â€œSo, who's your audience? What's the hook? What's your angle? What story are you telling? How will you add colour? And how will it all end?â€
Renowned Aussie writerMichael Turtle Time Travel Turtle hurled question after question to a room full of travel bloggers, journalists, PR people and sundry others, all there to find out more about â€˜Thinking like a journalist to bring your posts to life'. In less than an hour he engaged the audience at Traverse 14 with quirky anecdotes, snippets from his radio days, interactive updates on pc, handy tips and a selection of photos highlighting his progressive hair loss. The main messages I took away were to keep returning to the main point of the article, to keep the reader engaged because they get bored easily in this age of gnat's attention span, and that good writing appeals to ALL the senses.
The previous night I'd arrived in Gateshead for the second Traverse Conference, attracting travel bloggers from all over the UK and further afield. The pre-conference gathering was at the Baltic Centre for the Arts. This beautiful building, with its Art Deco influenced lines was originally a 1950s Flour Mill. Saved from destruction, it was opened as a contemporary Arts Centre in 2002. Traverse had got a peach of a venue to kick of the event.
One of the fun things about this kind of gathering is catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. â€œOh hi, I recognise you. What's your Twitter name?â€ was a common cry – we spend a lot of time relating to social media avatars in the world of blogging.
At a 1-1 Pro-Bar Jennifer Howze, award winning co-founder of Brit Mums, was very open about the challenges of helping travel businesses and PR companies to recognise the need to pay bloggers for their writing and promotion of client's destinations. With the whole world of blogging and journalism in a state of flux, we're all learning together.
â€œMake sure you have a comprehensive blog strategy that really showcases exactly what you can do for the client. Approach the right person and have a professional deck [presentation] that has your statistics, measurement tools and case studies clearly laid out. Remember it's all about the quality of your content and the unique relationship you have with your audience.â€
Over coffee (scrumptious cakes shipped over from Denmark by DFDS Ferries) I had a chat with Pierce, representing the Netflights, the ‘cheap flight comparison’ website. Many thanks to them for the invitation to attend Traverse 14, along with fellow travel bloggers Lucy and Jan and find out what’s happening in the world of travel blogging today.
Outside in the mirrored walls of Sage Building, looking like something from the sci-fi film â€˜Dune', a brisk breeze whistled up the Tyne. We were having a video-making session from Greg Brand, founder of Trevizeo, a travel video production company. He gave us lots of tips on using â€˜proper' equipment; spend the most on a good lens, get a decent tripod, create shots that replicate what the eye sees ie don't zoom in and out or pan too fast and make sure the video informs as well as entertains. Apparently â€˜Composition is a mistress' – not sure what that meant; demanding and high maintenance maybe?!
Another benefit of being at Traverse was catching up with business contacts. At lunchtime I met with Heather Cowper of Heather on her Travels and Sarah and Terry Lee of Live, Share, Travel. Along with three other bloggers, Kathryn Burrington, Gary Bembridge and Abigail King, we've formed Travelator Media to provide a one-stop solution for high quality multimedia content and engaging social media campaigns that promote a destination or brand.
We work with clients to create ‘inspiring travel campaigns targeted at the 40+ UK quality traveller interested in arts, culture, food and finding new travel experiences.' We then had a meeting with a leading luxury tour company and PR representatives from various other travel companies attending the conference. All very positive and useful – an added bonus to the weekend.
The conference ended with a Q&A session to a panel of bloggers and PR reps, hosted by journalist Alastair Mackenzie. To be honest, I can't remember the questions OR answers. It had been a long day and I was more taken by the â€˜Twitter Bar' – post a tweet incl #Traverse14 with your seat row plus drinks option (red/white wine/beer/softdrink and it was delivered to you seconds later. And of course the live â€˜Tweets' were entertaining distraction – possibly more so than the organisers had imagined!
I came away from the weekend fired up with renewed enthusiasm for travel blogging, with useful tips and hints to improve my content, renewed friendships and made some new friends. Traverse 14 was really well-organised, the venue was excellent and Newcastle Gateshead put on a great show.
Returning to Michael’s key messages at the start of this post – how should it end? My top tip to travel bloggers is; Make sure you attend at least one Travel Blogging event each year. You’ll learn a lot and connect with some very interesting people.
PS If you haven’t yet been to the North East, add it to your list – it’s a genuine quirky travel gem. And keep your eyes peeled for the Angel of the North, Anthony Gormley’s awe-inspiring sculpture.