Laurence is a full-time professional travel photographer & blogger, who has been travelling the world since 2009, and taking as many pictures of beautiful places as possible. He runs two travel blogs: the photography and adventure focused Finding the Universe, and the couples travel focused Independent Travel Cats with his wife Jessica. He’s also the author of the Superstar Blogging Online Photography Course, which will help you improve your photography, no matter your level or experience. In this spotlight, Laurence chats to us about why he prefers to work on longer term partnerships with brands, being an ambassador, the decline of organic reach, and having one of his photos featured on the National Geographic homepage.
Why should people read your blog? What makes it different? People often tell me that the reason they follow me is for my photography, so for me that is my stand out feature – my photos have been featured by National Geographic and on the BBC website, plus USA Today named me as a top travel photography blogger. So if you want to take a look at some lovely photos from around the world, come check out the site! I’d also say that I’m not too serious or dry – I like to have fun when I travel, and I think that comes across in my writing too. I also run another site with my wife Jessica, Independent Travel Cats, which focuses on more couple’s based travel, as well as Jess’s passions of history, culture and luxury travel. So I think we have a bit of something for everyone between us!
How do you measure the success of your website? There are so many metrics that you can look at, but for me the real success is when people contact me to let me know that something I wrote helped them make a decision about their travels. If someone reads my blog and then makes a decision about a destination, and then has a great time as a result of that – that’s a win for me!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a blog? You have to love doing it first and foremost. Don’t get into it for the allure of “free stuff” – that’s not going to result in a positive outcome.
If you love what you do, your passion will shine through in your content, and people will want to read and follow you. Find a niche that you can be recognised for, and focus on that.
Then, hone your skills. Writing, photography, video creation, marketing – running a blog takes a diverse range of skills, and it takes time to both develop those skills and become truly good at what you want to do. This is a topic I could go on about for a while, which is why I wrote a 6000 word article on how to become a professional travel blogger – I’d definitely recommend people check that out if they’re interested in starting their own blog.
How do you work with marketers and PRs?
I have worked on a wide variety of campaigns since I started blogging in 2009. Currently, my focus is on building longer term partnerships with brands, such as ambassadorships.
For example, I’m known for my photography, so I’ve partnered with photography related brands that I use and love, like Panasonic and Vanguard, and work on longer term projects with those brands, creating content using and featuring their products that I can share on my channels. It’s a lot more natural to your audience when you can work with a brand on a longer term basis rather than hopping from one project to the next, which results in an inconsistent message.
Of course, as a travel blogger, I also work with destinations that I’m interested in visiting, including tourism boards and regional tour operators, which I experience and write about on my blog and social media channels. I’m always open to new ideas, collaborations, and invite anyone interested in working with us to get in touch.
How do you use social media to promote and share content? What are the challenges? I use social media a lot – I find that visual content like the photos I take work very well. I have a large (around 800,000 people) and actively engaged following on my facebook page (facebook.com/findingtheuniverse), and that is definitely my main channel. I also love Instagram (@lozula), and of course use Twitter.
The hardest part about all the social media channels is keeping up with the algorithms, and in particular, the ongoing decline of organic reach that many platforms seem to be suffering from.
My solution has been to just continue the focus on trying to create and share great content, and not worry about it too much!
What can PRs do in working better with you? For a long while it was hard to get PR companies to allocate a budget towards working with bloggers/ influencers, but I’m pleased to say that the model is definitely changing. So my main thing now would be for PR’s to think more about longer term relationships rather than one-off projects, and to ensure that I’m a good fit for their brand before they reach out.
What has been your blogging highlight? Having one of my photos featured on the National Geographic homepage was a pretty incredible feeling. As a photographer, National Geographic has always been the gold standard, so to have one of my photos picked to feature was a pretty amazing feeling!
What will be big in your blogosphere in the coming months? There are a few things I’m excited about for 2017. First, we’re right in the middle of planning a trip to Iceland in early 2017, and I’m really excited about that – it’s been on my list for ages. The other main thing I’m focusing on is my online photography course. I’ve been running that for almost a year now and getting awesome feedback from students, and I’m looking forward to taking that to the next level in 2017. It’s going to be a great year!