It is very rare for the stars to align so perfectly that an opportunity you never knew you were searching for seemingly falls in to your lap. This happened to me several months ago. I woke up one cold February morning, routinely skimming my inbox, and clicked on one of my travel writing subscriptions, which I usually file away for later (then often forget to check). As fate would have it, I was meant to read and pay attention to that email.
Announcing: BlogHouse Toronto read the headline, followed by ***UPDATE*** The deadline to apply has now been changed to March 1, 2013. My attention peaked, I read on to discover the “stunning success” of the previous travel blogging workshop in Besalu, Spain, where well-established, successful travel bloggers met in a working-group environment to mentor those new to the profession, while staying in a Spanish villa. The next workshop would take place in a Canadian castle in Toronto, during the week leading up to the annual North American TBEX. I still had time to apply. Score.
After applying and apprehensively waiting for the accept or reject email, I was notified that I was one of 12 (from over 40 applicants) shining stars selected to attend Navigate Media Group’s BlogHouse Toronto 2013.
Like many new to travel blogging, I was unclear on the business details behind and value of the industry. The senior bloggers, as we fondly referred to them, led us through detailed sessions on SEO, social media strategy, photography, video, time management, monetization, and industry pitches, grounding all of their lessons in real-life examples. We also received site audits and attended industry networking events. The purpose of BlogHouse seemed two-fold: to elevate the level of professionalism within the travel blogging industry writ large and to prepare and position fresh bloggers to get the maximum benefit out of TBEX. Mission accomplished.
I joked with other participants that I learned more in those three days together at the De La Salle Castle than I did in an entire year of researching and reading numerous books on blogging. Experiential learning, as I always say about travel, is the best and most efficient way to learn. The master bloggers of Navigate Media Group provided a perfect cross-section of expertise and personalities to instill all of the tools I know I’ll need to move forward successfully.
My two biggest overarching take-aways from BlogHouse were 1) the power of networking and 2) the importance and vast potential of travel blogging as an invaluable profession and marketing mechanism for the travel and tourism industry.
For those who may not realize, bloggers are increasingly becoming the predominant source of information for consumers in all industries: fashion, food, travel, tech, photography, family, entertainment, you-name-it. Bloggers build trusting communities of followers who consider them an authority in their area of expertise. When you shop for a product or experience, wouldn’t you be more inclined to make a choice based on the recommendation of someone you know and trust as opposed to biased, generic advertisements? The first thing I do when I need to make a decision on a purchase is ask around my network of friends, both virtually and in person. Not to say that traditional marketing and advertisement will disappear, but the blogging marketing model compliments, and will eventually overtake, more traditional models.
Creating a new skill-set: BlogHouse left me full of new knowledge and tools, and most importantly, feeling invigorated, inspired and confident that the travel blogging profession is not only real, but it is important. I know that I am on the right path.
Thank you, Navigate Media Group.