Weekend travel supplements are evolving as the travel industry adapts to cater for the increasing popularity of independent travel, budget flights and internet booking, coupled with a climate of heightened caution given the threat of terrorism.
Travel supplements today are a far cry from their former existence when the travel pages where tucked into a part of the main newspaper. They are now higher-quality products addressing a more discerning traveller.
Given the steady but consistent changes in these publications, a thorough knowledge of the different sections of each supplement is an absolute must for PROs, according to travel editors. This knowledge and a targeted approach to the supplements will prove fruitful to PROs pitching products and stories.
The right approach
Graham Boynton, travel editor at The Daily Telegraph, whose supplement is published on Saturdays and Sundays, says he spurns PROs who come forward with ideas, describing their role as a pure supplier of information, while other commissioning editors will meet PROs to brainstorm story ideas, potentially resulting in good exposure for multiple clients of a single agency.
Timing is crucial. You cannot sell in a destination piece about the Caribbean during its monsoon season, for example. BGB & Associates managing director Debbie Hindle says: 'To get in with a destination piece, you have to get the idea agreed and (approach the paper) at a suitable time of the year. It could be a long lead-up to a piece being published, or it could be a week if it is a topical subject.'
McCluskey International CEO Judy McCluskey says: '(Travel sections) need ideas that they can implement easily, with little time or expense. If you pitch an idea such as the Olympic Games, they want to know you can get a permit or a ticket. You cannot overcommit - PROs can oversell.'
She adds that celebrity writers are also frequently used and provide good photo opportunities, but can prove a headache for agencies managing their entourage and inevitable paparazzi. And as The Observer travel editor Jeannette Hyde cautions, they must be able to write.
THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
Graham Boynton: Travel editor - Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
What are you looking for from PROs?
PROs read the section thoroughly and they know who to send their information to. Some PR people say 'we must get together' because they have got some ideas for us, which makes me retreat. It is my job to come up with ideas.
We need to know what travel companies are doing, and what different countries are doing. Good PROs also have a sense of what the different papers need.
Is there much scope for PROs to influence content?
PROs are a useful conduit between us and the travel companies. I would like to think they have no influence at all - their role is to keep their client's name on the journalist's radar.
What sort of relationship do you have with PROs?
I think we have a good relationship with PROs. We approach these relationships with caution and mutual respect.
What is the biggest trend in travel at the moment?
With the conflicts in the Middle East and since 9/11, travel has changed because of security. 9/11 did not stop the travel industry, but it altered perceptions. This is a PR problem and something that the PR industry is trying to cope with, so PR has a massive role.
Are you approached by PROs who are working in crisis management?
We are always approached by PROs who want to talk about security. It is an ongoing debate.
THE SUNDAY TIMES
Christine Walker: Travel editor - Contact: email@example.com
How could PROs improve the way they target you?
I would like fewer press releases and a better-targeted approach. I am happy to talk to anyone if they have something interesting and relevant to say. PROs need to be familiar with the different sections and know what will interest me. Ideas are scarce and I do not mind where they come from. I am not looking for destination pieces from people - we are very clear about what we need to cover; there are seasons in travel journalism.
When is the best time for PROs to contact you?
If British Airways decided to sell all its seats for £1 and I received this news on a Friday night, I would be very pissed off. We start going to press on Thursday, so I need to hear from PROs by Wednesday. If PROs are talking about strategic ideas, timing does not matter.
How should PROs contact you?
In the first instance it should be snail mail.
How has your publication changed over recent years?
The readers of travel sections have become more sophisticated and we have had to be more aware of that in terms of the information we give them. They want to know about travel strategies rather than read pieces about a dot on the map. Readers have to feel that they can gain something from reading the piece.