Photo: Terence Lim
1. Decide what your brand is and isn’t.
Every successful travel brand needs a consistent voice and style that complements its creator’s goals and audience. This is more than just good grammar and a cool logo (although that’s a large part of it too).
You need to write a manifesto. That manifesto should contain your brand’s mission statement, the varying personas in your audience, what those personas will gain from your brand and a detailed style guide. Mailchimp’s style guide is the holy grail, start there. And if you’re confused at the thought of personas, check out Buffer’s Complete Beginners Guide to Marketing Personas.
Basically, ask yourself questions like: who is my audience? How do I want to make my users or readers feel? How do I want to talk to them? What are three words that describe my brand and three words that don’t? Then jot this all down in a concise and easy-to-read document. Sure, things will change and shift in a brand’s lifetime, but having a company guide to fall back on and share with others gives clear direction.
2. Think of your travel brand as a Tinder swipe, it needs to look good the first time.
When new users see your blog or product, the first thing they notice is how it looks. In the travel space, this is particularly true — we live for lusty photos of the Amazon and vast shots of the American Southwest. Don’t muck it all up with poor stock imagery or a design format that is overly busy or hard to navigate. If you’re a blogger, you need to brush up on your photography skills, no question. You can check out classes on Creative Live here. A successful blogger self-produces original imagery whenever she can. Readers will want to see your authentic experiences. That’s why Instagram is so popular.
All that being said, if photography just isn’t your bag and you don’t have the funds to invest in a powerhouse like Getty Images, there are plenty of free stock sites out there. This Medium post can serve as a solid source list of resources. Just remember to choose stock imagery that fits with your brand’s voice and style. For instance, if you’ve written a deep, lush and literary blog post detailing Maine’s stunning coastline, for God’s sake, don’t pair it with an image likes this.
3. Social media requires you to be social with it.
Marketing content to an online community gives you direct access to users and a chance to see what really resonates with people. Depending on your blog or product, decide where to invest time. Instagram and Pinterest, for instance, are great for brand-building when your sweet spot is photography. Yet Facebook is a powerful tool for targeting a specific crowd — especially when you have a bit of cash to spend. Twitter is prime for blasting time-sensitive conversation while email marketing allows you to access readers’ daily mail-checking routines.
Being social can also mean connecting with other like-minded brands, bloggers or businesses. Work out content trades that will expose your brand to new audiences through guest posts, joint giveaways or product mentions.
4. Always value your integrity.
This usually comes hand-in-hand with partnerships — especially when money, fancy press trips or big businesses are involved. Before accepting a deal, make sure it aligns with your brand’s mission statement and that the opportunity will allow you to be entirely transparent with your audience. Take Lonely Planet, for example. They routinely work with big-name clients and tourism boards, but they never sacrifice editorial integrity in the process. Their users are always reading highly-researched pieces that aren’t spoon-fed press releases from advertisers. As a result, Lonely Planet’s devout audience engages with sponsored content and never questions its authenticity.
5. Create because you love to create.
It may sound cheesy, but if you take only one thing away from this article have it be this. Build a brand you want to see in the world because doing so will bring you personal joy. If you don’t have a child-like curiosity and passion for the world you’re creating or aiding, then why should you expect your audience to keep interest? Your happiness will allow room for brighter ideas, easier content production and more lively conversations with potential partners. No matter what roadblocks appear in your brand-building journey, you will persevere because there is pure love for what you do.