I get a lot of press releases. I get occasional follow up phone calls from PRs too. Usually I’ve at least scanned the subject line. Usually I’m pretty short with whoever is calling. If I've not responded, that means I'm not interested.
I got a follow up call from Poland a week or so back. Just seeing it was an international call piqued my curiosity so, I answered. A nervous girl asked me if I’d seen their tweets and email about visiting Gdansk. I had. They’d tweeted me and followed up with an email. I’d read the contents, but it talked about watching a video. Bound to be a crap attempt at a ‘viral video’ I thought and ignored it. The girl said they wanted to invite me on a blog trip to Gdansk. I explained that I don’t really blog about travel. ‘Yes, but you’re very active on social media,’ she explained. Fine, I said. Let me take a better look at your email. If what you want is promotion on Twitter and Flickr maybe that would work.
I read the email and watched the video. It was clever. The video was personalised for me. At the start of it there was a message written on a chalk board – “Jeremy Head - Are you ready for an adventure?"
So I replied to say I’d go. In return for the trip I’d tweet and post images whilst there and I’d probably write something about how the trip was organised on my blog – particularly because I thought the video idea was really neat and worth sharing.
Next day I got a follow up email asking for stats about my blog. City Hall at Gdansk wanted to know more. I replied asking what exactly they wanted in terms of stats. This blog is hardly a mega traffic driver. I got a reply explaining that after reviewing my blog maybe the Gdansk blog trip wasn’t so appropriate. Maybe I fancied attending a blogger conference instead – with a link to a website. All in Polish.
So, a blog trip that never happened.
Why recount all the above? I think it shows a few things that are worthy of debate.
Blogtrips are gaining traction as a means for promotion among destination marketing organisations (or tourist boards as we often call them in the UK). Lots of people will testify to this – Keith and Melvin who set up iAmbassador, Steve and Mark who run Travel Perspective. There’s clearly an appetite. So, presumably people think they work.
But what does that mean?
I’m not sure people know what they are looking for. My sample of one certainly suggests that. Gdansk is not the most obvious of tourism destinations and probably not somewhere with buckets of cash to spend on marketing. So why create a personalised video for me when I’m not really the right kind of blogger for them?
Working out what you want from this kind of activity and then working out if you achieved it is complex.
I don’t think anyone has really cracked it yet. I’m reminded of the old maxim from someone famous “I know 50% of my advertising doesn’t work. Just wish I knew which 50%”.
There are some nascent models around. Keith and Melvin have done some interesting work trying to compare the value of online articles and tweets with the traditional PR measure of advertising equivalent rates. But it's quite complex. Typically a PR who sets up a trip for a client and gets coverage in a newspaper on say 2 pages will compare that with the cost of buying advertising on 2 similar pages of the same paper. It has been used by the industry for decades.
I’m not completely sure. Most tour operators who send a journalist on a trip aren’t that bothered about advertising equivalent. For them it’s the far harder very simple metric – did it generate enquiries?
In theory at least the plethora of data available in the digital realm (compared to the print one) ought to make the job of assessing the value of editorial coverage easier. But with no one model that's taken as the standard for all to use, it isn't.
The key to all of this for now?
Work out what you want to achieve first and work out too how you’ll measure that success. That way you’ll have a decent chance of working with the right kind of bloggers in the first place.
Have you worked with bloggers or are you thinking of doing so? How do you think we should measure the value of their activity?