How to score ‘free’ hotel stays through your blog

Intercon DFC lobby

So, you’re a (travel) blogger planning to go somewhere nice and want to save up on accommodation costs. You would be writing about your travel – the destination, interesting spots you find and maybe, about your accommodation. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could cut the cost by setting a little sweet arrangement with a local hotel – a complimentary stay in exchange for a blog post or features on social media? I mean, you would be writing about it anyway.

In this post, I’m sharing a few strategies on how to score free hotel stays but first,

Who am I to write this kind of post?

For a while now, this little blog of mine has enabled me to enjoy sponsored/complimentary accommodation in and out of the UAE sponsored by the hotels since 2014. It’s a great travel perk since I do budget travel most of the time, if I can.

Deluxe Beach Villa With Pool-1

One of the first successful pitches I had was scoring a private villa with pool accommodation in the Maldives in 2014. It was a great stroke of LUCK!

Pitching for a sponsored accommodation won’t work for you if:

  • You prefer not to plan ahead. You travel spontaneously, wanting to take your own sweet time and change your itinerary on spur of the moment decisions.
  • You don’t want to feel the pressure and obligation to write about the accommodation (feel that it’s not worth your time and effort)
  • The accommodation options where you are travelling isn’t expensive anyway.
  • Writing about accommodation reviews do not suit well with the topics on your blog.


intercon prague

Staying for two nights at the Intercontinental Prague, central location, very near to the Old Town

1. List what you can offer

But first off, it is important to note that I only started sending pitches and proposals for accommodation sponsorships 4 years ago – SEVEN years after I started this blog and have built a decent base of readership and traffic.

However, the emphasis here is NOT the number of years. You don’t have to wait for seven years before you send your first proposal but personally, I think that your attempts would be more fruitful if you have at least one or two thousand unique monthly readers (unique visitors, not page views!), so you’re sure you have something to offer.

(It is also important to note that I started to send pitches only in 2014 because when I started blogging in 2007, blogging wasn’t really about collaborating with brands and I’ve not heard of “sponsorships” back then.)

2. Know the right person to send the email to

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.

balcony view

Our room in Bohol, Philippines with balcony overlooking the sea

TIP: I receive a lot of press releases from different hotels and whenever I am interested in contacting that specific hotel, I reply back and ask for the contact person of the hotel at my destination. For example, if I get a press release from Intercontinental Dubai and I plan to get in touch with the marketing person at any Intercontinental Hotel Group in Prague or Manila, I ask the person from Intercontinental Dubai (who sent me the press release) for the contact details of their constituents in Prague/Manila.

3. Timing is a big factor for your proposals to get noticed

When is the best time to email hotels? The answer would always be, the earlier, the better. I always send my proposal email at least 2 months ahead. If your stay is going to happen sooner, just give it a shot but accept that they may not be able to arrange something for you.

Which day should you send your email?

The day of the week is a big factor when sending your well written proposal. If you’re sending it to someone who has Monday-Fridays as their work week, do not send your proposal on Saturday and Sunday, even if you only have the weekend as time to send important emails like this. I prefer to send my proposals on Tuesdays when their work load are lessened. I don’t know, I think if I put myself in their shoes, I would set aside emails asking for favors on Mondays for later…and would dig through other important stuff on the first work day of the week. Do not send the proposal email on a Friday too, since the person at the other end could go home early and won’t see your email till Monday.

Same rule when sending to areas where the work week is Sunday-Thursday. Do not send on Sunday or Thursday, nor the weekend days of Friday and Saturday.

4. Prepare to put in work

movenpick tala bay

I mentioned in the title, “free” hotel stays but in reality, nothing is really free because though you would not shell out cash, you’re shelling out your time.

Time to talk to the hotel duty manager during your stay, to take photos of the property, to update on social media. Time to observe the little details to include in your blog post and lastly, to write that blog post (after you’ve gone through the hundreds of photos from your travel and editing them).


The reality is that if  hotels agree to host your stay it is because they are expecting something in return. You are in a partnership in which you trade something that you can provide (publicity through coverage on your blog) for something the sponsor can provide (a room for a night or two with no charge).

It’s always a trade off between the benefit of staying in a lovely hotel that you might not otherwise afford and the work you have to put in afterwards to pay back for your stay.

It is a lot of work to get hosted accommodations, tours, restaurant visits, etc and a whole lot of work writing about all the experiences. If you’re already feeling exhausted at the thought of all this work just to get a free night in a nice hotel, then you may be better to stick to paying for your own accommodation which I mostly do – because sometimes a free night stay (or maybe even a few hours) isn’t worth it if after that I have to be away from the kids to face the PC after my day job for hours on end to write a review blog post.

However, if you’re still up to the challenge, it’s time to compose that proposal email to send to potential sponsors.


Your email should be concise but complete with answers the hotel might be asking. These are the basic things to include in your pitch.

1. Who are you?

Keep it short. Mention your name, the name of your blog and what your blog is about.

2. Why are you emailing?

Here, I mention briefly that I am visiting a city on a certain date and inquire if they work with bloggers and willing to consider a collaboration.

3. What is your blog about and its vital statistics

Mention your blog and its analytics (current monthly page views, unique visitors). It also helps to add a note why you think X hotel is a good fit for your blog audience.

4. What are you asking for?

Be clear if you are asking for a media rate (discounted rate) or a free stay. For how many nights? And how many rooms?

5. What can you offer in return?

Don’t over promise. Tell them if they are getting 1 or more blog post review with links to their website or how many Instagram posts.

Under promise, over deliver. Always.

BONUS: Include links to hotel reviews you have done in the past. Word of caution: Send only ONE link or two, max. Sending many links in an email and that email could land in the spam folder of the recipient!

I would recommend that you initially send a tailored email to your 5 top choices for accommodation and if you have not had any positive responses within a week, target another 5, and keep going.

All the photos that I’ve featured in this article are some of the places where I’ve stayed either on a sponsored basis (clicking on the photos will take you to the hotel review blog post).


Because of my blog, I’ve been able to stay in some fantastic accommodation (5 nights in the Maldives!) that I couldn’t otherwise afford but I ALWAYS put the work in to ‘pay’ for my stay, even if the payment wasn’t in the form of cash.

Subsequently, I get invites to stay complimentary at hotels with my family in exchange for a blog post or social media coverage because the hotels looking for online exposure has seen my previous work.

The thought of staying at hotels at every destination you travel without paying in cash (or any other monetary form) is wonderful but most of the time, I choose sponsorships carefully and not ask for it as often as I would love to (who doesn’t like stuff you didn’t have to pay with money?) because of reasons like,

  • I would want to be in the moment and enjoy the hotel stay rather than be busy taking photos or updating social media
  • My blog schedule is full and I can’t commit time to write a review post after my trip
  • I feel that overdoing “free” stays could compromise my personal voice which in blogging, is pretty much all I have.
I know I’ve called it ‘free’ in the title of this blog post because, like a good blogger, I’ve done my keyword research and found that’s what people are searching for so I used that word instead of ‘sponsored’ or ‘complimentary’. But I’ll say it again before I close this post: bloggers get complimentary stay as payment for the work they put in which involves time, skill and effort – and these don’t come for free.

I hope you get something out of the tips I mentioned above and good luck on scoring your first “free” hotel stay! If you have any questions, fire away!

Hacking could happen to any of us (even Verified Twitter users!)

A couple of nights ago, I woke up to check on Twitter and learned that one of the Philippine’s fastest rising star in the entertainment world today, Maine Mendoza’s VERIFIED Twitter account was hacked and the hackers were maliciously posting on her accounts.

Maine is half of the phenomenal love team ‘AlDub’ (AlDub is a term coined by fans that represent a combination of Alden + Yaya Dub, their characters in a show segment “Kalyeserye”) and has a massive following on social media. Kalyeserye has gained popularity because it highlights traditional Filipino values from all aspects of life including old style of courting between two of the main characters. The witty and funny dialogues of the characters provides good, clean entertainment that’s very addicting.

Her appeal to the masses is undeniable and inexplicable, I could say it’s simply “magical”. I am one of her millions of fans and will shamelessly admit that I have spent time watching her segment on a noon time show after work, after I tuck the kids in bed. I am at work when it airs live Philippine time so I am Team Replay but I follow the updates closely on Twitter and couldn’t wait to get home to watch it everyday!

Maine Mendoza just celebrated her 4th month in the entertainment industry. Only FOUR short months and together with Alden Richards, the other half of the AlDub love team, she’s bagged TV commercials from major brands and more in line, had been the cover of magazines, their/her face is all over the huge billboards in Metro Manila.

And how can we forget October 24, 2015 when a show called Tamang Panahon featuring their most awaited meeting filled the Philippine Arena, the world’s largest indoor arena with 55,000 seating capacity?

This popular TV couple in the Philippines have smashed a social media record.

On 24 October, the hashtag #AlDubEBTamangPanahon (translation: AlDub, in the right time) drew more than 41 million tweets, smashing the previous Twitter record held by Brazil’s 2014 Fifa World Cup defeat to Germany.

A lot has happened in her 4 short months stint in show business but her charming, down to earth and very likeable personality has got her etched in the hearts of the people in the Philippines and abroad.

Maine rose to fame in break neck speed. Her Twitter account is the fastest growing account next to Taylor Swift and Katy Perry. Once a very private person living a quiet life, she can’t go outside unnoticed anymore. Life has changed for Maine Mendoza, the one she wished for.

But what is the prize of fame?

Sadly, there is always envy in the hearts of people who can’t be happy with the success of others.

Then there’s called BUSINESS.

Maine has been considered a “threat” to the rival network. Their ratings have gone down and TV commercials, the bread and butter of every television network has drastically lessened. Maine is the current gold mine. She is the bomb. Even the lipstick brand and shade she is using (and not endorsing) has been sold out all over the country. Everything she touches turns to gold, including Alden Richards’ career.

Last Tuesday, Maine Mendoza’s Twitter account was hacked by the activist (hacktivist) group AnonymousPH. The hacking incident headlined local newspapers and even featured abroad too in, Mashable just to name one.

First, the group said they hacked her Twitter account to be able to spread their message (a rally against the government on November 5). The next thing we knew, they are threatening to leak her private messages. And they released a statement that they are enraged how AlDub has become too much of a distraction for the Filipino people, it made the public become blind and deaf of the country’s real issues. WTF. Blaming a 30 minute show for the country’s problems. If at all, this short segment provides a temporary relief for everyone from different walks of life in the Philippines, with most people living below poverty line.

And then there’s a circulating speculation that the hackers were paid to do a demolition job – to invade Maine’s privacy, tarnish her name and ultimately demolish the growing popularity. The hackers even threatened to release information about her private messages (her email, Instagram and Facebook and Twitter were all hacked). They later claimed they did not find anything lewd to leak so they returned her accounts. (That was why Ms. Mendoza though disappointed, was not too distraught with the hacking because she has no embarrassing things in her account…)

The reality of cyber bullying is sad and disgusting. It makes people who are active online feel unsafe.

I’ve been blogging for at least 10 years and active on other social media platforms and this this incident made me think a lot – no one is really safe.Celebrity or not, cyber bullying is real and a scary matter as long as there is envy, hate and maybe just bored people wanting to make a scene and disrupt the peace of others.

Whether we have embarrassing things in our private messages or not, it’s time we rethink about online security and secure our accounts. Reset, strengthen our passwords and be vigilant.

Have you been a victim of hacking/cyber bullying? Has it ever crossed your mind that you could be a victim one day?

Helpful reference: What to do when your social media accounts are hacked from

Is social media killing blogging? (and little updates about me)


My brain is not working to find a sensible title, so apologies.

Sorry for the lack of updates. Maybe I am suffering from blogger’s burnout so this blog seems like a ghost town these past few days but I am very much alive in other social media channels!

Follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook?

I remember before, it was easy to know what bloggers are up to. I mean, what the blog owners are up to: you open their blogs and read the latest post. That’s it.

But if we’re going to apply that nowadays, what you would see on my blog would be pretty inaccurate. It would seem that I am still stuck in Salzburg, Austria, or somewhere in the mountains of Austria with a PC and a WiFi, editing photos and writing blogs about my travel to that wonderful, magical place.

No, I am not in Austria any more.

It’s been three weeks since I bade goodbye to those hills that made my heart sing. I’m back in Dubai, back to work and daily grind but alas, there’s this thing called “microblogging” killed my previously very passionate blogging mojo so I have not been updating this page and sharing what I am up to as often as I did.

REAL TALK: Many of my blog posts have died because they fit into one tweet. Or one Instagram post.

During pre-Twitter/Facebook/Instagram days, I always run to blogging to write what’s on my mind, to share what I feel. Now, it is so much easier to share on these microblogging social media channels.

I am sure I am not the only blogger who feels the same way?

There’d be days or weeks that bloggers don’t update but they are up to date on social media. For myself, I linger around Twitter much these days and trying to build better Instagram following so spending more time there too. Or I post a photo on my blog’s Facebook page and tell a short story. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook is quicker than blogging. Twitter for example, is faster and it’s open to more people…sadly too much tweeting makes real blogging seem like an exhausting task.

Too bad, I know. I hope to change that.

** EDITED November 2016: I am not into late nights anymore and not watching any shows. Just feeling a bit overwhelmed with everything from single parenting to work and other responsibilities but I shall get back!! **

So what’s the current goings on with my life right now (as if anyone is interested..)? Well, I am still working full time, juggling being a wife to my husband and mom to our two kids. Benjamin’s going to be 4 years old on the 28th October and the husband’s going to be 10 times older than Benjamin the day after. I still don’t know what to do on those days.

Truth is, I am not functioning well right now. I blame late nights, no exercise and too much sugar (chocolates). I can explain all, one by one.

Late nights – As of this writing – I am hooked on a TV show. There I said it. It’s an addiction I couldn’t stop even if I tried. I started watching it at my parent’s house in the Philippines and continued to watch it on my phone when I got back to Dubai (we do not have TV channels installed at home in Dubai).

If you’re on Twitter and have seen a hashtag that trends worldwide every day that starts with #ALDUB something-something, that’s what I am hooked with and I don’t want to check in a rehab for that. Kalyeserye, a segment from the Philippines’ longest running TV show is addicting, especially the love team Alden and Yaya Dub (thus AlDub).

I could write another lengthy post to describe what this AlDub fever is but I’m not going to. Just think there are millions and millions of Filipinos within the Philippines and abroad addicted to it. We are a crazy bunch. I am not ashamed to say I am one of them because I am not be ashamed to admit something that makes me happy (as long as I am not breaking any law LOL). The thing makes me laugh. And whatever makes me happy and laugh at this point in my life? I don’t care even if it comes from a TV show. Crazy but happy, crazy happy. Whatever.

However, I should be ashamed of the late nights because I know myself too much to know that I will never be a night person. This is why I have not allowed myself to watch any TV series because I am a weakling if I get hooked. The last TV series I followed was Charmed and Smallville…no judging.

No exercise (insert horror emoji) – I had been exercising regularly for maybe a year now. I was consistent, though had taken a bit of a break during my 4 weeks in the Philippines this year. I wasn’t too concerned not going to the gym while I was there…I was active and sweating with the hot weather.

Then I got back to my usual routine after vacation then I flew to Austria in September. I did not follow any workout routine there too but was walking for 5/6 hours non-stop, climbing mountains and eating less. My sister said I lost weight when she saw me back from my week long stay in Austria, maybe true or she just wanted that other bar of chocolate I had on my fridge.

But here’s the kicker…I never got back to my exercise schedule again. I miss the kick ass girl who was very determined as hell. Where did she go? Can you help me find her and when you see her slap her and kick her in the rear, tell her to get back on track?

I blame mild depression which may have been caused by my visit to Austria. The place was so beautiful that it made me sad when I see the things around me in Dubai, when I am walking to work and melting like a candle in the heat and ridiculous humidity (when is summer ever gonna end?!) even in late October. SORRY for the raw honesty! Or this might just be a phase because of my late nights…I can’t wake up in the morning to exercise or I will be late for work.

And work had been a little uninspiring too these days. Sigh.

And when I don’t exercise? I tend to be loose on my discipline on food. Boo. Chocolates and Cheetos. BOOM.

Sorry for the being such a bore. What a dizzying post. This is the result of not updating often.

Hope all is well with you, if you are reading this and may you have a great weekend!

Closing the gap between F & B PRs and bloggers

I’ve been fortunate to have been invited by different restaurants who wanted bloggers to sample their dishes. As a blogger, I will admit that receiving these invites is really exciting – I won’t lie. And I do go to a few food tasting and opening events. I say “few” because I am not a food blogger but do want to highlight hip, trendy restaurants worth visiting from time to time.

(While I am thankful for every invite I receive, I am quite picky these days – as you know, the invites to eat do not come with a gym membership…)

A few days ago, my blogger friends and I were invited to an opening of one of the newest restaurants in town. The event was posh to say the least, complete with red carpet and display of interesting creatures straight out from a children’s fantasy book. It was exciting and I can’t wait how the night would unfold.

Unfortunately, our experience, in general, was a big let down.

In fairness, the food was great and I could’ve used a lot of adjectives to plump up a blog post about it however, the treatment and service we received was very disappointing enough to merit this long-ish, impromptu blog post.

I was busy that night, not to savor the food and exchange opinions with the bloggers in my table but busy to call the attention of the servers and ask if they can at all see us and why our table was without food that was served in other tables.

The servers and the waiters seem to act like there’s an invisiblity cloak hanging over our heads and just whizzed by us until we were too hungry to ignore them. I had to go around and find the PR who invited me (us).

The PR said when I finally caught her and introduced myself, “Oh, you’re the blogger I invited, please get busy with social media, write good things about tonight’s event!”

I replied, “Oh yes, I would gladly do that IF ONLY I had something to talk about…we are not served any food as we speak. We don’t have anything to share on social media.”

We were done talking about the ambiance, the music and the restaurant decors…

She apologized but said “you should have told me earlier!” (sounds like a lame defensive remark, really), pointing the fault to me/us why we didn’t complain earlier. 

It’s unfortunate when PR and blogger relationships turn sour (especially on first meeting!) so I have compiled a list of things that I wish PR people, especially those handling F & B accounts would bear in mind for a more successful relationship with bloggers:

1. Please don’t assume that bloggers only go to the event for free food.

…that you don’t care to check whether they came or not and meet them in person.

While there may be those kind of bloggers, some go to these food tasting events to genuinely check out the venue, the service and the menu. And want to meet the PR who invited them. It’s always great to put a face behind the email address.

2. Do not discriminate bloggers against print media people.

If you’ll invite bloggers and people from traditional print media, please don’t make the distinction and discrimination too obvious like placing bloggers at the back of the room and served LAST, if at all. If you really need to put more importance to print media people, then it’s best idea to not invite bloggers (if they will just end up looking like wallpapers).

We do not expect to be treated VIP, but only being served the main dish when all others are starting to finish their dessert is really off. No, I’d be honest – it’s upsetting.

3. Bloggers are not venue fillers!

There had been instances where bloggers were invited for an opening of a restaurant and they couldn’t even find where the PR is. There’s no one to greet them. The PR who invited is lost in the crowd, never attempting to make contact with the invited bloggers until the event ends…makes bloggers want to ask, “what are we here for?”

4. Do not send last minute invites.

Last minute invites mean something, and it’s not really pleasant or welcoming. Do not send invites to an opening event 2 days or one day or worse, a few hours before the event itself. Please see #3.

5. Do not pressure the blogger to write about the opening event of your restaurant.

I understand why you had to invite bloggers – to create a buzz around the establishment, the brand and maybe the opening event. Bloggers will happily post on social media real time (mostly Instagram and Twitter), sometimes only start touching the food that has already gone cold because they had to work first.

But a blog post?

…unless the certain blogger really wants to write about it but I believe that an opening ceremony is not a good and justifiable event anyway to cover to get a general view of the restaurant’s food quality and service. Typically a fair review is where  you are experiencing what the “real customers or clients” are getting when they visit. If you want the blogger to publish a review of the restaurant, invite him/her for a separate sit down where he/she can sample what you have to offer so he/she will be able to share his/her opinion about it.

In the end, we were served a basket of bread, water, some soft drinks for those who asked, a small plate of appetizers and the main dish that came only after almost everyone in the room (especially the print media people in the other side of the room) finished with theirs. And only after constant asking and finally, complaint.

PR stands for public relations. Unfortunately with most PR people I’ve met, the latter word seems to be the hardest one to perfect.

Meet up with Michael Hodson, travel blogger


Traveling. Writing. Writing while traveling. Traveling to write something.

I’d really love to do that. I mean, that would be the best way to live my life, for me. I am passionate to do both until the day I die, so to speak. So naturally, I stalk travel blogs and do a lot of arm chair travel as I am strapped to my 8-6 job day in and day out, 5 days a week. My first real life meeting with a travel blogger was back in 2010 when Kristin Luna of and she was amazing. I learned a lot from her and amazed at her stories. I also found out how becoming a travel blogger is not easy as it seems from the outside. It is hard work.

A few days ago, I had the chance to meet another travel blogger in person, Michael Hodson of Go, See, Write. I and other members of the media as well as few other bloggers met with Michael at Shayan Persian Restaurant, Al Ghurair Rayhaan by Rotana.

Michael started his “blog”, or online journal, largely focused on sharing the story of his travels when he left his job as an attorney in the US in 2008 to circumnavigate the world without getting on an airplane. 

Did that get your attention? I bet he’s been asked “how?” a thousand times over.

Michael Hodson Go See Write

It was interesting to hear stories straight from the horse’s mouth, per se, than just reading about their experiences. And it doesn’t hurt that we were listening to Michael in a cozy Persian restaurant serving authentic Iranian dishes. If you haven’t been to Shayan and trying to fix that Persian food craving, this is a place to visit (it’s worth the traffic to Deira if you’re traveling from the Marina – though that can be solved by taking the Metro!).

Listening to Michael talk about his adventures, I still hope to travel as extensively as I can, taking the kids for sure. There are many travel bloggers/writers, most of them going to places solo. I would want to take the challenge of traveling with kids in tow (yep, I am crazy) to show people that, that too, can be possible. Go to far places, take photos, write, enjoy. Repeat.

Grace in Bangkok palace 2011

Blogger Outreach: Travel edition

Grace in Bangkok 2011

Just right after I wrote about blogger outreach a couple of days ago, this landed in my inbox:

“Hello. We’re looking for expat bloggers living in Dubai to blog about our airline client. Our client will fly the selected bloggers to a city in Asia and they will have to blog about their experiences.  Can you send us your blog analytics (showing subscribers and monthly traffic)?”

I’ve been contacted by a PR agency for their client (I won’t drop names), an airline company, who wants to send bloggers to a city in Asia for a blogger’s trip: free trip in exchange of posts, much like what I did when I worked with the Tourism Authority of Thailand in 2011 on a trip to Bangkok and Huahin and my recent trip to Istanbul, sponsored by Turkish Airlines.

You all know that travel and blogging (immersing in culture, taking photos and writing about those experiences) are two of my passions so I was ready to jump on this one but here’s what stopped me.

“Our client is very strict in the selection of bloggers and want the bloggers who have 100,000 followers (subscribers?) and high page view numbers per month.”

I wanted to laugh. What a perfect example of a flawed blogger outreach.

They really didn’t take their time to research, tsk. First of all, there isn’t a blog with 100,000 subscribers here in Dubai. I might be wrong and do correct me if I am or if that is your blog, please don’t throw a violent fit and leave a comment instead! I would like to see a stellar blog I might have missed

Second, as I have mentioned in my recent article about blogger outreach, bigger numbers are not always better. What if there exists a blog with high subscriber/page view count BUT in a very different niche? Maybe a blog with sky high traffic but not travel/lifestyle related ? Would they still consider it? 

This client obviously needs a blogger who writes about lifestyle and travel but is concentrating on looking for that high profile blogger regardless of what type of blog? Mind boggling.

Another very important point they have missed in their research (if they at all) is that high profile travel bloggers with those kind of numbers don’t go to blog trips for free. On top of the free accommodation, air tickets and food, most travel bloggers I know (based in the US at least) require a per day fee for their services. 

And rightly so.

Thailand bloggers trip 2011

A blogger’s trip/media trip/familiarization trip is hard work. The itinerary is almost always rushed and you’re whisked from one place to another. You have to keep up with documenting things: take photographs, listen to the guide despite heavy jet lag and take down notes. 

Then put everything together and blog about your experience, adding client links. Of course, don’t get me wrong, it’s fun and I enjoyed my trips to Thailand and Turkey but it is undeniably tough and exhausting.

All I’m trying to say is that I wish the client and the agency were realistic about this. Do a research, asking the following questions to themselves:

  • What audience do we want to reach out to?

Are you looking for moms who write about family travels, a businessman who reviews business hotels or amenities, or a blogger who blogs about group travel or solo travel? Be specific.

  • What value will we bring to the blogger and their readers?

Decide on what benefits you want to offer the (travel) bloggers and to their readers, and aim for a win-win partnership.

  • What do we want these bloggers to do for us?

Bloggers are receiving pitches from companies just like yours on a regular basis. So be transparent about what you are asking of them. Do you want them to stay at your property and review it? Attend an event in your destination? Or, try out your new spa services? Also, be specific of what type of social media coverage you’re seeking, such as Facebook mentions or live Tweeting at an event.

live tweeting in Istanbul

 ~ Bloggers live tweeting (updating social media channels) in Istanbul ~

But what really stumped me: the demand of high statistics

Not that that it is not important because it is but again, I can’t reiterate this more: bigger is not always better. A blogger who is in touch with his/her audience, has loyal followers are more likely to have more influence that those with a huge number of groupies. 

It’s not about the numbers, it’s about engagement.

So an equally important question would also be: which blogger is active/influential AND highly engaged with their followers in other social platforms other than his/her blog but also on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram? Look at the bigger picture and never underestimate the power of micro-blogging platforms!


There has been a change as to how travelers plan their next vacation. Before, guide books were the primary source of information but these days, there’s a survey that travelers who do their research online, seeking tips and recommendations from websites, blogs and social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are increasing. 

And reaching out to bloggers can be a cost-effective tool {cheaper!} for marketing hotels online or marketing a destination – if implemented appropriately. 

Lastly, another peeve: I wish PR agencies don’t ask bloggers to do work for them.

“My client need a bigger reach and your blog doesn’t have enough followers yet. If you know any other bloggers who might be interested, please send us their details.”

If I don’t meet your criteria as your required blogger, fine – I  know that my blog isn’t all-powerful yet. But to then add insult to injury and expect me to pass the details of my blogger friends, to save you the time? Please go back to the basic, “do your research”.


But, with all that said, I will make an exception because I know travel blogging is a new and hip gig that gets bloggers excited (free trip, baby!) and some of you reading this might be interested. I’m gonna do this just this once!

If you are a blogger based in Dubai and have the blog analytics I mentioned above and interested in working with an airline brand for a media/fam trip to a city in Asia for a few days and blog about it, please get in touch via comments so I can pass on your details to the PR agency! 

blogger outreach

Blogger Outreach: is it worth it?

blogger outreach

Lately, I’ve seen more and more companies in Dubai catching up with what is called: blogger outreach.

Blogger outreach is simply defined as the authentic pairing of your business with bloggers who create quality, engaging content about YOU! A blogger outreach campaign can be an opportunity to spread the word about your brand across numerous sites. 

Why bloggers? 

Bloggers don’t just write on the internet, they form vibrant communities through the telling of honest, authentic and often quite personal stories. This leads to trust; and trust drives actions. Blogger partnerships can help drive and leverage brands into the social media world by engaging real consumers with the brand’s story. This encourages would be customers to talk about the brand in an authentic way, creating social word of mouth.

But many, many businesses and brands, especially here in the UAE still hesitate and have this big question in mind: How can a brand or business gauge the number of products they sold or how many customers actually visited a restaurant (for example) via social word of mouth? Unless someone says, “hey I’ve come here because Grace (the blogger) said this restaurant/product rocks!” it’s difficult to measure the impact of the blogger outreach, isn’t it?

The simple answer: that same logic applies to billboard advertising or print advertising.

In both types of traditional advertising, it’s difficult to track which triggered a sale. But at least there is a way to tract online word of mouth: business/brands can track online mentions with simple tools like a Twitter search. I think that is the advantage of online vs offline word of mouth. 

So how do you find a blogger fit for your brand and build a successful blogger outreach program? Here are some tips:

1. Spend time researching.

A blogger outreach program is only effective if you can spend more than 30 seconds on each blog you found on Google. Find the bloggers who are already writing about your niche. For example, if you are in the food industry, you would want to approach a blogger that writes mostly about food and so on. Obviously.

notepad and iphone

Also remember when choosing your blogger that bigger is not always better. Sometimes that may be true but quite often, it’s not. Choose a blogger that interacts with his/her followers more often. It’s better to have a blogger who has a loyal, devoted following than someone who has just a huge number of pageviews. If you can find both, lucky!

2. Avoid an automated approach.

So you’ve got a list of 500 blogger emails? Don’t spam them all with a generic email. Tailor it to the top 10% and approach them personally, each addressing why you think they are the perfect match to your campaign.

Don’t forget to address them by their correct name! Nothing puts off than an email that starts with Dear Editor, Dear Blogger or in my case, “Dear Sandie”. 

Personalized introductory emails that clearly explain what’s on offer, and what’s needed, are going to be better than non-personal press releases. Press releases are one step away from being spam, if it isn’t already.

3.  Be clear with your expectations from the blogger.

If you haven’t worked with that particular blogger yet, introduce yourself and if you are in an agency, explain who your clients are and what you do for them. Help the blogger understand your goals and what the client expects to evaluate and measure success: page views, referral traffic, mentions, new Twitter followers, Facebook fans, etc.

4.  Promote and track results.

Share the blog post/s across all your social networks and ask the blogger to do the same. Sharing the blog post drives traffic to the blogger’s website and readers are likely to click on the links within the post, driving traffic to your website.

blogger network

Use your tracking tools (depending on your blogger outreach goals) to see if your strategy is effective.

5. Meet up offline (maintain your relationship with your chosen bloggers).

After the posts and engagement have passed, it’s still important to maintain relationships with the bloggers who worked with you because who knows when they’ll be able to collaborate with you with another campaign? Keep in touch and maintain a presence in their blog by leaving comments and interacting with them in their social media channels.

Meeting over coffee

And a chat over coffee (or any drink) is always a good idea, yes?

Photo credit

Lastly, never forget that a blogger outreach may also be a chance to irritate a bunch of influential people, too.

Not everything will be perfect, and you’ll run into negative feedback. If a blogger has a less than perfect experience, encourage them to be honest and transparent. It’s much more valid than if they lie and say everything’s great. Plus, it gives the blogger an opportunity to say how you fixed their problem.  And for you, it’s another place to improve and demonstrate your customer service.

It’s undeniable that bloggers can generate awareness around marketing campaigns by creating share-worthy / viral / contextual content, that works for the client and the blog audience (no selling out!). The right bloggers have built up a strong network and have a history of getting results, and relative to a million dollar TV campaign the kind of money for your blogger outreach program budget is peanuts. I’m obviously a little bit biased but more brands should give it a whirl. 

Blogging and vulnerability


Someone asked me, “Aren’t you afraid of what you’re sharing on your blog?”

I have been diary writing since grade school. This was back then when it’s all pen and paper, no running my fingers through the keyboard, no hitting the delete key. It was all honest, raw. Spontaneous. Once the ink trickled out of the pen, it’s final. Published.

Flash forward the internet age. I started a blog in 2004 (not this one) – it was nothing different than my handwritten journals, only this was ‘online’ and others can see, whether I allow them or not. It didn’t matter to me who was reading though somehow, those who did cared. They related to my stories, my challenges. They offered pieces of advice, they cheered me up, they made me feel heard.

But as more and more readers came, I became cautious. There are days I feel restrain, hoping the itch to write will go away.

There are things that I so wanted to talk about openly, to write but the fear of infamy stops me. If I pursue and write it with the devil may care attitude, it may be therapeutic for me but I could be judged and I’m not sure if I can handle it well. Also, I am not sure if anyone would even want to read it at all.

What is appropriate? What isn’t? I go through this in my mind a lot lately. I started blogging to look for a place to simply share my thoughts, the random things going around my head. The feelings I can’t shake off hoping someone would console and say, hey me too, you are not alone. And I did – I wrote more freely in the past. But as readers and subscribers grew, I felt I transformed into what they expected me to be.

And now I long for the carefree writings of the past. I want to get back to the old me, back to the essence of why I began.

Top Photo Credit

new leaf

Turning on a new leaf

new leaf

Hi, there. Please welcome back my blog from the grave – it’s been down for more than 24 hours but with a great reason! If you’re reading this from a mobile or an RSS feed reader, please click to see the new blog design.

(I’ll write about the design process and the designer in my next post. Also about that cutesy hand drawn illustration over at the top right, see, see.)


I chose a shade of blue/green (teal?) and orange as the main colors. The blue represents the color of the sea (in the beaches here in Dubai) and the orange is the color of the desert sand. The brownish color in the previous theme is gone, replaced with two colors that pop.  I hope you like it as I do.

There are still few fine tuning that needs to be done but I have to get this back up before you all go away thinking the blog had been swallowed by the internet black hole.

I will still be tweaking some elements here and there and if you find a hiccup, please let me know!

Top photo credit