Terry and I are still reeling.
On Monday we gathered with the great and good of UK travel for the announcement of the Travel Media Awards at London’s St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.
The awards are the Oscars of the travel world. And we were there, finalists in the Innovative Campaign and Content category, with friends and colleagues.
“And the winner is… #LoveSabah!” said the announcer. And I remember leaping on the spot before everything flashed by in a blur of glorious excitement, congratulatory smiles, hugs and kisses.
It brought Sabah to new eyes; and new visitors to Sabah
To say November 9 was one of my proudest professional moments is an understatement. I could call it the culmination of the best part of a year’s work, on a project that highlighted Sabah in Borneo as a destination for weddings and honeymoons.
It could be because this was perhaps the most successful of many successful projects we’ve organised. It brought Sabah to new eyes; and new visitors to Sabah – 52 million opportunities to see on social media, a social media AVE (excuse the geek speak) of US$1.1, and a huge increase in flight bookings for Royal Brunei Airlines, which has been maintained throughout the year.
I could say part of that pride was having been victorious against other shortlisted projects – created by huge print publications and one of the UK’s largest PR agencies – companies whose work I’ve long admired.
Another aspect could have been the great people we worked with – Becky of Global Grasshopper, Abi of Inside the Travel Lab, Niamh of Eat Like a Girl, Elizabeth of Bridal Musings and ace videographers Lea and Nicolas of Story Travelers, supported by the iambassador team.
But really, it goes far deeper than that, and back many more years.
Want to find out more about #LoveSabah or how you can run a similar project with us? Contact Us.
Travel media is changing
I have a background in print journalism – news and features first, then I was managing editor of travel publications at RCI.
But five years ago Terry and I started LiveShareTravel – this luxury travel blog, or as we called it then, an online magazine. What’s the difference? We started LiveShareTravel as a business, and back then no one was making money from blogging. The idea of paying bloggers or influencers for the benefits they brought you was unheard of. “Did bloggers really benefit the companies and destinations they profiled? What was the ROI of working with them?”
There was so much unproven. So little confidence in this “new media”.
But over many years, and with the support of some early clients who took us seriously, we started to grow that blogging business. There were a number of us, what the industry now terms as “pro-bloggers” trying to make a crust on our sites. But we soon realised things were much easier, and the results you could achieve far greater, when working together – and the collective model was born.
Our friend Keith Jenkins started iambassador, a band of more than 40 of the world’s best bloggers, of which LiveShareTravel has been a member from the start. Last year, as I was pulling together the strands of organisation of #LoveSabah, I became UK director of iambassador, just as Terry and I joined Abi King in forming Captivate – a UK group of award-winning digital storytellers.
But what do collectives do?
Bloggers and digital influencers join forces to put together various projects for brands and tourist boards – sometimes they highlight little-known, or misunderstood destinations, for example. There’s usually a project leader (in the case of #LoveSabah – me) who liaises with the client, develops the concept, project manages the campaign including evaluating and reporting on it later, and makes sure everyone in the team gets the kind of content they need to interest their readers – most bloggers have different, niche audiences.
It’s a paid relationship – blogging is a business for many after all.
But in the end the reader is king. We’ve never been told, and wouldn’t allow ourselves to be coerced, into writing anything in particular from a project. There’s just no point if we lose our readers’ through a lack of authenticity.
Why we never write about what we write about
This is a very unusual story on LiveShareTravel. We’ve written about our award wins before, but never about some of the ways we monetise this site, preferring to tell you about our travels rather than about our work. But this award acknowledgement seemed a good time to write about this for two reasons.
First, this is the first time UK travel media awards have acknowledged multi-faceted social media, editorial, and multimedia campaigns like #LoveSabah. According to Giles Harper, from organisers Travega, this is because this area of travel media and the impact it’s having is growing.
Secondly, as an editor from a major international travel publisher told me: “You’re doing something we can’t do. You’re finding smart, interesting ways to blend editorial with commercial. Brands aren’t interested in doing this sort of work with us.”
And there’s the kicker. Everyone enjoys editorial, be it the Sunday paper and supplements, a glossy magazine, or blog content. But in one way or another this has to be paid for, because no publication survives on reader numbers alone – or travel blogs on free trips. In the past, print publications were supported by thousands of pounds of advertising, today even that model is challenged and they’re having to devise new revenue streams. Translate this to individual bloggers and small businesses and it’s a tough environment.
The beauty of it for clients of collectives is that they are seeing sales and we can show other tangible results. We can tell how many people have viewed a story, how many have liked, commented and shared all the rich content that we produce on social media – it’s measurable and, dare I say it, the results, award-winning!
Projects like #LoveSabah allow us to continue to bring you great stories from our travels around the world. And the acknowledgement of the travel industry of the strength of that project should be a boost to every blogger who dreams of earning a living from their work.
Thanks to the Travel Media Awards and the judges for their foresight, and of course, this fantastic award.
See all the Travel Media Awards winners here. Read our stories from the #LoveSabah project…