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Lessons in content marketing from the travel industry

Lessons in content marketing from the travel industry Allison Way

Editor's Note: The author of this article is an attendee at the iMedia Content Summit.

At my company, MMGY Global, we inspire people to go places. And we don't take that "inspire" word lightly. When you visit a destination, hotel, airline, or hospitality website, what do you want to find? Chances are, you'll want to see imagery, photos, video, interactive maps, reviews, and testimonials that tell an interesting story.

All content -- whether in the travel, food/beverage, retail, or healthcare industries -- has to do one thing: It has to evoke some sort of emotion. For the travel industry, that emotion should be inspiration. Inspiration to travel, inspiration to explore, inspiration to spend a little more money, inspiration to book, and inspiration to destination.

But other industries should also be utilizing content marketing as a tool to inspire consumers. And they can take a few tips from the travel industry. Take a look at these eight secrets of content marketing and learn just how you can integrate these secrets into your own content strategy -- whether you're in the travel industry or not.

Find your "why"

Before we even begin coming up with a content plan for our clients, MMGY conducts research. When conducting our research, we make sure we understand the "why" behind each and every brand we work with.

And you should do the same. Before diving into content marketing, it's important to ask yourself a few questions. What are the reasons that content marketing makes sense for your organization? What can content marketing do in your industry? What can content marketing do for your customers?

It's not (all) about you

When it comes to content marketing, you need to leave the sales pitch at the door. In the travel industry, the point of content marketing is to be helpful to the consumer. Travel brands must make it a top priority to provide consumers with the information and inspiration that they need to plan a trip or make a buying decision.

What can other industries take away from this? Overall, be helpful. Take off your marketing or sales hat and put on your storytelling hat. Consumers want you to engage them and ultimately, provide them with the information they want to find, see, read, or experience.

Be the expert

Every brand has the ability to find its niche and stick to it. Don't try to do everything for everyone. When helping South Dakota develop its content marketing efforts, MMGY developed audience-driven content that was distributed via photo essays. One photo essay catered to avid motorcyclists and told the story of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. This photo essay content provided other bikers with original and authentic information and positioned South Dakota as an expert in a specific space.

When planning your content strategy, always keep your audience at the top of mind. For example, if you're a high fashion brand such as Michael Kors, you should be speaking to a very specific target market, fashionistas, in a way that fashionistas speak, engage, and share.

Be authentic

As all travel marketers know, there is an ocean of fake reviews, paid inclusions, and outdated content out there in the online travel sphere. Content marketing is meant to be 100 percent transparent, and that means that authenticity is crucial when developing your content strategy.

Let's face it: There is poor online content present in every industry. Break the mold by executing content marketing strategies that are transparent and based around the idea of storytelling. As a matter of fact, many marketers refer to content marketing as "brand storytelling" or "strategic storytelling," and that's exactly what it should be.

Create a conversation

Post consistently and encourage dialogue. This rule is especially important to the travel industry, where authentic, original, and real testimonials are taken into consideration above all other forms of content. MMGY Global recently launched Lufthansa Airline's #UpgradeChicago campaign, in which people all across Chicago were given daily "upgrades" such as complimentary coffee, wine, flights, and even upgraded Bears tickets. People engaged heavily on social media and used the hashtag #UpgradeChicago, providing Lufthansa with authentic and engaging dialogue to interact with.

The key takeaway? Be a publisher, not a broadcaster. Content marketers should understand that their biggest asset is the online fan base that is already talking about their brand. Engage with these fans as often as possible. They will provide some of your best content for you.

Mix it up

When it comes to content marketing, don't be shy to explore new strategies, distribution platforms, and voices. Marriott tasked MMGY with mixing up its content marketing efforts through a curated content campaign. MMGY devised "Passport to Paradise," a campaign that drove awareness and inspiration to book a stay at a Marriott Resort in the Caribbean and Mexico by leveraging the popularity of travel bloggers by inviting them to visit eight Marriott Resorts. The bloggers participated in activities at each destination and property selected by fans who voted on Facebook. The bloggers then documented their experiences through their blogs and media profiles using the #PassportToParadise hashtag.

The key takeaway? Influencer marketing is an effective tactic to curate content that tells your story. Make sure you select the right participants and clearly define your expectations if you choose to mix it up with a content-driven influencer campaign.

Don't post and pray

The "if you build it, they will come" mentality is the No. 1 reason why people fail at content marketing. Just because you're creating content and posting it doesn't mean that people are necessarily engaging with it, let alone seeing it. That's why it's important to have a plan. This plan can include a content style guide, editorial calendar, content ideation, brainstorming sessions, and research on key consumer interest points and emerging trends.

There's no point if you're not measuring

How do you know that your content marketing strategy is working if you're not measuring it? The first question we get asked by clients is, "How will content marketing affect my bottom line?" It's a fair question. And we, just like you, have to be prepared to answer it.

There are many different ways to measure content marketing -- enough to warrant another article. When measuring content marketing, it is important to set up relevant goals, KPIs, and the metrics you'd like to measure before diving in headfirst. For example, if you want more reach, brand awareness, or virality, for instance, measure overall traffic to the website, time spent on individual pieces of content, pages consumed per visit, or backlinks. There are many online guides that can help you determine what to measure and how to measure your content marketing efforts. Download them and use them.

Zig Ziglar may have said it best: "If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time." Always have a strategic plan before you dive or even dip your toe into the content marketing pond. Use these eight secrets from MMGY to develop your content marketing plan and before you know it, you'll be inspiring consumers to buy your product and engage with your brand.

Allison Way is director of content marketing at MMGY Global.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Although new to MMGY Global, Allison is not new to the world of content marketing. For the past four years, Allison has specialized in content marketing strategy, management and execution for a number of brands both in and out of the travel...

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