Angela Tuell 0:05
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. I am super excited about our guest today, Laura Begley Bloom. Laura is one of the leading travel experts in the industry. She is seen regularly on national television outlets like The Weather Channel, CNN and Inside Edition. She is the former editor in chief of Yahoo Travel and deputy editor of Travel and Leisure. Her Forbes column, Transformative Travel is one of the most popular columns for the outlet with an audience reach of over 16 million. She is also a content strategist and has worked with luxury lifestyle and travel brands, ranging from four seasons, hotels and resorts to Holland America, to the Lincoln Motor Company. Hi, Laura. It's so great to talk with you.
Laura Begley Bloom 1:09
I'm so excited to talk with you, too.
Angela Tuell 1:11
So we often start the podcast jumping right into our guests' current work. But I can't do that with you because of something from your bio that I didn't know that grabbed my attention. Your great, great grandfather was a civil war correspondent. That's amazing!
Laura Begley Bloom 1:27
Yeah, we were so excited to find this out. We didn't know this until kind of later. My dad was doing a lot of family research and found this out. His name was Albert Bodman. And he was a correspondent for The Chicago Tribune back in the 1800s. And he and he wrote a diary called "In sight of Vicksburg" that we have a copy of, so you can read all about his experiences. And it's just it's really cool to have that, you know, in our family genes. And I think it sort of made his way down down the line to me.
Angela Tuell 2:01
Yes. What do you know about his work?
Laura Begley Bloom 2:03
Obviously, he was a pretty intrepid reporter, he was at the Battle of Vicksburg, he just, you know, he wrote all these amazing articles, and, you know, very curious guy. And some, I like to think that my dad is, my dad wasn't a journalist, but I feel like he kind of got a little bit of that gene, too - this was his great grandfather. Because when I was growing up, my dad always had books and magazines around and was always watching TV news. And when I go home now, it's, you know, Morning Joe is always on heavy rotation along with CNN, so and he's got a real curiosity. So I think, you know, I think there's something there.
Angela Tuell 2:41
Yes, it's in your blood. Has anyone else in your family, besides you, been a journalist?
Laura Begley Bloom 2:46
you know, not that I'm really aware of. We've had people that have dabbled in it. But I will say I think I'm raising a journalist. So my eight year old daughter, yeah, my eight year old daughter, Lucy goes with me a lot of trips. And I like to think of her as my junior reporter. And she, you know, we're traveling, she'll take pictures, she'll help me out sometimes with articles. I just recently did a story for CNBC all about the Avengers, and she's an Avengers fanatic. And so she's helping me out with it and telling me the stories of all the people and sometimes I'll be interviewed on TV and she'll say, "Well, Mommy, I don't understand why. Why don't they want to interview me? I was. I go on the trips. I help you out. I you know, I know what's going on."
Angela Tuell 3:27
Oh, my goodness. I love that. So are you a native New Yorker? Did your career take you there?
Laura Begley Bloom 3:33
I am not a native New Yorker. I sort of grew up and a number of different places. I was actually born on Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana. My dad was an Air Force at the time. And then we moved to the Boston area and lived there for a number of years, then moved to Dallas, then to Minneapolis. Yeah, I went to college at Smith College back in Massachusetts. And but I always wanted to live in New York City was my dream. For as long as I can remember, my parents tell me that when I was a little girl, and we were I think driving down to Disney World or something. We drove through New York City and I said, "Oh, I want to live here someday." And they thought I was nuts. But it just it just always stuck with me. And so when I was in college, I really worked hard to try to get a job in New York City after school. And I just was dead set on moving to New York.
Angela Tuell 4:26
And was that, was your first job then the honeymoon editor job?
Laura Begley Bloom 4:30
No, actually, my first job was at Money Magazine. I got this job as a fact checker at Money Magazine. And, and I, I was making decent money and living in an apartment down in the East Village. And then but it was it was a really boring job. I was just sitting there I was I was an economics major. So kind of made sense. That was how I got it. I also done a bunch of journalism at school, writing, editing the college paper, on the college radio station and then I called up Conde Nast. And they had this role that you could go into where you would move around to different magazines. And I was at a magazine called Mademoiselle for five minutes. And then they said, Oh, we have this opening at Brides magazine in the travel section. And I was just kind of horrified. I was sort of horrified like, I came from a women's college, you know, was very women's libby. And so the idea of going to a honeymoon magazine or sorry, a bridal magazine and doing honeymoons was just not my dream. I wanted to be a hardcore journalist. I wanted to be, you know, the New Yorker or Vanity Fair. And it was actually my mom who said to me, "You know, Laura, maybe if you got this job, you could actually travel. Wouldn't that be cool?" And I had never really even occurred to me that this could be a career. So they moved me into, you know, this, this role that they had at Conde Nast, you would fill in for somebody on vacation or maternity leave, and I was they had just happen to have the opening. And I loved it. They loved me. And it's you know, the rest is history. I took the job and I think to, a month in, two weeks in they sent me down to the Riviera Maya to do a story on Cancun and Cozumel. And I was hooked.
Angela Tuell 6:14
Is that so? So how did you go from that? Obviously, we're starting into it at that point to editor in chief of Yahoo Travel, which is very impressive?
Laura Begley Bloom 6:22
Oh, thank you. Well, I took a couple of leaps along the way. So you know, spent some time at Brides magazine, doing travel, checking out honeymoons and then went to Travel + Leisure. And that was just an amazing place to really cut my teeth there and stay there for a really, really, really long time. And I loved the editor in chief, her name was Nancy Novogrod, she was my mentor, and just taught me so much. And I had the dream job. So I didn't really ever want to leave. And I had worked my way up from associate editor to style director to senior editor, actually, I think I'm getting the order wrong. But then finally to deputy editor, and then from there, went on to Yahoo travel as executive editor. And then was there for I don't know, a year and a half and got promoted to editor in chief. And so it was it was a pretty, it was a pretty fun trajectory. And so we, while I was at Yahoo, you know, we transformed the travel section into the top read travel content site in the world, which was very exciting, and won some awards along the way, too.
Angela Tuell 7:31
Yeah. So being in house like that, how did you become a freelancer and having your own business?
Laura Begley Bloom 7:35
Well, I have to say, that was not my intention. I never thought I wanted to be a freelance writer. I always thought I was going to be on staff. And throughout my different roles, I was always sort of working on both sides of the, you know, of these brands, doing, writing and editing, but also working, you know, with the PR teams, doing TV appearances, working with the marketing teams, the advertising teams, looking at, you know, brand extensions, working on sponsored content doing, you know, when I was at Travel + Leisure, we were doing sponsored content before it was even a thing and I sort of grew it into this big money making division of Travel + Leisure. And then Yahoo Travel went bust. So the Yahoo was being sold, they had taken this huge endeavor to create all of these magazines like in house magazine, digital magazines, as they called them. And so Yahoo was being sold to Verizon, and they got rid of a lot of the different divisions, including Yahoo Travel. And so suddenly, I was without a job. And I was interviewing for other full time jobs, but also getting calls from folks saying, hey, do you want to do some content strategy, do you want to do some freelance writing for us, you want to do this, you want to do that? And my husband was the one who said, you know, Laura, maybe you don't want to take another full time job, maybe you should take all of these opportunities that are coming your way, and put them together and create a business and do that. Why go, Why have another full time job? And in fact, I remember, you know, it's just I remember somebody saying to me around that time, like, it's not very modern to have one job anymore. It's more modern to be a free agent, and to have you have your eggs in a lot of different baskets. Because, you know, why do you want to be committed to just one place and then it goes away, and then you have nothing? So why not have a lot of different things going at the same time, which was actually really good advice.
Angela Tuell 9:35
Yeah. And as you mentioned, you, you know, we're not only a print are not only a printed digital journalist, but as a travel expert, you've been interviewed by television programs like Good Morning America, Today Show, CNN. Was it difficult to make that transition to being in front of the camera?
Laura Begley Bloom 9:53
Well, you know, early on in my journalism career, I actually wanted to be a TV journalist. I have this, this dream of doing that. And I interned at a TV station in college, the CBS affiliate in Minneapolis, I was with the investigative unit. And I don't know, when I saw the behind the scenes of what it was really like to work in TV journalism, I didn't really feel like it was for me, it felt a little bit. I don't know, it just, it just felt like more of more of entertainment than actual journalism. So that's when...
Angela Tuell 10:26
You don't get much time to work on sstories - they're very short.
Laura Begley Bloom 10:30
And also, you know, so much of it, I hate to say is about, you know, what you look like, and I just thought I, you know, I want to be, I want to do, not, I mean, of course, there are places like 60 Minutes, and there are TV outlets to do real journalism, but I just want to do more substantive, substantial journalism. And so I that's why I took the, you know, I went to print and magazines. But then when I was at Travel + Leisure, they said, Hey, would you want to do some TV, we think you could be good on TV, doing some interviews. And so they gave me a little bit of media training. And so I started doing interviews for smaller places like New York One in New York City. And then and I will never forget being on the TV Food Network really early on, I had not done a lot of TV, and I panicked, and I forgot everything. And my, my parents still make fun of me to this day, because I literally couldn't remember anything. And everything they asked me about every restaurant they asked me about I just said, Oh, yeah, that's, well, that's fusion, fusion cuisine. I'm still horrified. I mean, it's been a long time. But I still think back and it's I if you I'd love to get my hands on that tape. Because it was pretty embarrassing.
Angela Tuell 11:48
Yeah, you know, you see small places, New York One is not really starting super small, you know. So you were thrown into some big outlets.
Laura Begley Bloom 11:58
I guess it was big. But you know, I'm talking local. And then you know, of course, then, you know, as I did more, I got more comfortable with it. You know, I kept working my way up. And then did, you know, was interviewed quite a bit by Today Show, Good Morning America. And I still do a lot of it. So you know, from CNN, The Weather Channel, Inside Edition. It's fun. I really like it. It's just, it's just a different. It's a different approach. And you know, I enjoy it. And it's, you know, I do and I do have a lot of respect for TV journalists, because it's, it's not easy. They work. They work really, really hard.
Angela Tuell 12:31
Yeah. I also love your transformative travel column for Forbes, you know, where you look at how travel can change women's lives. How did you decide to make that your focus of the column?
Laura Begley Bloom 12:40
Well, to tell you the truth, I mean, I obviously I went to a women's college, I feel very strongly about you know, women's issues and promoting women and celebrating women and the work that they do. And when, after, right after I left Yahoo, Forbes was sort of restarting, they had a women at Forbes, or she was called Forbes Women, and they were restarting it as Women at Forbes, with a new person overseeing it, Christina Vuleta, who had done this really cool franchise called 40 Under 40. And then she was great. And so she called me up and was we wanted to chat about working together. And it's she offered me this column. And said, you know, we'd love to have you do travel, we don't have anybody else covering travel for this. And so that was the angle I took was, you know, looking at transformative travel and, you know, really looking at how travel can change women's lives, but also how women that are working in the travel space can change other people's lives. So I love interviewing, kick ass women who were doing really cool things, and you know, helping get the word out, and also just help and then they do some normal travel stories, too. But you know, always looking at ways that people can travel better. And, you know, I just I think that travel is so important. And especially right now, after COVID I was just talking to a travel agent friend of mine the other day, and she was saying that she doesn't think that people realize how much not traveling and not going places over the past year has impacted people. And I really do think when we've gone through so much, and I think once you once you get on a plane and you go somewhere and you kind of get out of your day to day, it really changes your psyche and just changes your outlook on life.
Angela Tuell 14:29
Yes, it does. You have a long track record, as we talked about, of success and credibility. What do you find keeps readers coming back?
Laura Begley Bloom 14:37
Well, I think, um, you know, of course, I feel like I'm sort of the master of clicky stories that being read.
Angela Tuell 14:46
So I agree with headlines.
Laura Begley Bloom 14:48
I am great with the headlines and I do sort of have this knack for spotting a good story and jumping on it. And you know, I just find that often like I did a story last year, was right during the pandemic, about places where you could go and get a second passport and move somewhere else. And it went absolutely crazy. Got like 1.7 million views. And you know, and I did another story where I took this where I was, I was on a Delta flight, it was over spring break, and Delta was bumping all these passengers and they were offering people money. And so I kept getting bumped. And I got bumped intentionally with my family got bumped off three flights in a row. So I wrote the story about how I had made $11,000 from Delta Airlines in three days by getting bumped. And, you know, the headline was, was something along the lines of Why Delta Airlines Paid Me Not to Go to Florida. And that went crazy viral, got picked up all over the world. And, you know, I was on all over TV doing like the evening news. So I don't know, I just I think, I wish I could tell you the exact formula. But I just feel like there's this knack that I have, and maybe it comes from my great, great grandfather, the Chicago Tribune reporter. Um, and you know, I just sort of have a nose for what I think people are going to be interested to read about. And of course, I have stories that bomb, too. They're not all out of this world success stories is, you know, sometimes you've got to throw a lot of spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. But I think I usually have a pretty good idea of what people are going to be interested in.
Angela Tuell 16:32
Yeah. So what else are you working on now?
Laura Begley Bloom 16:35
Oh, so you know, doing, you know, a lot of freelance writing for different places. So obviously, Forbes, I also am working with TripAdvisor. I'm pretty proud of the work I'm doing there. I helped them launch a Weekend Getaways column last summer. It's all about weekend getaways within driving distance of New York. So that comes out every other week. And so it's been actually really fantastic during the pandemic, because I've been traveling all around the North East and Mid Atlantic area to check out these weekend spots and writing about them. So that's kept me a little sane throughout the pandemic. And it's and it's rolling out to other destinations around the United States. So that's really cool. Writing for Business Insider for CNBC, doing some TV work, and then also working with brands. So in addition to the editorial work that I do, you know, I do content strategy for various brands. So you know, working with the Related Company, which runs the shops at Columbus Circle, so on and so forth. So that's, that's a lot of fun.
And what is that...
And you've, and you and I've worked together, and...
Angela Tuell 17:43
I know, we have and it was so fabulous. What does that what's does that entail for everyone?
Laura Begley Bloom 17:50
Yeah. So you know, what it is, is brands these days, I think consumers don't, I find they don't really necessarily care where they're getting their news. I mean, they obviously they know if it story is coming from CNN versus Fox. And you know, there are trusted resources and trusted names and travel, you know, Forbes and Travel + Leisure's of the world that people turn to. But I think over the years, people have begun to open their mind to getting content from brands. And brands have begun to realize that if they put good authentic content out there into the world, people will pay attention to it, and people will read it. And so it's just it's become a huge trend. You know, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, for example. I called me a few years back, and they had been working with influencers and sending influencer influencers on their private jet. And they said, you know, we actually want to take a bit of a different approach. And we would like to have a real journalist, who's relatable, go on this private jet around the world and create authentic content on the jet, and we think that it's going to do a lot better than having these Instagram posts with, you know, these young, these young women that maybe our passengers wouldn't necessarily relate to. Not that I'm not young. I'm not giving away my age. So I went so I went on the jet for three weeks and created a lot of content. So video, digital, print, and you know, Four Seasons, put it out across their channels, and it was a huge hit. So actually, one of the videos that I did, went viral, and I was nominated for a Webby Award. It was pretty, it was pretty cool. And so I think that's just one small example. But then I also, you know, do different kinds of work like I worked with Holland America cruise line and and Food & Wine magazine on a partnership that they were doing, where we were where I was actually going out and curating these port experiences around the world for Holland America cruise line, and they were, they were then branded as Food & Wine adventures, or trips. And you know, people could go out and cook with the chef, they could go visit food, do food tours, go visit food markets, just like all these different kinds of really interesting food experiences, the kinds of things that you would read about in food and wine. So I helped bring them to life for Holland America. And so that was a very, very, very successful partnership. And then you're just creating blog posts, like I work with the shops at Columbus Circle, and I do articles about their restaurants and their retailers. So there's just a lot of different ways of, you know, really creating that authentic content that brands can put out into the world. And you know, people like to read about it, because it has very editorial feeling to it.
Angela Tuell 20:49
Yes. And as you mentioned, we work together on one of our global clients, Flyover Zone. And that was the smartest move with the project that we're doing with them was to bring you in and write the stories as a journalist, you know, write the content up front that we were going to be sharing with the world. And it went very well. So
Laura Begley Bloom 21:07
Yeah, I loved it. I mean, I was I have to say, one of the things that made me most proud was remember, the archaeologist from Germany? Yes. And, and he read one of the stories I wrote, and he said, Oh, my gosh, reading, your story has gotten me so excited about the work that I've been doing.
Angela Tuell 21:24
Yeah. And he's done it for 20 years.
Laura Begley Bloom 21:28
So he just said, the way you articulated it really just took it to another level. So that was fun. And so I think that was like a perfect example of being able to bring, you know, that editorial perspective to a brand and and you know, make it feel relatable and real and authentic and and get people interested in it and get them to want to check it out. So I think I think we got a lot of people taking those virtual tours, and hopefully we can do some more in the future.
Angela Tuell 21:52
Yes, definitely. I know, you've mentioned some of the interesting places a little bit with the brands that you've traveled. But, you know, overall, I'm sure it's really hard to pinpoint. But what are some of the really interesting places you've covered and what separates them from the pack?
Laura Begley Bloom 22:06
Well, you know, Angela, that's a great question. And I always say, it's the last trip I went on is the is the place I'm most excited about. Okay, I have gone to play. I mean, I've gone to places where people would say, Oh, that's why would you want to go there and found interesting things like I think, anywhere you travel, there are great stories to be told and interesting things that you can find out, you know, whether it's, I did a trip on the Oregon Trail at one point back a honeymoon trip when I was at Brides. And just it was so much fun. And I found some great stories, you know, in the middle of America. And you know, and of course, you know, I've gone to Tahiti, I've gone all over Africa, Caribbean, Asia. And you know, so it is hard to pinpoint the last place that I went to, though I'm, as I said, because it's the last place I went to I was just recently in Costa Rica. Yes. And I, it was my first big trip, post COVID. Not that we're necessarily out of it, but went down with my family for my husband's birthday. And, you know, was the first time I had flown in over a year and went down, you know, and went to the rain forest went to Manuel Antonio. And just it was so incredible. And now I'm obsessed with buying a house in Costa Rica.
Angela Tuell 23:27
That's one of the favorite places we've been to. It's absolutely beautiful.
Laura Begley Bloom 23:30
Yeah, I loved it. And it was. And I have to say, I thought that the country did such an amazing job. I mean, I've been before. So I already knew it's so it's so clean, everything so organized. But they really had their act together when it came to COVID. And that was part of the reason why we also chose that. We just felt like it would be a safe place. The numbers were low, literally everywhere you went into even if you went into like a little roadside food truck, they would have a washing station where you could wash your hands or when they made you wash your hands before you went in. And everybody was wearing masks, no matter where you went. It says it felt safe. It felt good. And it was and it's so beautiful and has great nature. And I just I love it there so much.
Angela Tuell 24:13
You mentioned COVID. How is the travel world adapting to entice travelers post COVID even though we're not quite there yet, but, you know, even now in post COVID how do you feel that they're doing?
Laura Begley Bloom 24:25
Well certainly. The travel world has been taking great strides to ensure people's safety. I did a story that just came out on CNBC about the cruise industry. And you know, what struck me was a quote. I interviewed a guy named Gene Sloan, who is a real expert in the cruise industry. He's over at The Points Guy. And he said he made the point that the cruise lines are being held to a higher standard than any other industry. And you probably couldn't actually be on in a safer place than on a cruise ship right now. Because they've just put in multimillion dollar air purification systems and they have protocols and procedures, if anybody gets sick to make sure that you know, it doesn't spread. And, you know, but we're not just seeing that in the cruise industry, I think we're seeing it across all industries, you know, Marriott Hotels, who I'm a big fan of the work they do. They have hospital level cleaning. You know, I think Delta Airlines, also the cleaning procedures, just the way that they are handling everything, you know, so I just, I think, I think procedures have been put in place. And I really think that a lot of these are going to stay, you know, I will make it just everything cleaner and safer. And, you know, as I said, I have been out there, and I've been traveling, and I really, I've felt very safe doing so.
Angela Tuell 25:49
That's great. So what advice do you have for PR professionals when it comes to pitching and building relationships?
Laura Begley Bloom 25:57
That's an interesting question. And I think it's funny, because I think a lot of young journalists, they're not journalists, a lot of young public relations, people are told when they get their first job, oh, build some relationships, get some, make some relationships. Get get to know, the journalist, it's so funny how often I'll have somebody call and say like, Hey, can I take you out to lunch, I really want to just get to know you and have build a relationship with you. You know, and I think what they don't realize, and I feel like a jerk saying it, but is, I'm so busy. So for me just going out and having you know, having lunch or having a drink, it's like, it's really hard to fit that in. So I think the people who are smart about it are looking at other ways in. So maybe, you know, they've got a client who's coming to town that they want to introduce me to that would get me to want to go out and meet their client and see and hear about what they're doing. You know, and I also just think, I think a lot of people don't realize just the very sort of basic courtesies go a long way. So thanking somebody when they read an article about your client, like, I can't even tell you how often, like, I'll do something, and people, I just, it doesn't even get acknowledged, like I'll send it and then somebody doesn't say thank you. Um, you know, and social media is huge, right? We all want to be growing our social media, and you know, in our audiences, and I had one company, I won't name the name, I did a story with them for my Forbes column. And they came to me and they said, Oh, you know, is there any way that you could get Forbes to share this and tag our company, you know, on their, on their social media feeds? And you know, and in return, we will also share your story on our feed, which was a big feed. And so I said, Okay, let me go ask them. And so I asked the Forbes social team, they said, Sure, they were excited also about getting tagged in return. And we so Forbes did it. And literally, this other company, never shared the story and never tagged Forbes. And I kept going back to the PR person and saying, okay, I went out in the limb here, guys, I told I asked Forbes, they did it. Where are where's the share? And they kept saying, Oh, yeah, and then finally, the PR guy I kept bugging him about it and he just started blowing me off. He didn't even respond.
Angela Tuell 28:17
What? Oh my goodness!
Laura Begley Bloom 28:18
So let me just tell you that it's not a company I'm super excited about writing about anymore because, you know, I just think, like, they. Well, they kind of led me down a weird path. But, you know, but, but the point is, I think, if you're a PR person, you know, get your client to share the story and tag the journalist, it's, especially if your client has a big, has a big audience. So I think that's, you know, that's, that's one, that's a really good way. And then with pitching, I mean, this is, you know, everybody says, you really want to know the outlet, right?
Angela Tuell 28:50
Laura Begley Bloom 28:50
You don't want to pitch I mean, I get so many random pitches that have nothing to do with the outlets that I write for, I get tons of pitches with Forbes, about men, and I but it's, I don't write about men, I work with Forbes Women so you aren't even paying attention. And then I also think people, there's this thing that happens a lot too, when I write about something, and then suddenly, I'll get 100 pitches about the same topic. But people are clearly not paying attention, that I'm doing a range of topics, you know, so for instance, I did a profile of a woman, a black woman who is the head of a major Casino in Atlantic City, and she's just, she's amazing. And the next thing you know, every single casino owner across the country, pitching me about their casino people are pitching me casino stories. I don't write about the casinos that often. And so I think it's being creative, too. If you see something, don't just think oh, that means she's going to write 100 more casino stories. Maybe it's coming to me and saying, Hey, you know, we've got this woman who's in this interesting position and doing this and something similar into what you wrote about but maybe kind of taking a fresh angle on it. And also thinking about what the competition is doing, not just only wanting people to write about your client, but thinking about how something can be positioned as a trend. And so maybe it's, you know, it's looking at it across the industry and really coming at it in sort of a smart, holistic way like that.
Angela Tuell 30:19
That is fabulous advice. I really hope we get to work together for years, for years to come, because you're fantastic, Laura.
Laura Begley Bloom 30:27
Thanks, Angela. You're fantastic too. And I hope we get to work together on lots more things.
Angela Tuell 30:32
Thank you so much for your time. You can find Laura on Twitter @Laura Begley Instagram, Laura Begley Bloom. Her website is LauraBegleyBloom.com, and we will link to her Forbes column in our show notes. That's all for this episode of Media in Minutes, a podcast by Communications Redefined, available anywhere you get your podcasts. You can find more at CommunicationsRedefined.com/podcast. I'm your host, Angela Tuell. Talk to you next time.
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