One of the most rewarding things about doing your own vacation rental marketing is getting featured in magazines and newspapers. Not only is it emotionally rewarding (you get to show it to all your friends!!!) but it has a tendency to drive up reservations big time. Here’s how I’ve gotten my vacation rentals featured in the The New York Times, US News & World Report, GQ, Business Week, and Travel+Leisure, among a slew of other major publications; and all without spending a dime!
Enter HARO: the greatest PR secret known to successful vacation rental owners.
HARO (short for "Help A Reporter Out") is a free service that connects reporters with news sources and small business owners. If a journalist from, say, Conde Nast is looking to do a story on a weekend in Whistler, HARO is the platform through which he/she can solicit advice or locals for their story. If you’ve ever wondered how tiny boutique hotels or vacation rentals get featured in big-time publications, now you know. It’s one of those covert resources most PR agencies keep under wraps and you'd be doing yourself a disservice by sharing it with your competition.
So how do I have so much success with HARO?
Well, first, I sign up on their website and select “Travel” as my area of expertise. I also recommend selecting “Business & Finance” since some of the story topics overlap. You can also get creative, catering your story pitch to their particular readership. This is to say, my rentals have no business in Forbes Magazine but I pitched it properly and it worked.
Next, watch your inbox for the daily emails. They will be composed thrice per day of various story leads and reporters looking for helpful sources. When you find one that might apply to your vacation rental business, jump on it.
In my experience, your email pitch is the most important thing between you and getting featured in a major publication. While you want to respond swiftly, reporters are always on a deadline, you also want to put enough thought into your pitch so that you set yourself apart from the rest. It is here where the email subject and the first line of your message itself need to be catchy and to the point. Here are three examples of my subject lines that have caught the reporter’s eye and elicited a response:
“Quotes For Your Vacation Article -- With A Tropical Twist!”
“Matt's 5 Reasons Vacation Rentals Trump Hotels”
“Why Are Vacation Rentals Not For Everyone?”
Once you’ve gotten good at the email subject lines, making sure they are action-oriented, compelling, funny, etc., make sure your message is short, interesting and to the point. Remember that the reporter is probably receiving tons of pitches so yours needs to be unique and relevant. Getting the pitch down won’t happen overnight. But over time, you’ll start to see more and more reporters responding and asking you for a quote. In a recent seminar, I gave out this tip and wasn't surprised to hear from three owners who, not one week afterwards, were featured in Home & Garden, Budget Travel, and Destinations Travel Magazine respectively.
If you are interested in seeing some samples of Matt's emails (and subject lines) that have resulted in major publication inclusions, you can sign up for his newsletter on the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog. Matt is on the eternal search for the best ways to increase vacation rental occupancy. He also once hosted a surprise birthday party for his mother, in which Oprah Winfrey was a surprise guest.