ITWPA Membership: Why I love my badge
One of the first things I did after attending Great Escape Publishing’s, Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop was pick up an ITWPA membership and ID badge.
Since then, my badge and I have been all over the world. If I’m not underwater or participating in an extreme sport like skydiving, I’m wearing it.
Here’s a quick video I made of me wearing my ID badge in nearly 50 different cities:
From day one, my badge has opened a lot of doors into the writer’s life. It gives me credentials, especially when I was trying to break into my new career.
In fact, a few months after I’d embarked on my new travel writing career, I applied for a press trip to La Paz, Mexico. The trip was to include staying at a five-star luxury resort, sunset strolls on the beautiful seaside malécon, boating on the Sea of Cortez to a deserted island for kayaking, a hike and a beach BBQ, snorkeling with wild sea lions, trying the local drink Michelada, and eating chocolate clams by the beach. I badly wanted to go, but never expected to hear from them.
That’s where the training I’d received from ITWPA kicked in. I’d been given instruction and valuable tips from some of their seasoned writers on exactly what to do and say to get invited on press trips. So I went for it, and I was one of just five journalists chosen from over 400 applicants!
Here’s what I did to get that press trip:
STEP #1: I thoroughly researched La Paz. I used online resources, libraries and bookstore guidebooks.
STEP #2: I used some of the information from my research in my letter to the PR agency that was working on behalf of the La Paz Tourism Board. I suggested some angles that had not been already covered (my research) that I might write about.
STEP #3: I was very enthusiastic in my letter while also being professional and very respectful to the PR person. It’s important that you come across as a professional. Small things do matter, such as crafting your application letter using a business-like structure and addressing the PR agent as “Mr.” or “Ms.” and not using their first name, which is too friendly.
STEP #4: I included links to three of my published stories (yes, even a newbie can get published and the ITWPA programs teach this, too). Try to include links that are relevant and would be similar to what you would write for that destination. The PR agent commented on how much she liked my work!
On the trip, I was treated like royalty! In return, I tried to be the “model journalist” – always on time, friendly with everyone, willing to try or do anything they suggested, took lots of notes and photos, gathered business cards and brochures, etc.
When I returned from that trip, I was able to get seven stories about La Paz published by different print and online media. ITWPA had given me tips on how to approach editors to get published. I was able to add more bylines to my list of credentials, and of course, earn some extra money.
Since then, I’ve been on many, many press trips. A lot of them have been “self-guided,” which means that I contact the tourism bureaus or hotels myself to solicit a free journalist visit. ITWPA teaches you how to do that, too.
Last year I visited 45 U.S. cities, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Mo’orea, Japan, the Bahamas, Hawaii, and 12 Mexican cities. I attended fairs and festivals, lounged on gorgeous beaches, tried indigenous food, consumed copious amounts of ice cream, “endured” spa treatments, went skydiving, hang gliding and swimming with sharks, bargained with shopkeepers, and even had a geisha makeover. 2013 was a good year. A very good year.
Without my ITWPA training, I would not have known how to get press trips, and without press trips, I would not be able to be living the travel writer’s life.