8 - For PR people

Simple exposure vs. decision support

Nudist camp

ABOVE: Simple exposure isn't always what it's cracked up to be.

In the heyday of print media, when newspapers and magazines served as gatekeepers between travel organizations and the public, the role of travel PR was often fairly straightforward: to build awareness of destinations or brands with the public.

A DMO, travel vendor, or PR agency would organize press trips, the writers on the trips would produce short articles about the pleasures of visiting Elbonia or taking a Croesus Cruise, and--with luck--potential travelers in Denver, Des Moines, or Durham would get the message during the 24-hour life of the local Sunday newspaper travel section or the 30-day life of Middle Age Monthly.

Today, many of those traditional media are gone, while others limp along by publishing wire-service stories for a declining (and aging) audience. Most travel planning takes place on the Internet, where, according to the Travel Industry Association of America, "Ninety-three million U.S. adults--and counting--reported using the Internet for travel planning purposes in 2010."
But the change in where people are getting their travel information may be less important than changes in what kind of information they're looking for. The TIA goes on to ask, "And why did they [travelers] use the Internet? To book travel, yes. But the greatest benefits to online travel planners can be summarized as 'evaluation,' 'involvement,' and 'expectations.'"
Or, to put it more simply: 

  • Today's travelers aren't passive readers who are waiting for someone to suggest a vacation idea--they're actively looking for decision support as they research where to go and how to spend their money.
In the post-Sunday travel section era, it makes sense to think beyond the outdated model of a 500-word "My weekend in Vacationville" story for every newspaper reader (including armchair travelers) in Memphis or Manchester.

On the Web, which is a niche medium, you can easily groups such as:
What's more, if the sites that you're working with have a good presence in the search engines, your audience won't just be people who are generally interested in cruising, Europe, or Germany: 

You'll also reach potential customers who are searching Google, Bing, or Yahoo! for "ms widgetberg river cruise," "widgetberg cruise review," and similar phrases. These readers are serious prospects, and they're waiting for a trustworthy third party (such as an editorial Web site) to help them reach a final purchase decision.


To provide effective "decision support," an editorial site must provide useful, objective, in-depth information to the prospective traveler. Consumers who search Google for "shelbyville travel information" and find a 300-word teaser story are more likely to be annoyed than satisfied.

Next article: Advertising Value Equivalency, or why AVE is DOA on the Web
Photo: Maurice van der Velden.