OFFICIAL LIVEBLOG – Identity/Passions: TravelBloggers as Boundary-Breaking Evangelists

Session Description: TravelBloggers bring the world to us, whether it’s their own home town or halfway around the world. We are inspired by the idea that TravelBloggers can truly “flatten” the earth, bringing us closer to cultures and people that seem completely different, venturing into areas that are off the beaten path. We are also inspired by the idea that TravelBloggers can revitalize and revive parts of the world that need it most ... from visiting Phuket post-Tsunami to singing New Orleans' praises, to uncovering what’s great about Detroit. We’ll talk to TravelBloggers on a Mission, including Portland place-blogger A. L. Venable, globetrotter and field trip enthusiast Pam Mandel, travel writer Nancy Brown, and cultural TravelBlogger Rosalind Cummings-Yeates about how they close the gap between their front door and the rest of the world. Join this panel to discuss how we break boundaries, why we leave our comfort zones, the best tactics for bolstering our own communities through travel blogs (as well as local and global cultures), and why writing about and evangelizing travel is so important.

Pam: focuses on small, off-the-beaten track. Travels slowly, with non-chain, independent goals.

Rosalind: Travel writer. Blog reflects experience during press travel, travelling to different cultures – all encompassing.

Nancy: professional travel writer. Background is print-based. Writes for an up-scale audience. Reviews 2 properties weekly.

Question: How do you decide what you’re going to focus on after a trip?

Rosalind: While she’s there, she decides what to write about based on individual experiences i.e. a specific day trip.

Pam: Most stories are accidental, i.e. the ‘in the corner’ stuff. Interested in the historical backgrounds, local cultures, and the stories that appear during your experience.

AL: Focuses on place blogging.
Nancy: Likes to give an overview of usual daily stuff, i.e. where to go for coffee, produce markets, etc. “Where’s the best place to go?”
How do you keep your blog fresh?

Pam: Uses a trip for long-term blogging. Likes to focus on in-town stuff, too – not always on a trip. Helps her keep things alive.

Rosalind: Takes only a few int’l trips yearly, and also delves into cultures via local experiences.
AL: place-blogging is about writing where you live, what you see everyday. You can use your content to change people’s perspectives and blur stereotypes. A place-blog is a great place to see local sites that even residents might not be aware of.

Pam: which makes it easier for travellers who will be coming to the town and looking for things to do and local resources not usually noted.

Audience: How do you write about a place wherein you’re experiencing culture shock without insulting locals?

Pam: Try to hold on to it for later, because having time to process it might give a better perspective. Thinks it’s ok to be negative about specific experiences, as long as you stay away from generalizing locals.

AL: negative is okay, as long as you’re constructive. Perceptions will change over time. People will be interested in a new-to-town person’s perspective.

Nancy: If you’re new to travel blogging, recommends being an expert in your backyard.
Audience: What extent do you diss the suppliers, i.e. when an airline loses your luggage?

Rosalind: Is honest, gives specifics. Perspective is what matters most – how she denotes it as an individual, person experience.

Nancy: Gives vendors an opportunity to contact them. Tweets so that the vendor has an opportunity to reply. Should be able to be honest about experiences, each person’s entitled to their opinion.

Audience: Negative reviews – do you worry about being sued.

Pam: there’s a difference between libel and expressing a negative opinion. Being specific helps. Usually contacts the PR firm or vendor, first.

Nancy: People shouldn’t be worried about writing about their experiences.

Audience: (a branding pro) Brands want you to tell them something negative.

Pam: In her experience, brands invite feedback, even if negative.

AL: Can influence even local politics, media, and vendors and create a two-way street, as they’re often looking on the web for opinion.

Audience: How to increase the depth of travel and make it less about reporting and more intensive. How do you strike a personal chord?

Rosalind: It takes time to develop your voice – it will come after consistent writing. Good writers read a lot.

Nancy: Try to write before reading, because she can get caught up in the reading and lose focus on her work. Recommends

AL: Definitely comes over time. It’s about taking the reader along a ride, and learning who you are, and being comfortable showing them who you are.

Pam: It takes a lot of time, finding your level of comfort. “You have to write.”

Audience: Do you disclose when you’re camped, and how?

Rosalind: Almost all of her travel is comped. Names that is was comped, but not by whom.

Pam: On her about page, “comps are no guarantee of a good review.”

Nancy: In the posts, “as a guest of” and does disclose the PR firm or provider.

Audience: Do you take notes while you’re on there, or afterwards?

Rosalind: Over-researches. Goes on all of the travel blogs, sites, then guide books, etc. Always taking notes.

Nancy: Tries to take notes always and get posts written right away.

AL: from a local perspective, you probably don’t take as many notes because it’s fresh and captures the moment of something happening – it’s timelier.

Pam: Doesn’t take notes, because she writes narratively. Does photography as a form of note-taking.

Audience: What are you finding from your readers, what are they looking for and responding to?

Rosalind: People some times just like to read, to experience the trip from home. Some try to delve deeper and will question further – good at pointing out missing parts.

Pam: Usually very delayed responses.
AL: Local blogging might bring about comments about reader’s experiences in response to the event/place blogged about.

Audience: How do you take the next step beyond providing good, free content, and leveraging it into paying writing?

Nancy: On one of her sites, she can offer paying writing positions.

Rosalind: Work from a local family traveller pro, start querying, and eventually people will take notice.

Nancy: Competition is getting thicker, as the former editors and writers have gone freelance due to the economy and print media is becoming less prevalent.

Rosalind: Visibility is key.

Pam: “Own your brand” – make people come to you, be an expert, be discerning about who you will work with/for and how much you’ll accept.

Audience: Do I need to worry about using a photo of someone? Do you need permission to use someone’s image?

Rosalind: Always get permission from someone (often written) to use their photos.

Nancy: It’s common courtesy.

Rosalind: You should cover yourself.

Audience: Do you do traditional media freelancing, in addition to current travel blog projects?

Rosalind: Yes, Nancy and her are freelance writers. Certain media won’t accept sponsored trips – helps to ask editors before the trip is going to happen.

Nancy: There’s kind of a "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy sometimes. Depends on your relationship with your editor and often your experience.

Audience: How do publicists find you, or do you find them?

Rosalind: Once you go on one trip, you go on ‘the list’. Check out the tourism board.

Nancy: Twitter has brought a lot of followers who have contacted her for reviews. PR people are pretty happy about that.

Audience: Twitter handles
@rDPX, @Nerdseyeview…

Audience: How much to charge for the photos from Flickr from travels.

Nancy: That’s more of a photog session.
Audience: Are you getting an unnatural experience with comped travel?

Rosalind: Yes. Typically, escapes the organized stuff, so she can get her own perspectives.

Audience: Do you use vlogging, or supplement your writing with video at all?

Pam: Just started using video. It’s easy to feel like a pro vlogger, but the important thing is to try to make it well. You have to tie it back to the narrative – which can be harder.

Nancy: Has bad video, using a Flip Mino. It’s fun.

Rosalind: Has gotten requests for video. Is a technophobe, but has plans to look into it.

Audience: Pam, explain the travel group.
Pam: Just go and sign up, anyone can.

Nancy: Props to BlogHer for having a travel panel for this session and the Birds of a Feather, after last year not having one.