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    SEO press release image courtesy CisionWire.

    Are SEO releases just another form of pay-for-play?

    This is a question from a Tartan Group client who is not happy about having to pay online services to have his releases put into rich media format. Fair enough.

    Are Search Engine Optimized (SEO)  releases (a.k.a. now known as social media releases) just another pay for play scheme?  Yes, they are.

    But, here is what you really need to know. The world of tourism marketing has changed and marketers who do not understand these shifts, and embrace the change, will be run over by their competition.

    Search engine optimization and the role of the web has changed everything. And, that means tourism marketers have to change, too.

    Let’s review the most recent travel marketing statistics for background:

    §  A massive 60% of travel industry marketing gurus still rank search as the number 1 way to drive traffic, according to stats from EyeForTravel's "Travel Distribution & Marketing Barometer" report.

    §  Four out of ten international visitors (38%) choose their destination based on friends & relatives' recommendation in 2011. The viral channel remains the first driver in travellers' decision making, according to global benchmarking survey TRAVELSAT©.

    Compare that with:  TRAVELSAT© Competitive Index

    Path used to get to hospitality / tourism sites by site visitors worldwide, Q4 2011 (% of total):

    §  Typed in URL: 28%

    §  Search engine: 27%

    §  Bookmark / favourite: 17%

    §  Clicked on ad: 3%

    §  Email link: 1%

    §  Other site link: 1%

    §  Other: 22%

    Regardless of whose stats you use, the message is consistent. Travel marketers have to understand that building a web presence is important and SEO matters.

    So what should you do?

    1.      Optimize your website. If you are a marketer and don’t know an H1 header from a page name and why images, content and blogging matter, start by doing some web research. Take a course, do some online research and then, if you need to, hire someone. If your site is not optimized, all the SEO releases in the world won’t help you. A great starting point is the Google key word tool and SEO MOZ. I always recommend educating yourself first. You can’t manage it if you don’t know what you don’t know.

    2.       Build your back links. You want relevant, contextual links back to your site from large, well trafficked sites. Where should you start? By ensuring you have a presence with the hotel and travel and tourism on line travel agencies. Some of these will be paid listings that you have to maintain.

    3.       Get listed: Make sure you are on major travel review sites, hotel or tourism directories and on-line travel guides.

    4.       Push out your content onto on line channels and social media channels.

    The bottom line is: anyone building an on line presence will need to have done the basics of SEO work on their sites first and have some knowledge of the changing world of SEO. Without this, regardless of claims of the services, SEO releases will have little to no impact if that work is not nailed down first. This is why we always ask our clients about keywords, anchor text and images. We have found that it is never going to be one SEO release that will give results; it is a combination of them, combined with other SEO work.

    ROI on the cost of the SEO service will be different for everyone depending on what point of online marketing they are starting from. Regardless of what the sales white papers from the big services say, your ROI will depend on what other SEO and web push work is being done overall as it is never one thing – it is a combination of keywords, anchor text, quality content and back link work plus listings on review sites, on line travel agencies, on line directories – all of which are paid listings for the quality backlinks. It is all part of building an on line presence.

    And please note that an SEO release is written differently than a traditional release. They are not the same offering or audience. This is very important.

    I have found that headlines are critical. For example, two years ago I put out a RFID release on a traditional wire release written as a traditional release. It got picked up in one trade. Good work, yes?

    Then I put out the same content on an SEO wire service with a snappy headline: Canadian RFID company tracking babies. And bam: I got the attention of the premier RFID journal plus about ten bloggers…and all those links are still there so people can find the info, it helps the company’s SEO and people are still talking about it and referring back to that on line release; unlike the trade journal, which was just one on line in print. Check it out: http://www.rfidjournal.com/expert/entry/8350

    Here are three examples that we as a tourism public relations company have placed for our clients:

    http://www.cisionwire.com/tartan-group/r/top-reasons-to-travel-to-india-in-2013,c9332485

    http://globenewswire.com/news-release/2012/11/16/505914/10012974/en/Birdwatchers-Turn-Attention-to-Jamaica-Hummingbird-Attraction.html

    http://www.cisionwire.com/tartan-group/r/orvis-to-guide-fly-fishing-travel-adventure-in-patagonia,c9327299

     Is it pay-for-play? Yes. But, now armed with a bit more information, you can decide for yourself whether you should use them in an integrated marketing program.

    Terry Rachwalski is a management consultant in Victoria, BC who specializes in technology product launches and consults with the Tartan Group, a top international tourism PR company

    Here are resources from the big players in the SEO release market:

    For more information from the big players, you can go to their sites:

    PR Web: http://service.prweb.com/how-it-works/

    CISION: http://ca.cision.com/cisionpoint/press-release-distribution/press-release-seo/

    Market Wire: http://www.marketwire.com/products/press-release-distribution/seo-smm/


    What is a Blue Sky Dream?

    Working in an integrated marketing communications firm, the environment is very fast-paced. It also requires a lot of imagination and creativity. 

    At the Tartan Group we have an amazing group of public relations clients, colleagues and coworkers who keep the creative juices flowing, producing amazing work that I’m really proud of.

    But, where does this inspiration come from? 

    I sometimes joke that I look out the window (a lot); but, most of the time I’m actually looking through our clients’ websites, photo galleries and travel media from around the world in order to find inspiration to help tell client stories. 

    I like to call it a Blue Sky Dream. 

    Tartan Group Public Relations

    Blue Sky refers to being positive and to not limiting yourself to the current dimensions you’re in. 
    The dream is the conduit for getting yourself out of those current dimensions. 

    So, in the vein of sharing I invite you to follow along…I’ll share my Blue Sky Dream each week through our Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest accounts! 

    Where is your Blue Sky Dream taking you?

    Brian Cant is the Senior Communications Specialist for the Tartan Group, a public relations company in Victoria, BC.


    I have always been fascinated by current events. In my spare time I’m often pouring over news websites or reading magazines. When Brian told me that a huge part of my job would be media monitoring, I was ecstatic. That was one month ago… 

    I have been with Tartan for a month now and have done many different jobs since starting here. It’s always tough to explain to people what I do as an intern at a public relations firm. I often start out by telling people about media monitoring, writing itineraries or researching clients, but the reality is my job is so diverse there is no typical workday.

    Since arriving at Tartan I have had the opportunity to engage with clients, media representatives, research future projects and participate in social media efforts, among many other tasks. One of the biggest advantages for any intern is networking within the industry and Tartan has given me every opportunity. Some of these networking events have also provided some great food and drink, thanks Victoria Taste .

    Being an intern does have some drawbacks, as any intern could tell you. On my first day at the office Terry proudly announced the plan her and Brian had devised that had me delivering coffees to contest winners. As luck would have it the charming Carolyn from KoolFm was the recipient, thank goodness it wasn’t someone with an intern superiority complex! In my time at Tartan I have progressed from ordering “A large coffee” two months ago to “…two extra hot venti green tea lattes, one grande medium roast coffee in a venti cup, and a grande americano with room”. That is an education!

    I’ve realized through my time here that the role of an intern is perhaps a little too vague. Since nobody is quite sure what the role encompasses, it tends to encompass everything. Drowning an intern with work is like an office team building exercise akin to a company retreat. Although they deny it vehemently I am quite sure my coworkers have placed wagers on the date of my breakdown.

    The positives of my job drastically outweigh any negatives and I’m very lucky that I got the job that I applied for. I enjoy doing different things every day, talking with new people and working with a talented team. Thanks for the great first month Tartan.

    Follow James the intern on Twitter at: @JamesWDAnderson


    The email signature debate: when is PR too much?

    We have an on-going email dilemma so we thought it best to put it out to our community to solve.

    Terry’s point of view

    I love our fabulous PR goddess, Deirdre Campbell. But, I dislike her email signature.

    Well, maybe dislike is too strong a word. It’s better to say I find it annoying and particularly so on my mobile phone or when I have to scroll down on replies to find the information she wants me to read.

    Her email signature weighs in at a whopping 135 words and 1,149 characters. I have included it below because I didn’t want to use up so much room in the body of this post!

    I am, without a doubt, an email signature purist. I believe they should all look the same and be clean, lovely and give the facts: how to contact the person in various methods and maybe a call to action statement. Too many images, words and you lose me.

    As for the email signatures that contain the legal gobbledygook, well, I don’t like those either, but for a different reason. I doubt that they carry any legal weight whatsoever. How can you ask someone to accept legal responsibility for not forwarding an email or for destroying it AFTER they have opened it? It’s poppycock and a waste of precious space.  I digress. But, you can see why I get hung up on the 135 words.

    So I admit that I am *maybe* a tad strident on this point and *maybe* could live with a diverse set of email signatures. While I understand how the email signature is a form of marketing, I believe short and simple is more effective.

    Public relations Victoria, BC

    Deirdre’s counter point

    I love our fabulous digital goddess, Terry Rachwalski, but disagree wholeheartedly with her dismissal of my email address. Well, maybe dismissal is too strong a word.

    Clients have received media attention as a direct result of my email signature! Honestly!

    I have had several journalists call me up when they realized we represented certain clients and properties, solely because of the client list in my email signature! So while I know it is *maybe* a bit long and  I reduce it to one line in all  replies, I use every opportunity I can to market our clients, so am perfectly happy with a little bit of ribbing to take advantage of a great marketing tool.

    The Ask

    What do you think? Is Deirdre’s email signature over the top or clever use of marketing? What could be done to improve it or should we just ignore it and get on with public relations and communications work?

    The Signature

    Deirdre Campbell | President & Chief Development Officer | MBA, APR
    Tartan Group
    T: 250.592.3838 | C: 250.882.9199 | deirdre@tartangroup.ca
    Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Google+ | Mailing Address
    Victoria • Vancouver • New York
    GET INVOLVED IN SUSTAINABLE TOURISM TODAY!
    Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC) | www.ecotourismconference.org
    The ESTC brings together innovative minds from across the industry to discuss practical ideas and solutions that inspire positive changes. Sept 17-19, 2012, Monterey, California, USA

    The International Ecotourism Society www.ecotourism.org
    Global Sustainable Tourism Council www.gstcouncil.org 
    Rainforest Adventures www.rainforestadventure.com
    Patagonia Sur  Reserves, Chile www.patagoniasurreserves.com
    Sustainable  travel in Central America www.cayugaonline.com
    Nimmo Bay Resort www.nimmobay.com
    Nature Air, Costa Rica www.natureair.com
    Wildland Adventures www.wildland.com
    Maple Leaf Adventures  www.mapleleafadventures.com
    Inn at Laurel Point ( BC’s first carbon neutral hotel!) www.laurelpoint.com
    Clayoquot Wilderness Resort www.wildretreat.com
    Offsetters www.offsetters.ca

    TRAVEL FOREVER

    Deirdre Campbell and Terry Rachwalski run the Tartan Group, a Victoria BC based public relations and communications firm specializing in tourism and hospitality. They love to be in constant improvement mode so a bit of PR soul searching is not out of the ordinary.


    Last month, Kate and I had the opportunity to travel to Whitehorse, YT to attend the annual Canadian Tourism Commission Go Media Marketplace.

    As Senior Communications Specialist, this was my first media marketplace, and I couldn't have been more excited, in addition to being somewhat nervous. I had so many questions for Kate, who we consider to be the guru of media marketplace shows. What should I wear? What if I say something wrong? Is there really midnight sun? Will you sit next to me on the plane? Where are we going again?

    Kate’s short answer to all my questions was, “don’t worry. It’s going to be a lot of fun and you’re going to absolutely amazing.” Well, at least that’s what I heard her say; I’m paraphrasing.
    Tartan Group Media Shows
    The concept of a media marketplace is fairly straightforward: ‘Partners’, i.e. Tartan Group, set up appointments with journalists that are 15 minutes in length, every 15 minutes, for two, 2-hour periods over two days. A different explanation is that it’s ‘speed dating with the media’.

    During the marketplace, Kate and I each met with 32 different journalists. In these sessions we were able to share stories of tourism PR clients, learn more about the journalist’s interests, and hopefully make a lasting impression; much like my 32 appointments, each journalist had their own set of meetings.

    Combined with these appointments, we were also warmly welcomed at amazing partner events, including lunches and evening receptions. The Yukon has amazing hospitality!

    Overall, this experience was fantastic. I learned a lot (especially from Kate), met some amazing journalists and partners, walked in the footsteps of some literary greats like Pierre Berton and Robert Service, and created memories that will last a lifetime.
    Tartan Group Media Shows
    Some of my favourite memories from Whitehorse include:
    • Finding out that Kate ate my warm chocolate chip cookie while I was napping during our Air North flight to Whitehorse. You snooze, you lose!
    • Realizing that, unlike the parks in Nanaimo and Victoria, the WildPlay Yukon park means the harder the course, the lower the trees. The view was amazing above the boreal forest.
    • Being informed, somewhat politely by various partners, that no one wears a suit to their appointments. This resulted in a number of jokes made at my expense.
    • Loving that it can look like it is 3 p.m. when it’s actually 11 p.m. I was never up early (or late) enough to see the sun rise.
    • Discovering that the mountain biking skills I had when I was a teenager are not as easy to execute at age 31. A full front flip tumble makes for a sore thigh and a good story.
    • Loving that as a group, the people of Whitehorse are some of the nicest people I have ever met. From baristas to bartenders and flight attendants to lift operators, their warm welcome would be tough to beat. 

    Brian Cant is the Senior Communications Specialist for the Tartan Group, a public relations company in Victoria, BC.


    I moderated a session on the Social Affect on Tourism Marketing at Social Media Camp on June 9, 2012 at 9:45 - 10:45 a.m. The panel will cover how to plan, create and measure social media campaigns.

    Social Media and Tourism

    When we first started talking about putting together this panel, we wanted to give specifics about how to start implementing or improving your digital presence. We wanted to be able to speak to the novice, but also give some examples of more sophisticated promotions.

    We based the theme on the Plan, Do, Check/Act method of project planning, so the panel members can lead attendees through a process. We wanted to create a session for the tourism operator who needs to hear about how others have implemented social media programs and what worked and what didn’t.

    Tourism Social Media Planning

    Tartan digital maven and management consultant, Terry Rachwalski will start out describing how she leads our tourism clients through the stages and check points of a social media program. Your key takeaways will be how to create an integrated social media and public relations strategy and give real world examples of how to manage promotions. Terry has multiple social media promotions in the tourism industry running at any given time and just spent two weeks travelling in Central America presenting to tourism operators and taming spiders - she knows what your pain points are!
    Social Media Social Search Spider Training Social Media Training for Tourism PR Client

    Running a Tourism Social Media Community

    Avril Matthews, marketing director at Inn at Laurel Point, a Victoria waterfront hotel. Avril is a busy twitterbug and a long time, experienced tourism/hotel marketer; she does all the social media herself. So if you want to know HOW to do it and how to manage your time, Avril is the person to ask. She will walk us through the “Do” part of the process and discuss how she uses social media for client retention and to build loyalty with the Inn at Laurel Point brand.

    Tourism Journalists, Public Relations and Social Media

    To round out the session, we thought that anyone interested in social media for tourism needs to hear from a journalist. Tourism public relations is a time-honoured method to get your story out. And we rely on travel influencers like award-winning journalist and Lonely Planet author, John Lee to tell the story. Whether it is a witty review of favorite watering holes, scintillating discussion of cultural adventure or the allure of Reykjavik hotspots, John looks for colourful insights and anecdotes that bring a story and a destination to life.  And where does his research start? Well – it’s not the library. As the “Check/Act” portion of the panel, John will speak on how social media and web presence has changed the research landscape for journalists and discuss how operators can garner attention to shine the light on their properties.

    Tourism PR: Deirdre Campbell

    Deirdre Campbell is the founder and co-owner of the Tartan Group, a tourism public relations and communications firm specializing in tourism and eco-travel. 


    Editing in public relations and marketing Victoria, BCWhether you’re a client or a regular visitor to our online media centre, chances are pretty good that you’ve come across some pretty funky spellings and oddities in our press releases – you can thank CP Style for that.

    CP Style, The Canadian Press Style, was developed as a way to improve writing and spelling consistency and uniformity between staff at The Canadian Press, Canada’s national news agency. So why do we, as non-journalists, write in CP Style? The answer is to make the lives of our journalist friends just that much easier – if our press releases are already written in the correct language, it’s simple for editors to plop the copy into a publication or broadcast minutes before deadline. (And the same can be said for non-CP Stylers, too: it’s way too easy to be left on the cutting room floor!)

    Below are a few brain-busting tips and tricks when it comes to writing in CP Style. Enjoy!

    The weird: dates and times – When we write specific dates, the rule of CP thumb is to abbreviate long months (Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.), but keep short months how they are (March, April, May, June and July). Now if you’re referring to just the month (with or without a year), this rule goes out the window and you spell the month out, regardless of length. In reference to times, we never use the :00 ending (so 11 instead of 11:00) and we also tack on an “a.m.” or a “p.m.” (in lowercase with no spaces). Here are some examples:

    • Terry’s set to compete in a ski race on Dec. 8, 2012.
    • Brian’s only allowed to wear his ski pants to work during the month of February.
    • Deirdre always changes into her base layers at quitting time, about 5 p.m.

    The weirder: proper titles – In CP Style, we capitalize titles only in rare circumstances – a rule that, by far, is the one we get the greatest amount of flack about. Former titles immediately preceding a name are capitalized (Prime Minister Stephen Harper), but lowercased when standing alone (the prime minister). And, as rule of thumb, job descriptions are always lowercased. Some examples:

    • The prime minister was joansing for a jelly doughnut.
    • Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked to stop at Tim Hortons on the way to the meeting.
    • The assistant restaurant manager searched high and low for that perfectly plump jelly doughnut. 

    The weirdest: numbers – Just when you think you’ve mastered the CP language, I’m here to tell you about numbers. We use “per cent” instead of “percent” (or “%”) and whole dollar figures ($5 instead of $5.00). We also like to totally blow your mind and spell out numbers one through nine, but use numerical figures for numbers 10 and up. Some examples:

    • That cat is on sale for $50 – what a steal!
    • I think my new cat is only working at 10 per cent brain capacity.
    • They say cats have nine lives, but I think mine is verging on 27. 

    Do you have a question or comment about CP Style? If so, shoot us an email or drop a line.

    Brian Cant is Senior Communications Coordinator with the Tartan Group, a leading public relations and communications firm in the tourism and travel industry. Passionate about his craft, Brian loves to share his love for travel (and the opportunities it creates) with anyone who'll listen – including his cat, Jez. The Tartan Group specializes in integrated marketing communications for eco-lodges and sustainable business.


    Public relations sense of arrivalMaybe it is because I started my career in the hospitality business. I was taught that one of the most important times of client interaction is when they first arrive at your door step.  

    And the best hotel in the world? It is the one where they know your name.   

    This “sense of arrival” is critical in building a relationship with guests and can determine whether they will ever return again. (This is also why we often refer to our client’s websites as their new front door, but more on that later).  

    Screw it up – and you and your team have to make up for it during their whole stay with you. Get it right and you have the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

    Let me give an example. Recently on a trip to South America from Victoria, I arrived at the Pearson International Airport’s Maple Leaf Lounge. The woman checking me in barely looked up from her screen to acknowledge me, handed me back my ticket and said, “international.” She looked away without even smiling or saying my name – not a great sense of arrival, is it? And, it is bad PR. 

    Further confusing the matter, the woman checking our tickets as I entered the international terminal said I couldn’t leave once I was inside the terminal. I had a 10-hour lay over and a meeting with The Globe &Mail downtown later in the day, so the concept of not being able to leave was definitely not going to work for me.

    I returned to the domestic Maple Leaf Lounge, not very happy. And neither was the greeter! She let me in, mumbling under her breath the whole time how guests leave the international lounge all the time. Being the tourism advocate that I am, I was aching to hike over to the international Maple Leaf Lounge just to see if the sense of arrival was any different! Thanks to the non-welcoming sense of arrival from Ms. Domestic Terminal they would have to prove themselves to me now. 

    Does greeting guests matter? Of course it does. Whether it is in person, on-line or in writing, make your sense of arrival count. When clients ask me, “when does the PR start?” I tell them it starts the very first time you meet your client, wherever that is.

    Deirdre Campbell is President of the Tartan Group, a leading public relations and communications firm in the tourism and travel industry. Deirdre is a fearless advocate of using travel for economic development and to promote peace. She loves to travel and always takes notice of the PR relationship her clients offer. The Tartan Group specializes in integrated marketing communications for eco-lodges and sustainable business.