28 December 2009

What should a travel organisation have on its website?

Confused girl on computerI've just deleted the entry for De Vere hotels on the BGTW contact book database.

Why?

Well not because I wanted to. It's just that The Massey Partnership (PR company) have told me that De Vere are no longer a client and, on a Bank Holiday Monday (so not much point in phoning), I can't find a press contact for them. I've tried all the obvious routes, including Google, their website, and searching through thousands of press releases in my own email trays (an amazingly powerful research tool sometimes).

Am I bovvered?

Not really. I can always put them back in if/when I discover who handles press enquiries. I'll probably find out when somebody spots this post, or my tweet about it, and gets in touch.

Should they be bovvered?

Yes, they've probably lost their chance to be listed in the 2010 BGTW Yearbook. ("the travel industry bible").

What surprises me is the lack of info on their own website. As every travel journalist knows... as every journalist, specialised or not, knows... the first port of call to find information is a company's website.

Usually their media pages, with press releases, press office contact details, and maybe images, are tucked away in the 'About Us' section, or the 'Corporate Info' section.

So, some questions for fellow journos and PR/Marketing peeps - in your experience...

  • What percentage of travel/transport/tourism websites have up-to-date press contact information? eg. International media relations/PR/representation in your country?

  • What percentage have up-to-date press releases? Very few in my experience. If they are there, they vary from very old and dusty releases that just make the website look tired and unloved, to not-quite-up-to-date-enough press releases. I frequently see a new story suddenly appearing in several places with the same copy, so I know there's a press release floating around out there, but when you look at the company's website it's not there! (ofc it's easy to phone and get it, which is what I end up doing, but what a daft wasted opportunity!)

  • What percentage have briefing notes or factsheets? Often useful and more detailed than the summary on the "About Us" page.

  • What percentage have "press materials" eg a gallery or picture library? In my experience, very few. Lunacy in a new media age where bloggers and small media websites need a constant supply of images and don't have photo budgets! How does your new product/service get written about on the Internet? Well, I can tell you - the chances are doubled if it comes with a decent photo!

I recognise there's some sort of fear that press contacts might be inappropriately exploited by ordinary members of the public (aka customers!), but I am often amazed at how many travel companies and organisations miss the opportunity to make themselves immediately & easily available to enquiring journalists & bloggers, by not providing this sort of basic information. And it's not just British organisations! (In Britain, information is always to be kept secret by default, unless officially decided otherwise, because it gives petty officials power).

...not that it makes much difference to me. I and fellow guildies, and most commissioning editors have got the 2,700 listings (less De Vere) in the BGTW press contacts database to fall back on.

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