Message to Travel PRs: Stop the Press Releases Please

Guest post by PTBA President, Michael Hodson


In preparation for this post, I counted how many press releases I received in the last seven days – 31 of them. That seems about a typical week, give or take.

And the chance that I am going to use any of them? Zero point zero percent.

In fact, I can’t remember the last one I fully read, let alone considered using. After talking to my fellow travel blogging friends about this over the past year or so, I have yet to hear a single blogger say that they used a press release on their site.

To my friends in the PR world — you are more likely to get a personal invitation to go have dinner with Kim Jong-un than get a legitimate travel blogger to post a press release.

I have to think that the fact they keep getting sent, in mass quantities, means there is a fundamental misunderstanding by some PR companies about the nature of the travel blogging industry.

PicMonkey Collage.jpg.jpgTravel blogs, almost universally, are not in the business of reporting on travel news. We are in the business of telling stories from our personal travels and experiences to our readers and followers that value hearing what we have to say about a place, a hotel, a spa, a tour, or a restaurant… after we have actually visited it.

There are some bloggers that have newsletters or regular posts highlighting travel deals and you should be developing a direct relationship with them on press releases that might be of interest, but as to the rest of us, please stop.

Here are the press release headlines sent to me today alone:

  • (Unnamed company) Vacations Gives You Ireland From $125 Per Day
  • Nominations to open on 15 August for the (unnamed) Good Food Awards
  • Story Idea: Best Fall Outing Finds
  • Travel (unnamed) launches new river cruise options in Asia

It is a complete waste of both of our time to have these cluttering up my inbox. And on this, I think I speak for the overwhelming majority of travel bloggers.

What should you do?

First, you obviously have our email addresses. How about sending us a personal email, even one that is 90% form letter, asking us what sort of content we are looking for, how you could help us provide value to our readers, whether we are looking for “deal” content for our site or newsletter, and other questions – simple market research.

Second, if you are going to spam us with press releases, have a one-click option for us to get off your mailing list. Let’s be blunt – you are violating the law, if you are from the United States, if you are sending out unsolicited emails without an opt-out mechanism (the CAN-SPAM act). And I’d say well over half the press release spamming I get don’t have an opt-out. We don’t want it and when you offer an opt-out, you are going to be able to go tell this is hard numbers, via the number of unsubscribes (which might also be a way to go back to the people pushing you to send them in the first place and show them hard data on how they don’t work).

Third, join the PTBA. If you are an industry member, you will have access to our blogger search engine. One of the features of that search engine is to search for blogs by niche. So for instance, if you have a cruise press release coming out, at least you can send it to the bloggers that cover cruises. Personally, I think you should join the PTBA and develop individual relationships with bloggers in areas pertaining to your clients’ produces products, but at the very least target your press releases to the recipients who might be interested.

There are a variety of ways that PR companies and those in the travel industry can, and should, work with travel bloggers. We are looking for great stories all the time. If you are launching a new cruise ship, there are a number of PTBA members covering that niche that would love a personalized email offering them the opportunity to interview the captain or the head chef or tour the ship and provide a unique story angle that would be well received by their readers and followers.

But blindly sending out a press release announcing when it is going to hit the water isn’t going to get the job done, for either you or for the blogger you are emailing.

It is a brave new world in the travel industry, as things migrate more online day after day. Some of the old methods don’t work in the new world. Hopefully you will join us and we can help you come up with ways to get your message out that will be effective in today’s environment.


About the Author:  Michael Hodson was an attorney for ten years in the United States before he shut down his practice at the end of 2008 to embark on a quest to circle the globe without leaving the ground. Sixteen months and forty- four countries later he succeeded and decided to just keep going. He is now a permanent traveler, blogging and photographing his travels around the globe, with an emphasis on experiencing overland travel wherever feasible. Web: Go See Write  Twitter: @goseewrite


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The views in this post represent those of the author and not necessarily those of the PTBA or its Board of Directors.

6 Responses to Message to Travel PRs: Stop the Press Releases Please

  1. August 21, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    In the past I would have 100% agreed with this post, but not anymore!

    Now it’s 95%! hahaha

    Isn’t the original idea of Press Releases to inform us about what is going on in the industry? It shouldn’t be a text, which should get copied & pasted (with slight changes). (We should leave that to others…)

    I would recommend PR agencies to find an (old) way to use it. But I agree to 100% that it makes a lot of sense of sending informational texts to the right bloggers and not just to everyone. Why? What if that blogger can’t see press releases anymore & just clicks on the “spam” button? The next time you want to really contact him, the blogger won’t be getting your real email.

    I would recommend bloggers to see press releases as an info for you. Maybe you are planning a trip to South Africa and then you get the right press release to it, which gives you the opportunity to get a business deal out of it.

  2. August 21, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    Umm… I’ve not received any press releases; but I get your point.

  3. August 22, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    I keep getting press releases from golf clubs and other high end luxury companies. I don’t like golf or high end luxury. So my eyes glaze over before I even get passed the subject line. And yes please have an unsubscribe option! I just emailed someone back yesterday asking them to take me off their list. Unsubscribe would be easier for both of us.

  4. August 26, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    Agreed, Mike.

    It makes me sad when I see bad press releases – and even though I’m an erratically publishing only-sorta-kinda travel blogger, I get a fair few these days. It’s such a waste. The people sending them clearly want to get the word out, and they’ve spent time writing the release…but there’s no attempt to package it in a useful, usable way. It’s not a pitch…but it *needs* to be a pitch.

    They should subscribe to the e-mail lists of Copyblogger, Chris Guillebeau and the like. People who understand how to get people to click “reply”, not “delete”…

    I also think there’s a teaching (and branding) opportunity here for the PTBA. Put together something that illustrates exactly the kind of press release that would get bloggers replying and engaging in a mutually beneficial way? And maybe have it as a one-page PDF that PTBA members can send back when they receive a crappy press release?

  5. September 5, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    Ironically, I just unsubscribed to one today! I’ve been getting a lot all of a sudden and the annoying thing about them is, I don’t know how they got my email address and rather than developing a relationship with me, it’s like they just put me on their newsletter and WTF am I supposed to do with information on a tour to a place I’m not traveling too?

    I can understand if it were directed more like– he’s a tour we’d like you to try and review but this shot-in-the-dark-notice-me-approach is just so unprofessional and it tells me nothing about whyI’m getting it or what I’m supposed to do w/ it. I agree 100%


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