Brands and Bloggers: Partnering for Fun and ProfitsBy Diane Merlino Starwood did it. ANA did it. Caesars Entertainment in Vegas did it. Expedia and Disney did it, too. These are just a few of the companies that have worked with travel bloggers on highly successful projects. Travel Weekly PLUS kicks off a mini series on how businesses can benefit by working with bloggers with an interview with Mary Jo Manzanares. Like many travel bloggers, Manzanares wears a lot of different hats. She's a blogger (Traveling with MJ), online magazine editor (The Traveler's Way, focused on baby boomer travelers), a lawyer, and a flight attendant. In this first installment in the series, Manzanares talks with Travel Weekly PLUS Editor in Chief Diane Merlino about "Blogging for Travel Providers 101," including how to find and vet bloggers, tracking metrics that matter, and the finer points of working with bloggers. Merlino: Why should a mainstream travel provider or a destination consider working with a blogger? Manzanares: Before they can even get to whether it's a good idea or not to work with a blogger, they have to know their goals. What are they trying to accomplish? Are they trying to create a crazy flurry of social media buzz? Are they trying to drive bookings and conversions? We know that ultimately everything goes to that, but with what degree of immediacy? Are they trying to create content for their own website? Are they trying to get editorial content, both in print and digital? Basically, what is it that they are trying to accomplish, and what would success look like? Once they answer that question, then whether they should work with a blogger and, if so, what they should do and how they should do it starts falling into place. Merlino: Have you found that travel providers are fairly savvy about working with bloggers, completely clueless, or somewhere in between? Manzanares: It's all over the board. You have some people who are new to the idea, just starting to explore and research, sort of dip their toe in the water and figure out what it's all about. Then you have some companies and businesses that have been doing it for some time, and now are ready to get a little bit more creative. They want to push the boundaries, see if they can come up with something different and new. It's an evolving concept, and you've got people all over the board on it. Merlino: Who generally starts the process of working with a blogger? Is it a company's marketing department, sales, PR folks inside the company, an outside agency? Manzanares: It depends in large part on the size of the company or organization. For larger organizations that have a relationship with an agency whether it's advertising, marketing, or some other type of agency the outreach usually comes from the agency. But there are plenty of smaller businesses that are running their projects in house, and then it can be the person in charge of in house PR or marketing or pretty much anyone, especially in very small companies. Merlino: Who would you recommend as the best person in a larger travel company to work with a blogger on a campaign? Manzanares: Speaking from my own personal experience, working with someone who has a marketing background is a good fit. They understand a little bit more about what they're trying to accomplish in terms of being goal oriented. From a blogger's standpoint, you want the project to be successful, but if you don't have a good articulation of the goals from the company, it's hard to know what to do. Also, marketing understands the bigger picture of editorial content and placement, for social media as well as PR, so a marketing person usually has a better concept on execution of an overall plan. That is certainly a generalization, because I have worked with some marvelous PR people as well. Merlino: Let's take a company that's never worked with a blogger before. They have something in mind that they would like to do. How do they find a blogger who is a good fit for the company and the project? Manzanares: Everybody would like a magic way of coming up with the person or persons who are the best fit. But ultimately it gets back to everybody doing their due diligence, and if the company knows what their goals are, they can start doing the research. For example, I had the opportunity to do this for a project with Caesars Entertainment. We were having a TBEX meet up during the NMX conference there a few weeks ago, and Caesars wanted to do a very small, guided tour of one of the new towers on their property. They asked me if I could identify which bloggers were going to be in town for the conference or for some other reason. They had very specific requirements. They were concerned with the right demographic Who does this blogger write for? Who are their readerships? and that was very, very key for them. They passed over some bloggers who might have had much larger numbers in favor of bloggers that had the demographics that they wanted. Because it's not about numbers, it's about the right numbers. And unless you go out and are looking at blogs and bloggers, you're not going to know what the right numbers are. Merlino: Do you have any pointers on how a travel company can vet a blogger? Manzanares: When you find something you like, in terms of a blogger or a blogger's style, read them for a while, start a relationship, reach out to them on social media, network with them on Facebook or Twitter. When you do that, even if that person might not be the right blogger for your project, you have a relationship and you can ask for referrals. I mean, travel is a referral business; we all get referrals on any number of things, and finding the right blogger is no different. It's about starting a relationship. Merlino: To sum it up, what are the three or four key actions that a travel company needs to take to find a blogger who is the right fit? Manzanares: First, know the goals you want to reach. Second, know the target demographics you want to reach that can be by niche demographic, by age, by location, and so on. Third, be part of the online community, so that you know where those people you want to reach "live online" as we say. Do they hang out on Facebook? Do they read blogs? Do they tweet? That involves some work on the part of the company or destination. Fourth, start forming relationships with bloggers. As you do that, the right people become readily apparent, or you will have people who can make referrals to the right people. Merlino: What does forming a relationship look like in this realm? Manzanares: It means connecting with people on their blog. It means engaging with them on various social media networks. It means understanding what they're writing about, understanding their style, their voice those kinds of things. That way you can determine if the person sounds the way you want your business to sound to potential customers or clients. Those are the preliminary elements of due diligence a company needs to do. 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Kitten heels are safe if you are quite frightened of wearing heels, but if you can strut with high heels, then this would be an ideal situation. 378037 117 Women Size Air Jordan 11 Legend Blue White Black Legend Blue QE Paradox It was supposed to be straightforward. In mid March the Federal Reserve announced it would begin buying US Treasury bonds. This is quantitative easing no? The Fed is printing money. Other things being equal, as the supply increases, the price will fall. It may be QE but is not QED, an acronym, which traditionally ends mathematical and philosophical proofs, for a Latin phrase meaning is demonstrated The negative implications of the Fed QE policy have not been demonstrated. The resilience of currencies whose countries have engaged in QE has been remarkable. It is worthy of examination. Start at the Beginning We need to define quantitative easing. It is problematic because there is not a comprehensive definition of the policies associated with it. It broadly refers to an element of monetary policy. It is concerned not with interest rates, or price of money, but rather the quantity of money. In order to combat the financial and economic crisis, central banks around the world are concluding that cutting policy rates has run its course and further cuts could be counterproductive. Yet policy makers still need to make monetary conditions even more accommodative to resist the deflationary forces that have been unleashed by the deleveraging process and the severe economic downturn. Measures to increase the quantity of money vary from country to country depending on a host of institutional, historical, political and cultural variables. But the point is that the G7 countries, and others such as Switzerland and Sweden, have either adopted quantitative easing tools of one variety or another, or are threatening to do so. In some ways this leads us to the first observation about the resilience of currencies where quantitative easing is either taking place or is expected to begin shortly: Because QE has been widely adopted, it is not a distinguishing factor among central banks. There is a systemic financial crisis and a synchronized global downturn. Policy makers have fiscal and monetary levers and both are being deployed to meet the profound challenges of the day. Shrouded by Mystery There are also many critical unknowns related to quantitative easing, which may contribute to its seemingly muted impact in the foreign exchange market. For example, while the Federal Reserve has been clear on the assets it will purchase, it has been less candid on how it will finance those purchases. It could but need not create bank reserves, what is often meant by the Fed printing money. It could but need not be given the money by the Treasury Department, who would raise it through the sale of bills. This was done last year and could happen again, but may be limited by the Congressionally approved debt ceiling. A little noted element of the Treasury/Federal Reserve joint statement last month points the direction of another potential course. For example the Federal Reserve could expand the assets on its balance sheet by purchasing them with funds raised by the sale of its own bills. The Fed can either create reserves, be given money from Treasury, or borrow money by issuing its own IOUs. It is not clear which measures will be used and in what combination. ECB officials do not call it quantitative easing. They prefer measures and this may have confused many observers. The fact remains that the ECB balance sheet has expanded by roughly the same percentage as the Fed Operationally, the ECB has taken several important measures that are tailored for its institutional framework. For every euro that a European company raises by issuing equity or debt, it raises almost two through bank loans. The US is nearly the opposite way around. ECB policies have generally worked through the banks. In addition to slashing interest rates so that the floor, set by the rate the ECB pays on reserves (deposit rate), is now a lowly 25 basis points, the central bank has made unlimited amounts of liquidity available to the banking system for up to six months. It has also adopted very liberal collateral rules. The ECB has indicated it will unveil additional measures early next month. It is not clear what the ECB will do. However, officials are moving very gradually, reluctant to deviate from their course, which they seem to see as fairly effective. Officials note that one year Euribor is below one year dollar Libor. Bank deposits, they can point out, have fallen from their peak of over 300 billon euros, standing at 23 billion euros this past week. Bundesbank research suggests the transmission mechanism of monetary policy is working, though not perfectly. It found that around three quarters of the interest rate cuts by the ECB have been passed on to the short term corporate credit market. The ECB is out of room to reduce the key deposit rate any further. It stands at 25 basis points currently. The refi rate of 1.25% can be cut a bit more, but its significance has diminished. Although there does appear to be a wing of the 22 person governing council that is advocating more aggressive measures, the majority is likely to remain dominated by the incrementalists. An extension of current efforts, such as expanding the tenor of the ECB unlimited liquidity provision beyond the current term of six months and the loosening collateral requirement a bit more, are the most likely courses of action. Next Up: Canada and Sweden The Bank of Canada meets next week on April 21st. Its current target rate stands at 50 basis points. Another 25 basis point cut is unlikely to be very helpful. Instead, the real focus is on the Monetary Policy Report, which will be delivered two days later. Officials have indicated they would outline the framework for a quantitative easing program, but have stopped short of committing themselves to such a course. They seem to believe the threat of quantitative easing can bolster investor confidence in the capabilities of the central bank. The Bank of Canada can lengthen the duration of some of its existing operations, such as purchase and resale agreements. It can also stop sterilizing or offsetting such operations. It could buy government bonds, like the Fed, BOE and BOJ have done, but that may have the unintended consequences of reducing the liquidity in an already thin market. In some ways, the Bank of Canada faces the same dilemma as the Swiss National Bank, which opted to buy foreign bonds. Sweden Riskbank also meets on April 21st. Its current target rate stands at 100 basis points. Most expect a 50 basis point cut, but after officials indicated that the key rate will be 25 basis points at the end of the year, there has been increased speculation that it might just cut 75 basis points in one fell swoop and begin the discussion of quantitative easing as well. Other Considerations There are a couple of other considerations that may help explain why QE has not had the kind of impact that many expected. Unlike other asset classes, valuation is difficult to determine in the foreign exchange market, because the range of influential factors is great and the coefficients of those factors also change dramatically. The relative quantities of money supply are one of the factors that may or may not influence currencies for a particular period. Rather than try to deduce currency movement from a priori assumptions, it might be more instructive to begin inductively with a survey of currency performances. Factors far a field from quantitative easing appear to be better explanatory variables. The relative out performance of the Australian and New Zealand dollars may have to do with their relative growth trajectories and perceived commodity backing, especially if China stimulus kicks in and its commodity stock piling continues. The relative out performance of sterling so far this year, making a 1.3% advance against the dollar versus the euro 6.6% decline against the buck, suggests something besides quantitative easing is the main driver. Perhaps ideas that sterling suffered among the most during the panic of last year forth quarter, and thus is in best position to do better on the first glimmers of hope that the macro situation is stabilizing. Lastly, given the significance of the crisis, isn there a general consensus among officials that action is needed to prevent a deeper and more sustained contraction and crisis? We want and need officials to respond. The more aggressive one responds, with conventional and unconventional measures, the greater the odds that a recovery takes place sooner rather than later. The driver for the foreign exchange market might not lie with enacting quantitative easing strategies. Rather, the key might be ability to exit them in an orderly and timely fashion that lasts long enough to support the real economy, but not long enough to break the anchor of inflation expectations. There is a story that is about two boys being chased by a tiger. One boy stops to put on a pair of running shoes. His friend asks, are you doing? You aren going to be able to outrun the tiger just because you have running shoes. His friend explains, don have to out run the tiger, I just have to outrun you. The same can be said of the dollar.
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