The Hidden Truth Behind Articles that Sell
Positive coverage sells. That’s the bottom line. When you’re defining your articles and when you’re deciding what to include in them, think positive.
There are two simple reasons for this:
** 1.) People don’t buy travel magazines to find out where NOT to go.
They buy them because they want to learn about wonderful and varied destinations, places they can dream about… places they can experience for themselves one day.
** 2.) An advertiser won’t pay lots of money to have his ad face an article that pans the place he’s promoting. Editors know that.
And so if you propose an article about why Delouthe is a wretched place to spend Christmas… or why West Virginia is a terrible place to ski… or why flying into Denver should be avoided at all costs…you’re going to have a very hard time finding a home for those articles.
So what do you do about that tour that goes awry… that restaurant with the terrible service… that town you can’t wait to escape?
Do you throw up your hands in despair and give up on writing about them altogether? Lie and say everything was great?
The answer? Neither.
Instead, consider one of these three ways to turn a negative experience into fodder for an article that will sell —
** 1.) When you find yourself in a situation you’d never recommend to somebody else, attempt to salvage your own trip. Find a way to let your reader benefit from your mistakes and misfortunes.
Say you booked yourself a room in a hotel that sounded ok online, but which, you discovered when you arrived, turned out to be loud, dirty, and inconveniently located. Your best course of action? Make it your mission to uncover two better hotels in that same price range. Check out another neighborhood. Ask a few shopkeepers. Find that hidden gem while you’re on the ground. And write about that.
You can tell your reader: “Don’t be fooled, as I was, into assuming the only affordable hotels lie 20 minutes outside the heart of downtown. Stay at X Hotel in Y neighborhood where you’ll be an easy ten minutes from the action, the rooms are clean, the staff is friendly, and you’ll pay just $X a night.”
** 2.) Find an audience for whom your negatives aren’t such a bad thing.
You’ve booked a few nights at a long-established resort on the New England coast. It has a great reputation. But you find it a bit tattered around the edges; it needs a little freshening up. The food is great. The location is stunning. The staff is friendly. Yet when you go to check your email on your laptop, the wireless access doesn’t work right. There’s a convention of doctors there, and none of them can get their email on their laptops, either. You wouldn’t recommend the place (despite its positives) to a business traveler. So what do you do?
You find a reader for whom the slightly-worn feel and the malfunctioning wireless service won’t really matter. To families, maybe, for a weekend getaway. Then find out if the resort provides any special services for that kind of traveler. You may well discover there’s a fabulous “camp” program for children and even lectures for adults (on the local flora and fauna, perhaps). For a weekend jaunt when your time would be spent mostly outside, this place would be just great. So write about it for that audience.
** 3.) Turn a disastrous trip into a humorous story.
Often the best travel stories grow out of your misadventures on the road. Take the bargain-basement safari you go on in Kenya during which you are served nothing but cucumber sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for three days.
You simply can’t recommend it in an article. You wouldn’t wish it upon anybody else. But you could make light of it. Make fun of yourself and your propensity to save a dime and regret it later. That could certainly sell.
(In fact, there’s a lighthearted piece along these lines in the January 2007 issue of Travel Post Monthly, titled “Fried Underpants and Other Treats at a Farm Stay in Switzerland,” by Ann Lombardi. You’ll find it here: http://www.travelpostmonthly.com)
Now, I should clarify…
While I say you must remain positive in your articles, I am not suggesting that you ignore altogether the negatives in a place. After all, no savvy reader is going to believe that every single destination you visit is perfect. In fact, I think you do your reader a disservice when you neglect to mention the downside or the one or two unfortunate things you experienced.
If a restaurant is absolutely fabulous in every way, save for the very slow service, say as much. But give it a positive spin: “You can’t beat the steak at X Restaurant. The décor, with its rich browns and reds and soft leather benches gives the place an elegant and comfortable men’s-club feel. Three blocks down, on the tourist-strip, you’ll pay twice as much for a meal with half the taste and a quarter the charm. Just be sure you arrive at X Restaurant with a full evening ahead of you. Because the service, though unfailingly friendly, is slow. If you have theater tickets, get there when the doors open, at 5:00.”
That’s just one way to handle negatives in your articles. You’ll find several more — and some examples of writing that does this well — in my article titled: “Those Pesky Negatives: How to Be Honest and Still Sell Your Story,” which you can read in our archives here.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]