TBEX Athens Impressions

My Top Lessons and Takeaways from TBEX Athens 2014

TBEX Athens Impressions
I recently attended TBEX Athens, a conference for travel bloggers and new media. This post summarises my learnings from the conference as a blogger. If you’d rather read about the city of Athens, check out my post on the top food related things to do in Athens.

I’m An Athenian.

Yes, It’s a branding slogan. But the Athenians I met were all so friendly I felt at home in Athens. The city of Athens was an amazing host and really made this week special, starting with the taxi driver that drove me from the airport to my hostel and, at 1.30am in the morning, happily described all the sights on our route and drove a detour to show me how to get to where I needed to go the next day (it’s a flat fee drive).

TBEX Athens Kayaking Cannibals Kayak House
Kayaking with the wonderful and welcoming team of Cannibals Kayak House

There was a big divide at TBEX Athens between people who think you need to go really niche and people who think you shouldn’t.

As I went from one session to the next, or from one chat with an experienced blogger to the next, I kept hearing “you need to focus on a niche”, “don’t force yourself too much into a niche”, “pick a niche and stick to it”. To niche or not to niche, that is the question… to which apparently, everyone has a different answer. I think I prefer having sort of a focus but being able to branch out from it, for now. Just like I can never decide on a single dish when I go out for dinner (that’s why I live in Spain… Tapas is the answer, people!), I can’t decide on a niche. It’s kind of food. But not just.

But one thing is clear: You do need a clear brand.

Because, as Hai from Notes of Nomads put it very wisely, as we were standing on top of the Aeropagus the day before TBEX, “Every niche is already covered. You need to be your own niche”. You need to know what you and your blog stand for.

And you need to be able to explain the why.

Why do you blog? Why do you travel? Jaume Marin from the Costa Brava Girona Tourist Board said in his keynote that he always asks bloggers why they’re blogging. Do you know you blog? And can you explain that in a few sentences? While “What’s your niche?” is a pretty easy question to answer, the question of why silences a lot of the usually creative writers amongst us. I used my flight from Athens to Rome to ponder this question – take a look at what I came up with!

If you want to know more about the importance behind the question of Why, I highly recommend Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on “How great leaders inspire action”. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it right now, right here. If you’ve seen it but it’s been a while, watch it again.

Professionalism is key. And an opportunity.

From the number of no-shows at TBEX Athens pre tours to unprepared people at speed networking (both bloggers and industry people) to the many empty seats in early morning sessions, it’s clear not everyone took TBEX too seriously. Add to that comments by Jaume Marin for example, that he receives many emails but not many pitches – hinting at the fact that lots of bloggers just send him aimless emails rather than well thought out collaboration suggestions – it seems there is still a lack of professionalism in the blogging industry. And I don’t mention this to criticise anyone, but rather to point out that there’s an opportunity for those of us who put an extra effort into this to stand out. If we take the extra time to research a destination or a company before sending out an email, chances are our pitch will stand out from the masses of emails they receive in their inbox every day. Professionalism is also important because, as Bret Love shared in his talk, 77% of companies find the bloggers they work with by word of mouth (see the full details on his excellent talk about Branding for Bloggers here). Pitching “cold”, when you have no existing relationship with someone can be extremely difficult, in any business. If you come recommended by others who have worked with you in the past, it’ll make your life much easier.

Further Reading

Some of the speakers have made their presentations available online:

Bret Love, Green Global Travel, on Building a Better Blogging Brand

Sara Robles (Sarification) and Katie Hammel (Viator), on Brand Partnerships

Michael Collins, TravelMedia.ie on Working with Tourist Boards and Travel PRs

Mitch Canter, Studio Nashvegas, on SEO for Bloggers

Sarabeth Jones, Fellowship North on iPhone Photography

Jason Falls, Elasticity, on How Social, Content and PR Combine For Marketing Success On and Offline

Colm Hanratty, sixtwo digital, on a 12 Month Plan to Building Better Blogger Relationships

Jessica Spiegel and Jennifer Dombrowski on Community Management for a Brand

Were you at TBEX? What were your key takeaways?

You may also want to take a look at my culinary discoveries I made on my food tours through Athens before and during TBEX.

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