Editor’s Note: This is part two of The Zen of Travel Content Marketing series on building an inspired (and inspirational) content strategy for your hospitality or tourism business. (Still not convinced you need content or a blog? You do.) As I publish each new installment, I’ll link it at the bottom of this post.
If you think this is the week we gallop into content creation, whoa there. I hate to disappoint, but the truth is, developing a thoughtful – and successful – content strategy for your travel biz takes time. And not the kind of time you can squeeze into the commercial breaks during your favorite shows: I’m talking hours, days and probably weeks of brainstorming, refining and consideration.
But it’s worth it. I promise.
This week, we’re delving into the details of your content strategy. Not content marketing, but content strategy. (Say what? Is there a difference?) Mais oui, there is!
Content strategy is not the same as content marketing. Think of it like an orchard: every seed you plant is the promise of a future harvest. If you sow haphazardly, your orchard will grow up to be a crowded, poor producer. But if you plan your orchard carefully and nurture it along the way, you can create a space – big or small, depending on your goals – that is fruitful for years to come. The way you plan your seed-sowing and and nurturing is content strategy; how you use the fruits of your well-tended orchard is content marketing. So let’s get into it:
What is Content Marketing for the Travel Industry?
Before you can define the strategies and goals for your travel content, let’s clear this elephant out of the room: just what is travel content marketing?
There are many definitions of content marketing. Most of them are good, so choose whichever calls out to you. A few of my favorites:
- “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” (Content Marketing Institute)
- “Content marketing is a pull, rather than a push, strategy. Content doesn’t interrupt, it attracts.” (Rebecca Lieb, Advertising Age)
- “Custom publishing marries the marketing ambitions of a company with the information needs of its target audience. This occurs through the delivery of editorial content – via print, Internet, and other media – so intrinsically valuable that it moves the recipient’s behavior in a desired direction.” (Custom Content Council)
- “Content Marketing is creating or curating non-product content—be it informational, educational, entertaining, etc.—and publishing it to contact points with customers to get their attention, to focus on the topic around your solution, and pull them closer to learning more about you.” (Sam Decker, Mass Relevance)
Travel content marketing is the content you create – blog posts, travel guides, photo slideshows, newsletters, etc. – to build relationships with travelers, nurture leads (and lead conversion), create brand awareness, and promote your travel experience.
Notably, content marketing is not inbound marketing. Inbound marketing gets visitors to your site, usually via sources like search engines and your social media accounts. Creating great content certainly gives you great fodder for inbound marketing, but the goal of content marketing is not to create inbound links. (This is a very important distinction, when it comes to both strategy and metrics like ROI.) Inbound is complementary to content, but they are not identical.
So What’s Content Strategy?
Content strategy is not a single solution. It’s not a content marketing deliverable, like blog posts and travel guides and posting your links on Twitter: travel content strategy is the entire process, starting from the beginning – the mission statement, your raison d’être, the editorial calendar, all of it. Travel content strategy is the why and the how of creating information that is eminently sharable and completely inspirational.
Developing Your Content Marketing Strategy
Now that we have that sorted out, it’s time for some action.
1. Define Your Content Marketing Goals
Your content marketing goals are the foundation of your content strategy. Ask yourself, why am I making the investment in content marketing? Why do you want to reach your target audience, and what do you hope to achieve? Do you want to build brand awareness – get your name out there? Do you want to build your email list, so you can nurture and convert warm leads? Are you trying to establish yourself as a market leader? Or do you simply want to up your guest engagement?
Your goals are the key to defining your content strategy. Going back to my orchard metaphor, this step is the equivalent of mapping out your orchard before the first seed is even purchased.
2. Take a Content Inventory (a.k.a. Content Audit)
Chances are, you started creating content before you even heard the term content marketing. (That’s a good thing; it just shows how natural this kind of marketing is.) Now’s the time to organize all of your previously created content, from travel guides and blog posts to newsletters and photo galleries. There are some great (and free) content inventory templates floating around; I like this one and this one.
3. Get Your Team in Place (or Hire a Team)
There are many keys to successful content marketing, but none is as important as your team. A good strategist and talented content marketer can make the difference between rock-the-world travel stories and humdrum content that never achieves lift-off.
Start by looking to your in-house employees. They know your company well and, hopefully, are passionate about your business. But if they don’t have the time, vision or writing chops to fully commit, you probably need outside help. Remember, content marketing is not about quantity (oh hey, look! we have a blog!); it’s about quality. You need to create inspiring, kickass content that furthers your goals. So if it comes down to saving money by sacrificing quality – e.g. delegating to a current employee who really isn’t up to the task – make the investment in a content marketer with travel industry experience.
4. Brainstorm Your Deliverables
The travel and hospitality industry was made for great content: blog posts, photo slideshows, travel guides, wish-you-were-heres, and everything in between – these are natural stories inherently interesting to your target audience (remember those personas you created in Part 1?).
Don’t take on everything at once. Define a few areas for content implementation – say, a travel blog and a slideshow series – and take it from there. Starting small allows you to devote more energy and resources into creating a few pieces of truly inspirational content, instead of creating oodles of boring sludge that never gets any traction.
5. Get Social
If content is king, then social is its crown prince. That makes social sound important, right? Well, it is, but here’s something you’ll probably love: the secret to social is, you don’t have to be on every social network. In fact, you probably shouldn’t be.
Each social network has its own personality, so choose the ones that your audience frequents. Keep your chosen networks pared down, so you can really rock each. Study how each works – e.g. Pinterest loves photos while Facebook likes to chat (albeit often about photos) – and devote yourself to building an engaged audience on your networks. If you can’t do a network right, don’t do it at all. (After all, is there anything more blah than Liking a Facebook page with 3 Likes and no posts for the past six months?)
Ha ha, I got you again. Another assignment! It’s pretty straightforward: reread Steps 1-5 and jot down your answers. Sleep on them, then go back and refine them. Discuss them with your coworkers. Ask your employees what they think. Then let us know how it went!
Other installments in The Zen of Travel Content Marketing series: