How to Work With Major Hotel Brands as a Travel Blogger

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Is it possible for travel bloggers to get free hotel stays from major hotel brands while on the road?

Perhaps.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with someone heavily involved in social media for a major hotel brand (and who wished to remain anonymous), in order to get a better idea of how things work from the other side of the fence.

The reality appears to be that major hotel brands often face challenges in dealing with travel bloggers because, as is usually the case when working with (or within) any large company, a number of decision-making obstacles must be addressed.

For a start, it is important to understand that individual hotels included within the major brands often fall into different categories. Some could be franchises, while others are privately owned or managed. As a result, decision-making often depends on the local team and the property type. These variances can create challenges for a blogger;  a hotel may have strict rules due to a very tight profit margin or very little spare capacity due to its central New York City location. A percentage of hotels within a brand may even exist without a social platform altogether.

If you are a travel blogger seeking to request a free hotel stay from a major hotel brand, this is how to go about it.

Most major hotel brands have an online system that requires the travel blogger to visit the brand’s media or press center to file a request for ‘media accommodation’. Stop here. Before you fill anything out, recognise the fact that one person will probably have to pitch this to someone else within the company at some point. For this reason, it is critical that you, as a travel blogger, get it right at this stage. You must make it as easy as possible for the person receiving your request to positively persuade whomever they need to at the hotel.

While the corporate mindset is evolving on the value of social media, this pitch can often be very difficult.  A great deal depends on the local team and the ability of the brand’s public relations representative to translate the potential value you can bring the hotel.

One of the primary considerations involved in a major hotel brand granting a travel blogger a free hotel stay often comes down to simply deciding whether or not the travel blogger is a good fit. If you are a backpacker-focused blogger requesting a $700 a night villa in the South Pacific, you are obviously not going to be a good fit.

Sometimes the final decision is made by a team of people, in which case, a single team member who is not on board or does not understand the opportunity will ensure that your free stay is a no go.

Ultimately, a travel blogger who can clearly and concisely convey to all those involved in the decision-making process the potential value they offer, will greatly increase their own chance of scoring a free hotel stay.

Be sure to make the most of the box requesting “any other details you may wish to add” on the hotel’s form. Fill out as much as you can, stay positive, be professional, and be sure to illustrate the value you will bring as a travel blogger.

Photo: uggboy
This article originally appeared on Travelllll.com

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14 Responses to “How to Work With Major Hotel Brands as a Travel Blogger”

  1. Nancy D. Brown September 12, 2011 3:57 pm
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    Hi Rich,
    Congratulations on the launch of Travelllll.com. I look forward to reading this blog.

    As a Lodging Editor for Uptake.com, freelance travel blogger and independent PR consultant,I look at a “free hotel stay” from the other side of the fence. I’m not looking to get a free place to sleep for the night during my travels. Instead, I hope to provide my readers with an unbiased review of a B&B, chain hotel or resort. While most of the time, that means I deliver a positive review, it is only fair to point out places needing room for improvement.I also disclose that I was a guest of the property in my review.

    While I am in agreement that travel bloggers may bring hotels increased exposure for their properties, I hope bloggers don’t look at reviews as simply a free place to stay while on the road.
    http://www.travel-writers-exchange.com/2010/08/writing-the-perfect-lodging-review

  2. Rich Whitaker September 12, 2011 4:42 pm
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    Hi Nancy,

    Thank you very much for your input. You have a great point and I thank you for sharing the link.

    With a travel agency/industry background, I have always seen comped hotel stays as much more of a marketing, exposure, and/or familiarization opportunity for the hotel.

  3. Wayfaring Wanderer September 12, 2011 7:03 pm
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    Very helpful info! I’ve been wondering about how I should go about this type of thing on a local level. Most of the places I would be contacting don’t have special forms for “media accommodation” as you mentioned.

    This is where I just need to get creative, I suppose, and approach them via email.

    Thanks for sharing!

    WW

  4. Durant Imboden September 12, 2011 7:50 pm
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    Providing traffic and demographic data won’t hurt, either. On our site, we have an “audience” page that incorporates Google Analytics data (with a screen shot) and an embedded U.S. demographics table from Quantcast.com. Even if you supply statistical highlights in your pitch, there’s value in referring the travel vendor or PR person to a Web page that backs up your claims.

  5. jai September 12, 2011 8:42 pm
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    Good idea! I would most likely want to promote small places as a backpacker-hostels and bed and breakfasts. I doubt there is a media section, so in this case, is it suggested to write to the manager or email listed on the web page with a pitch?

  6. Durant Imboden September 12, 2011 9:11 pm
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    Jai, I recall reading somewhere that larger hotels and organizations are more likely to have PR budgets than smaller independently-run hotels, B&Bs, hotels, hostels, etc. are. True? False? Beats me. Still, hotels that have come to me with invitations–or that have collaborated with DMOs on press trips that I’ve participated in–have usually been four- and five-star hotels.

  7. Scott September 12, 2011 11:08 pm
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    Awesome article topic; however, I would love to see more specific guidance in the post. You’re basically saying what to do (“convey to all those involved in the decision-making process the potential value they offer,” “illustrate the value you will bring”) without saying how to do it. And the “how” is the promise of the post title. A “for instance” sample pitch might have helped, as would some direct quotes and additional insight from your hotel source, who seems to have been underutilized in this post. Just my two cents as a reader, thanks!

  8. Rich Whitaker September 13, 2011 10:36 am
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    scott, thanks for the feedback.

  9. Justin Morris September 19, 2011 11:06 pm
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    I’ve found from experience that It’s really important to be upfront about your intentions with hotels.
    You have to tell them exactly what they’re going to get for the 2 or 3 nights you want and why they should invest in you. State which blog/s they’ll be featured on, what social networks they’ll be seen on and keep them completely in the know. They will want to meet with you when you stay, so make sure you can backup in person what you pitch in email.

  10. Laurel September 20, 2011 5:51 pm
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    I’ve also found quoting stats to be helpful and providing a link to the hotel from another post about the destination the hotel is in has also been appreciated.

  11. GlobetrotterGirls September 20, 2011 7:10 pm
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    Rich, definitely liking the look and feel of the site and will be back to read more articles from you here! I wanted to chime in, however, because, like Nancy, the word ‘free’ makes us cringe a bit. As we travel, we have certainly had hotel comps, and while not paying with cash, we certainly pay with time. We write hotel reviews in our Hotel Tip of the Week section because we think that where you lay your head each night can make or break your trip, so we take the reviews pretty seriously. But if we have been comped, it is in exchange for a full review. We arrive, immediately take pictures and make notes for the first 30 minutes. Then, throughout the entire stay, you not only experience the hotel for yourself, you also are considering how it would be for your readers, so you’ve always got your ‘work’ hat on at least a bit. Plus, the PRs will want to meet with you while you’re there, and that’s usually at least 30minutes. Afterward, you’ll have to do the write up, which, edited, uploaded with images and formatted takes at least another 2 hours to put together (plus social media promotion!) In the end it’s a win-win both for us – readers love that section – and for them -exposure, links, possible bookings.

  12. Martin Soler September 20, 2011 7:35 pm
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    If you’re looking for a free night at a hotel, we are interested in bloggers that want to write about hotels. Send us an email at contact@wihphotel.com “attention: Community Manager Anne-Sophie” with your blog link, how many visits you get, and approximately when you want to come. This goes for hotels in Paris, Rome or Barcelona for the moment more coming.
    We’d be happy to accomodate you.

  13. John September 21, 2011 3:54 pm
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    Martin I am concerned by the comments you left on Melvin’s Google + post. Do you really insist that any bad experience must not be reported?

  14. Martin Soler September 23, 2011 4:52 pm
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    Of course you’re free to write what u want. And all the pros and cons should be in your review otherwise we might as well post an ad. What i mean is if its so horrible that you are going to slam the hotel and tell everyone to give it a miss, then we would rather you just skip the review and the hotel will have offered u a free night(s). Its not about having glowing reviews or nothing. Hope this is better explained.

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