’ communication plans, they have been presented with several industry accolades, including the Bulldog Awards for outstanding social media campaigns and Adrian Awards for their excellence in media relations and publicity.