I recently attended my first TBEX, the premier gathering of travel bloggers in North America.
Connecting with a wide range of amazing people who make up this fun, nomadic travel blogging tribe has been one of my favorite things yet about travel blogging, and meeting these people in person at TBEX was certainly a highlight. Each and every travel blogger has a unique story to tell. Before I dive into what I learned at TBEX, to provide context I’d like to share a bit of my own background.
I’ve worked in the travel industry nearly my entire career. For the past 15 years I’ve managed marketing for an international tourist board, ran my own travel PR and Marketing firm, and am currently the co-founder of a travel tech startup. I’ve been traveling, and writing about travel, for a long time.
I’m often asked my opinion on the best place to take a family beach vacation. Or where to get away as a couple for a romantic weekend away from the kids. And for tips on planning amazing girlfriend getaways for a bunch of busy Moms.
After constantly fielding questions like this from my Mom friends and colleagues about traveling, I started formally travel blogging in January 2014. Of course I easily found my niche: inspiring busy Moms to travel more.
But I also had a LOT to learn about travel blogging.
I’ve spent the past 9 months avidly reading travel blogs, meeting amazing travel bloggers, learning about SEO and WordPress Plugins, networking on Facebook, growing my social media following, and of course writing, writing, writing.
Learning the ins and outs of travel blogging has been a blast!
And like many newbie travel bloggers, to further my knowledge and continue to grow the quality and reach of my blog, I jumped at the opportunity to attend my first TBEX this September in Cancun, Mexico at the Moon Palace Resort in Cancun.
In only 2 short days, I most certainly did learn some new things about travel blogging. I’m looking forward to going back and watching the recordings of the sessions I missed for even more great learning.
But perhaps more importantly, as I reflect on the experience, there were some overarching themes I took away from the conference that I wanted to share with the travel blogging community at large, especially other new or aspiring travel bloggers out there. So here goes.
Stop everything until you have an elevator pitch you can nail every time.
For me, by far, the networking (and speed networking in particular) was the most productive portion of the conference. At the beginning of every conversation, you have about 20 seconds to tell that person who you are and what’s unique about you and your blog.
This pitch needs to effortlessly roll off your tongue and it should also be clearly reflected on your blog.
I heard over and over again during the TBEX the sessions how important it is to be laser focused on your brand, including what makes you unique and why your audience cares about what you have to say.
As a result, I totally scrapped my existing “about me” section on my blog and re-wrote it like this.
Do you have on your blog a simple and clear overview that mirrors your pitch and tells potential partners; who are you, who is your audience, why do they care what you have to say and what is your credibility and past success?
If not, make that #1 on you to-do list!
Today making it as a travel blogger is all about long-term partnerships.
I really enjoyed the Day 2 opening session with Paula Froelich, Sherry Ott and Lee Abbamonte. This hour-long discussion touched on a number of topics related to the future of travel blogging and our industry in general.
Underscoring what I’d been hearing during many of the sessions, making it as a travel blogger today is all about successfully generating long-term partnerships.
Working with a travel brand or other company on a retainer-basis to implement mutually beneficial, long-term marketing campaigns is the best way to make it as a travel blogger today.
Transitioning from a “travel blogger” mindset to that of a “marketing consultant” is critical to offering real value to travel brands and partners and will ensure your longevity as a professional travel blogger.
But it’s not easy. To successfully engage in this type of relationship with a brand you need to be a lot of things; great writer, social media expert, travel marketer and more. You need to have traffic, an audience, great content, a unique voice and a compelling angle.
And once you have all this, you must pitch your little heart out to get these deals inked.
Specific examples of such partnerships include things like Explorers in Residence, Brand Ambassadors, or simply acting as a marketing and social media “face” for a destination tourist board. We can all get creative with the possibilities here!
Be creative about teaming up with other travel writers.
I heard more than once that travel blogger collaboration is the latest trend in the travel blogging industry. While travel bloggers offer tangible impact on their own, when working together for a common goal or outcome we are a serious force to be reckoned with.
So as you work hard to build your blog and your brand, never miss an opportunity to collaborate with like-minded bloggers. Always be thinking about how combining efforts and joining forces may create more significant impact for a client, brand or destination. I believe this mindset will open more doors for all of us moving forward.
And cheers to that!
Were you at TEBX? What did you take away from the event?