The Four-Legged Stool: How to Construct A Saleable Travel Article
When you’re writing about the Westin Maui Resort and Spa — which is something I had to do for a recent writing project — it’s easy to focus on the resort’s beauty and all the wonderful advantages of staying there.
For instance, you might write that it’s situated along a magnificent stretch of Ka’anapali Beach with spectacular views of Lanai and Molokai. You might also talk about its exclusive services, first-rate restaurants, and cultured entertainment. And, you might add that although it’s a world unto itself, it’s merely minutes from Maui’s many attractions.
Those are all wonderful points to make. Still, they may not be enough to win over an editor. So what more do you need to do?
Here’s where I like to think in terms of “The Four-Legged Stool” — something I learned from my copywriting studies.
Granted, writing sales copy and travel articles may seem like two very different things. But they’re not as far apart as you may think. Both need to be persuasive and well-balanced. And that’s exactly what applying “The Four-Legged Stool” will do for your writing — no matter whether you’re selling a product or a destination.
Here are the four legs of the stool:
** 1. Benefits
Don’t just tell your reader a resort has spacious rooms. Tell her how the hotel’s spacious rooms give her a great view no matter which one she’s in.
Don’t say that the resort offers a long list of activities. Tell your reader, instead, that it’s perfect for all types of Hawaiian vacations — from a lazy beachfront getaway to a high-octane escape — because it has thrilling diversions and amenities to satisfy every interest.
Also, take some time to search for benefits that may not be so obvious. For example, a more abstract benefit of staying at the Westin (a decidedly upscale resort) is feeling prestigious. But rather than stating that outright, you want to paint a picture of what this feels like. So, talk about the turn-down service…the fine dining…the 1,000-thread-count sheets. The result will be a much more powerful article.
** 2. Ideas
Benefits are great, but to really engage your reader, also give her an appealing idea to think about. This “idea” needs two things: It must reinforce her pre-existing beliefs and feelings, and it must present an authentic view.
So, taking our Westin example, if you’re writing for a busy reader who’s looking for a genuinely pampering escape, then you want to state that idea clearly in your article. Tell your reader “If your busy schedule has driven you to the brink, there’s no better place to reclaim your sanity and recharge than at the Westin Maui Resort and Spa, where your comfort is, without question, the staff’s number-one priority.”
In other words, you need a clear “angle” that will appeal to your reader, and that angle is your big idea.
** 3. Credibility
Give readers a reason to believe you. One of the best ways to establish credibility is to include photographs that further illustrate what your article states. Also helpful are quotes from people that reinforce your idea.
You might quote the General Manager of the Westin Maui talking about what he thinks is the number-one way the resort distinguishes itself. Better still, include quotes from fellow guests that will resonate with the reader. Example: “I work 65 hours a week, minimum, back in New York. I have three weeks of vacation a year. I could have gone someplace closer to the east coast, sure — and I used to. But I’ve been coming here every year for the past five years because no place else provides this kind of genuine getaway. When it’s all said and done, this is the place I dream about when I’m stuck in traffic and ready to pull my hair out.”
** 4. Track Record
Hmmm…this one sounds a little bit trickier, doesn’t it? Really, it just means you should state the “performance record” of the place or service you’re writing about.
For the Westin, you might mention how long the resort has been the number-one resort on the island. Or if you’re writing about a café, talk about the number of satisfied customers, number of years in business, or what critics have to say.
I always keep the four-legged stool in mind as I write, because it lets me know that my piece is balanced. Try it…I’m sure you’ll be pleased with the results.
[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.]