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Add “Local” Flavor to Any Article, and You Can Sell It Here… and There

Last week I talked about three ways you can improve the odds you’ll land a newspaper by-line. (Missed that issue? You’ll find it in the archives, here)

As I explained in that piece, by “localizing” your article — that is, tailoring it for the specific audience you’re writing to — you hand an editor an excuse to run your article. You make it different from what he can find on the wire.

To refresh your memory: You can make a story more “local” by quoting local people. That doesn’t mean, however, that the subject of your article must be a local destination.

Say you’re writing about Rome for a newspaper in Boise, ID. Make a point to call a Boise travel agent — she might tell you about some great package deal or the best time of year to go or some new and easier way to get there. Or quote some Boise resident who regularly travels to Rome — perhaps he has a travel tip or a recommendation to share.

An article that does this well is “Vacationing families exit the minivan: Americans catch on to volunteering that’s worldwide, all ages,” by Jennifer Willis, which appeared in the Portland Tribune (Portland, OR), May 8, 2007. (You can read it, here)

You’ll notice that the headline has a “national” flavor. It doesn’t say, “Portland families head out on volunteer vacations.” Yet inside, the article is full of stories about Portland people.

Another way to tailor your piece for a specific geographical readership is to make sure the travel times and costs and such all reference the place from which your reader will be departing.

In other words, don’t say that Lincoln, NE is an hour from Omaha if your readers are in Denver. Tell them they’re looking at a 10-hour drive.

I stress these two points because they provide a smart formula for selling… and reselling… your articles.

I’ve talked about this before: the idea that you can do your research once and then tweak a story slightly for a different readership to sell it again.

So, for example, you could write it the first time for a business travel audience, and then you write it a second time for an audience of parents traveling with children.

In that scenario, your lead is likely to be different. Some of the details you choose are going to be different. But a lot of the core material will not change. You don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel in order to get extra mileage out of the research you’ve already done.

Now, what I’m suggesting today is much the same idea — only instead of dividing your audience by demographic, you do it by geography.

Say you’re writing about wine tours in France. You’re planning to talk a bit about the character of one you went on, offer some advice for choosing one, and suggest some resources.

So say you target your article first for a paper in Sacramento, CA. There you find a travel agent who regularly books such tours and get a quote from her. Then you find a wine store that organizes an annual pilgrimage and get a quote from the owner. Already your piece has local flair.

Then, you look to another market — Richmond, VA, say. And you go through the same steps to make your piece more local for Richmond readers. Integrate quotes from residents in Richmond.

The information you’ll share about your own wine-tour experience and the advice you’ll give about choosing a tour — that won’t change. But what you’re doing is almost “slotting in” local color.

Again, you may find that your lead will be different in your two pieces… that, given the quotes you get, the character or angle of your piece changes a bit. But you don’t have to go out and do the core research a second time.

It means for a fraction the work of writing a piece entirely from scratch, you get more than one by-line and more than one check, too.

[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.]

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