How to approach hotels for a complimentary stay as a blogger (with e-mail template!)
So you’re a (travel) blogger, and you’re planning a fancy schmanzy holiday, but it would be pretty nice if you could cut the cost a little by setting up a sweet little arrangement with a local hotel. Right? Maybe a complimentary stay in exchange for a blogpost? Ofcourse it would be. I’ve done it MANY times and have had good success with it. I constantly hear other bloggers failing to score free hotel stays, though, and to be fair I’m not surprised. It’s not hard, but there IS an art to it. So today I lift the veil and share the secret with you! This strategy doesn’t only work for hotels, but for ANY collaboration you’d like to do as a blogger.
This is a very comprehensive 1700-word post (I had a LOT to say on this topic), so get ready!
So who am I to write this post? I run two travel blogs, one in Dutch and one in English. For my travel blogs I’ve stayed in a fair amount of hotels for which I did a barter deal: I got a complimentary stay, if I posted about it on my blog. I also worked on a project for a MAJOR travel brand where I got to send bloggers away on press trips (SUCH fun work, I promise you). So I’ve been both on the blogger and on the brand side, so I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grasp on the art of successful pitching.
First off: the very first thing to consider is the following. Without this answer, there is absolutely no point in e-mailing. So please read the question carefully, and have a good answer. Ready? Here we go:
Why should hotels work with you? What do you have to offer?
Trust me: ‘I can write a blogpost and have 300 twitter followers’ is not the answer. Anyone can start a free website, and anyone can buy followers. This is not to say you’ll only be successful in scoring collaborations if you have big follower numbers. No, I’ve gotten complimentary hotel stays at 2,000 uniques a month. But you need to have a solid offer. This is a business deal, remember? If you’re not 100% confident your content will get the hotels bookings, don’t even bother emailing. This isn’t about you… this is about how you can help them develop their business.
Secondly: the better match a hotel is for your readers, the better your results will be off the collaboration. So please don’t go pitching a $500 a night-hotel, when your readers are broke college teenagers. There’s no use. Yes, you MIGHT get a fancy free stay, but none of your readers will book the hotel, and so there is no return on investment for the hotel. Not only will this reflect badly on any future collaborations you might do (why should we hire you if you got hotel X no bookings?), it might scare the hotel off of working with bloggers altogether. So if you’re a family blogger, choose a hotel that’s great for families. Budget bloggers, go for budget hotels and hostels. Fitness bloggers, choose a hotel with great wellness or workout facilities. Etc, etc. Again: PLEASE only email if you truly think your blogpost might get the hotel bookings.
Setting up a successful collaboration starts with choosing the right hotel for your blogs audience.
Also, please make sure you have the below, before you even so much consider emailing :).
- Your own domain
Not a cold hard requirement, but I would REALLY recommend this. Why should a brand take your blog seriously if you don’t take your own site seriously? Or at least: not serious enough to own your own domain. If WordPress/Blogger owns your site they can take it down any time. If you have your own domain, it not only looks a lot more professional, but it also shows brands you mean business. And it only costs a few dollars!
- A professional looking email-address
So like #1 this isn’t a cold hard requirement, but I would highly recommend it. Please don’t email with your firstname.lastname@example.org address. It’s just… how would you feel if YOU hired someone with that email-address? Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, right?
- Your own domain
How to structure your email:
An email should always answer more questions than it raises. So make sure your email is clear, complete and professional. Don’t write a great big novel, but also make sure you really sell this deal. Make sure they realize what an incredible addition you are to their business. These are the questions you need to answer in your pitch.
1. Who are you?
People want to talk to human beings, so please don’t forget to introduce yourself briefly, it’s the polite thing to do. Keep it short.
2. Why are you emailing?
Explain briefly what the reason is for your email. Most likely this will be because you are visiting a city on a certain date, and wanted to see if they work with bloggers, and would be willing to consider a collaboration with you.
3. What is your blog, what are your stats, and why is it a good match with the hotel?
Mention your blog, your stats & social stats (DO. NOT. LIE.) and explain why your blog is a good match with a hotel. For example: hotel X is a family friendly hotel in location X. Your readers are mostly females with families, and location X is a very popular holiday destination for your audience.
4. What are you asking for?
Are you asking for a discount or a free stay? For how many nights? And for how many rooms? Be clear. If this doesn’t work for the hotel, they will either say no (fair play to them!) or they will get back to you with a counter offer.
5. What can you offer in return?
Under promise, overdeliver. Don’t promise five hundred Instagram updates if you can only do two. Tell them if they are getting a blogpost review, or simply a mention in a destination article. Make sure there is no confusion about the deliverables, and then deliver them. If they held up their part of the arrangement, so should you.
6. Do you have examples of collaborations you’ve done before?
Any links to hotel reviews you have would be good, but please only send ONE link. Either to the most popular hotel reviews you have (the more comments under it from people wanting to book it, the better!) or to a category with your reviews in general. Mention how many hotel bookings you’ve delivered on previous collaborations.
BE AWARE that during the high seasons, many hotels can’t afford to do any complimentary stays with bloggers, as this is the time they have to make up for any losses during the winter season.
What is the best time to email hotels?
The earlier the better, but a year ahead of time is probably a bit much. I would say anywhere from six to two months before your stay. If your stay is coming up faster than that: just give it a shot, you’ve got nothing to lose. But accept they may not be able to arrange something for you. A lot of hotels have a certain amount of rooms they decidate to media stays per month, and if they’re all booked up, that’s it.
Do I need/send my mediakit?
I personally don’t think so. You’re mentioning everything that matters (name, stats, niche, examples of other collaborations) in the email, so there’s no read need for a mediakit that clutters up someones mailbox. You can always mention in your email that if they want your mediakit, to just ask, and you’ll send it.
How do I know who to email?
A lot of times you’ll email the general contact address which you’ll find on the hotel’s website, which is fine. But if you can find the marketing manager’s direct email, that’s even better. Even if you can’t find the direct email, it’s worth looking up the marketing managers name on LinkedIn, so you can at least use a personal ‘Dear X’ at the start of your email. All the little bits help :).
When do I need to follow up?
I would personally follow up two weeks after sending the email. Just casually remind them about your email, and ask if they’ve had a chance to take a look at it yet. If you’re pressed for time, one week is also fine. But please don’t send a follow-up email within a week of sending the initial pitch, that’s just desperate.
Do I need a contract?
I haven’t used contracts for most of my complimentary stays. If you want to though, you can use one that outlines what both parties are responsible for in this collaboration. This post by Alicia can get you started.
What are the minimum visitor numbers you need to get a complimentary stay at a hotel as a blogger?
There really is no set rule for this! So this is my personal preference, but I would wait until you have at least two to five thousand unique monthly readers (UV, not pageviews!), so you’re sure you have something to offer. The more the better obviously. But it’s more important if you have a great niche that’s a perfect fit for the hotel, and how engaged your audience is. If you have either, you have to really stress that. For example: I know a few hotels I’ve reviewed have gotten MULTIPLE bookings from my review, so I mention that :).
Finally: ALWAYS be polite. How you act in your email contact with the hotel not only reflects upon you, but upon ALL bloggers in general. Who knows… you might be the first blogger they’ve ever been in touch with, and if you’re rude, that might scare the hotel off of working with bloggers in general. The hotel may have very good reasons to say no to a collaboration, and if they do, please be graceful. You don’t want to be known for being rude (and as someone who works with bloggers at a company, yes, we gossip about you). Always take the high road and stay professional. Also understand that no matter how spectacular your email is, blogger collaborations aren’t the hotels main focus, so you’ll probably only get a small number of replies to your pitch.
If you’d like to see some of my (Dutch, sorry!) reviews of hotels, you can see them here.
I’m sure that with these tips, you’ll absolutely SMASH your first collaboration with a hotel, but to help you even more I’ve put together an easy to fill out e-mail format for you that you can use whenever you approach hotels for collaborations! All you have to do is fill in the blanks, and you’ll be sure to send a hard to resist pitch! Click below to buy it!
Have you ever written a blogpost about a complimentary stay?