Travel is a subject that is always of interest to the public, and travel agents are the experts. Are you taking advantage of the opportunity to get your company on television for free?
It’s an interesting question that was posed, last week, at a breakout session at the annual ASTA Global Conference, where CBS News Reporter and Producer Wendy Gillette offered up tips to help travel agents find their 15 minutes — or more — of fame. In a business affected by hurricanes, earthquakes, trip cancellations and other newsworthy occurrences, smart travel agents can get a chance to present themselves as experts and plug their business, if they go about it the right way.
Here are the tips Gillette offered:
1. Have a newsy and relevant story to tell
To be considered news, your story has to be time-sensitive and you need to strike while the iron is hot. “My business has grown a lot” is not news; “I have clients stuck in Hawaii and I’m helping them get home” is.
2. Find a person to talk to
As always, things go smoother when you know someone. Don’t just send an email; call up your local news station and ask to speak to someone on the assignment desk. Or better yet, ask for the name and email of the producer of the morning show and contact him or her directly.
3. Think local
The smaller your market, the easier it will be for a beginner to get a break. So, start with the most local news outlet near you, and with the morning or afternoon news shows. If you live in a big city, start in the surrounding smaller markets.
4. Be brief
TV is all about very short news bites. Show them how good you are at that with a one-sentence email pitch that catches their attention. Then below that, add a little background about the idea, and about yourself and what makes you an expert in travel.
5. Think teaching, not advertising
Go into the experience thinking you want to teach your community how to enhance their travel experiences, rather than to advertise your business. If you do the first thing well, the second will follow.
6. Practice two short messages you want to share
Prepare one message about the news topic at hand, and one about what you want the community to know about your business. Practice until you can say them smoothly, even when you are nervous, in short one-sentence sound bites of 5-7 seconds. Use a mirror or have someone tape you and watch yourself. Everyone has a weird and annoying thing they do, so identify yours and practice not doing it. Ask friends and family to critique you — and tell them you want help, not just “that was great.”
7. On the air, look calm and professional
Sit up very straight and lean forward ever so slightly. If you are standing, point one foot forward and angled slightly; never stand face-on. Look at the reporter. Dress professionally. Wear a color that pops, like green or orange, but never checks or loud prints or solid white. For women, get a professional blow-out of your hair and wear just a little extra makeup. When they ask a question, it’s fine to take a beat to get your thoughts together before you begin answering.
8. Work to get invited back
Busy reporters keep a list of good interviewees they keep coming back to, so try to get on it. Speak at a sixth-grade level; do not use industry terms or acronyms that a child would not understand. If you make a mistake or stumble over your words in a taped interview, just ask if you can do it again. Never say “no comment”; just say something, even if it does not really answer the question that was asked. If you don’t know the answer, say you will get back to the reporter, and email them immediately when the show is over. Ask upfront for a clip of the interview; if they agree and it turns out well, post it on social media, but otherwise just mention it. And finally, stay on their radar by sending a handwritten thank-you card, or at least an email.