There have been a number of high profile organisations such as VisitBritain or G Adventures taking on high profile travel bloggers as ‘resident writers’ in the last couple of years, but now the concept is beginning to spread to smaller niche companies and specialist organisations who want to reach online audiences.
A recent example is the small but stylish hostel & campsite mini chain, PLUShostels, which launched eight years ago in Italy and has now spread to Prague and Berlin. Earlier this month (May) Runaway Jane was contracted to be their resident blogger starting with a commitment to write one post a week plus a monthly newsletter, with the potential for taking on more work as the experiment progresses. The venture also has a Twitter hashtag, #PLUSjane.
The deal works at two levels for Jane…
I’m getting paid for the venture, and they’re also putting a decent sized marketing budget into the project & promoting me, ‘Runaway Jane’.
For PLUShostels, as Head of Marketing, Jordi Sinclair, explains, the venture enables them to personify their brand…
We want to create a bigger brand identity by engaging people with honest, fun writing about various topics on independent travel. In terms of Jane in particular, after speaking to a number of travel bloggers regarding the role – Jane showed the most passion about the project which speaks volumes.
So what exactly, worked in Jane’s favour?
She says there were three general factors – being pro-active, timing and luck.
I approached PLUS in early 2012 and was told that it was actually something they were thinking about already, that is – setting up a blog for their website. However, they were already considering other bloggers for the position. They said that they would consider me in the process now that I had approached them.
I followed up again in April, remembering that this was when they said they would be making a decision. I was told when I met Jordi (Head of Marketing at PLUS) that the main reason I was picked over other bloggers was because I was keen. The fact that I had approached them, and then followed up about it was very deciding in him choosing me over someone else. For that reason I would urge all other travel bloggers seeking opportunities like this to go out and try create their own opportunities, rather than waiting for the offer.
Integral to me attaining this position was also my work as ‘Runaway Jane’, including the relationships I had set up with other travel companies through my work on my own site. PLUS mentioned that before deciding to work with me they had spoken to other travel companies I had worked with in the past. They never mentioned who specifically, and I never asked, but I can only assume my good working relationship with these companies allowed for some positive feedback to happen. The fact that I had already worked with similar sized companies within the travel industry on my own site, and had produced successful working relationships with them, was a real help in my selection.
Then there is also the fact that because I had been blogging for over 2 years already from RunawayJane.com, PLUS were able to go on immediately and see the quality of articles, what type of audience I was reaching, and see that I was able to write content that engaged with people. This audience also happened to fit exactly with their target demographic of young backpackers.
Jordi Sinclair agrees that the ability to engage with PLUShostels’ target audience is crucial, and the role includes reaching not just potential new customers, but also past and current customers…
We want people to see that we have a real person writing on behalf of us. Someone who is experienced and has the readers’ best interests at heart. We’re obviously hoping to reach a lot more people, but most importantly engage the people who, after staying with PLUS, move on and never have any reason to stay attached to the brand. I like to think there’ll be people Jane engages with that will continue reading her blog long after they’ve stayed with us.
How will PLUShostels measure the success of their Resident Blogger?
Jordi says the signs already look good…
We have certain goals in terms of readership/statistics, judging by the stats after the first post it will be very successful once we gather some momentum over the peak season. Apart from that my goal is to really lay the foundations for how we work with bloggers in the future. I think key to that success is giving Jane free reign over what she wants to write about to tie in with PLUS as opposed to dictating everything. I’m looking forward to this season, I think it’s going to be lots of fun working with Jane and we’ll be able to look back on it as being very successful for both of us.
What are the key tips for other bloggers looking for ‘residential positions’?
Jane says her experience demonstrates that the bloggers out there who work hard and try to create opportunities for themselves rather than waiting for things to happen, will usually be the one’s with the offers at the end of the day.
As a member of the travel blogging community I would also love to see more of these ‘Resident Blogger’ positions opening up, and I think if travel bloggers want to see more of these positions opening they also have to take some responsibility in trying to create them.
I have no doubt that if I wasn’t already blogging from RunawayJane.com, working with other travel companies as part of it, and showing an engaged presence on social media websites, I would not have attained this position as ‘Resident Blogger’ at PLUS. I am also certain I wouldn’t have been successful had I not approached PLUS, because to be honest, I probably wasn’t on their radar until I did.
There are more and more travel blogs emerging every day, and these days if you want to stand out you really have to do something that makes you different… even if in my case that was just my passion for the job and what I do.
Have you applied for a ‘blogger residency’ or suggested one to a travel company? What was your experience?