The ultimate guide on collaborating with hotels

DSC00277-11.jpg

If you are a traveler at heart, and want to start working with hotels when you travel, look no further. I’ve poured my heart and soul into this guide to make sure all of your bases are covered.

When I first began searching for hotels, I was considering several factors:

  • Small hotels might be more receptive to bloggers/ Instagrammers because of low marketing budget but may be limited to working with you due to a higher room bill & fewer rooms

  • Large hotels may have more of a marketing budget and more unreserved hotel rooms but may be less receptive to bloggers because of the ability to afford a marketing team.

  • Lower priced hotels may be more blogger friendly because the rooms are already discounted, but then typically they aren't as "pretty" so if your offer is to photograph and blog about the place, it might make the job difficult.

And yet, I was really excited about the opportunity to start working with some hotels abroad, seeing what they have to offer, and what I can do for them as a photographer and a blogger.

In my first cold outreach, I was traveling to 3 different cities and pitched about 400+ hotels, and have gotten:

  • 2 hotels said yes.

  • 20+ hotels offered discounts for the rooms of about 5-10%. Nothing significant, considering that the prices for the rooms were more than I could afford even with the discount.

  • 20+ said "not at this time"

  • the rest never responded

I’ve learned a lot since then, and wanted to share my best, hard-earned lessons.

Let’s begin.


Who is your audience?

Figure out your audience (current or target) and find a hotel based on that. If your audience is budget friendly, thrifty college students, then hostels and cheap hotels might be a perfect option for you, and you can discuss those affordable places and ways to stay.

If your audience is travel junkies who also are a little more glamorous, reach out to hotels that are a little more expensive but that would still take a bet on you.

But, the more expensive a hotel room is per night, the more you need to back up what you can offer in return.

At what point of my follower count can I ask for complimentary hotel rooms?

This depends. 

There is no best time to begin. No matter your following, I would try to reach out to hotels in a professional, friendly, and polite way. I’d probably begin closer to 5,000 followers but if your photography or videography is amazing, followers don’t matter as much.

I would predict most of them will say no to you at first, and then progressively say yes after your follower growth goes up. The only thing you're losing when reaching out to hotels is time (which is still a lot, but you get what I'm saying). If a hotel says no, then don't worry, because there are dozens more you can email.

DSC01211-113.jpg

What can you offer in return?

The better your social platforms are, the easier time you'll have pitching blogs. You can outline your services that you can offer, including: 

  • posts to Instagram stories detailing all of the amenities, the room, the location, your stay, hotel service, etc

  • # of posts to your gallery (Add the specific number so that both you and the hotel have an understanding of expectations)

  • blog post summarizing your stay, the city/town/countryside you experienced, the history of the hotel

  • reviews on the travel websites

  • videos of your stay, rooms, services, decor

Think about the interaction as an exchange of goods and services rather than a "huge favor" that the hotel is doing for you. You're repaying them back by showcasing them to your audience, and providing content for your stay.

Is your page optimized for collaborations with hotels?

The easiest way to showcase what you can provide to hotels is to show what you’ve already done. Does this mean you need to stay in a hotel first to get some images? Not necessarily. Take photos that will show hotels what kind of content you could create for them:

  • city guides blogs (blogs, Instagram posts, videos)

  • best restaurants in your neighborhood (blogs, Instagram posts, videos)

  • photos of architecture / interior design

Make it easy for the hotel to say yes to you, by seeing what kind of work they can expect from you.

What do hotels look for when considering influencers? 


DSC01022-50.jpg

For insight, I spoke with Deepika Subbiah, a lifestyle blogger who works on both sides of the coin- both as a creative, and a representative speaking on behalf of hotels in Philadelphia.

First, she sees whether an influencer has a blog, or an 'Instagram blog', the difference being in the content ownership. If Instagram shuts down tomorrow, all of your content is gone, but with a personal blog, you have more security. Through a blog, the influencer/ blogger can publish a larger variety of content, and really help drive value for the collaboration. 

She then goes on to seek out the proposal of the pitch. What will the applicant going to do or show by staying at this hotel? Will he/she post a photo to Instagram, write a blog post, make a video? Do not leave the email collaboration up to the imagination of the hotel! The people running the PR for the hotel are very busy, so make it as easy as possible for them to say yes. 

Next, she analyzes whether the content of the influencer fits the needs, goals, and the brand of the hotel. Again, if your feed is mostly hostiles and super affordable travel tips, avoid pitching luxury hotels like Ritz Carleton. It doesn't work for your brand, and it won't work for theirs. Instead, focus on bridging relationships with unique, interesting boutique hotels with character to keep a consistent narrative. 

What you propose to do with the room is up to you and your skills. Deepika recommends highlighting the benefits of staying at the hotel through your skills- "If you have a beauty channel, pitch that you will record a beauty tutorial in the room. Or if you are a fitness and health influencer, propose you do a workout in the hotel's gym! Give the hotel a tangible idea." 

Lastly, she takes a look at the media kit attached. The media kit is a fantastic, bite sized sheet of information on who the influencer is, who their following is, where else do they have a following (Pinterst, Youtube, Snapchat, etc)., and any special skills. Deepika shared a story of how an influencer was an experienced scuba diver, but didn't think that would have been valuable for his media kit. But after adding the skill, one of the hotels he pitched was very receptive to the idea of him coming to stay, go scuba diving, take photos, and promote that hotel experience to his following! From that experience, a trend of hotels searching for creative ways to showcase their amenities and packages began. So when you're thinking of special skills, consider fitness, beauty, cooking,  photography, singing, and how you can incorporate what you're already good at, to make you more marketable.

She doesn't recommend you send a contract after the hotel says "yes", but you should absolutely outline all of the things you will do during your stay, and make sure you complete the promises. You should always consider that the posts you create must be re-postable. The hotel should be able to utilize your work in their social media, so keep in consideration the tones of your photos and how they would look within the parameters of the hotel's feed. 

How can I find hotels to reach out to?

  1. Do a quick Google search of words like "boutique hotels in [city name]", "affordable hotels in [city name]", "best hotels in [city name]". You might need to refine your search based on the type of hotels you'd like to pitch, but you will find that this is an iterative process.

  2. Find a list on a travel blog, a local magazine, or some form of "top 30 hotels in [city]" type post because that will lead you to a great selection of hotels to choose from. You can get a sense of what the hotels look like in the Google search, and whether you need to modify it to fulfill your goals. 

  3. Iterate in your process to zone in on hotels that will work for your demographic. Through this process you will also start picking up the prices. Again, if you are a thrifty travel blogger, you might want to shy away from the $600 per night hotels, and focus on searches like "affordable hotels", "best budget hotels", etc. The price also matters because your audience may determine whether an elite, boutique, expensive hotel will wish to work with you. The assumption is, that the bigger the following you've got, the more chances you've got, but I have been wrong before. Try, and try, and try again. There are dozens of hotels, waiting to be wooed. 

  4. Find hubs. You can also find parent companies, such as "Hilton Hotels" or "Accor Hotels". There, you can find an easy way to email hotels in many different parts of the world

  5. Use social media. Instagram is another really great platform for discoverability, and quick emails. Once you find at least 1 hotel you'd be interested in staying with, plug it into your Insta search and click on the little down arrow next to the "Follow" button.

    Instagram will spit out a selection of hotels to reach out to. Most hotels will have an "Email" option, either prominently displayed or hidden under the three little dots. I typically save those emails to my notes, transfer them to my computer and pitch from my laptop. 

Artboard.png

How do I pitch a hotel for a complimentary stay?

Always try to reach out to the PR / Marketing person. This will ensure that your message is heard loud and clear by the right people. Yes, I get a ton of responses saying "We have directed your message to the appropriate party". But did they really? I'll never know, because most hotels never respond to these emails. 

After you have a list of hotels, reach out to them to their PR email, and if they haven't provided one, email them something along the lines of:

Hello,

My name is Khrys. Could you please put me in touch with your PR/Marketing representative? I would love to discuss a partnership idea.

Warm regards,

Khrys

You can always search for the specific email through the website Hunter.io and also by utilizing Linkedin to find the exact email contact.

After you have a name and an email, reach out to that person with a tailored, customized, thoughtful message about why you would be the perfect candidate for a partnership. 

An example of a good pitch sounds something like this:

Hello ___,

My name is Khrys Oros Ryan, and I am a content creator based out of [city]. I am the creator of [blog / instagram name], a fashion and lifestyle blog focused on slow living, sustainable fashion, and photography education.

I will be taking a trip to New York August 12-14th, and I would absolutely love to work with you on a sponsored post. I love the mission of your hotel to bring sustainable living to your guests through green products, and a focus on wellness & health. I would like to highlight these benefits to my audiences, who are frequent travelers that seek ethical, environment conscious brands.

I would love to showcase your hotel by creating a blog post where I not only show off the rich history but also show my followers what incredible experiences they can have in a 5 block walking radius. The blog posts would put the hotel as the focal point of the trip, and help attract millennial travelers who are looking for new, destinations that they will be excited to share with their friends.

I’ve outlined my terms of collaboration below:

-1 full blog post with a photography heavy focus

-Unlimited Instagram stories throughout our stay

-2 daily Instagram posts per day

I’ve attached my media kit below, and I absolutely look forward to hearing from you.

Best,

Khrys



So your pitch letter will be:

Hello [insert name of PR representative]

My name is [name], and I am a content creator based out of [city]. I am the creator of [blog / instagram name], a [describe blog in a way that will be fitting for the hotel’s marketing needs / brand aesthetic] .

I will be taking a trip to [city] on [date range], and I would absolutely love to work with you on a sponsored post. I love the mission of your hotel to [describe something that unites the hotel’s mission with your follower base]. I would like to highlight these benefits to my audiences, who are frequent travelers that seek [adjectives that fir the hotel] brands.

I would love to showcase your hotel by creating a [content] where I not only show off the [describe an idea for a collaboration. Be specific with illustrating what exactly you’d create for the hotel, and how your audience will react.]

I’ve outlined my terms of collaboration below:

-1 full blog post with a photography heavy focus

-Unlimited Instagram stories throughout our stay

-2 daily Instagram posts per day

I’ve attached my media kit below, and I absolutely look forward to hearing from you.

Best,

Khrys

 

 The biggest takeaway here is:

  1. Make your email SUPER customized. Research the hotel and make sure you hit on all of the points as to why you and them would work well in a collaboration.

  2. Think about what you can offer as a creator. Is it photography, a blog post, a video, Instagram posts, a newsletter spotlight, etc. What strengths do you bring to this collab?

  3. Give yourself an ample amount of time to pitch, maybe as much as 3-6 months ahead of time.


download.jpeg

How do I ensure everything goes smoothly?

After a hotel says “YES!”, send over a contract or request theirs.

In the contract:

  • Outline what you will cover based on the terms of the stay (what do you owe them), and other details like time of stay, which room / suite, how many people can come with you, etc.

  • Ask the PR person which hashtags to use, and which accounts to tag (like @ritz, #ritz, #myritzlife, etc)

  • Outline which shots you 100% need to get (such as dining room, lobby, bar, your room, etc).

  • Confirm whether the copy for captions needs to include any specific details about the hotel (its proximity to cool spots, its amenities, the price, etc.)

When beginning your relationship, and even during the stay, make sure to check in with the PR contact to see if the photos / content you created is what they were expecting. This is tricky, and not all hotels might require this but I try to to check in with the PR person, for at least the first day.


I hope this guide was helpful to you! Let’s connect! Have you tried to pitch? Has it been working? Where is your next destination?