Influencer marketing in Travel. 4 tips towards a win-win collaboration between influencers and Destinations

For the last 4 years the traditional press trips to destinations have been replaced by influencer trips. This entails bloggers, vloggers and influencers/celebrities (I will refer to all as influencers in the rest of this article) travelling to destinations to promote these. In the past it was a journalist writing for a print paper or magazine. For the latter, the editorial or commercial department would negotiate the details with the Destination marketing organisation or DMO (tourist boards/offices). The ROI was calculated in a simple investment from the DMO versus the media value the article(s) would generate. Nowadays, the media value is a bit trickier to calculate. Up to now, there is no general or global formula to determine the exact monetary value of a blog, blog or collection of posts on social media.

This new way of working does sometimes cause friction during the negotiations between influencers and DMO’s. There  might be a lack of understanding from both sides which stagnates the possible collaboration and possibly awesome outcomes. I represent a DMO in an association for DMO’s in The Netherlands: ANTOR Nederland. And as such am part of many, continuous, discussions on how to tackle this issue. We often invite influencers to give our members presentations on what they can do for us as influencers. However, it often ends up in a discussion on how to calculate the ROI. Many DMO’s still want or need to calculate in money, while influencers already move away from this and calculate in level of reach and influence of their specific audience.

Receiving an invitation from an Influencer marketing agency was a nice and refreshing surprise. The owner asked if we can turn the tables and if we could give a presentation to provide the influencers the DMO’s point of view. Creating 1 presentation for them representing all DMO’s was a challenge as we are so different in our way of working and structures. Nevertheless it was a challenge I was excited to tackle and happy to take on for ANTOR. I started with a research within the association to establish some fundamental factors of DMO’s and how these influence the negotiations and collaborations with influencers. Out of 26 members 16 have responded, therefore the results can be considered a good representation of the DMO population. You can see the graphs in the following slideshow:

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Based on these results I came up with four steps  that can help influencers negotiate towards a win-win collaboration. I can elaborate at length with various examples for each point, but will limit for the sake of this articles length.

1. Find out what the organisational & legal structure are of the DMO you will be working with

As can be seen, many DMO’s are still governmental organisations. This often indicates that their structure and way of working can be considered “conservative” and risk averse. Especially when the funds are public, it means that the DMO is bound to certain rules and regulations that might be alien to modern entrepreneurs such as influencers.

One common criticism by influencers is: “DMO’s need to understand that times have changed and they have to embrace new ways of working”. What is important here is that DMO’s located in a certain country often have head offices that might not be as advanced as these countries. Therefore the influencer can adjust their approach based on this knowledge, which will increase acceptance and positive atmosphere during negotiations.

2. Ask for the DMO’s targets and goals. Illustrate how your assets can help them

When you as the influencer approach a DMO for collaboration, selling yourself only by pointing out the amount of followers, hits and unique visitors you have is not enough. Find out ore about their specific targets and goals and point out how you can help them reach these by perhaps having a very specific niche audience. a very good example here is how microbloggers or influencers work in niches. I know an influencer with not such large number of followers, but they are very specific in age and lifestyle with a high level of engagement. This may be very interesting for a DMO needing to penetrate this specific niche.

Sometimes there is no match. Then try not to force a collaboration but keep in touch as the DMO might refer you to a colleague who is looking for your assets.

3. Consider barter opportunities 

Within most DMO’s influencer marketing will fall under the responsibility of the PR department, and as you can see many DMO’s still see PR and Influencer marketing as different things. This will seem to be conflicting, which in some cases it is. On the other hand, a benefit is that most DMO’s have their PR in-house. This enables speed when it comes to negotiations and decision making. Mostly the person you talk to will be third or second in line as to final decision making. When DMO’s outsource their PR, it can be a hurdle as the PR agency becomes the third or fourth in line of the decision making process. Most DMO’s work with pre-approved yearly budgets, making it challenging to engage in new influencer marketing activities in an ongoing year. The Influencers have to realise here that a negotiation will often be for activation in the following year. This is a good example of speed as mentioned before when working with government-like organisations.

Considering all of the above it is good to have more proposals up your sleeve when negotiating. At this point in time influencers are used to getting financially compensated for their work and openly ask for this during negotiations. However, remember that many DMO’s still need to provide some sort of monetary value results their head offices in order to get approvals. My point here is that one should not limit oneself to financial compensation or sponsored items only. When a DMO struggles to pay a fee for an influencer to go to their destination on top of the travel expenses you can offer them additional media products. If you are able to provide for example images, video’s or additional posts on other media, these can be helpful for the DMO to back-up a financial fee for your efforts. Especially when the destination is far away and travel expensive. For example a London based influencer that goes to Malaysia for a week will cost the DMO at least three to five thousand pounds. Therefore to pay an additional fee becomes challenging. If the influencer can offer good images or video produced during their trip, these can be considered collateral to justify such a fee.

4. You are not only an influencer, you are also a consultant

Not all DMO’s are the same. Some are very advanced in (online) marketing and work easily with influencers. However, there still are DMO’s that for whatever reason struggle a bit and are not able to make quick turnarounds in Influencer marketing collaborations.  This does not mean that they have a negative position, but are looking for ways that will make it work for them as well. By positioning yourself as a consultant besides being an influencer it will help you understand their needs and provide good advise and tips on how to make the best of the potential collaboration. Especially if they have challenges with getting approvals from their head office. They might be looking at you for guidance in how to package the proposal and present it in a way that also takes into consideration the requirements set by the Head office.

Feel free to contact me if you have more questions based on this article.

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