Geoffrey Weill
Geoffrey Weill

Let’s imagine you’re a travel PR pro and it’s 2008. You slip into a coma and you regain consciousness today, a decade later.

As you emerged bleary-eyed from your slumber, there’s no doubt you’d be gob-smacked by the revolution that has occurred in the publishing scene during the years you missed. Magazines that were once considered the bible of travel and lifestyle writing have either disappeared or have been sold to unexpected owners, or have new editorial teams who are transforming the look, the feel, the thrust, the ethos. Then there are stunning new imprints, particularly those published by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and the transatlantic-style magazines. And then there are those newspaper travel sections that are now so painfully paltry, stabbed into virtual insignificance by the downturn in advertising when they once required an entire Sunday morning.

The biggest shock for your ten-year napper, however, would be the explosion of digital and online media. In 2008, the web was still somewhat remote, somewhat off-the-grid, somewhat daunting. iPhones were used for messaging and yes, engaging in conversations, but the app era had yet to fully dawn. The idea that a client would send out a tweet — not to mention that the President of the United States would habitually issue a torrent of over-morning-coffee tweets — would’ve been implausible, not to mention ridiculous.

O'Dwyer's Jun. '18 Travel & Tourism PR MagazineThis article is featured in O'Dwyer's Jun. '18 Travel & International PR Magazine

All of us in the travel PR realm have dutifully adjusted to publishing’s digital revolution, and indeed, have had to adapt to it, some with impassioned fervor. We’ve jumped on and off the Facebook phenomenon. We’ve jumped enthusiastically onto the Instagram bandwagon. We dig Pinterest. We’ve dabbled with Snapchat. We’ve been seduced by the influencers. Some of us have embraced Twitter, some of us have sneered, while others have embraced it and then thrown it in the trash. We’ve all been challenged by the “Millennials-are-the-target” spectacle, adopted it, sanctioned it, signed on to its promise. We court the major blogs, we win over the magazine’s online versions, we do everything we possibly can to ensure our clients receive their due in this burgeoning digital world.

But while all this is happening, many in the media and social media are unaware of — or inevitably indifferent to — the skepticism of the client of a certain age (could be 25, could be 55, could be 85). So, while we may be thrilled with the wealth of fabulous online coverage, or a dozen Instagram posts viewed 50,000 times, let’s not forget that as PR firms we survive by making our clients happy.

And, let’s face it, we all have clients whose eyes glaze over at the word “online.” What those glazing clients still want in 2018 is that big glossy article in that big glossy magazine to plunk onto their coffee table. And this has added another level to the challenge all of us face every day — and have always faced — the simple need to ensure the client’s contentment. So, yes, it’s our job to persuade and convince the client that online, social and digital media are stupendously effective and should bring them business. And it’s a task in which, I am sure, we are all engaged with varying degrees of success.

The bottom line remains, however, just as it was for your decade-long coma beginning in 2008, that print is unquestionably priority number-one for many clients. And it looks like it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.

The question is whether, in the travel sphere, digital and social media are replacing print or augmenting it. In my view, it’s a mushrooming and increasingly meaningful addition, rather than spelling the death-knell of glossy print. Yes, undoubtedly, five years from now, fewer and fewer newspapers will have print editions. But there’s every indication that the glossy travel and lifestyle media will still be around — albeit maybe with different names or formats — still ready for our clients to plunk proudly with a thud on the coffee table. And, especially in the luxury sphere in which my company mainly operates, the glossies will continue to pack phenomenal power to engage and persuade readers and — let’s not forget the point of it all — to enhance our clients’ bottom lines.


Geoffrey Weill is President of New York-based agency WEILL.