Fame may feel like a dream for many, but with the right advice, gumption, and hard work, it may not be as far of a reach as you think. For our Ask a Pro series, we ask an award-winning travel and tourism publicist what it takes to earn those media wins.
Getting the word out feels sudden and mysterious these days. It’s hard to tell what powers the publicity machine, the secret sauce that makes travel marketing campaigns go viral, properties get mentioned everywhere, and destinations become hot trends. And then when travel advisors get featured for TV appearances and news articles or become media personalities, it’s hard not to wonder … how?
So we went behind the scenes. We reached out to Ask a Pro.
Meet Taryn Scher, “The Sparkle Boss” of travel media agency TKPR and the wizard behind the growing popularity of several touristic destinations and niche resorts across Southeast America. She generously shared what it takes to make your name and expertise not only glitter, but stand out in a sea of others similarly trying to capture attention. Here are some of her best pro tips on how to put some shine on your agency … and yourself.
Claim your credit.
You do great things. Your agency does great things. But does anyone know about it?
Scher shares, “I’ve always been a big believer in letting the work speak for itself, but if people don’t know you’re behind that work, there’s a problem!” That’s why she advises that travel pros “Find a balance between tooting your own horn and making sure you get credit where credit is due.”
Her best recommendation? “I find places like social media make it very easy to pat yourself on the back in a way that doesn’t come off as overly egotistical. LinkedIn is a great place to showcase business accomplishments, as are other social media platforms.”
However, she notes, that’s if you want your name known among peers and professionals. If you’re trying to reach customers and gain recognition there, she emphasizes, “It’s important to understand where your potential customers are hanging out. There’s no point in putting out TikTok videos if the majority of your customers are retirees in theirs 60s, 70s, or 80s.” If you want consumers to know the good you and your agency are doing, it’s best to get familiar with what channels your target audience uses and concentrate your energy there.
Be prepared to take the spotlight.
“Beyond self-promotion, I find the best way to make a name for yourself is to become known as an expert in your field,” Scher says. “You live and breathe travel every day, so who better to offer advice to your local media on the hottest spring break destinations or best summer vacations on a budget?”
Her best suggestion to help get you on the radar requires a lot of work but a potentially big pay-off. “Try to find the reporters at y our local morning shows on TV and offer to host a segment for them. You’ll need to do all the work – gathering the videos and photos, putting together the talking points and websites – but if you do a great job, you might wind up being invited back and maybe even become a regular!”
A much easier way into media consciousness and to position yourself as an expert is to always say yes to writers and reporters (such as our team here at TravelBlogue!). Getting quoted for reference and trend stories, even if the topics might be a little dry or the mentions may be small, is an important part of establishing credibility.
Be careful not to schill.
When you do get your chance to speak as an expert, remember that you’re there as an expert – not a salesperson. The best way to become a bad interview and lose the faith of your audience is to spend your time promoting your business instead of sharing your insight.
“Remember, you’re not trying to sell anything during these segments [or interviews], but simply trying to establish credibility as an expert,” Scher says. “You need to establish yourself as an unbiased authority on all things travel-related.
The reason for this is that overt selling creates distrust and undermines your position as a reputable source. While the goal is to gain more customers for your business, it’s tactful to avoid making it an overt message. No one wants to tune into a commercial, which is why authenticity, passion, and an attitude of service are the keys to success for many a media personality.
Find a niche … but don’t be afraid to grow with your notability.
If a travel advisor wants to achieve status as a media-friendly travel expert, the first step is starting local, Scher recommends. As they say, overnight success rarely happens overnight; most fame is a journey.
In the local space, “It helps if you can find a niche. Maybe you’re the Budget Bucket Lister or the International Adventure-Seeker,” she suggests. “But recognize you might need to be flexible in your topics in order to cater to the audiences of the media outlet.
“The best experts we’ve worked with might specialize in one area but are willing to comment on just about anything in their field in order to be the best possible resource to the media. That’s why they keep getting called back with opportunities over and over again. Once you’ve built up a strong collection of clips from local media, that’s when you should try to take the next step toward national outlets.”
Find the “special.”
It can often make sense to hitch your rising star to another, and for travel advisors, that might be a particular property or destination. In fact, you could make that your niche.
If you want to publicize a destination or resort and make that your hook, Scher advises, “Start first with food. People love to travel for food, so find the food story of the place, whatever it is, and make sure you have great visuals that can accompany that story.
“If there isn’t a great food story, look for the most unique, special, or weird thing about that place – something that they have that no one else or very few others have. Look for that once-in-a-lifetime experience in every single destination, then shout it from the rooftops to absolutely anyone who will listen,” she says. That’s your hook, your angle.
To figure out what that is, Scher says you need to ask yourself a few questions. “Why go there now? Is there a major event, new hotel, world-renowned chef? Whatever the answer is, that’s what you should be talking about to others to create that sense of urgency.”
Share your wins.
This one is so small and so simple, tying in to claiming your credit. Scher reminds us that after any media mention, always make sure to “use your personal social media platforms to underscore any big press hits, and consider including extra bonus content on your social pages.“ This means captioning the post or shares with behind-the-scenes insights, extra tips, gratitude, or any other colorful commentary that piques people’s interest enough to click and view where you’re cited.
For example, if you’re being featured in a TravelBlogue story such as The Most Special Treatments & Special Moments Ever Scored (part of last year’s Travel Advisors Share content series), share the link to the story and tease what you contributed. Post a caption along the lines of, “This was one of my most unforgettable moments as a travel advisor, and why I love my job.”
On a larger scale, if you get a spot on LIVE with Kelly and Mark, remind your friends and followers to tune in to watch, then caption it with something like, “It was my pleasure to talk about some of my favorite resorts for couples with small children with @Kelly Ripa, and so fun to see how this show comes together. I loved XYZ about the experience, and am so proud to share my recommendations on @LiveKellyandMark.” Tagging these big names increases the reach of your post as folks who follow those accounts might also see your share now.
Know the cost of fame.
It may seem glitzy and glamorous to be in the spotlight, but it does come with some sacrifices. Scher is a truth-teller, and doesn’t hesitate to pull back the curtain.
“If you want to be known as an expert, you have to be willing to commit, to drop literally everything if The Today Show calls and get on the next flight out, even if it means paying your own way to do so. A good PR person can secure those opportunities, but they’re yours to lose and if you say ‘no’ to a network, they’re probably not going to call again,” she cautions.
“Journalists work on crazy deadlines,” she adds. (As we can attest here at TravelBlogue!) “Many times, we have a matter of hours to respond to an inquiry or we may lose the opportunity. You have to make a commitment to yourself – and your publicist! – that you will prioritize PR opportunities the minute they happen. There’s no predicting when they do, so even if you’re on vacation, when that call or email comes through, you have to respond right away. If you don’t, there’s another professional waiting to steal that opportunity right out from under you,” she warns.
Go with a Pro.
ALG Vacations® has been telling your customers to Plan with a Pro. But as this series proves, pros need other pros, too, so don’t feel like you need to go it alone. Publicists like Scher and agencies like TKPR are experts in this space so you don’t have to be, but note that “Every PR program is different,” as she points out, and who you choose as a partner can and should depend on what your personal and professional goals are … and how much work/life balance you’re willing to sacrifice chasing your glitter.
“Whatever your goals are, make sure you’re clear with your PR team and that you’re both on the same page when evaluating your KPIs at the end of the year. If you want notoriety, that’s easy to measure by media placements alone … but if you want to increase your agency’s overall sales, you’re going to need to identify some additional key measures that will help you evaluate if the PR program is working to achieve those goals.”
We all know how important it is to Plan with a Pro when it comes to travel. After all, Travel Advisors Get You There. But equally important is making sure advisor pros are supported and surrounded by pros themselves, particularly when it comes to topics peripheral to travel. That’s where TravelBlogue comes in as we Ask a Pro on your behalf to provide you with tips and advice from fitness, health, nutrition, mental health, beauty, wellness, and travel gear experts from around the world … and put it all at advisor fingertips.