Jeanenne Tornatore: On-Air Travel Expert

 

Angela Tuell  00:05

Welcome to Media in Minutes. This is your host Angela Tuell. This podcast features in-depth interviews with those who report on the world around us. They share everything from their favorite stories to what happened behind the lens and give us a glimpse into their world. From our studio here at Communications Redefined, this is Media in Minutes. Today we are talking with media and travel expert Jeanenne Tornatore. Jeanenne is a seasoned broadcaster and content creator with a passion for exploring. She has worked in the media for more than 20 years as a media contributor and spokesperson for broadcast and print outlets. You might have seen her on the Today Show, MSNBC, Good Morning America, CNN, Extra, and Headline News, or even on TV stations across the country. Welcome, Jeanenne. Thank you for joining us today.

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  00:55

Oh, it’s so great to be here with you.

 

Angela Tuell  00:57

Yeah. So I’m excited to hear from you. You know, in your own words, you work where the worlds of PR and broadcast editorial intersect. Please explain that to us.

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  01:08

Sure. Well, you know, it’s an interesting world, I feel like being in PR right now and specifically doing broadcast work with television stations. You know, this world where there are so many influencers out there, and that has become, you know, on air travel experts. And, you know, so I feel like most of the people you see on television now are in some way, probably working with some brand, right? So I mean, what I do is I go on television stations as an on-air travel expert and talk about travel trends. You know, what’s going on in the world of travel? Sometimes I go on just purely as a contributor. Stations calling me and saying, Hey, can you come on and talk about what’s going on at the airports today, you know how this hurricane is affecting travel? And then sometimes I’m pitching stations on behalf of clients, where I’m still talking about some of those topics, like where to go for spring break or holiday travel, and I’m infusing in there some destinations that I’m working with or potentially hotel brands. So it’s really kind of been this, this as you said, the intersection of this editorial that you see on television morning shows, and kind of PR influence that a lot. And I think, you know, we know working in the PR industry that that happens all the time. I don’t think that it you necessarily know that when you’re watching a lot of these shows.

 

Angela Tuell  02:28

Yeah. And when I was, you know, traditional journalists no kind of cross between advertising or paid you this really made me feel uncomfortable to learn that this happens.

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  02:39

Yeah. And you know, I think it is interesting because we’re seeing now, so many of these lifestyle shows where they’re driven. I mean, they’re making their money through sponsored segments. And that’s basically how some of these shows are able to survive. And I will say that I know what you mean, where you kind of feel uncomfortable, and, you know, oh, is this a paid segment, but there’s so much more transparency in it now. And a lot of that is driven by, you know, the FCC and the regulations that are in place. So you know, now when you do see a lot of segments that, you know, have those brand messages infused into them, you will see sponsored by or paid for by and that kind of client information is out there, which I think is great because I do think it should be transparent so people know, you know, am I getting this information based on, you know, what this expert really thinks? Or am I getting it based on maybe who they’re working for?

 

Angela Tuell  03:36

Yes. And when you go on a traditional news show, you are not being you’re not being paid by a client at that point. You are just a travel expert, letting them know the facts.

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  03:44

Correct. Correct. So yeah, my background actually comes from the travel industry, I worked for orbitz.com For over a decade. And when I was working at Orbitz, I was in a role where I was developing content for the blog, and for a lot of the PR efforts too, but I was working directly with a lot of the people internally that you know, analyzed all of the travel trends and kind of that information was coming to me and I was creating content, blog posts, whatever it may be, and feeding that out to journalists too based on that kind of real information. So a lot of the type of travel segments that I’ve done over the years on television have been based on true travel data. And even now, as I’m out on my own, I’m not working for a brand like Orbitz, I reach out to these brands who have this type of data. And even if it’s not someone that I’m working with, you know, that type of information, I use it just like a journalist does to be able to talk about the trends or you know, what’s going on in travel right now and how much it costs risen and all those types of things.

 

Angela Tuell  04:45

Yes. How – so when you were at Orbitz did you, or right after Orbitz, did you go straight into this as your own?

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  04:52

I did. Well, I was at Orbitz for a long time. And then I actually did a really short kind of fun stint at a company called vivid seats, which is basically a competitor to StubHub, you know, it’s where you go to get tickets to your favorite shows or your favorite events. So I had some fun working with them. Kind of in a fun capacity that included travel where I would still do a lot of travel television segments. And we would also talk about, hey, you’re going to this destination, there are these concerts happening this weekend, this is how much it’s gonna cost you based on what’s on Vivid Seats to go. So again, I kind of really use their data to do some fun type of informational segments there as well. So did a little bit of that. And then I actually got, and I went out on my own and said, Hey, I really love being able to, you know, do this. I love the – my favorite part of PR has always been kind of the content creation and coming up with the ideas and the fun segments, and so I really parlayed that into just becoming an independent, third-party travel expert. Where, you know, I work with TV stations every day, not for clients, but just saying like, Hey, do you like this topic, like, let’s talk about the best places to go for fall travel, or let’s talk about what’s happening over Labor Day weekend, and that type of thing. So I really get a lot of reward out of that type of that con, that creative process. I think, when you’re in traditional PR, you get a little bit of that. But then a lot of times you’re having to do you know, a lot of the traditional, you know, type of duties in your PR role as well. So now I just really get to do all the fun stuff. That’s what I do.

 

Angela Tuell  06:22

Yes, that’s great. Did you start the broadcast while you were at Orbitz or not until you were out on your own?

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  06:27

I – that is really when I started it when I was at Orbitz. I was actually the PR director at Orbitz for several years and we were building a broadcast program there. And we were using a lot of outside third-party experts. And it was expensive, frankly, for you know, a PR department to do that. And so we had so much great internal data that I was already blogging for the blog. And, you know, a lot of people are saying, I really think you should really just be the one going on television talking about this. You’re writing all the content, you’re writing all the talking points, you’re gathering all the information. So I really did start doing that when I was at Orbitz and I really enjoyed it. And what was really interesting about being in that role was how much it built up for that brand becoming a valued resource for the media. I was really lucky I was based in Chicago. So there are a lot of the national bureaus have national networks that have their Midwest bureaus based in Chicago. So every day, I was getting calls from CNN, or Fox News or NBC and they’re like, can you come over to your bureau, we need someone to talk about this travel topic? So you know, it was a kind of really fast-paced type of job that became that once I really kind of became the resource for those media outlets. And that’s really how I kind of built those relationships with the media. And a lot of them I’m still working with, you know, 12 years later today, some of the things…

 

Angela Tuell  07:51

That’s great. Did you go to school for PR? Do you have any broadcast experience back then? Or just -?

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  07:57

It’s funny because a lot of people have said like, Oh, are you? Did you always want to be in front of the camera? And I say, Absolutely not. I did get a degree in communications, you know.

 

Angela Tuell  08:06

Okay.

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  08:06

And I worked for several years at PR agencies very much behind the scenes, you know, helping build brand campaigns. And I literally just kind of how I described kind of fell into doing a lot of the broadcast work when I was at Orbitz. And, you know, I look back at some of the first segments I did those first couple of years, and I definitely grit my teeth. And I’m like, Oh, that wasn’t exactly as smooth as I thought it was.

 

Angela Tuell  08:29

We all did. All of us who were at the broadcast…

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  08:32

Yeah, I was thinking I wasn’t exactly as good as I thought I was at the time. So it’s nice looking back, I feel like I’ve come a long way. But yeah, it’s one of those kind of really life-changing, career-changing things that you know, you try something new, and you realize you’re pretty good at it, and you really enjoy it. And it definitely changed the path of what I’ve been doing. I don’t think I would have gone out on my own and built my own business had I not taken on that challenge while I was there.

 

Angela Tuell  08:59

So those paid segments, are called SMTs. For people who are not super familiar. Will you describe that a little bit?

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  09:06

Yeah, well, the acronym SMT, is satellite media tour. And these have actually been around for a long time. I mean, I remember doing these 20 years ago, early in my career when I was, you know, behind the scenes working at PR agencies, and yeah, a lot of brands really use them as a tool for, you know, getting these quick hits in front of broadcast audiences. And what it you know, logistically is, is you use a satellite truck to feed interviews from either studio or remote location, you typically have an agency who is booking your expert, your spokesperson, on, you know, say 12, to anywhere up to 20. And depending on what you’re talking about, you can book a lot, but a whole morning full of interviews on television stations, where you’re kind of doing all these back-to-back media hits, talking about a certain topic, and so you’re really able to do you know, book, a lot of interviews, get them all done in one day. And there’s a lot of value in that for certain brands. And most of those are paid opportunities that are being booked with stations that do these sponsored segments. What’s really interesting, because as you can imagine, with a satellite truck, and a big, you know, whole setup with a camera, and all of these things, the production costs can be, you know, rather high with these. And we’ve seen over the last year and a half a complete transition into how we’re doing those. So while we still call them SMT, satellite media tours, we’re really not even using satellite right anymore. We’re doing what we’re doing right now we’re doing, we’re doing Zoom interviews. And like 99% of the interviews I have done over the last two years since COVID happened, and everybody learned about Zoom, have been these Zoom interviews. A lot of them I do for my home. But you know, I’ve actually worked with a lot of brands where I go on location, and I’m doing, still doing shoots, in different destinations. I’m actually next week, I’m going to Asheville, North Carolina to talk about fall color destinations. And I’m gonna be doing Zoom interviews from there. So it’s been a really interesting change. And I think one that TV stations have really embraced. But it’s also changed the accessibility for brands with spokespeople to be able to kind of get in the game of broadcast media because it’s taken away that barrier for having to have a satellite hook up and go in a studio somewhere. And then now, you know, if you have someone who is a great broadcast expert, or great internal spokesperson, you can do it from anywhere. And the fact that television stations continue to actually prefer these Zoom interviews, as opposed to satellite interviews just shows that the world is definitely changing and broadcast media.

 

Angela Tuell  11:54

Yes. And it’s a cost saving for them for sure not to have to do the satellite part.

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  11:57

Yes, there’s a cost savings. Yeah, not just for the brands, but on the station side as well, in a lot of these local stations, you know, that’s a huge cost saving for them. And really important for them, there a lot of local stations can, you know, definitely struggle with, you know, having, you know, the costs of a lot of these tours. And so I think that it has broken down a big barrier, and it definitely makes their production much easier as well.

 

Angela Tuell  12:23

Yes. How do you get connected with your clients?

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  12:27

Just networking, honestly. I was just talking to somebody about this yesterday, with a, you know, a potential new client that I’m talking to later today where he said, wow, like, I did this one, you know, media tour with somebody, they left that job and went to work someplace else.

 

Angela Tuell  12:43

Right. Right.

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  12:43

Now I’m working with them. And then somebody I met through them at that company now just took another job with a different travel company. And I mean, it is really amazing. If you lean into networking with people and building those bridges, how far that can take you throughout your career? Yeah, I’ve been blessed to work at it, like having worked at a place like Orbitz, with so many amazingly smart people that have gone on until like C-level positions and other travel brands and even outside of travel. It’s really been a huge driver for me, for my business, and continues to be.

 

Angela Tuell  13:18

Yes. What type of travel advice is your specialty? I know you describe yourself as a parent and outdoor enthusiast.

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  13:24

Yeah, I mean, to be honest with you. It’s hard to pin that down. I mean, I do love talking about family travel. I am like you said I am an outdoor enthusiast. I love like when I travel. For me, it’s all about like being outside and experiencing things, and like, what can you go do? And so I do love talking about that. And you’ll see on my blog, I do kind of lean into those topics for sure. Because on a personal level that really speaks to me. But, you know, when I’m doing, you know, travel segments, I really, really focus on kind of what is, what is it that everybody else needs right now. So you know, when it’s February, I’m talking about where should you be looking for spring break, you know, and then when it gets closer to summer, like what do you need to know? It’s what’s been the most important factor for me in doing work with a lot of television stations, you know like a TV is so focused on what is in the news cycle right now. They don’t really want to talk about what’s six months out, it’s what’s coming up. So I’ve really built in my, you know, editorial calendar of all the things I talked about around what I know they’re going to want to cover in the coming months. And I do try to do like fun creative things as well. Last year leading into the holidays I did a whole round of segments about what are the most festive destinations to visit. And things like that are really fun for me because I do think it’s about the experiences when you’re in these places that really make you want to be there and kind of bringing that to life. I do a lot of segments, you know, on travel tips, and you know, how can you save money, best days to book all of those kind of really practical things. But the ones that are really fun for me are the ones where I get to dig into Ooooo, what festivals are going on in this destination, or, you know, what are the really cool things to do while you’re there? I just did a segment the other day, and it was in Chicago, and I was talking about fall drive destinations. And one of them is this really cute little town called Galena, Illinois. And I was researching cool things to do there in the fall. And one of them was a wine walk where you have this call, I can’t remember the name of it now. But basically, you walk and you do this hike with a glass of wine in your hand.

 

Angela Tuell  15:44

Yes, I saw the segment – it was fabulous.

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  15:47

And it was like a goat by your side. I you know, so you had this little wine track with a goat. And I was like, oh, okay, well, I think that’s the next wave after goat yoga, but things like that just make it sort of a joy to do the job. Do you know?

 

Angela Tuell  16:04

Yes, yes. What have been some of your best travel adventures?

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  16:10

Oh, wow. I mean, it’s so funny when you think about this, because people ask me when I am doing television interviews a lot, like, what is your favorite destination? And I always like trapped when I get that question like, because also like, you know, I’m in my mid to late 40s now. I have three kids, and my oldest is 13. So how I traveled and where I traveled, like, you know, in my mid-20s, and how it’s evolved to where, how I travel now is so vastly different. You know, when I was in my 20s, I had me, I had a good girlfriend of mine, and we would just save our money because we weren’t making a lot then and we would like, but find like a $400 airline ticket to like Paris, and we would just like go for a week and a half, you know, and use all of our vacation days. And it was glorious and we would stay in hostels. And now it’s, you know, let me pack everybody’s suitcases, relocate for a week and figure out what is gonna make everyone happy. So, you know, I’m sure you can relate to that.

 

Angela Tuell  17:11

Completely. Yes.

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  17:13

Um, so yeah, so it’s interesting, but I mean, like, some of my I’m a, I’m a lover of international travel because I love experiencing new cultures. And, you know, so anywhere in Europe, you could take me and I would be in heaven. I’ve also really enjoyed places like Australia. I love going to, you know, just even to the Caribbean to the islands and trying the different foods and things. So, I mean, I love and I’m also like, I got that outdoorsy part of me. So I love the national parks as well, we did a couple of years ago, Glacier National Park and Yellowstone, and the whole Western experience with the kids and everyone in my family complained about it while they were there. But then they couldn’t stop talking about how awesome it was once we got back. So I felt like it was a win.

 

Angela Tuell  17:57

That’s great. Well, do you have some great travel advice for traveling with children?

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  18:03

Wow. Again, I feel trapped in this question. I mean, it’s, it’s different when they’re different ages, but I just think in general, it’s just one of those things where you have to go with the flow, it sort of sounds cliche to say, but you know, my most enjoyable vacations when we’ve gone anywhere as a family is when I do not try to plan everything out. And I don’t try to, I don’t really have expectations on what I think is gonna be fun. You know, I think, you know, you can fall into that trap of being like, Okay, we’re gonna go do this. And then the kids are gonna love this, this is good. And like, none of that actually goes to plan and people are, you know, having meltdowns or whatever. So we just try to take it easy plan a couple of things. And now that my kids are getting a little older, before we go, I try to sometimes I have to reverse, use a little reverse psychology on certain things, but like, try to get their buy in on certain things like, Hey, guys, check this out what I saw, I wonder if that would be fun to do. And like, you know, when it’s there, sometimes it goes over much better when you get there.

 

Angela Tuell  19:11

That’s a great tip. I’ll have to use that one.

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  19:14

That’s certainly anything in life with kids though, right?

 

Angela Tuell  19:16

That is true. That is true. So before we go, I must ask about your newest endeavor, which is very similar to what you’ve been doing. But as a co-founder of the Broadcast Experts. Tell us a little bit more about that.

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  19:28

Yeah, so just with a partner, with a great partner of mine, just this past spring, we launched Broadcast Experts, which is a broadcast PR firm. Everything we do is centered around broadcast media television radio podcasts. And yeah, essentially I have been doing this for myself for so long, booking myself on segments and working with producers. I have experienced, you know, media training folks from you know, my careers in the past. And I kind of said, you know, we should be doing this and using these relationships we’ve built to help other brands. And, you know, luckily, and Alyssa Sullivan, who’s my partner, based in LA, and we had worked together for years and years, we just kind of came together and said, Let’s just do this. And it was another one of those things where anytime you do anything like that, you know, you feel like you’re jumping off a cliff a little bit like, okay, let’s finally just say let’s do it.

 

Angela Tuell  20:26

Right, right.

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  20:26

Um, and it’s been fantastic. So we’ve been booking satellite media tours and broadcast programs for a variety of clients, not just in the travel industry, but in the automotive industry. And really, and C-level executives who are looking to kind of get their name out there more as contributors on shows. And so it’s been really fun. I mean, we kind of just got up and running about six months ago, and we’re busy, and it’s great. And I think there’s definitely a need for that for a lot of brands, you know, that have a lot of PR capabilities, but it’s sort of a niche, right, that broadcast those TV stations and knowing the right producers and knowing the right things to pitch at the right time. And so we’re really excited to be able to kind of bring that.

 

Angela Tuell  21:14

Yes, I can attest to Alyssa being fabulous. I interned, even though she’s not very much older than me, I interned for her out in Washington, DC for NBC at the White House. So that was…

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  21:26

That had to be amazing.

 

Angela Tuell  21:27

It was completely amazing. Yes. So how can I listeners connect with you online?

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  21:32

Yeah, well, I have a website for my personal brand outsideinsider.com. And that’s where I really share all my travel advice. Is anybody interested in you know, ever working with me as a travel spokesperson? But then our broadcast experts company we have is the broadcastexperts.com. And that’s where you can, you know, see all the capabilities that Alyssa and I are providing to brands who are looking to do more broadcast work. And then I’m on, of course, I’m on social media. I’m on like everybody, although I’m admittedly not the best poster all the time. But I’m always on there, just not necessarily. So you definitely can connect with me on Instagram. That’s the outside Insider.

 

Angela Tuell  22:15

Wonderful. Thank you.

 

Jeanenne Tornatore  22:17

Well, thanks, Angela. This has been so much fun. I love you get to sit down and do these fun interviews.

 

Angela Tuell  22:21

Yes, thank you. That’s all for this episode of Media in Minutes, a podcast by Communications Redefined. Please take a moment to rate, review and subscribe to our show. We’d love to hear what you think. You can find more at CommunicationsRedefined.com/podcast. I’m your host, Angela Tuell. Talk to you next time.

On-air travel expert, Jeanenne Tornatore, shares her journey with Angela in today’s episode.  From her start blogging for Orbitz to co-owning The Broadcast Experts, listen as Jeanenne shares her preference for behind-the-scenes work while embracing her role in front of the camera.

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