The Travel Media Association of Canada's BC chapter put on a superb day-long professional development seminar on Saturday, March 2, 2013. Held at the conference centre at River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond, BC, much of what I learned was applicable to freelance writing in general. So here in a nutshell are my highlights:
- I was fascinated by what Dave Olson, a director of Vancouver-based Hootsuite, had to say. Condensed down, he urged us all to use Twitter to do our pre-trip research by connecting with local experts at our destinations. Hashtags are the answer to success here and should include place and your interest. For example, #Portland #Craftbeer. You need to manage the responses into "streams" on Hootsuite using one stream per hashtag. Once you have collected a few locals who're interested in your quest, invite them to meet you in a group after you arrive. Dave suggested we ask them to bring images to show us and interview them to record their wisdom. Local experts bring authenticity to your articles, blog posts, images, tweets, etc. @DaveOHoots.
- Claudia Cornwall, ethics instructor at SFU, defined the three ethical areas of concern to travel writers—bias, deception, and conflict of interest. Writers can be edgy and pro or con, but not libelous. No-one should give false credentials; lie in their text; or make reservations under assumed names. Freelancers can face many conflicts: Should we omit negative experiences; should we accept fees for mentioning properties, tour companies, etc; should we ask for $$s to write about the above, were a few mentioned and discussed. Claudia also urged us to be aware of cultural and ecological sensitivities when we visit and then write about a destination. She also reminded us that in the USA, disclosure of hosted trips is a legal requirement, but not in Canada. Even so, we must always disclose what we have received.
- One small point brought forward much discussion. When travel writers tweet on trips, should they use hashtags and @...? E.g: #Jamaica, #visitsaskatchewan, or @WestJet. Would that be considered "Promoting"? We learned that many in the travel industry track those hashtags and @s closely. When I asked two PR companies and one tourism board what they want me to do, they said, "Yes!" They definitely want me to identify them and the places I tweet about using # or @ on Twitter. Indeed, they and their clients expect it.