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10 Tips for Digital Content Creators Looking to Collaborate with Travel Brands

If you are an upcoming travel social media influencer looking to partner with travel brands, here are a few tips to get you started.

According to Kenya’s Digital Economy report by Dalberg, 13.3% of Kenyans have used e-commerce platforms to buy or sell products and services while 44% of self-employed people/business owners use digital services to support their businesses. A Geopoll 2020 report from a survey done in Kenya and Nigeria in July 2020 shows lifestyle, fashion, and technology influencers are the most popular categories of influencers followed as more consumers trust influencers than they trust brand messages.  53% of the consumers say they trust influencers over brands themselves with a large majority (80%) of the consumers in Kenya and Nigeria say they have bought products following influencer recommendations.

In this article, we dive deeper into what you need to know or have in place as a content creator in order to successfully work with travel brands & land jobs. This campaign piece will focus on influencer marketing in the travel and hospitality space being an area we’ve engaged creators through our Instagram Tours for destination marketing

As a content agency and creative collective, Turnup in Motion has been a content-led, digital-first, and influencer-driven business that received 1st Prize in the 2020 International Tourism Film Festival Africa Award in the ‘Tourism Destination — Region’ category, so I’ve gathered a few tips over the years that I’ll be sharing below.

These tips are geared towards digital content creators mostly seeking to work with tour companies, hotels and airlines – travel trade or be included in destination marketing campaigns. This is more of an update to a 2018 piece on what we’re learning about working with influencers in Kenya

  1. Understand the tourism industry/ client’s business

The tourism industry was and still is seasonal (or rather we have peak and low cycles) before Covid 19 and based on the flow of people, that affects occupancy levels, which means there are certain months when hotels, airlines, and tour operators will be open to collaborations. To better land gigs, you have to pitch with a time frame that gives the decision-makers a chance to review your proposal, budget and hopefully have some lead time – of course, last-minute shots work at times but planning ahead is better.. If you’re looking for something more long term and recurring, factor in the seasonality and remember you can shoot now and release later. Add our erratic weather patterns too that you have to take into consideration if you’re chasing light and vibes.

By understanding your client’s business and the priorities of the various internal stakeholders, you’re able to find an angle to build a relationship around a need, gap, or opportunity. Lastly, instead of asking for a free stay, you may ask for a discount in exchange for a free article. Or pay for 2 nights (get the work done) and stay 4 nights so you can relax with the extra two nights and then offer something in return. This will get you through the door faster in a crowded space of influencers asking for freebies with no clear ROI.

Secondly, align their needs to your target audience or show how you can help them speak to certain demographics just to find that holy trinity. Speak a language they can understand by justifying your proposal with business outcomes. While digital marketers understand your efforts and can measure ROI on digital space, they report to General Managers who will need a different kind of ROI reporting

Examples of questions you can help business leaders answer are, Which routes are performing? Which ones need a bit more push? revenue or rather how digital is driving commercial value.

What are their key markets and segments they could improve on? How can you plug them into your audience and help them nurture relationships? Your concept needs to be aligned to business priorities because ultimately it all boils down to conversion.

2.Focus – on a skill, niche, or a platform

Consider your digital footprint and social media presence as your real estate. My advice is if you are just starting out, identify a platform, master your style and be consistent while at it. Like say, you’re a videographer who is dope with transitions for Instagram and Tik Tok content.

Even as a lifestyle connoisseur, you can focus on food and beverage, but even within that, you can do your food reviews from an agro-tourism angle casting the spotlight on indigenous people or a particular cuisine.  Or even within tourism, you focus on ecotourism with a sustainability angle on environmental issues, community-based tourism, and conservation. And no, you don’t have to flock where the other influencers have been already so you can open up new spots and hidden gems that are often overlooked.

  1. Network and pitch

Make it easy for people to find and call you for opportunities so Include your contacts (email and a phone number) on your website or social media profiles to be reachable. Since Most requests are time-sensitive, have a rate card and an influencer profile with your case studies for recent work and partnerships which saves a bit of the back and forth when requests come in. If you struggle with how to rate your services, research the going rate of other creators or the industry standard for your following/ reach on Webfluential and outputs based on your time and effort to create so you can have a basis for negotiation.

  1. Speak to outcomes, not outputs always.

Content creators need to be able to articulate their contribution to the business to be understood and set themselves apart. Speak to how you will amplify the brand, distribute the content and speak in a language that the people on the other side of the table understand or translate to directors. How are you different from the rest? Hotels and tour operators give complimentary stays all the time. Some yield results and others have no impact. so make sure to include the results of your work, references if you can, and above all quantify and price your value. You can have a smaller but very engaged audience., You can be the key opinion leader in your niche. But speak to value first and price second.

  1. Find your vein and perch there

It’s easy to go for every opportunity that lands in your DM. But you also need to ensure these gigs align to your values, are with brands that you can vouch for, and most importantly it’s a product or service that your audience can relate to or find useful.

You can still raise your rates without fear of attracting less business. Specialization in a world of generalists is good and I believe you can make more by serving fewer clients extremely well. And overall, you will have time to wrap up a project before jumping to the next. Be absolutely intentional and people will notice your work and consider you for the gigs that are aligned to the body of your work and work on your terms.

  1. Form a tribe but remain independent

You need to interact with other creatives and business professionals to learn what they’re working towards, request meaningful introductions, and shoot your shot. If you don’t step up your outreach efforts, you won’t find lots of gigs coming your way. Being aggressive and working on your brand is part of the hustle, creating good content is just one part of it. @zollz says “collaborate with fellow creatives anytime you get a chance or can afford to. You get more ideas flowing and, in most cases, you create better products than you would have created alone”

I’ve seen over the years creators form alliances to collaborate and bring their strength of numbers, skills and contribution to the table on campaigns. However, sometimes brands cannot afford to work with everyone together so you need to retain your voice and style.

In an effort to do more work locally, brands and other organizations are sourcing for photographers and videographers at the destination or country as opposed to flying people across which is strenuous right now in covid 19 times. Ensure you cross-promote each other and form alliances that can open doors for your work. Whilst collaboration is key, don’t forget there are gigs that will require you to go in alone as part of another team, so develop the soft skills and client service experience to serve and work together with other people across time zones, countries, and cultural backgrounds.

  1. Set KPIs and do regular updates

Let’s say you have now agreed in principle and it’s now time to iron out the details, always remember it’s good to articulate the key deliverables in quantifiable metrics. Are you going to do 3 tweets, 5 IG stories, one vlog, blog etc.? How many edited images? How long will this take to edit and publish? Will you run the content by them to approve or will you retain editorial control?

There can be scope creep during post-production where the client asks for more. So it’s always good to be guided by some clear KPIs or outputs that you can refer to. Remember even if you are doing it for free, it is important to articulate the value and deliverables so that both parties are aligned on expectations and what is required. It’ll save you lots of headaches with your internal and external stakeholders.

 

  1. A contract ties loose ends but brand immersion smoothens onboarding

It is always good to spend a bit more time going through each KPI to know what happens if you don’t meet it and understanding the brief so that you can execute it accurately. Do a briefing session during onboarding and clarify anything that you feel is going to be a gray area. Even if you are sent a contract, it is important to ensure you understand and have a call with the client or meeting. If you’re going to outsource or collaborate with someone else for the gig, ensure you translate the brief accordingly as the intermediary as this is going to make your life easier when it comes to handing over and reporting. Do you retain the raw files (images or videos), or do they all belong to the client? What if the client asks for more? What is the extra cost for editing, shooting an extra day, adding extra pieces of content or post(s)? Ensure you have set boundaries. However, if you choose to go above them, you can do so voluntarily or you should bill for the extras and always refer to the clauses in your contract.

 

  1. Research before you shoot your shot and direct it to the right person

Let’s say you have a hotel in mind for location, then need transport but you still need to cover a stipend for your photographer. You can ask for a free stay at the hotel, then speak to an alcoholic beverage brand that just launched a new product that would be interested in creating some content at the destination and they’d be willing to part with free samples and subsidized fees to get some shots and it’ll save them since they won’t have to commission or go to an agency and pay a retainer, and cover everything from hotels, flights and models and location fees. Now you have a place to stay, a collaboration with a brand, and some cash – hopefully, everyone goes home happy.

Has the hotel worked with influencers before? Has that airline engaged bloggers before? Who are their competitors and what have their marketing efforts been in the past quarter? You can scan to see what the previous influencers missed a key aspect and build your pitch around that. Let’s say a hotel is gold eco rated doing great work for sustainability and you see the influencers and bloggers they’ve hosted haven’t highlighted work, you could focus on that area as well if it’s aligned to business outcomes. The key thing here is to be armed with information and position your value proposition to fill those gaps. Remember even if you’re both exchanging value, there’s a cost each party bears, so ensure the hustle is worth your coins. Above all, if you’d like to be paid for this kind of work, then you have to also go above and beyond to articulate what the return on investment is from your offering. Lastly, Include testimonials and your past clientele list to build legitimacy.

 

  1. Have fun

As a host, give the creators some freedom and room to flex by designing unusual offline experiences that are actually fun and sticky because if the influencers are having fun on the ground, they tend to overshare the moments and effortlessly go above and beyond.

You could also have a dedicated liaison person to handle the influencers, or your resident photographer and a likable host who will ensure the creators stay within limits, iron out the creases that make content creation harder, and of course, guide them to experience the destination from your brand.

Your goal as an influencer is while you’re travelling for work, holidays are some of the best days so do negotiate to ensure you have some headroom in the itinerary to relax and enjoy the amenities. It also helps you factor in things you may discover at the destination and thus bringing a new perspective to the whole process. Lastly, remember to give feedback to your host on your experience, where they can improve, and try as much as possible to sample the place as a normal guest would be even though your details might be fine-tuned for you. Speak to other guests, read reviews, hang out with the staff, get a half-board meal plan so you can step out for lunch to mingle with locals and support businesses. Go like any tourist would but remain conscious of the privilege your status accords you. If the agreement says bed and breakfast free of charge but you treat yourself to lunch and dinner plus drinks, please make arrangements to clear that tab before you check out. Want to collaborate with us?

Muthuri Kinyamu a travel trade marketing and influencer relations consultant based in Nairobi, Kenya. You can follow his tweets here and email him

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