Think only a big ‘influencer’ can get a collaboration or an all-expenses paid press trip? No this is NOT the case!
I scored my first collaboration (and a pretty awesome one at that – a 9 day press trip round Iran!) when I only had 6,000 followers on Instagram!
And I didn’t even reach out to the company – they reached out to me and invited me on the press trip!
Now I’m not saying this happens often: I realise I was so lucky to have this opportunity, but I want to make you realise it IS possible to score great collaborations even if you have a small audience (plus I’ll show you the exact tools I use!).
So, what is a press trip?
A press trip is a trip that is paid for by a company or organisation.
Whether it be a hotel, tourism board or a travel company, they will invite certain people (writers/content creators/film-makers) to come along for free in exchange for promoting their company/destination.
It can be promoted on social media, YouTube, on a website or even in the media.
Whilst they are invited along for free (or are sometimes even paid for the trip), a press trip is NOT a holiday and a lot of hard work is involved in a successful press trip.
How do people land press trips and collaborations?
As a travel blogger/content creator/influencer you will almost always need to reach out to a company if you wish to collaborate with them.
As a rule they won’t come to you unless you really stand out for some reason, and as there are literally thousands of bloggers/content creators out there, it sure is hard to stand out these days.
Do bear in mind that companies get approached by hundreds of ‘influencers’ every single week though. Sometimes they may decline your offer, or not even respond to your emails. That happens, it’s ok.
Just find a company more suited to and in-line with your brand.
How I got my first press trip without reaching out to the company:
I first visited Iran by myself during December 2018 on a personal trip and posted a handful of my pictures onto my Instagram.
In the captions I would talk about how the Iranian people were some of the nicest people I had ever met, how I felt this country was so misunderstood, and how beautiful the country was.
My inbox was literally blowing up with messages from Iranians saying THANKYOU for giving our country a chance and not believing the media!
It touched me so much, and some of my most loyal followers to this day are these lovely Iranian people who discovered me on my journey through Iran!
Then I received a message from a gentleman who had a travel company in Iran. He had seen my pictures on Instagram and was really impressed, and he loved how I spoke with such passion about Iran in my posts and stories.
So he invited me back to Iran for a complimentary trip in exchange for helping to promote his travel company and take pictures for his social media.
He had just added a new itinerary to his list of tours and wanted me to help promote the new tour.
I couldn’t believe someone would want to host me on a free trip – I only had 6,000 followers on Instagram at that time! That was a drop in the ocean compared to many travel accounts.
I checked out his website, the reviews, the tour, and agreed to the press trip. I went on the trip a little bit nervous not knowing what to expect, but it was a real success.
It was a lot of hard work though as we were busy travelling and sightseeing all day creating content, and then in the evening I would edit all my pictures, upload stories onto Instagram and post every evening.
But it was a great first press trip (and my first ever collaboration)!
So, how can you get companies to reach out to you?
Well this is tricky. As I said before, you are a small fish in a tiny ocean. A company has to notice you to reach out to you. This company discovered me because at that time there were hardly any pictures of Iran on Instagram.
So when I posted my Iran pictures from my first trip I was appearing in the top hashtags for Iran and many Iranians then started discovering my account and following me.
The company had been looking for someone to promote their new tour, but they just didn’t know where to start or who to ask as there are so many ‘influencers’ out there.
They saw that I had been to Iran and I really enjoyed it, they liked my content and how genuine and informative I was in my Instagram stories, so they invited me on the press trip.
Other ways you can get companies to notice you is to try and get big accounts to feature your pictures on their Instagram, or even try tagging the company in your Instagram posts.
Personally I don’t do either of these but I know of creators who have and have got noticed that way.
Looking to collaborate with companies?
If you want to pitch to a company you will usually need to get in touch with their Public Relations (PR) team. Do some research to try and find out who it is you need to contact and contact them personally.
Tell them what you love specifically about their hotel and what you can deliver for them (Instagram posts/blog posts /YouTube video etc).
One thing that you also need to remember is that it is not about you!! It is about how you can help the business and gain them revenue! Find out what message the brand wants to share, and how you can help deliver this.
Brands get approached by a lot of people so you need to stand out. Do NOT just send a generic email to several companies – you need to craft each email specifically to that company.
The more personal it is, the more they will see that you really care about the company.
What if you get a no, or no response?
If you do get a negative response, don’t be too hard on yourself! Some companies have specific criteria that a blogger/Instagrammer needs to meet (in terms of the amount of people they reach).
I once pitched to a fairly average 5* beach hotel and they told me they don’t even consider collaborations with people who have less than 200,000 followers on Instagram!
Personally I thought that was absolutely ridiculous – their hotel wasn’t THAT special, but anyway they have that criteria there for a reason.
At least I knew it was nothing personal, and however good my pitch was, they would never consider me because I don’t meet that criteria.
Also sometimes companies would love to work together with you but their budget just doesn’t allow. Remember, if they started giving handouts to every Instagrammer or blogger out there they would never make any money!
Also some companies simply don’t do collaborations (they have had bad experiences with creators who didn’t deliver enough, so they have been put off from working with them again).
How can I give myself the best chance of getting a collaboration or press trip?
If you’re just starting out and your Instagram/blog numbers are modest, you’ll have to work harder to get those collaborations unfortunately.
You’ll also have to offer more than what the big accounts deliver – for example some really big accounts will just need to deliver a couple of Instagram stories and post one picture, whereas I always offer a SEO focused blog post along with 2 Instagram posts and several Instagram stories.
This of course takes up a lot more of my time but I am happy to deliver this, and I always get such great feedback from the hotels afterwards saying how happy they are with the service I delivered.
Sometimes companies will get back to you asking you to send them examples of previous sponsored blog posts to see the quality of your work and to help them decide if your services would really benefit them.
To understand the amount of depth a blog post needs to have when reviewing a hotel for a collaboration, click here to read some of my past reviews.
It is totally possible to get some great collaborations with a small audience. If you have the kind of audience they are looking to target and you are professional with your work and go above and beyond, you’ll definitely stand out.
Always apply to a few companies incase one rejects you – you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket!
In my article How I got free accommodation around the world for 5 years whilst travelling, I talk about hotel collaborations, as well as other ways I have been able to get free accommodation around the world in exchange for services.
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Catrina is a Travel Writer, SEO Specialist and ex-Flight Attendant based in Sydney, Australia. She has visited 85 countries and lived in several – including Italy, Australia, United Arab Emirates and England. Her work has been featured in a variety of popular travel publications including Fodors, Escape, Australian Traveller and Bear Grylls, as well as several international aviation and travel companies. The majority of her work however features on her own website – 24hourslayover.com where she has written over 500 travel articles!