Hotel managers are approached weekly, sometimes daily, by bloggers and freelance writers requesting complimentary stays in exchange to blog posts, articles and social media exposure. Due to my background in the hotel world, I have collaborated and communicated with a plethora of bloggers and writers.
Hotel accommodation can set a travel budget back anything from under 100 € a couple of hundred dollars per night, so pitching a complimentary stay is a tempting opportunity!
From a hotel manager’s point of view, here’s my tips on how to choose the brand to pitch to, what you need in your pitch and how you can maximize your chances of scoring a complimentary stay. Here we go!
1. MAKE SURE YOU AND YOUR READERS ALIGN WITH THE BRAND
Are you a family-oriented writer or is your blog about traveling on a budget? Do you know exactly what your audience wants to read about? Start with thinking about that, if you don’t already know, right now!
Most bloggers take pride in only writing about brands and products they love. That may not always be 100 % true because we all have bills to pay, but do make sure the hotel brand you pitch to is in line your personal and blog brand.
If your readers are young single women, they are not interested in reading about the new family resort in town, just sayin’.
Following up on that, both your blog and the brand or company you’re pitching should have the same target audience. This will maximize the benefit for both you and the hotel marketing, making it more likely for them to sponsor your stay.
Research the brand and the property well enough to know where their followers are in the social media and the virtual world (wow, writing something like that really made me feel like a grandma).
The angle of your pitch doesn’t have to be that straightforward though. You are allowed to be creative here! Even though your blog would be about family life and you’d go for resorts on your family holidays, you can pitch the new boutique hotel an article about a parents’ relaxing staycation or a girls’ trip with your friends.
So, the bottom line is to make sure there is a clear connection between what your blog and the hotel represent. This will build the best ground for your collaboration.
2. THINK AHEAD
I have been approached by so many bloggers requesting a stay in the next two days or the next weekend. Don’t be that person. Just don’t.
First of all, it shows a lack of consideration and professionalism. The suggestion might need time to go through a couple of people, which, when there’s a shortage of time, will drastically diminish your opportunities.
The second reason is that companies have budgets for marketing, believe it or not. 😉 Complimentary stays are not – opposite to what you might think – free. Cleaning, amenities, staff, just to name a few expenses to start with.
In addition to the costs, in Finland at least there is a tax value to the accommodation that the hotel needs to “charge itself” for a stay they are not charging from the guest.
The hotel is making a choice on not selling the room to a paying guest that night in order to use it for marketing purposes, ie. a blogger stay.
If you’re asking late, there is a good chance that the hotel has planned and budgeted the marketing resources for that month, and probably the month after that, too.
My advice is to ask at least a month ahead.
3. BE REASONABLE
It is very unlikely that a hotel will sponsor a stay for more than one, maximum two nights. They are more likely to accommodate two different bloggers for one night each and reach a larger audience.
Also, be clear about what you would like the company to sponsor for you, and what you will do in return – more on that later!
4. IT’S ALL ABOUT BEING PROFESSIONAL
Your brand, how you represent yourself as a blogger, needs to be in check. As a hotel representative, I would only collaborate with someone writing under their own domain. It shows that the person is serious about their blogging, is likely to have a community of readers and is determined about building their own brand.
You might have an amazing blog hosted by WordPress or Blogger, but if that’s the case and you’re serious about blogging, maybe it would be a good time to start a self-hosted one? Just putting that out there!
An e-mail address with your blog name, domain name or your full name is a must.
To be honest, I am surprised on how many times someone would not write using a professional e-mail address. Please skip the pink_unicorn91 Hotmail addresses. They will now help you get that stay sponsored, believe me.
It is a good idea to tell the hotel representative if you’re planning to cover a trip report to location X. If you are working with other brands on that trip as well, mention that you are (you don’t need to tell with whom, though) and how you’ll be spacing out posts over time.
A blogger I once collaborated with in my job had had two sponsored hotel stays back-to-back. What was not cool was that their posts about those stays were also published back-to-back. What made it more awkward was that the hotels were located close to each other and targeted the same guests. Not a very professional way to deal with sponsors, or what do you think?
5. WHAT IS YOUR REACH?
I’m not gonna lie here. When you’re pitching a complimentary hotel stay, the number of readers and followers is important.
Having just said that, this may somewhat depend on the brand’s or company’s strategy. So don’t you stop reading this even if you wouldn’t be the biggest blogger in the block quite yet!
If you are a micro-influencer, have proof of how this manifests itself – do you have killer social media engagement? If your number of followers is not very big but the sense of community is strong, emphasize that.
If the collab is part of your strategy on reaching new readers or starting a new category in your blog, mention this in your pitch too. Focus on your strengths and showcase them.
Include sample posts or feature similar or sponsored posts. They don’t have to specifically be hotel reviews, so if you haven’t done any yet, don’t let it stop you! I would include one collaboration, one post that highlights your writing skills and one that has kick-ass photography by you or the person takes your pictures.
6. SO, WHAT DO YOU INCLUDE IN YOUR PITCH?
You’ve been preparing for this for the past five bullet points, so you’re ready, believe me! In short, have a clear and well thought-out approach.
Here are the questions you need to answer. You know the answers by now!
What will you bring to the table?
What kind of value do you bring for the brand and their marketing?
How do you identify with the brand?
What will your angle be?
What would the pictures be like?
What social platforms will you share the post on? How many times?
Let them know that you’ve already got the plan covered and the only thing they have to do is to say yes.
7. MAKE YOUR PITCH UNIQUE
An e-mail pitch is the best idea. That way it’s easy to include all the links to your content and social media information. Many companies also have a contact form for sponsorships on their website. Those usually require up to a month of handling time, so you might want to be very early, like I mentioned earlier.
Just a reminder! Like you would do for jobs, customize each pitch, if you’re writing many. A template e-mail will be deleted quicker you can say “complimentary” and I’m sure I don’t have to explain why. 🙂
You’d be surprised how many hotel properties have cluster marketing (in the hotel world there’s a lot of franchise agreements, which means that one company may operate lots of different brands), so having a relationship with the marketing department in the company might work in your favor later.
8. JUST DO IT
Be proactive. Trying never hurt anyone! If you’ve read He’s Just Not That Into You, you already know that if they’re interested, they will contact you. If not, don’t give up. Try some other company or brand instead.
If your pitch is rejected, don’t give up then either. Re-read your pitch – does it tick all the boxes? If yes, you’re probably just not the right fit. Make some changes if necessary and then try again.
9. FOLLOW UP
After you’ve had the big YES, wiped the croissant crumbs from your chin after that glorious hotel breakfast and checked out, make sure to send the hotel representative a thank you email. Give them feedback regarding your stay. If there is room for improvement, let them know one on one first and give them the opportunity to respond before blasting them on social media. Let them know when the post will be up.
When the post is live, send the hotel or marketing representative another e-mail with a link to the post and the social media. It’s also a favor to them to include how many times the post was shared and the feedback you received. Being professional and proactive will encourage them to work with you in the future as well.
Phew, thank you for reading all the way to the end! This was definitely a long one, but hopefully helpful.
I’d be happy to read your experiences on working with hotel brands as a blogger. Questions? Thoughts?