Monday, 12 October 2009

Online PR

Went to a British Guild of Travel Writers meeting about the future of professional travel writing a couple of nights ago.

Travel writing is suffering just like so many other mainly media-based or media-related businesses, from studio design to music sales to magazine writing. The internet is changing the way people think and we're in the middle of a new industrial revolution.

Technological change has been so enormous in the last two hundred years that we tend to forget that we need to adapt. I don't suppose it was immediately obvious to everyone in 1790 that they should be junking their handlooms pronto. Nor would Mr. Investor of 1835 have known whether to sink his life savings into the expanding canal network or into these new fangled railways. And many people who ran stables in 1900 thought that there would always be a demand for horses, even if motor cars DID take off. And those highly skilled printworkers in the 1980s....

Anyway one sign of the times is Surf PR, the UK's first PR agency to work entirely in online media, or so they say. Actually, the company Go Ape (not one of Surf's clients) contacted me a while ago offering me and 20 of my friends the chance to try their treeclimbing adventures and blog about it. So perhaps Surf PR isn't quite so much in the forefront as they say.

Indeed, in some parts of the world I'm told that social media manipulation is becoming so widespread that that attempts are being made to regulate product placement in blogs. Bloggers will have to reveal whether they have been paid, either in cash or in kind.

And no, I have not been paid anything by Surf PR to mention them. And I certainly don't think my friends are up for Go Ape. I suspect if someone is going to ask most people I know to swing around in trees, they'll need to provide a nice cup of tea at the end of it, or something even stronger, actually.


  1. I tend to feel that with 'stuff' (like, say, a new chocolate bar) it's probably fair enough to give out free samples: though of course it's nice to know whether someone has had the product for free, it won't make much difference to their actual experience of it.

    I feel like it's a slightly different ballpark with travel, or anything you'd class as an 'experience', because a writer/reviewer might be treated more carefully and actually have a very different experience to a normal visitor.

    It would be nice to have transparency in blogs - I'd always say if I got something for free - but there isn't great transparency in the traditional media, either.

  2. Usually they say who has provided their flight, etc. That's enough to let the reader know

  3. We're the first online PR and social media agency dedicated to travel. There are a few other digital agencies with a broader remit.

    In the US, it has been commonplace for bloggers to be paid for product placement and mentions for a few years now. Legislation has recently been brought in to ensure greater transparency - a good thing in my view.

    In the UK, it is becoming more usual to approach bloggers with experiences usually only offered to journalists who are affiliated with traditional media organisations. As with journalists, every blogger is different and we try and offer people information and experiences that we think they will be interested in. Obviously, it is up to the individual blogger to decide what to do with it: Jenny, let me know if you ever fancy a nice cup of tea and a chat!

  4. Hm,well Rebecca, I did email you but didn't get a response. I'm rather interested in what your agency does, though, so if you read this, then get in touch again.


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