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  • Christina Lenkowski posted an article
    Learn 5 important steps for this new age of destination PR see more

    This is a guest blog, written by Christina Lenkowski, DDA Member and owner of Sparrow Travel Media, a public relations portal that is extraordinarily useful for organizations that can’t afford contracting or hiring an in-house PR professional. Here she offers some great advice!


    It used to be that the term “PR” could really apply to two things; public relations or press releases. In fact, just a short while ago, the two were pretty much interchangeable. But times, they are a-changing.

    Nowadays I still see many tourism organizations write up a press release for travel ideas, an event or award, and then send it out to the same old media list and expect a different reaction… what is the definition of insanity again?

    Bottom line: just sending a press release no longer works (and if you’ve been paying a company to send out a press release on your behalf… stop). It’s hard to adjust because many of us were trained in this way, but taking a different view of media relations will yield you so much more of the media attention you crave, and that your destination deserves.

    It’s time to try something different. Take a few minutes and think about what makes your destination unique; perhaps you have an annual event that isn’t your generic “harvest festival” or “4th of July parade”? Or maybe an anchor attraction that visitors just love? Perhaps a niche museum? Whatever that “thing” is, write it down and write why it’s special. Heck, you may find that your area has more than one!

    Now it’s time to do some research on the media outlets you want to tell this story (also known as a pitch) to. Remember that these publications are typically working 6-9 months in advance, so time your pitch accordingly.

    1. Make a list of 8-10 magazines that have the kind of audience you really think you could resonate with, and that you’d love to see your destination featured in in the next year.
    2. Check out their online edition (or head to the library or bookstore) to get your hands on information such as topics/features they have in each issue, as well as editor name (either travel editor or managing editor).
      • Many times, the editor contact info won’t be readily available and you’ll need to do some research. I recommend calling the publication and asking whomever answers for that specific contact’s email address. This yields quicker results than emailing a generic info@ email box.
    3. Find and download each publication’s editorial calendar/media kit (usually housed in advertising section–you may have to email them for it). In the editorial calendar you will be able to see what the magazine is focusing on every edition, and if your destination makes sense to pitch (i.e. “Surprising Winter Getaways,” “Ski Mountains Not on Your Radar,” etc.). If it does, fantastic!
    4. If you don’t feel like there is a direct correlation between your destination and an ed cal topic, you can always generally pitch too. Create a story idea that really makes sense for their readers. You are never bothering an editor if you are presenting them with a well though-out pitch at the right time of year.
    5. Email each publication’s editor with their individualized story idea, and follow up a week later.

    If you follow these steps, you will be well on your way to securing more coverage! Publicity takes time, but is well worth the payoff – I have seen destinations transformed by one or two major media pieces.

    And if you’re a member of Sparrow Travel Media, steps 2 and 3 are taken care of for you with our up-to-date media lists and editorial calendars, saving you a ton of time. We also have sample pitches to make life easier when getting started. Roger and the Destination Development team recently did a whole webinar on how Sparrow can save you so much time and money. Check it out below.

    We even offer a free live training to expand on the tips above, click here to sign up!

    Just remember that the media doesn’t want any more press releases, they want story ideas—and you have them!

    Christina Lenkowski

    Sparrow Travel Media







    Sparrow Travel Media Webinar - A great tool to up your PR game

  • RBI Clients posted an article
    Here are the five reasons PR should be the top priority see more

    “You build your brand through public relations. Advertising is used to maintain your ownership position.”

    These words, written by the famous branding guru, Al Ries, are more important today than ever before..

    Destination marketing organizations constantly wonder how to successfully tell the world their community exists and that they are worth a special trip. Should they use advertising or Public Relations? Or maybe a combination of both?

    We believe you should do both, but PR clearly takes priority over advertising. Here are the five reasons PR should be the top priority:

    #1 - Your brand is built through PR

    A brand is what people think of you. It is your unique selling proposition. When you tell people where you’re from, what do they say? What is their perception? Whatever their response, that is your “brand”—the perception they have of you. And that perception is formed by what other people say, what they read about your community, and what they see on social media or in the news.

    Social media is a BIG part of public relations. PR includes print (articles written about you), broadcast (what is being said on television or radio), and social media (blogs, vlogs, online reviews, photo sites, and conversations on social media sites).

    Public relations should be priority number one when it comes to promoting your unique selling proposition—what you want to be known for. 

    #2 - PR provides a BIG return on Investment

    For every dollar you spend on public relations you'll see $3 in earned media. Earned media is what it would cost if you were to purchase that space in the form of advertising.

    #3 - Articles versus ads

    Articles are read more than four times that of ads, whether in print, online, or on any other media. People will generally look at an ads for only a few seconds, but they will spend several minutes or longer reading an article about you; particularly when it’s from a third-party viewpoint providing an honest, unbiased opinion. 

    #4 - Social media speeds up the brand-building process

    When it comes to brand building, what used to take 20 years or more can now be accomplished in just three to five years. That is the power of social media in this “always on” world. We can find anybody, anywhere, instantly online, and so you have the power to create widely available content and stories that will build and promote your brand—what it is you want to be known for.

    #5 - People trust third-party recommendations

    The problem with advertising is that it's self-proclaimed. When you're marketing your destination or business, you tell people how great you are. Only 15% will believe that what you say is actually true, but when it comes from a third-party, it’s believed 85% of the time. This is why the third-party reviews posted to TripAdvisor have made it the most used travel website in the world. Travelers want to know what others think of you. That’s PR.

    The bottom line: Public Relations should be your top marketing priority whether you have a staff person dedicated to the effort or you contract it out. And remember, this is “public relations,” meaning both social media AND traditional media.

    All the best with your public relations journey!

  • With so many videos uploaded every minute, how does anyone manage to stand out from the crowd? see more

    Most of us can’t imagine a world without the Internet and social networking. What would we do without YouTube?! The cultural phenomenon allows anybody, anywhere the chance to become a celebrity, and there have certainly been some unlikely hits. But with 48 hours worth of video uploaded to YouTube EVERY MINUTE, how does anyone manage to stand out from the crowd? Why do YouTube videos go viral?

    Kevin Allocca, Trends Manager at YouTube, hosted a talk on TED Talks, outlining the reasons videos go viral. He outlines three major factors that contribute to a viral video: tastemakers, communities of participation, and unexpectedness.

    Tastemakers: essentially, this means people with an audience pick up on a video and spread the word. Remember “Double Rainbow?” It was a video posted months prior to going viral, but a Tweet from Jimmy Kimmel sent it into the stratosphere (pun intended). A tastemaker is someone who commands a large following; they mention it, post about it, Tweet it or otherwise bring attention to the video, others pass it on via Facebook, blogs, and Twitter, and pretty soon everyone you know is saying, “What does it meeeeeeean?”

    Communities of participation: community participation is how we become part of the phenomenon, either by spreading it or doing something new with it. Many videos inspire a myriad of parodies, remixes and copycats. This changes it from just static entertainment, to something people can be a part of through active participation. Rebecca Black’s music video, “Friday” went viral and within the first week there were parodies for every other day of the week.

    Unexpectedness: only videos that are truly unique and unexpected will be interesting enough to go viral. The ordinary doesn’t catch on; things that are surprising and/or humorous just might.

    So how can a group, business or community leverage YouTube to best effect? Is it possible to plan a viral video?

    It is, but it does require some heavy duty planning and execution. “Post and pray” won’t cut it, so stay tuned; in our next post we’ll be talking about how to go viral on YouTube, and following the path of a planned viral video.



    Ted Talks, outlining the reasons videos go viral

    Double Rainbow:

    Rebecca Black’s music video, “Friday”:


  • Article
    You always build your brand through public relations; advertising is used to maintain your position. see more

    You always build your brand through public relations. Advertising is used to maintain your position—only once you “own” the brand.

    Remember, brands are perceptions—what people think of you. That happens when articles are written about you, through word-of-mouth, and always through a third party. Communities are sometimes dealt negative brands via the same vehicles: word-of-mouth, bad news, or articles that all paint a negative, but are often true, perception of the community, whether fairly deserved or not. The same methods hold true for well-branded communities and the same tools must be used if you need to reposition or redevelop a brand. It all starts with a strong PR effort.

    Public relations, intertwined with third-party endorsements, is absolutely critical to developing a strong brand. These days, social media has become a primary ingredient and tool to “brand building.” Perhaps no community in North America has done a better job at branding than Asheville, North Carolina. Check out their website at Cool. Hip. Artsy. Funky. And the must-visit place along the 500-mile Blue Ridge Parkway.

    Advertising is what you think of yourself. Branding is what other people think of you. To win, you must have those third-party endorsements that only an effective PR effort can provide. Then when you “own” your brand, advertise it like crazy to cement that ownership position into the minds of the people you hope to attract.

    No matter how many “wine countries” we develop in North America, Napa Valley will always “own” the wine capital brand. There are Amish communities throughout the central and eastern U.S. states, but Lancaster County, Pennsylvania “owns” the Amish brand. No matter how many casinos and gambling destinations we develop, Las Vegas will always “own” the gambling and adult-fun capital brand.

    Brands are always about ownership. And that happens through PR, followed by advertising to cement that ownership position.