Every month, we’re lucky to have a (virtual) chat with an influential journalist. They share their best tips for publicists and brands to gain and keep their attention—something that’s key for PR success. Today, we have a conversation with Lisa Ellen Niver, an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. In addition to being the founder of the popular blog, We Said Go Travel, Niver has also written for National Geographic, USA Today 10best, TODAY, Teen Vogue, American Airways, and Delta Sky, Route (Air Canada), Hemispheres, and many more!
Read below to learn more from this busy, globe-trotting writer:
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us about your day-to-day routine.
Lisa Niver: I have been in Los Angeles since March 9, 2020, which is now over 400 days. I used to travel up to 50 percent [of the time] for my travel stories and spent much of my time filming and then editing my travel videos for my TV segments, articles, and YouTube channel, which is now over 1.3 million views.
During COVID, I focused on writing my book about my divorce and 50 challenges before 50 projects. I have recently finished my book proposal and am now actively looking for an agent! Every single day I sit at my desk and work on my book. I use the Pomodoro method, which is about breaking the day into chunks. I generally sit at my desk for 18 minutes at a time and then get up out of my chair. Often on my breaks, I use the app, Insight Timer and do a Tibetan sound meditation. If I use my breaks to look at social media on my phone, my day is much less productive.
How many stories do you work on in a month? How do you keep yourself organized?
LN: In addition to writing my book, I am still writing articles, although lately, books [have been the focus]. I just won an award in April 2021 from the National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards as a book critic! I have written more than a dozen stories for Thrive Global about books and movies.
My favorite recent piece was about my accidental swimming lesson with an Olympian. Being able to swim in outdoor pools has helped keep me sane during COVID. I never expected to write about swimming, but after my surprising encounter, I kept telling the story to friends who said, "you must write about this!" So I did! The funniest part is that I wrote for AARP before Teen Vogue!
I use Excel to keep track of my writing for my website, We Said Go Travel, and all of my other commitments and stories. I like to turn articles in early and often will send a draft to an editor. I have two pieces in AAA Magazine for Summer 2021, and the editor asked me to pitch her. She reached out to me after she read my story about my journey to my book in Undomesticated Magazine.
How do you find sources/products?
LN: One of my best places to find stories, sources, and products is the PR Media Czars group on Facebook. I have learned so much from this group and made great connections. Another top place for me is UPOD Academy, run by David Hochman. I used to use HARO quite a bit five years ago, but not very much lately.
I used to go to many travel, adventure, and destination conferences. Some of those have successfully moved online. However, one meeting in Jan 2021 had 550 travel and hospitality members, and the entire platform crashed. That was challenging.
What stands out to you in a pitch from a publicist? The good? The bad?
LN: My favorite pitch/request from a publicist was from someone I knew who wrote to me and said, “I can see on Facebook that you are in XX destination, but I really need a favor.” I appreciated the extra effort to know what was going on for me and still make an over-the-top request, but at least with the caveat, they tried to see it from my perspective. I like to work with people who are trustworthy and respectful. From the beginning, I have worked to build relationships and not just do one transaction with a person and move on. There are many people who I have worked with over and over again, and as my outlets have gotten bigger and my stories better, it has been beneficial for all of us. My biggest pet peeve is when I get the same PR pitch five times after responding that it is not a match for me. I have worked hard during this great pause in travel called COVID to keep responding to requests for coverage and be honest about how I am not writing about travel yet.
How do you come up with story ideas?
LN: Sometimes wacky story ideas just come to me. I wrote one story for Thrive Global called "Coping with COVID through Groundhog Day, Total Meditation and Badass Habits." I had DARC (digital advance reader copies) of both Jen Sincero and Deepak Chopra’s new books. I was thinking about COVID and coping and, for some reason, I wanted to write about them together. I re-watched Groundhog Day the movie—one of my most favorite movies—when I was working onboard cruise ships, and I mushed them all together. In the end, I liked that article so much. I wrote a second article mash-up called "Building Life Again After Loss: Sliding Doors, Braver Than You Think, and My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me."
I listen to podcasts, read magazines, and talk to friends. I am always open to new books and new ideas from conferences. When a thought comes to me, I write it down and ponder if I can make it work as a story and what the editor might be interested in. I talk to people and see what they think of my idea. Many times while I am swimming or working in my art studio, I can figure out how to fix a problem in a story or figure out what my next article will be.
What's the hardest part of your job? What's the best part?
LN: One of the most complex parts for me is working alone. I love to be around people. I worked for nearly seven years on cruise ships and at Club Med. Before and after that, I taught school and worked on set for Nickelodeon. I am used to being around others. Sitting at my desk and writing can get very lonely. But, one of the best parts is that I can have a flexible schedule to swim, travel (when we are allowed again), and see friends (when we are all vaccinated).
What advice would you give to a publicist to catch your attention?
LN: I really appreciate people who show that they are writing to me for a reason. One woman wrote about how much she liked my video about the Fijian crested iguanas and wanted to know if I could learn about seahorses. Another publicist wrote to me that she liked my story about the Hotel Erwin in Venice, where I went on a birthday staycation and asking "Would I be interested in doing a similar story" for her property? I work hard to respond to everyone in a timely fashion and especially in these challenging times to be kind. There have been some days when I completely lost sense of humor and patience, but I feel much more hopeful lately!