5 Tips for Successfully Vetting Travel Bloggers
How to decide when to say, ‘Yes, be my guest’
By Emily Murray
As tourism PR professionals, we receive numerous requests from bloggers to suggest stories and arrange trips, and it can be overwhelming and a challenge to accommodate all of them. When evaluating their request, it is important to make sure that working with an influencer will benefit you and your brand. Here are a few vetting tips that I use at Georgia Tourism that can help you make strategic decisions about how you work with bloggers:
1. Make sure the influencer aligns with your brand and target audience.
There are literally hundreds of millions of blogs out there — not kidding, I Googled it. Because there is such a staggering amount, it’s important to be as selective as possible with bloggers that are interested in working with you. The first step of the vetting process should be a review of their blogs and articles to make sure they are a perfect fit for your brand and target audience. Is there a travel section? When was the last travel story posted? If it’s not a travel-focused blog, you’ll want to make sure they at least have a travel section that features recent travel stories that are also shared on their social networks.
Review their writing. Their writing should be easy to read and free of any spelling or grammar errors. It should also be tasteful and have a voice that is a good fit with your target audience. Once the placement is available, you’ll want to be proud to share it and not have to request for them to make corrections.
An influencer receives major bonus points if they are also a freelance writer for national or target market publications. It’s always a plus that your story will not only touch their channels but also others that they write for.
2. Review their social following and website traffic.
The second most important step you’ll need to take is finding out how many people are going to see the potential content a blogger may create from your partnership. You can easily do this by checking each of their social media channels and requesting monthly traffic statistics. Many of the bloggers I have vetted have their social media pages listed on their website so they are easy to find, but their website traffic will probably have to be requested.
We don’t follow a threshold at Georgia Tourism because that could greatly limit our opportunities with influencers. We take every request into account. For example, if they are asking for an all-expense paid trip to a luxury resort, they should have a large following. If they don’t, I might offer to help arrange a tour of the property and suggest some nearby attractions. If you turn bloggers away without so much as a suggestion, it could start to hurt your reputation as a PR professional. You never know if they might be a good fit for a future project.
3. Review engagement rates on social channels and their blog.
Take the time to scan through the comments on their blog and social networks – don’t just look at the amount of comments on a post. I’ve reviewed a blog before that had 30 comments on one article, but they we’re all from another author on the blog! If they are commenting on their own blog without any real reader engagement, it’s pretty easy to tell. Also, be on the lookout for those spam comments. If an influencer has very little engagement on one of their posts and then all of a sudden there is one post with 5,000 retweets, that should raise a red flag, and you should ask about that.
4. Do a little “private investigator” research.
It’s a good idea to get to know potential influencers during the vetting process — figure out not only what kind of writer they are but also what kind of person they are. How terrible would it be to have a blogger in your community treating everyone they come in contact with rudely? Not good. Look at their personal Facebook profile, talk to them on the phone, or reach out to someone you think may have worked with them in the past.
5. Use the Influencer Comparison Workbook on MarketGeorgia.org.
One of the best tools that is available for you to use when vetting influencers is the Influencer Comparison Workbook on MarketGeorgia.org. This tool is an easy-to-use Excel file that helps you review bloggers and social media influencers to get the best bang for your buck. It takes about two minutes to enter information into the spreadsheet to generate an ROI estimate. I use it all the time to see if the writer’s request will have the best return.
One last tip for vetting influencers:
Be ready to spend some serious time networking and relationship building. Building a good contact list of influencers takes time, effort and attention. Because you have to be strategic, you can’t just pull a list from Cision and expect to get the results you are looking for. Put forth the effort, and you will be rewarded with great content to share and even greater professional relationships.
Emily Murray is the Communications Specialist for Georgia Tourism. Stay in touch with Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org.