In recent years, bloggers and influencers have become big news in the world of marketing. They can make (or break!) a campaign and offer brilliant opportunities for brands, although their value is often underestimated.
Susanne Arbuckle, AKA Adventures Around Scotland, is a travel blogger and writer who is championing Scotland’s hidden gems. Susanne aims to show the beauty of Scotland that exists off the beaten track, and also offers a custom itinerary service for tourists.
In the latest of our Meet the Journalist blogs, Susanne tells us all about the challenges of blogging, how she got started and how PRs can most effectively work with bloggers.
Can you tell us a little about your professional background?
“My professional background is actually completely unrelated to Scottish travel, although I have worked in a couple of tourism related jobs in the past. When I first started blogging, I was working with children with additional support needs and my blog was an enjoyable hobby which provided an outlet for my love of writing, travel and photography.
“However, I soon built up a loyal readership and social media community who had an interest in what I was publishing. I realised there was a real demand for first-hand Scottish travel advice and the thought of being my own boss was appealing. I decided to gradually reduce the hours in my day job which gave me the time to improve and learn the skills needed to run my blog professionally while still earning a steady income.
“At the end of last year I was earning more money from opportunities through blogging than I was in my day job, so I decided to it was the right time to turn it in to my full-time career.”
What inspired you to start your blog?
“I was frustrated that many of the travel blogs and guides about Scotland listed the same attractions and covered the same popular parts of the country. As someone who had travelled extensively in Scotland, I wanted to share all the fantastic but lesser-known places. I also felt that, as a local, I was in a good position to offer expert travel advice.”
What have been your highlights of hosting your blog?
“The highlight for me is that no two days are the same and I’ve had the opportunity to travel to many wonderful parts of Scotland. I’ve also been lucky enough to enjoy experiences that aren’t normally available to members of the public – like standing on top of the Forth Bridge or getting to see behind the scenes of some of the businesses that I visit.
“I have also met lots of wonderful people and made lovely new friends, all thanks to my blog.”
What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
“’Always be yourself and always be authentic to your audience’ is the best advice I’ve been given. I find that by being honest and only writing about personal experiences, I have built up a trusting relationship with my readers. This also means I am quite selective in only accepting opportunities that fit well with my readership and my own interests, even if this means turning down paid work.”
What are the advantages of a good blogger / PR relationship?
“A PR should hopefully always be aiming to get the best results for their client and working with the right blogger can help achieve that goal. Building up a good two-way relationship means that the blogger understands what the PR is trying to achieve, and the PR is open to ideas from the blogger who knows what will work for their audience.
“The best campaign results I’ve achieved have come from a good relationship with the PR.”
And what are the worst habits of a PR?
“Sending out campaigns, press releases or generic e-mails that aren’t appropriate to the blogger they are contacting is a waste of everyone’s time. Also misspelling my name is a personal bugbear!”
How do you prefer PRs get in touch with you?
“I don’t mind a PR dropping me a quick message on social media but personally I prefer a detailed e-mail in the first instance so I understand from the start what a PR is looking for and if it would be appropriate to my blog. This saves a lot of subsequent backwards and forwards correspondence.
“Once a campaign is agreed in principal, I have quite often met up with the PR that is running the campaign to talk things through in more detail. My personal experience is that once I have met with a PR, it has generally led to an ongoing relationship and working on multiple campaigns together.”
What topics are you most interested in featuring on your blog?
“I cover anything that is related to Scottish travel and I also work regularly with Scottish and outdoor brands as they are also a good fit for my audience.”
You provide a travel itinerary service – where do you find most people want to visit in Scotland?
“My itinerary clients are generally split into two groups.
“Some of them want to follow the traditional tourist route from Edinburgh to Inverness and Skye. Generally, those visitors are just looking for additional suggestions of things to see on their journey and practical local advice.
“The second type of client are those that provide a list of interests but are not set upon the destinations they visit. They are open to my expert suggestions and are more willing to try lesser-known places.”
Are there any particular challenges of being a freelance blogger?
“There are huge challenges working as a freelance blogger – bloggers are still looked at with scepticism by many people who don’t see it as a legitimate profession or understand what benefits working with the right bloggers can bring. Often it is other self-proclaimed ‘influencers’ that are damaging the reputation of the industry.
“As someone who started out blogging as a hobby and who now blogs full-time, I completely understand the different level of skills and hours of work required to provide a professional service to clients and achieve positive results. Myself and others in a similar position are constantly trying to educate businesses and justify why we charge money for what we do when others are willing to work for ‘free’.
“Personally, I would like to see regulations and a professional body in the future to try and improve the standards within the industry.”
What has been your favourite place in Scotland that you’ve visited?
“That is such a difficult question as I genuinely love so many parts of Scotland and don’t have a favourite, although I do tend to prefer visiting remote and wild places rather than towns and cities. Out of my recent travels, I would say Shetland has been my favourite trip as I immediately fell in love with everything about it which is always a good sign!”
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own blog?
“If you are doing it as a hobby, then don’t worry too much about the technical stuff and just enjoy the creative side. However, if you plan on doing it professionally at any point then getting the technical stuff right from day one is crucial. Then you need to be prepared to master a whole host of skills and work very long hours for no money, for a long time, while you build an audience.
“Don’t do it if you don’t love it, as it is not an easy way to make money and not as glamorous as you might think!”