To maintain editorial objectivity and authenticity on The Hotel Explorer, Vishakha Talreja steers clear off paid hotel reviews.
For Vishakha Talreja, creating content is a process that includes its optimisation according to social media platforms in a big way. She doesn’t duplicate posts across different platforms. Rather, Twitter is used for topical content, Instagram for pictures and Facebook where multiple pictures can go with long captions. Here’s more about her process.
Looking back, where did it all begin?
In 2014, I quit my job as a business journalist and a decade long career in journalism to start my own e-magazine — The Hotel Explorer. That’s how it all started. This space evolves so fast and keeping pace with it meant being very active on social media. So that’s how I started my journey as a travel blogger and a social media influencer.
What’s in the name?
A lot. It signifies what your brand stands for, the ideology of the content creator and also determines your SEO. While deciding the name of my website I was sure I wanted to have the word hotel in it.
What is your USP in this cluttered space? How does your content give you an edge?
I try and use all the knowledge and experience that I have gained during my decade long career as a journalist working for newspapers like The Economic Times and Financial Express. I would say my journalistic style of content is my USP. I try and feature news that travellers can use. As journalists, we were always encouraged to meet more people, sources and business heads. I still do that and try and incorporate the perspective of hoteliers, tourism board representatives and industry CXOs in my features or even reviews. This gives me an edge over others who are just probably talking about a good spa massage or the view from the infinity pool.
Also sticking to my niche which is hotel reviews gives me an edge though going this niche can be a deterrent too.
Please take us through your content creation process. How do you stay relevant and relatable?
I don’t make a content calendar or extensively plan my content. Though I do plan my travel and then accordingly do the content. Besides updating the various sections on the website, I do regular social media posts. I don’t do the same post everywhere. Twitter for me is mostly topical content, Instagram is a lot of travel pictures and also a glimpse into the life of a blogger. Facebook is long posts with a lot of pictures. I stay relevant and relatable by understanding each medium and posting according to that. Interacting with your readers, followers on social media and people from the travel industry helps as well.
How do you make moolah with your efforts?
I am clear about one thing that I will never charge money for hotel reviews. That would just kill the authenticity. I do social media campaigns for brands (mainly influencer marketing). These campaigns are independent of the content on my blog. It helps me earn money without compromising on my editorial ethics. Occasionally, I do paid posts on my social media channels or website as well but they are never reviews where ratings are involved.
How do you maintain editorial objectivity with the influx of brand briefs?
When I started out every brand brief excited me and at times it did blur my editorial objectivity. Over a period I have learnt to say no if I am not comfortable with the brand brief. You can’t be part of every campaign. When you realize it is ok to say no you are able to get out of sticky situations and remain objective. Similarly, I have learnt to say no to FAM trips (invites from tourism boards or hotels) that I doubt will offer the experience I am looking to share with my readers or social media followers.
One instance/experience that made it all worthwhile
The fact that I am able to travel to so many new destinations including offbeat ones, which I wouldn’t be able to if I were not to pursue travel blogging, makes it all worthwhile.
Weirdest brand brief/request ever
There are many fashion, beauty and accessories brands that keep approaching influencers and offer a 10% discount on overpriced products and ask you to post pictures on Instagram and give their link. The DMs often start like this: “Hey we love your content. You should be a model… We would love to collaborate with you. Then a long message follows with detailed deliverables from you in lieu of a 10 or 20% discount on products on overpriced products. Many of them are international brands and also expect you to pay shipping charges in dollars. Isn’t that weird? you are paying for your own content to pus brands you know nothing about!
If not blogging, you would be?
I would still be a journalist. Whatever I would have done I am sure writing would have been an important part of that vocation.
A day in your life…
If not travelling, then I schedule work meetings in the afternoon. Most afternoons and evening are also spent attending blogger and influencer events, that are plenty these days. I usually keep my morning and late evening free to spend time with family and for writing! I have to admit that the whole point of quitting my job and starting a blog was to be able to have flexible work hours. In other words to be my own boss!
Message/tips for upcoming bloggers
Don’t get into blogging for money or because it looks glamorous. Every career has its perks, blogging too has them but unfortunately, people see just these perks and not the hard work that goes into it. Start blogging or micro-blogging only if you are passionate about it and have a lot of patience. One needs to constantly work on content, marketing, design of the blog to reap good results. So get into it if you are ready to work long haul and to take rejections. Also if you already have a flourishing career, don’t quit instead test waters by starting a blog with your job. That’s a great thing about blogging you don’t have to quit your career to become a blogger.
Your Favorite Influencer
Anupriya Kapur (Mom On the Run) because she is so real and truly inspiring. Her Josh Talks had such a lasting impression on me. It was just a woman pouring her heart out, but she changed many lives with her honest talk and her personal life. One needs to be really brave to do that. More power to influencers like Anupriya who are much more than their OOTDs. Others who I love following include Manavi Siddhanti of Be For Beauty, Jia Singh of Wandering for Wellness and Abix (Abhinav Mathur).
The Future you foresee for your Personal Brand
The blogging and social media spaces change constantly. One has to keep evolving which means you can’t exactly predict what future will be like. But I would love to experiment a lot more with content and besides blog posts have a dedicated YouTube channel. The brand, its presence will only grow. Also doing many more offline activations such as events that will make the brand more useful and relatable. I also intend to write a book and strengthen my personal brand.