I thought that complimentary stays were something that only the big name, established travel bloggers received and something that us grass roots travel bloggers only dreamed about. That is not the case.
Even if you’re a relatively new travel blogger, if you have set out a travel niche and have got a bit of traffic coming your way, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enquire about complimentary stays. After just 6 months of blogging, I finally plucked up the courage to send out some emails. But, I didn’t do it on a whim.
Target Accommodation that Fits with Your Brand
Think about who you’re going to approach for a complimentary stay and whether they fit with your blog’s niche. A luxury travel blogger isn’t going to be asking for a stay at a budget backpacker’s hostel and if he does, he’s probably going to be turned down. Why?
What value does is there for the hostel? A review on a luxury travel blog isn’t going to reach their target clientèle of scruffy young travellers. Likewise, what value would a blog post on a backpacker’s hostel have for the luxury travel blogger? It wouldn’t be of interest to their target audience and it wouldn’t strengthen their brand (worse, it would actually confuse it).
Charlie On Travel is about simple, sustainable and socially-responsible travel. When I was researching places to approach, I was looking for places that fit with my brand. This means eco-lodges in particular, and places that are environmentally friendly, interested in socially-responsible and green tourism, and are run by people who are living an alternative, sustainable lifestyle. I was also keen to approach smaller, growing businesses because Charlie On Travel is still a relatively new and growing travel blog.
Think About What You Have to Offer
Once you’ve got a shortlist of places that you would like to approach for a complimentary stay, you need to think about what you have to offer. Complimentary stays aren’t really free – you need to have something of value in exchange for your stay. These might commonly include:
- A blog post/review with photos, and maybe even video coverage of your stay
- A mention and a link within a relevant blog post on a broader topic
- Copies of your photographs if you’re a strong photographer
- If you have a strong social media presence (on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc.) you can offer coverage throughout and after your stay
- Contribute reviews of their accommodation to TripAdvisor, HostelWorld etc.
- Write an article or testimonial for their own website
When inquiring about complimentary stays, I offer a combination of the above. My main strength is written content, so I will usually offer a full blog post with a link, and social media coverage on my four main social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram). In some cases, I might also offer a short video (less than 3 minutes) or 5 second video clips to upload to Instagram. My experience as a BAS Agent definitely helps me communicate with hotel professionals too.
I make no promises regarding the content of the pieces, except for word counts and video length, because if I didn’t enjoy my stay, I would say so.
Tailor Your Proposal to Each Accommodation
When writing a proposal, there are a couple of things you need to do beforehand. Putting together a media kit with your most recent blog statistics and relevant information is an essential way to make a good first impression when asking for a complimentary stay.
Not sure how to put together a media kit? These are the articles I used when making mine:
Decide on some specifics. When I’m asking for complimentary stays, I will usually ask for a one or two night stay depending on the location and size of the place. I will also mention that I’m keen to include tours and activities offered by the accommodation in my blog post and video if they are able to cover those costs.
Draft an email. I prefer to approach places by email, rather than by phone, because I can link directly to my blog, attach my media kit and show them examples of my work. I have a template email that introduces me and my blog, then I change large chunks of the text to tailor my proposal to the individual accommodation. The specifics I’m requesting and offering also change depending on the accommodation.
Not sure how to write that email, or feeling daunted now you’ve got this far? This incredibly detailed guide has everything you need to know:
Once you’ve drafted your emails, make sure you double (or even triple) check for typos and spelling/grammar errors. Look over it with fresh eyes the next day and ask someone else to skim through it too. Errors in your email suggest that your writing might come with errors too, and can mean you fall at the last hurdle.
The Final Stage of Getting a Complimentary Stay
After you’ve hit the send button, it’s all about waiting. If you don’t hear back within the week, a follow-up email can be a good way to reinforce your original email and show you are serious about the proposition. If your proposals are turned down, don’t be disheartened. It’s part of the process and you should take it as an opportunity to tweak your pitch and think about what you’re putting on the table for next time.
If you get an offer of a complimentary stay, iron out the kinks with the accommodation owner and find out if they have any specifics beforehand. Make sure that you do what you promised in your original email and let the accommodation owner know a time scale for when everything will be completed.
Do you have any other tips for enquiring about a complimentary stay? I’d love to hear about them.