Gaining editorial coverage in your local newspaper is a cost-free way to attract nearby customers. Abra Dunsby hears from the agencies that have grabbed press attention.
The benefits of securing editorial coverage in your local newspaper should not be underestimated, incurring no cost to your business and providing a long-lasting impact on potential customers.
From sending out press releases to writing regular columns, we chat to the agents and travel experts who have the know-how when it comes to making headlines.
When Thorne Travel in Kilwinning was named UK & Ireland’s Number One Travel Agency at the TTG Top 50 Travel Agencies awards this year, the team was quick to shout about their win.
“We wrote our own press release at the awards and sent it out straight away,” says managing director Shona Thorne. “Wendy, our project consultant, is also a trained journalist, so she was there on the night, tweeting and writing the release.”
Thorne says the award win has brought exposure to the Hays IG member agency: “We’ve been in the papers almost every week since winning at the Top 50.”
Three local papers – the Irvine Times, Irvine Herald and Ardrossan Saltcoats Herald – ran a feature on the agency’s win. The story was also picked up by the national Daily Record newspaper.
Thorne says that the initial coverage for the award win has opened up communication with the papers, which now feature the agency regularly.
“They got wind of our charity work, so they’ve written various stories about that too,” she says.
Thorne adds that the media publicity has been instrumental in boosting business.
“Business profit is up by 20% this year and since the Top 50 coverage, new suppliers have come forward asking to work with us.”
The team at Acomb Travel in York were also quick to capitalise on their Top 50 status this year, with coverage in local York paper The Press.
“We sent the paper the press release supplied by TTG, along with some comments from [retired owner] Eric Walton, and an article appeared within days,” says business development manager and Eric’s wife, Sam Walton.
Advantage member Acomb Travel has a close relationship with its local paper, placing regular adverts as well as receiving coverage for their hard work. “They ran a story about Eric driving a client who had lost his passport to Liverpool to get a new one, then to the visa office, then to the airport so he could catch his flight to Australia,” says Sam.
Eric Walton also writes a column in local magazine Acomb Alive and is soon to publicise Sam’s upcoming cycle ride to raise money for three cancer charities.
On the perks of paper coverage, Eric says: “We’ve been here for 41 years and work closely with the local newspaper. Local coverage helps with bookings and keeps our name out there.”
Travel counsellor Emma Savage has appeared in her local paper, the Stamford Mercury, in the past, including once for helping a client to plan a proposal while on holiday in Thailand.
Now she writes a monthly column for the title. “I have a client who works in PR, so I paid her on a project basis to help me build my profile,” explains Savage.
“I wanted a relationship with the Mercury specifically, as they have a loyal readership and are an ideal demographic for me.”
Savage’s PR contact arranged for her to meet the paper’s editor, which helped her secure a regular column and more writing for the paper’s four supplements.
Recent pieces Savage has penned include an inspirational feature on iconic rail journeys and another on holidaying in Japan.
“I normally speak to suppliers to get information from them for the feature and to give them some exposure,” she adds.
And the features have resulted in bookings. “I’ve already gained a new client who said they’d seen my articles. They booked a Hurtigruten trip and they’ve recently come back to book business-class flights to New Zealand,” Savage says.
She’s positive about the benefits of writing for the paper: “Already the return on investment has been amazing, and all I’ve given is my time.”
She adds that clients have got in touch with her to congratulate her on her articles, thereby helping to rekindle relationships.
“I’m also using the fact that I’m a columnist to endorse my business on social media – it’s in my Twitter bio, for example. I think being associated with a respected publication will help build my brand locally,” she says.
Essex-based Abbotts Travel recognises the benefits of media coverage. Business development manager Danny Sperling and content manager Hollie Tye both write for various local magazines on behalf of the agency.
“Essex Central Magazine approached us four years ago wanting to advertise with us, so I suggested adding value to their content with a feature every month,” explains Sperling.
The agency now writes a monthly feature, either based on a destination or an experience.
Sperling says the opportunity “opened the door to several other publications”, including high-end publication West Essex Life and trendy magazine E1ife, both of which have demographics that Abbotts was keen to target.
The agency also receives regular coverage in the magazines for its showcase events, which it runs alongside suppliers.
Employing a PR expert is a sure-fire way of gaining local newspaper coverage, as Haslemere Travel’s experience proves.
The Surrey agency has been working with freelance PR consultant Aly Warner for the past eight years.
“I work on a monthly retainer basis with them and I’m very much considered part of the team,” explains Warner.
The former magazine editor says she sees her remit for Haslemere Travel as “raising awareness of the agency in unexpected ways, and thinking outside the box”. Warner helped the agency launch its Surrey Young Superstars awards in 2012, which rewards and recognises the work in the community of Surrey’s 5- to 19-year-olds, such as volunteering and fundraising.
The not-for-profit scheme has so far rewarded nearly 300 local young people.
“It’s a substantial outlay for a relatively small agency, but the press coverage in the quality county magazine (the awards’ media partner), on the radio and in other newspapers, as well as the brand’s association with a scheme which applauds community spirit and good work, has worked well for the past six years,” says Warner.
She says there are several benefits for agencies considering PR.
“The ever-present threat of online booking is out there and agents need to be ahead of the game,” she says. “It’s important to get the agency’s name out there. It’s also about familiarity and hitting the right core audience in the agency’s local area. It has raised Haslemere’s profile and ensures clients choose them over and above other high-street names.”
■ Make it relevant and interesting – if you have a story, always think: “Would I want to read this?” If the answer is no, it’s a good bet that no one else will either.
■ Human interest – your customers are a resource: use examples of when you’ve gone the extra mile and have customers who are happy and willing to say so.
■ If you’re doing well and expanding, let the media know about it.
■ Make it timely – you may be thinking about summer 2020 packages now, but the media might be more interested in a current trend. Keep an eye on the news and see if you can piggy-back on a story.