Lines between the business travel media and traditional travel outlets are blurring, and PR pros need to adapt their pitches to cater to more varied interests.
The business trip, long a rite of passage for many American workers, has undergone a bit of change in recent years. Business travelers, and the media outlets that target them, are beginning to realize that life on the road can't be all work all the time.
Leslie Cohen, EVP with New York-based Laura Davidson Public Relations, notes that there's a lot more overlap now between the business travel press and traditional travel coverage. "Our pitches reflect that we're no longer talking to separate audiences," she says. "That's a change from several years ago."
Cohen adds that today's business traveler will read Business Week or Business Traveler, along with Travel & Leisure or a spa magazine. "They want to know not just what's happening with the business center, but also what's going on in the fitness facilities, so we're seeing a lot more focus on the lifestyle of business travel."
Business and pleasure
Lisa Matte, editor-in-chief for Global Traveler, says her magazine always includes stories that focus on personal interests, since some business travelers are able to set aside a bit of leisure time while on the road. "Every issue, we cover one or two leisure destinations, we do a column on golf courses, and we do our Kicking Back section," she says.
This change in business travel coverage now extends to the convention business, as well. "The convention and expo business is pitched differently, but again that overlap exists," Cohen says. "There are titles like Meeting & Conventions, Successful Meetings, and Incentive magazine that go specifically to decision makers for meetings, but those people are also reading Condé Nast Traveler and Bon Appetit."
Joan Bloom, SVP at M Booth & Associates, notes that today's business travel coverage also recognizes that carte blanche expense accounts are a distant memory. "There are now serious economic restraints on business travel, so the focus is more on value - not just on the costs, but getting value for your company's dollar," she says.
Bloom adds, however, that the business travel audience can be reached in a number of different ways. "There are columnists for both travel and lifestyle at magazines like Forbes and Business Week," she says. "It's not just the business travel magazines; any business magazine with a lifestyle section covers a lot of business travel."
The tech-savvy traveler
M Booth SVP Joan Brower, who runs the firm's travel division along with Bloom, adds that with 67% of all business travel now booked online, any pitch has to recognize that today's corporate road warrior is likely to be fully wired. "That means highlighting features such as in-room internet connections is critical to any pitch," she says.
It also means business travel coverage is just as much about technology and products as it is about destinations.
"We target the mainstream publications like Maxim, Stuff, PC Magazine, and PC World that people would read on airplanes," says Phil O'Shaughnessy, senior director of corporate communications at personal technology maker Creative, which has a host of products for corporate travelers. "But in-flight magazines are also a real gem for us in terms of reaching the business traveler, though they can be hard to get into because they have limited coverage of the kinds of products we have."
O'Shaughnessy did manage to successfully pitch to United Airlines' Hemisphere a package of products for business travelers that includes a travel mouse, a set of travel speakers, a small web cam for notebooks, and portable sound cards. But he admits that PR pros must use different selling points to appeal to the business traveler.
"We do tend to focus more on how easy it is to use the product and how quick it is to set it up," he says. "Also, compact size is very important to the business traveler, and one of the reasons we included our web cam in the pitch was that it is so small you can fit it in a briefcase."
Michelle Moody, principal at Dallas-based Moody & Associates, which represents LapWorks and its line of portable desks for laptop computers, notes that PR pros should cast a wide net to target business travelers.
"You can't just target the business travel titles, because they tend to be destination focused," she says. "And when they do have product coverage, often it's on things like the iPod and other items that are hugely hot. So you really need to pay attention to every outlet you can and tailor your pitch to each of them."
Pitching ... business travel
- Business travelers are just as interested in the amenities of their destinations as leisure vacationers, so don't just focus on the business centers and conference facilities. Make sure you also mention spas and fine dining
- Corporate road warriors tend to be consumers of a wide variety of media, so don't limit pitches exclusively to dedicated business travel outlets
- Remember that business travel is as much about the products executives take with them as it is a destination story, so tailor your pitches to highlight the portability and ease of use of business technology products