When you look at the Holy Grail of travel blogging, the vast majority of bloggers who have sprung up since around 2012 or so will quote one thing as their primary reason for attempting to work in this profession: sponsored travel. But what many of them fail to realize is that earning sponsorships is a process that takes several years to build up to, and includes building up expertise, contacts and work-related experience in the fields of media and public relations.
First and foremost, if you are just coming into the game, you are nobody. Get ready to work your ass off and build up over the next two to three years until you reach the point where you have enough traffic + expertise to offer potential sponsors to earn press trips and related opportunities. See the first part in the series regarding the myth of free travel, as well as our 3,000+ word blog post covering the overview of sponsored travel.
Secondly, understand that in the beginning you have nothing to offer to a potential sponsor. No traffic, no influence, no following…and, more importantly, you have zero experience as a media specialist or public relations guru who knows how to work within the various digital mediums as well as has the connections to the right people who can help you maximize coverage for a specific campaign.
Because when it comes to media and PR, it’s all about who you know. And unless you are coming from that side of the fence into blogging for a living, you won’t know anyone in the media or public relations industries. Which means you can’t guarantee jack as far as traffic goes.
Make no mistake: while specific influence within a given niche is important, and it’s possible to earn sponsorships early on in your blogging career based on your unique offerings and ability to sell yourself and finding those who believe in you, a large part of whether or not you are “worth it” in the eyes of the sponsors is whether or not you can deliver mass traffic to their campaign.
Publicity is king. A blogger with only three months behind them likely has absolutely zero clue on how to properly write press releases and work with journalists within the public relations industry. They also likely have no media connections with related outlets (New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Yahoo, etc.), and many sponsors want to know that you have at least been published at some of these places, which further verifies that you are, indeed, a professional in the media and PR fields.
If you are new to blogging, you don’t have anything to bring to the table other than your unique point of view. That’s not enough. Your opinion isn’t worth anything. It’s just an opinion. Sponsors need to know that you can do more than just write opinion. They need to know what kind of exposure you can bring them beyond your blog and your personal readers.
This is why it’s vitally important to be an extrovert, not an introvert, and work to get published in as many outlets as you can. Attend conventions and build up personal relationships with editors and publishers. Get on a first-name basis with the people who are professionals in media and PR…because these are going to be the people who help land you future gigs later on down the road. And without them your job will be that much harder.
It’s possible to do everything independently. But it’s far more difficult and takes even longer to build up the relevant following if you aren’t working on expanding your connections and your expertise in these areas. You have to focus on learning every aspect of publishing that you can.
Because until you do, you are just empty traffic without any actual effect.