My name is Nancy Brown and I have a confession to make: I sleep around a lot.
Now don’t take that wrong. I’m a lodging editor.
I review two properties a week and I’m paid to sleep in other people’s beds.
While this may sound like an ideal job, the type of travel writing I do requires that I actually visit the properties that I write about.
After all, how can you write an honest lodging review in print or on a travel blog without actually visiting the property?
As a journalism graduate, I take an old school approach to lodging reviews.
I ask myself the Five Ws: Who, What, When, Where, Why (and of course, how much?).
Setting the Scene
The lede – yes, that’s spelled correctly – is the hook that draws your reader in. No one wants to read a dull travel review. The first paragraph must draw the reader in and set the scene.
The Picture Tells the Story
All journalists and travel bloggers would like to believe that their descriptive words tell a visual story. However, the old adage that “a picture tells a story” still rings true. When travelers search online, or in print for a lodging review, they look at the pictures first.
If possible, include your own photos in your lodging review. It demonstrates to editors that you are able to deliver quality photography to accompany your post. It also shows that you have actually set foot in the property you are reviewing. If that isn’t possible, or if you’re just not good at photography, ask your host for any professional photos they can provide.
Include an “Insider Tip”
An ‘insider tip’ provides added value to your reader. It may be in the form of a unique selling point (USP) that you have discovered while staying at the property. Is the hotel pet-friendly? Is there a bakery next door that sells scones for ½ price at the end of the day? Perhaps the resort offers horseback riding packages?
In this day of social media, it is important to ask if the property you are reviewing is active on Twitter, and if they have a Facebook Page. If the property offers lodging specials on their Page or a Tuesday Twitter deal, mention this in your travel review. Write your lodging review to be of value to your readers.
Add an “If You Go” Summary
Remember the kiss analogy? Keep It Simple, Stupid. While the assumption is NOT that your readers are stupid, it is to be assumed that their time is limited. The “if you go” box should include the name of the property, with a link to the website if you are writing an online travel review. Always list the phone number and the address of the property and the typical price of the room somewhere in the lodging review.
The Good, Bad and Ugly
If you plan to write a lodging review, give the good, bad and the ugly. Nothing says “I-got-this-hotel-room-for-free” like a glowing travel review. If you want to be taken seriously as a lodging reviewer, you need to point out the flaws in the property, as well as the highlights.
If your room looked onto a vacant, trash-laden lot, mention that – better yet, take a picture of the view. How many times have you stayed at a place, based on pictures, only to find that they had photo-shopped the image? Disappointing, right? Please, people – be real with your photography and lodging reviews.
When my family and I stayed at a Las Vegas joint on the strip, the 17th floor window screen was missing and looked down to the RV cement parking lot. I referred to our room as “the suicide room.” It was, in fact, dangerous and depressing. Of course, I e-mailed the property to let them know I was writing a review and asked them to get in touch with me. I even filled out their customer response survey, post trip. I never received a response from the company.
Don’t Forget Disclosure
In accordance with FTC blogger guidelines and as standard editorial practice, I always disclose if I was a guest of the property.
Do you write lodging reviews? Share your advice!