Last week, I got to sit on a panel at Destination Marketing Association International in Las Vegas. The first question fell to me, “what makes a great destination article?” You could make dissertations on this.
I think the answer, briefly, is True, True, True and True.
It’s true to the audience.
It may be obvious, but a story or video or photo should offer something of use to whoever reads or sees it. It informs and appeals to the audience’s sense of imagination and wonder. It’s also accessible to the audience. Rather than just a one-time story about an a-ma-zing thing the author got to do, it’s something the reader can expect to do too, if they choose.
It’s true to the destination.
It says something revealing of a place. No matter how much on the fringes it’s found. Recently I discovered, Washington, DC wasn’t really built on much of a swamp, it just has that reputation. So I tracked down some original swamplands, east of Capitol Hill, where you can find lotus flowers planted by a one-armed Civil War vet. This is not typical DC, but it is DC.
It’s true to author expertise.
If all travel stories become mere hand-offs of marketing campaigns delivered via press trips, or collective opinions of user-generated content sites, what future does a travel writer, or “travel expert,” really have? Great stories can demonstrate that whenever authors ensure they add to the conversation.
This means authors who carefully choose their subjects, research them, and offer engaging, new angles delivered with as few adjectives or superlatives as possible. A Top 10 New York City Bars post could be great, sure, as long as it adds to the conversation of what’s already out there.
And, less we forget, it’s true to fun.
A great travel story can be serious or light, but ought to be something people would sort of want to do. Or at least do by proxy when reading or viewing whatever story is being told.
What’s not mandatory for a great story, in my view, is that is has to be brilliantly written or packaged. It helps. But more important is that any form of “travel content” (a New Yorker feature, blog post, Instagram photo, tweet, You Tube video, Top 10 list) offers these “truths,” as I call them.
And this is how I tried to answer the question in two minutes.