News | OnlineWhat do travel companies look for when hiring travel bloggers and writers?This article was originally published onBy Viewpoints | October 4, 2013 Travel writers and travel bloggers dream of getting paid to do the two things they love most: travel and write. NB: This is a viewpoint by Andre Van Kets, co-founder and director at the Discover Africa Group. However, even in this digital age where content is the new currency, few companies are willing to foot the bill for travel writers’ hedonistic adventures in exchange for stories, photos and videos. So what exactly do these companies -- mostly travel publications and travel companies -- look for when hiring travel writers and travel bloggers? Recent research conducted with twenty-six companies in South Africa’s tourism industry shows that travel companies look for writers and bloggers that: meet deadlinesunderstand the travel brand’s objectivesrespond well to critiqueare punctual with emails and correspondence. Research also shows that writers should: have excellent grammar and spellinghave a unique voicehave first-hand experience of the destinations that they are writing abouthave a portfolio of their previous work to earn the rights to travel on someone else’s dime. Here is a detailed description and the findings of research done to uncover the characteristics that travel companies look for when hiring or contracting travel writers and travel bloggers. Research objective To discover which characteristics are the most important for a travel writer or travel blogger to have, when working with travel companies. Research method Thirty-three companies within the South African tourism industry were approached to be a part of the research project. Twenty-six companies from various sectors of the South African tourism industry responded: three flight booking websitesfour accommodation booking websitesfive online travel companiesthree tour operatorsfive hotels / lodgesthree tourism bodiesthree digital agencies (these agencies are responsible for content and marketing on behalf of travel companies) The people who responded were marketing managers, content managers, social media managers, PR managers, editors, online editors and business owners -- all of whom are responsible for hiring travel writers and bloggers at their companies. The research survey consisted of twenty characteristics that a travel writer or blogger may possess. For each characteristic, the respondents were asked to rate the relative importance of the characteristic by choosing one of these multiple-choice options: Not necessaryHandy to haveGreat to haveEssential The survey included two open-ended (optional) questions: Is there anything else in particular you look for in a travel writer or blogger?Is there anything that puts you off hiring a travel writer or blogger?Research findings Finding A - The relative importance of each characteristic: Finding B - Travel writer and blogger characteristics ranked from most to least important: The relative importance of each characteristic was calculated by assigning a value to each response: Not necessary = 0Handy to have = 1Great to have = 2Essential = 3 We have then summarised the value of all responses for a particular characteristic to create a "total score" for each characteristic. The total score for the twenty elements were then compared with one another and ranked from highest to lowest: from most important to least important characteristic. Research conclusions The research shows that some of the most important characteristics a travel writer or travel blogger should have are: The ability to meet deadlinesA good understanding of the travel brand’s objectivesA portfolio of workGood grammar and spellingThe ability to respond well to critiquePunctual with emails and correspondenceHave a unique voice when writingFirst-hand destination experience for places writing about The research also indicates that the least important characteristics for travel writers and bloggers are: Some form of marketing experienceBasic HTML skillsPhotoshop or similar photo editing skillsRelevant writing course or qualification Some characteristics had a mixed response from survey participants. They were either very important to some and unimportant to others, or they were viewed with indifference by most survey participants. Active on social mediaSome travel industry experienceTravel industry experienceSEO copywriting skillsAfrica travel experienceWorldwide travel experienceLarge social media followingTravelled in the last six monthsInterpretation This research has achieved its primary objective of uncovering the characteristics that matter most to travel companies when hiring travel writers or bloggers -- by producing an ordered list of characteristics ranked from most important to least important. However, there is more to this research than just an ordered list: 1. The research helps content and marketing managers hire better writers and bloggers. By knowing what their contemporaries in the industry look for, managers can hire with greater confidence. 2. Travel writers and bloggers now have a checklist of 5-10 things they simply must get right. For example: if their portfolio does not reflect the quality of their work - then it’s time to upgrade their portfolio. Or if a writer is slack at meeting deadlines, then it’s time for them to start delivering on time. 3. Many travel writers and bloggers will gain peace of mind. Some characteristics, like the need for a relevant qualification, scored very low in the research. The research suggests that it’s far more important to write well with a unique voice, than it is to hold a degree or qualification. 4. Not all travel companies share the same views on all characteristics. Thus, it is vitally important that travel writers and bloggers research the companies they’d like to write for before engaging with them. Writers should find out what drives these companies. Does the company care more about great stories or incredible photos? Does SEO matter to them? How important is social reach and a prominent social following to them? These uncertain areas should be addressed on a per-company basis. Bottom line for travel writers and bloggers: Get your ducks in a row. Don’t sweat the small things. Find out what matters to the company. Then deliver. NB: This is a viewpoint by Andre Van Kets, co-founder and director at the Discover Africa Group. Follow on Twitter. NB2: Research background - the survey was conducted in July 2013 by Van Kets and used Google Docs forms. Respondents were contacted by telephone to explain the research background. A link to the online survey was emailed to all participants. All survey responses were submitted online. The findings of the research were originally presented at the 2013 Getaway Travel Bloggers Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. NB3: Laptop beach boat image via Shutterstock.