How to Work with Influencers: Q & A with Travel Blogger and Photographer Sherry Ott

Sherry Ott is the founder of the travel blog Ott’s World. Since 2006 Sherry has traveled the world documenting her experiences. About 10 years ago, she began to dip her toes into influencer marketing. She was one of the first travel bloggers to do so.


We sat down with Sherry to get her thoughts on how travel companies can best work with travel blogging influencers like herself. Here is a bit of what she had to say:

What would you suggest travel companies looking to identify beneficial influencers?

Travel companies should look at an influencer’s demographic and areas of interest and determine if there is a synergy between the influencer and who the company is currently targeting.

How do travel companies find influencers?

It is not an easy process. It is quite overwhelming because there are so many travel bloggers who do a lot of things very differently. The best people to talk about you are the people who are already talking about you – companies should start by doing a search to identify these individuals. There are plenty of companies out there who can help you determine who you should be working with based on your goals. There are also online tools such as the Professional Travel Bloggers Association or Blogger Bridge.

How should travel companies vet influencers?

Many travel companies make the mistake of just looking at the numbers. It is not always about finding the influencer who has a million followers. You can sometimes spend less money with someone with less followers and get really targeted authentic work.

Sometimes the people with the largest following are the hardest to work with because they will probably require the most money, they have the most offers coming to them and, sometimes, it is harder to develop a long-term relationship with them.  

Whereas with smaller influencers they might be much easier to work with, more available to build a relationship with, and in the end, they can be just as or more effective.

Whoever it is, companies are going to work with they should make sure they can communicate and get along with them. It is like any other business relationship and it is important to build a rapport and make sure you are in alignment. (More about vetting influencers here.)

How should travel companies define what a reasonable exchange is with an identified influencer?

Part of that really depends on who you are talking to. Anyone contacted that is in the top 100 travel blogger list is going to expect payment because this is how they make a living. Many times, smaller influencers might not charge because they are happy with a free trip or a free product. I will take on a product sometimes to review for no money. I make that decision by asking myself “Is this really a product I am actually really interested in?”

How do travel companies ensure what is being said about them by the influencer is positive and on brand?

All of that can and should be in the contract. Some contracts say the influencer will not disparage the company but will instead, share a negative experience with the company. As far as the content generated, that is the company’s responsibility to work with the influencer on messaging.

What are some of the common topics covered in contacts between the travel company and the influencer?

Some contracts will have non-competes about how long the influencer must wait before working with another competitor. If the company has strict guidelines on exclusivity, they may have to pay more. 

I work with a lot of small businesses who have never worked with influencers. I tend to walk people through the process because I have done it so many times. We talk about their goals, what they want for exposure and from there it starts to take shape. Then the contract details out everything – even down to how many Tweets will occur during a trip or per day, how many blog posts will be done and so on.

What are common pitfalls that can happen in these partnerships?

First, when a travel company only looks at an influencers numbers. Numbers do not always tell the whole story and they can be faked.

Also, just like any business investment, they need to do research. Companies need to know what their goal is and what they want to get out of a relationship with an influencer. Travel companies might learn a lot in the process that changes or adds to their goal, but they need to go into it with a goal. Sharing your goals will help open the initial conversation.

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. If you are concerned about negative reviews, talk about it and get it in the contract. There has never been a topic that someone has brought up that I have been offended by. I look at it like it is your business and you need to make the right decision. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Cover yourself contractually. It is easy to get into these things and feel you don’t need a contract. Back in the day you used to go on good faith. These days a contract is necessary. It is not even from a legal standpoint, it is more to get a mutual understanding of what is going to happen and when. Most of the time when I hear about relationships that have gone wrong it is because all the details were not worked out in the contract.

How do travel companies measure results from influencers?

That is the holy grail. Travel companies want to make sure their money is justified. Any influencer who tells you they can provide an exact ROI is full of it. There are, however, things to help measure impact such as tracking links to be used on the influencer’s website and social media. Also, on any paid contract work, I create a post project report which includes all the social media and blog post stats.  

Anything else to add?

The main things are get everything written down and the details agreed upon. I personally prefer it. It helps me do my job and keep things straight - and then go into it with the goal of building a long-term relationship.  

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