PTBA Blog

Evolving and Learning from Mistakes: a post about professionalism in travel blogging

A couple weeks back, a PTBA blogger published a post that got some quick attention on Twitter and Facebook as being inappropriate and unprofessional. The post was quickly brought to the attention of the PTBA membership via our Facebook page, the blogger that wrote it replied to the thread discussion, we discussed it there, and he pulled it down the same day.

It was a great example of one of the things that the PTBA is here for — to help educate our members on how to be more professional members of the travel blogging community.

The travel blogging profession is a new one and it is constantly and quickly evolving. One of the primary objectives of this association is to help educate our members on how to act and behave more professionally, so as to help further our collective future and our chosen profession.

This moment stands out as a small example of how the PTBA can, and will, help move this profession forward on a better path for all of us. I appreciate that the discussion on our page was civil and thoughtful and not full of some of the public rancor and finger pointing that seems to be more and more prevalent these days. I also want to publicly give credit to Jonny for listening, learning, and quickly acting when he realized he was in the wrong. Learning is a lifetime task.

After the incident, he and I talked via email about him doing up a post for our blog about everything and what he learned. He graciously agreed to do so and it is published immediately below.

Michael Hodson, PTBA Immediate Past President.

_________________________

Sometimes by hitting the Publish button on a post we have no idea what lies ahead. A few weeks ago, I had a rush of blood to the head, a moment of sheer frustration and anger and rather than calming the situation down and dealing with it the way I should have done, I turned to my blog, and I wrote an angry article which backfired. It happens. The article was rude, angry, arrogant, aggressive, demeaning and disrespectful. I didn’t think of the consequences of course. I probably didn’t even think anyone would read it. That’s just naivety.

We forget sometimes that all over the world people read our blogs every minute of everyday and they can judge us on them, they can share our posts to others – we can draw unwanted attention to ourselves. We forget how powerful the internet can be sometimes. Yes we are aware of internet trolls and we get a load of spammers every day, but one thing we can control is our own content.

Angry with the theft of my girlfriend’s wallet from an established hotel in Japan, instead of privately getting justice in a friendly way, I stupidly took to my blog, thinking that it was a way to name and shame them. I seized the moment, revelling in the “authority” that the internet writer has and writing an aggressive “open letter” to the hotel on my main travel site, on the front page as well as sharing countless times on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Oops.

I added a quick photo with an angry quote on it and the blog post must have taken me 6 minutes to write. But I never bothered to read the post back to myself. My blog rarely receives viewers or comments, especially my countless articles on Iran, Antarctica and China – my post which took me ages to write on getting an Iraq visa got about 6 views in 4 months! So in a way I actually expected nobody to read the angry letter to the hotel. But it was read by a few fellow travel bloggers, and probably shared by them too attracting unwanted attention and hate mail, rude comments and twitter abuse. I wasn’t online until two days later so I wasn’t aware of the consequences of the post.

Thanks to a Facebook share from a fellow Travel Blogger on the Professional Travel Bloggers Association Facebook Page, I realised people had read the article, shared it and found it embarrassing. So I re-read the article just to confirm I was happy with it. I have never taken a post down before. However I didn’t like this post myself when I read it back to myself.

It had more than just anger – it was very rude, arrogant, disrespectful and it carried threats so I took the post down immediately – it’s the first time I’ve ever done that.

I knew I had made a mistake.  

When we make mistakes, “we should do three things:

  1. Admit it
  2. Learn from it
  3. Never repeat it”

(Terry Burton, 2000).

So that’s what I’ve done. While I apologised on Facebook to my fellow travel bloggers and removed the post, I thought it would be an idea to write what I have learnt from this mistake, hopefully to set the record straight. I’m aware that my travel blog isn’t the most popular out there but it is passionate and it is real. Here’s the magic 10 things I’ve learned from this week:

  1. Be aware that anyone can read your stuff. Even though it feels like nobody is reading your articles, they are.
  2. Your cool travel posts about getting visas, sightseeing and crossing borders attract minimum views, zero shares and little or no controversy. They’re great posts but they won’t be criticised.
  3. Your angry, opinionated posts attract a load of views, shares, dislikes and controversy. Be ready to get criticised.
  4. Understand that as travel bloggers, we do have a duty to represent not just our own site, but the industry as a whole.
  5. Be respectful of our peers within the industry even though we have very different opinions from them.
  6. Your blog is a product. When a product has an issue with it, manufacturers take the affected products off the shelves. We do the same when posts don’t work. I removed the post.
  7. Admit your mistakes. “An expert is a person who has made every possible mistake in a very narrow field” – Niels Bohr. Move on and leave it in the past. “You’ll never change what’s been and gone” – Noel Gallagher.
  8. Spread the word amongst fellow travel bloggers and don’t hide away from it. I did it – it was me. Hands up.
  9. Apologise for it and mean it. I’m genuinely sorry.
  10. Continue blogging as you did before. You cannot let a moment like this affect your passion and commitment to being a travel blogger. “It’s just a dropped stitch in life’s tapestry” – Derek Trotter 1996 (quoting his mother).

As I follow my travel dreams and continue to write article after article, I’ll just be a bit more aware of my audience from now on and the potential consequences of a blog post. If my audience does dwindle as a result, I accept that, it’s my mistake and my travel blog will continue in its normal fashion. “Carry on regardless” – Paul Heaton

Jonny Blair — travel blogger at http://dontstopliving.net

10 Responses to Evolving and Learning from Mistakes: a post about professionalism in travel blogging

  1. Laura Goyer April 26, 2014 at 8:47 am #

    Hats off Jonny. Not an easy post to write, I’m sure. Your remorse is commendable, but more importantly, its sincere. Good lessons here for all of us. Best regards to you moving forward 🙂

  2. Leyla April 26, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    Thank you for the excellent post – one that WON’T have to be taken down. We all need reminders and wake-up calls once in a while and can all learn from what happened to you. Next time I feel inclined to wield the high and mighty keyboard abusively (and I do have those occasional urges) I’ll remember this and go for a walk until I calm down. Also, it takes a lot of professionalism to recognize a mistake, and make it right. Good going!

  3. Jo April 26, 2014 at 9:27 am #

    Great post Jonny. Making mistakes, fixing them up and learning from them is all part of maturing. Our profession is so young, that while we may be mature as people, we are not always mature travel bloggers. It has taken a lot of courage and maturity to write the way you have. Congratulations.

  4. Jennifer April 26, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    Jonny, this is terrific. Everybody gets angry sometimes, and rash, and it’s hard to take a step back and a deep breath before considering what to do next, in the heat of the moment. Your initial reaction may not have been professional, but it was understandable. It’s what you did next that impresses. Being able to take the time to consider our lapses in judgement and its effects — not just on others but on our own feelings about ourselves — requires maturity and emotional intelligence. We should all be as reflective as you so clearly have been. Thank you.

  5. Cacinda Maloney April 26, 2014 at 9:36 pm #

    Johnny,
    I commend you for your fast acting and appropriate apology and truly believe that you realize that it was a mistake. Thank you for sharing this story with the PTBA, as we all make mistakes.

  6. Jonny Blair April 27, 2014 at 5:26 am #

    Thanks for reading the article and the positive feedback everyone. It really made me feel happy this morning. I’m a genuinely passionate traveller and blogger and the last thing I ever want is to upset people, especially those within the same industry as me. All our travel blogs have a place on the internet and we all make mistakes and pick ourselves up from them. The best bonus from this mistake is not the lesson I have learned but the people I have now interacted with online after what happened. Safe travels and happy blogging one and all. Jonny

  7. Paul (@luxury__travel) April 29, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    Well done, Jonny… it’s never easy to admit a mistake and you’ve done it admirably here. It’s clear that you care about the profession.

  8. Rashad Pharaon May 4, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    Hey Jonny,

    Great, honest post. You certainly didn’t lose this reader.

    Safe travels,

    Rashad.

  9. Roxana May 6, 2014 at 12:26 am #

    It is good to know that there is an organization that can correct us when we are wrong. Good for you, Jonny, that’s the right attitude

  10. Red Hunt June 12, 2014 at 5:18 am #

    Great to see this type of action, reaction, and community impact from the PTBA. Everyone makes mistakes and one thing that had kept me from joining the PTBA was an uncertainty that the “professionalism” part of the group would be adhered to. Results like this make me want to join.

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