Interview with Esther de la Cruz, Managing Editor at TAB of Vietnam

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Esther is leading Vietnam’s new destination marketing project, making easy to discover and like Vietnam for what it is online. Vietnam.travel is project run by the government and mainly funded by private companies.

Few months ago Esther agreed to share her thoughts about how hotels can plan and implement excellent content marketing practices.

What is the best way for a hotel marketing team to get started with content marketing?

I would say clarifying who you want to reach and why is a necessary first step. If you know exactly who you’re targeting, and what you want them to do next (after seeing your content), then mapping out your content pillars, media, budget and editorial calendar becomes a lot simpler.

One note about content pillars: I like to pick just a few strengths and build on those. A common mistake is telling a broad but forgettable story. Two or three highlights is the max most readers can keep in mind about a property.

What sort of stories are typical leisure travelers and holidaymakers are interested in?

I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a typical traveller. What I think is valid and valuable to readers across the board are 1) ideas that can easily be included in real itineraries, 2) stories that create a connection with interesting people, and 3) a fresh or distinct perspective on a place. I truly believe you should never publish a piece you wouldn’t read yourself.

How to approach bloggers and travel website owners to publish stories preferably without paying a fee?

To start with, you want to be familiar with the kind of content they run already. No successful publisher is going to depart from their style for you. Have a good look around their site, then frame your idea in a way that matches their format. Often pitching ideas that can be tweaked for tone works better than pitching completed stories.

When you pitch, don’t waste too much space talking about your property: Focus on what the piece will look like -- titles, angles, images – and how you can support its creation. If the idea is sharp and fits well, chances are you’ll land some coverage for your hotel. Either way, don’t forget to offer yourself as a resource for future stories.

If a hotel manages a blog, what are the best practices to promote content?

I think it’s important to design your stories for sharing from the start. Before investing in a story, think of how it will look and perform on social and in search. Try to building in a sharable component from the start, for example, by mentioning other local businesses who may choose to share your story. Think of promotion techniques that match your medium, such as a cool graphics that pop in Pinterest, or a 60-second slideshow for Facebook.

Good content has a way of getting out there, but get in there and do the full SEO optimization. Spend time to create and follow a distribution funnel that goes outward – meaning from creating awareness with people and businesses closest to your topic, to finally placing your content in front of untested audiences.

If you have a high-value piece on your hands, I suggest shopping it around to relevant online publications, in exchange for a backlink to your blog. You might choose to hold off publishing on your own platform, so they can have it exclusively for a few months.

How to research topics for articles?

Once you’ve spent a little time with your readers, you’ll develop an instinct for which stories to pursue. Until then, your team on the ground should have heaps of insight into the questions your guests ask, what they respond to and what they’re looking for.

I think it’s fair to say that what inspires and interests you will probably inspire and interest others; however it’s smart to also take a data-driven approach with analytics and tools to see what’s getting engagement now. You might be surprised.

Should hotels outsource their content marketing to a 3rd party, or is it better managed in-house?

Every hotel is different. Even on a small scale, quality content creation and distribution is a lot of work. If your team has strong creative and digital marketing chops, as well as the time to dedicate to content marketing, it’s possible to run the show in-house. However, if content marketing is a crucial part of your strategy, you’re keen on being covered in major media, or have specific branding to keep up, you’ll want expert help – at least in the early years.

Daniel Diosi