It’s no secret that I’m traveling less than usual this year. But that doesn’t mean I’m planning to sit around in a bathrobe, drink breakfast cocktails while cackling at the morning news and watching the world burn. (Though now that I write it, it is tempting…)
Nope, 2017 is going to be my year of learning.
I’ve always loved being a student, and in the last few years I’ve focused a ton of energy on my dive education, and loved every scantron-bubble-filling moment of it. This year, I’m turning my attention to another kind of learning: blogging and business.
I know to some of you, that literally couldn’t be more of a snooze fest. But I also know there are plenty of you who are interested in entrepreneurship, and so I’m excited to share little bits about this journey along the way. In fact, I’ll be making a pretty major announcement in my newsletter later today about a ten day learning retreat I just enrolled in… if you want to be the first to know, sign up in my sidebar or at the end of this post right now!
In the meantime, I’ll tell you about the online course I kicked off the year with. This is the one course that I’ve prioritized for the year that is truly specific to travel blogging; the rest have a less targeted audience.
Bloggers, Brands, and Tourism Boards: A Guide to Successful Partnerships
I knew I wanted to take this course as soon as I saw who wrote it: my friend and fellow blogger Amanda of A Dangerous Business. Amanda is like that really smart and sweet girl from high school who was friends with everybody and you just really always wanted to peek at her project because you were sure she did the assignment better than you — and literally, now you can.
Amanda is one of my most respected peers and I have always admired her business savvy and her pro-activeness in seeking brand partnerships that are the perfect fit for her blog, so I was super excited to hear that she was was spilling her secrets for this special collaboration with Travel Blog Success. With both a degree in hospitality and management and seven years of travel blogging experience, Amanda really knows the ins and outs of the travel industry and has successfully pitched and partnered with a wide range of travel brands and tourism boards (Intrepid Travel, Visit Norway, Marriott, and Visit Scotland, to name a few.)
Travel Blog Success will always have a special place in my heart as the first online course I ever enrolled in, a turning point for me in investing in myself as a business. Over the years they have expanded to offer several satellite courses to the original membership, and as a matter of fact, this weekend they are holding a massive sale for members, so if you’re already enrolled in Travel Blog Success and are interested in investing in another course, there’s never been a better time to do it (more on that later!)
Those who read Alex in Wanderland regularly know that I already work with brands and tourism boards on a regular basis. However, as someone who has been totally self-taught, I wanted a “tune up” course to reflect on the methods I’m currently using, find a renewed sense of focus, and think about being more proactive in business for the year ahead.
Bloggers, Brands, and Tourism Boards: A Guide to Successful Partnerships consists of twenty-three written lessons broken into eight modules. The lessons include worksheets, example documents, video and written interviews, and more.
Module 1: An Introduction lays out the key terminology and helps lay ground guidelines for when to start pitching and to whom to pitch.
Module 2: Media Kits was the module I personally took the most away from. It includes detailed information and examples on what and what not to put into your media kit, design ideas, and how to best market yourself. Includes media kits of big name bloggers.
Module 3: Pitching covers crafting the perfect pitch, finding contacts at the companies you wish to pitch to, samples of successful email pitches that worked, how to follow up and how to handle rejection.
Module 4: Sponsored trips is mostly about setting expectations for what sponsored trips really are (AKA, kryptonite to introverts or anyone who needs personal space or quiet time not to go crazy), but also includes incredibly helpful details and examples of wrap-up reports for presenting at the conclusion of a campaign.
Module 5: Social Campaigns introduces the concept of social media only campaigns, of which I have been offered several over the years. Instagram and Snapchat are the focus, but there’s info on all channels.
Module 6: Brand Ambassadorships talks through the holy grail of brand ambassadorships — and includes an interview with your truly!
Module 7: In Depth Interviews shares the real life experiences of Adventures Kate, Expert Vagabond, Borders of Adventure, and a PR expert. Two are video interviews that are also presented in transcript form.
Module 8: Conclusion wraps things up.
Whether you’re interested in scoring press trip invites and receiving products, designing your own campaigns, or just pitching the occasional quick projects, you’ll find what you need to get the wheels turning here. Once you land a pitch, this course guides you on how to carry out out projects with utmost professionalism.
While Amanda is very generous with her own experience, she also shares the perspectives of other top bloggers and PR industry experts.
Just like the Travel Blog Success main course, Bloggers, Brands, and Tourism Boards includes access to a private Facebook group, where we gossip, ask questions, offer feedback, and talk all things blogging and social media partnerships.
How Long Will It Take?
I started and stopped a timer every time I finished reading a module and taking notes, and came it at just under two hours. Keep in mind that’s from the perspective of someone who is a very fast reader, a thorough note taker, and also has some experience in this field.
Now I have several hours of action to take from my notes ahead, which in my case will include overhauling my media kit, designing a campaign wrap up report, implementing a few new tools and apps I learned about, and acting on a few brainstorms I had while reading. I’d say you could knock out the coursework in a very busy weekend, though bloggers new to pitching and starting this process from scratch will probably take more away from it by spreading it out over a week, completing one module per day, and giving the ideas some time to sink in.
What I Loved
I enjoyed that this course really unapologetically targets the intermediate blogger. Too new, and you likely don’t have an audience to leverage yet. (Though even if you’re not quite to the pitching and partnering stage yet, you may wish to look ahead and see what mistakes to avoid along the way.) Too established, and you risk not taking away anything new. Though frankly, based on the to-do list I walked away with, it’s certainly not a problem I had.
If you’re looking for concrete examples of and step-by-step guides on how to create pitches, media kits, campaign conclusion reports, and actionable tips on apps and products to use along the way (I literally downloaded two apps and started using two new programs that I already feel revolutionized my workflow from the moment I finished this course), you’ll find them here. If you’re wondering what press trips are really like, you’ll have your expectations set — and read an example itinerary.
I nodded along to so many clever tips and tricks that took me years to figure out on my own. For example? I really appreciated Amanda’s insights on how to reflect your stats in a way that is both savvy to you and honest to the brand you are pitching, such as showing total pageviews of all time instead of per month, or focusing on your rate of growth as opposed to your total followers.
As someone who firmly believes that bad pitching from bloggers who aren’t truly ready to partner with brands yet is harmful to the influencer industry, I was a little nervous this course might promote reckless pitching or over-ambitious brand partnerships. Silly me! Amanda keeps it real — she addresses many of my concerns about knowing when you have influence or skills worth leveraging, how to always put your readers first, and how to stay gracious as you grow.
The course has a strong emphasis on proactive pitching rather than accepting what rolls your way, which is just what I needed to absorb right now and is a very inspiring message for me as someone who tends to do the opposite. I feel fired up to dream big!
Room For Improvement
Frankly, there’s not much. I took separate notes with feedback to give to the course creators with anything I thought could be even better and it was a pretty sparse list — mostly just a few suggestions on, like, font styling. You know you’re doing something right when the only advice someone can give you is your bold font isn’t bold enough.
The one area I would have liked to see a little more emphasis would be the downsides of purchasing social media followers and fudging traffic figures. I think it’s something that is super tempting for new bloggers to try but can be really harmful in the long run, and I would love to have seen that more widely addressed.
I’m coming at this review from the unique position of a fairly experienced blogger — one who is actually quoted and interviewed in the course material. So I had a different experience than most of the target audience will, though I was still impressed by how many action points I walked away with and how renewed my focus feels upon completing it.
I learned a lot of what is in this course the hard way, through heartache and rejection and big mistakes. You know what? It might be nice to avoid that! If something like this had been available when my blog was a baby, I would have happily saved myself time, money and missed opportunities by investing in a course like this.
Buy It Now!
At $197, Bloggers, Brands, and Tourism Boards: A Guide to Successful Partnerships is definitely a ponderable purchase. No? Just me? I’m the only one that uses that term? You know, it’s like when you find the absolute perfect pair of jeans but you got lost in the mall and accidentally went to a store where they wrap things in tissue paper and they aren’t in the clearance section and you panic. You just need to go to Auntie Annie’s, get a soft pretzel with extra salt, and ponder that purchase.
If I was the friend shopping with you today, I’d be the one whispering “go for it!” (through a mouthful of pretzel, obviously).
Enrolling in the Travel Blog Success main course was an enormous investment for me, too, when I first signed up all those years ago. But the act of investing in myself was a powerful one and the knowledge I gained and community I joined still serve me to this day. This course specifically is so filled with actionable information, you could realistically recoup the cost with one well-worded pitch for weekend hotel stay.
Plus, are you guys ready for this? For some of my friends here today, this thing is half off.
I know that plenty of you are already enrolled in the Travel Blog Success main course. Great news, if it somehow escaped you so far — it’s the 7th anniversary sale this weekend! Until midnight, you can save 50% on any satellite course, plus an additional 10% if you buy two or more. Just check the latest newsletter for the code (and shoot me a note if you’re a member but for some reason not on the mailing list). The sale applies to all satellite courses, including:
• Bloggers, Brands, and Tourism Boards: A Guide to Successful Partnerships
• Videography for Travel Bloggers (Update: Replaced by the Art of Travel Vlogging)
• Blogger to Bylines: A Guide to Freelance Writing (I decided a while ago freelance writing isn’t for me, but I’ve heard great reviews of this course from those who have taken it.)
• The Complete Facebook Marketing Course (I couldn’t be more clueless when it comes to Facebook marketing — I think I’ll tackle this course next!)
Yes, I’m a proud affiliate of Travel Blog Success and earn a percentage of every sale I recommend. And I’d love to return the favor. So, I’m going to offer a bonus incentive to anyone who buys this course today — I will personally take a peek at your media kit, your “work with me” page or a pitch email of your choice and give you my feedback. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and trust me when I say this blogging gig has attempted to murder me multiple times, so I have lots of strength and side eye to share after five years in the game. Just shoot me an email with your purchase confirmation and you can redeem any time!
Is there another online course you’d like to see me review next? Let me know!
Let’s talk — I’ll answer any questions as best I can in the comments.
Note: I requested a free copy of this program in order to review it for this post, and because I wanted to copy Amanda’s homework. I am a proud affiliate of the Travel Blog Success program and thus will earn a percentage of your purchase at no extra cost to you. As always, you’ve received my honest opinions, thorough reviews, and completely irrelevant TV references, regardless of who is footing the bill.
And one more thing — spots are still available for March slots of my Featured Blogger. Come hang out in my sidebar (plus other perks!) Get in touch for more details.