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Let's get practical: how to network during a pandemic | Who’s commissioning?
Now is the best time for networking in travel
Last week we touched on how networking can have a real impact on your career. Whether you’re networking on social media or in person, you’ll find opportunities in unexpected places.
But networking during a pandemic has serious challenges — there are no events, no conferences, no PR dinners or coffees or writers’ meet-ups. The biggest event of the year for travel, World Travel Market, has been cancelled and moved online, and launches have been pushed back well beyond expectation. It might not feel like the right moment for networking, and it might seem like it’s an impossible task, but we think now is actually the best opportunity for it…
Let’s be real — many of us have plenty more time on our hands than before, right? Over the last few months, with commissions falling through and countless jobs lost or contracts cut short, lots of us have found ourselves twiddling our thumbs. It’s bleak, but it’s also an opportunity, as we finally have time to do some relationship building.
Similarly, many PRs have had clients pause their contracts or even cancel them entirely, so there’s a bit more time on both sides of the coin. While they might not have tonnes of stories for you now, starting up that conversation and building that relationship during this window of opportunity could pay dividends in the future.
So much networking has moved online, too, so for those not in London (both Steph and I live outside the capital now), this is the perfect opportunity to get yourself seen.
Plus, with this pandemic comes camaraderie — never in my career has the travel media and wider industry come together to support one another in such a collaborative way. So, let’s take advantage of that and help each other innovate, grow and create. Read on for your November networking action plan.
A brief reminder that we’re sponsored by the British Guild of Travel Writers this month — the industry’s community of accredited writers, bloggers, photographers, and broadcasters; the trusted body for comment and content on travel. They run networking events, seminars and masterclasses — email Chairman Simon Willmore to find out more.
Your November networking action plan
Email that editor
Is there a publication you’re desperate to write for but it feels ‘untouchable’? We’ve all got one ‘holy grail’ magazine or newspaper we’re yearning to see our byline in, right? Now’s the time to get in touch. Drop them a short, simple email to introduce yourself and be bold — ask them for a 10-minute call or a Zoom coffee to learn more about how they work and what they need from freelancers like you. Not sure how to word it? Look out for a template in next week’s email, which offers the editor’s perspective on networking.
Get in touch with a PR
Don’t assume the PRs have to come to you. There are thousands of us journalists out there looking to pitch stories and get press releases, so it’s impossible for them to know and chat with us all. If there’s a specific destination or brand you’re keen to work with in the future, get in touch with them now. Here’s a helpful email template for this sort of cold call:
I’m a UK-based travel writer and editor writing for various titles, including [insert some bylines you’ve got here]. I’m currently looking to expand my network and ensure I can stay on top of the latest travel news.
I’d love to chat with you about [insert client(s) here] to find out more about how they work with press. [Expand on why you’re interested here — have you always wanted to visit, or have you been a fan of this client’s offering for a while?]
Let me know if you’d be up for a short phone chat or Zoom call, and please feel free to add me to your media list.
All the best,
Sign up to a new database or community
There are hundreds of networking communities out there for journalists — some travel specific, others more general. We listed a few in last week’s email, but here’s another selection we recommend:
Hostwire — A newish platform that allows you to connect with other journalists, as well as get access to pitch calls, job opportunities and training.
Society of Freelance Journalists — Founded during the pandemic, this free slack channel is where you can connect with other freelance journalists, ask burning questions and get notified about job opportunities.
Get in touch with your colleagues and friends
Let’s face it, if there’s one thing this pandemic has taught us it’s that those who diversify are going to be safest. So do just that — seek to diversify beyond your travel network and reach out to former colleagues who might now be in other industries, as well as friends within your wider social network. You never know when someone is going to need a writer or editor, and letting them know you’re open to work could lead to good (maybe even lucrative) things. Consider also starting up your own Whatsapp group with colleagues from the industry. It’ll keep you in closer contact and is a great way of throwing ideas out in front of a number of people, as well as staying in the know about industry news and pitching calls.
Sign up to some online events
Don’t tell me you’re all webinared out — regardless of how many crackly voices and frozen screens you endured in 2020 so far, there’s not going to be a return to ‘normal’ networking events anytime soon, so suck it up and sign up. Webinars run by Social with Media, TravMedia and our lovely sponsor, the BGTW, have been excellent these last few months.
Don’t forget, WTM has gone virtual this year so register here and keep an eye out for updates on their planned events.
November’s series is a deep-dive into pitching, so become a paid subscriber now for just £3.50 a month and you won’t miss a thing:
How to have the conversation
One of the biggest blockers to networking is not knowing what to say, or how to approach the conversation. Perhaps you feel too awkward about it, or you’re just not sure how to actually move the conversation onto productive chat. Here’s a little note from Lottie on how she makes it easy and efficient…
Before you go into it the (probably virtual) room, consider what you want to gain. Why are you networking? Do you want to expand your contacts book, or are you looking for press trips? Do you want to meet editors or simply learn from a fellow writer?
It shouldn’t be all about you, though. Networking is a two-way thing, so think about what you can offer the other person, too. Start off by listening — the most undervalued but important skill for any journalist — and learn about their role in the travel industry ecosystem. Ask questions, be engaged and make eye contact.
Then get to the crux of the conversation. Ask leading questions that will shed light on how the two of you might work together in the future.
To a PR, you might say…
So, how do you/your client usually work with media?
Do you run press trips at all?
Do you want my email? I’d love to be on your distribution list.
To an editor, you might say…
So, how do you work with freelancers at [publication]?
What sort of stories do you usually commission?
What are you working on in the coming months?
In real life, it’s at this point you’d usually hand over your business card — yes, business cards are still a thing for us travel writers — and make a mental note to follow up. If you’re networking online though, it’s probably worth clarifying how they can contact you — or vice versa — before you log off.
Jane Dunford at The Guardian got in touch to let us know she’s still commissioning — mostly UK-focused stories, though.
While it is our duty to inform you that Culture Trip is currently commissioning (Josie Platt got in touch to let us know), we understand their rates are stupendously low right now, so pitch at your peril.
This was the second in our networking series, which is free for all subscribers throughout October. From November, those on the free plan will only get one email a month. Don’t miss a thing, become a paid subscriber here: