“After all these years traveling together, give me one good reason why you don’t belong to SATW,” says Diana Lambdin-Meyer, peering at me over the top of her glasses, during dinner somewhere in Germany. Diana’s gentle nudge folded me into a herd of friends that quickly became family at my first national conference in El Paso, where you may have seen me shooting party pics at the opening reception or sharing why I wear pearls at the storytelling event.
A few weeks later, Freelance Council members took up the orientation mantle in Japan, coaxing me to get naked with strangers at a hotel onsen and to gulp oysters lifted fresh from the briney depths of Matsushima Bay. Since then, I’ve been working with the professional development committee to translate our collective nerdiness into a buffet of practical education during this time of cultural transformation. And each Monday, I pop up on the SATW Facebook page with a quote and an invitation for writers to share their recently published work. Your new board will govern during one of the most precarious years in our history.
As a former marketing director for two different cities, I smell the fear of uncertainty; yet I sense the strength of community. As a full time travel writer since 2008, I feel the tremors of change; yet I know the promise of hope. Right now, every tourism destination needs a soothsayer. Every crisis manager needs a storyteller. Every travel writer needs a segue. And every decommissioned traveler needs inspiration. I want to help structure SATW strategies to increase our support for the struggling, and to expand our visibility as a go-to source for industry solutions. Collaboration and cross-promotion are part of my professional DNA. Selling sponsorships is my superpower. And brainstorming is my drug of choice.
Writing a candidate’s statement during the age of Covid-19 feels a bit like making music while the Titanic sinks. But, I’m an optimist at heart and that’s why I’m seeking one of the active at-large positions. It’s important for SATW to be at the table when this industry reinvents itself. I believe my collaborative problem-solving style mixed with decades of journalism experience puts me in a good position to represent our members and strive for transparency.
Among the issues that interest me are online professional development, helping members find new income streams, and communications between the board and the members. I’ve been a professional journalist for (dare I say it) more than 25 years, working for what was once called the world’s largest news-gathering organization (The Associated Press) and one of the U.S.’s largest newspapers (The Chicago Tribune), among others. Along the way, I helped create websites in the early days of the internet, was a staff editor for national and international news and feature stories, earned income as a freelance writer and photographer, social media writer, travel content producer and travel website contributor.
We’ve all added new phrases to our vocabulary lately: social distancing, sheltering-in-place, flattening the curve. But one word that keeps coming to mind is pivot. Distilleries are making hand sanitizer, high-end restaurants are shifting to carryout and experiential travelers are staying home. Much of my career has been spent pivoting, from the pre-Internet days when as a nervous 24-year-old I sent AP bulletins around the world to the days in my 50s when I learned how to code for websites and was trained in video production as a Northwestern University journalism instructor. It’s kind of always been sink or swim in this field. It’s a good thing I enjoy the water. Usually.
I welcome your consideration.
An Active member of SATW since 2015, I’ve served as Second Vice Chair in the Eastern Chapter, Co-chair of our Portland Convention, and PD Chair for Barbados; as one of your Actives-at-large, I would seek to guide us toward consistent membership growth, a more diverse membership base, and a stable financial model, always looking to the future. Membership is growing, and to continue this trend we must focus efforts to recruit members from a wider range of age, racial, gender and sexual orientations, and by becoming more inclusive in how we define “travel communicators.”
A speedy, reasoned response to changes in the landscape is one step. Another is a path to legitimize qualified, hard-working journalists working in non-traditional or unfamiliar means. Our hesitance to embrace bloggers and digital publishers worked to our detriment, and our continued reluctance to accept legitimate influencers hurts us now. To broaden membership, we must fully embrace the future of travel communication. As members face tightening budgets and a shrinking pool of paying outlets, we must manage our finances in a growth-positive manner, identifying new ways to generate income.
Opening select virtual PD sessions to non-members or offering non-members the opportunity to participate in select marketplace sessions could be the cash-positive prospects we need. Most pressing is this: where is SATW in 10 years? If we continue to squander our relevance by shutting out new media members, if we elect to ignore the evolving ways audiences consume content, if we chose not to vigorously face the challenges ahead, our future is one of obscurity and irrelevance. With your help we can chart a path to becoming an organization bursting with new members, a group at the vanguard of travel storytelling, a Society ready to respond to the new media landscape the coming decades will bring.
The issues facing the Board of Directors and the Association in the coming year will be monumental. Instead of talking about how we can thrive at a time when more people are traveling than ever, we’re talking about how we can survive at a time when no one is leaving their home. It’s pivot time, but it’s a pivot that cannot lose track of our mission – inspiring travel through responsible journalism.
As an Association, we need to double down on understanding and meeting member needs, especially since those needs may have changed in the last few months, ensuring that SATW membership provides a solid return on investment. To accomplish this, and to make the tough decisions that balance member needs with the reality of current events, we must remove barriers from membership involvement and tap into the strength of our diversity. We must keep an eye on the budget while still expanding on successful initiatives, and we must recognize where our past success has been questionable and look for new opportunities and ways of doing things.
Are we up to the challenge? You bet! While our business plans might be different, we all have a common goal in sustaining successful travel communication careers and businesses. I have published my own websites since 2006, joining SATW in 2014. As a member, I’ve served on the Professional Development Committee, was the Co-Chair of PD for the El Paso Convention, and currently serve as the Co-Chair of the new Digital Publishers Council. I have served in leadership roles in various organizations, both professional and community, and understand the commitment serving on the Board of Directors will entail. I respectfully ask for your support and vote for the Board of Directors At-Large Position. Let’s conquer this challenge together.
I’m Kirsten Maxwell, and while I’m fairly new to SATW (I joined in 2017), I am not new to the travel industry. I started my first site, Kids Are A Trip, in 2014 after a career as an elementary school teacher, marketing manager, and stay at home mom. In January, I launched my second site, Multigenerational Vacations. Throughout this time I have also worked as a freelancer, developing a solid knowledge of media member needs.
The travel industry will look quite different when we get back to work, and I would like to brainstorm within our organization on how we support everyone involved. It will not be an easy task, but it’s a challenge I look forward to tackling. Now, more than ever, we will need to join together to find solutions and lift each other up. I am a firm believer in education, and feel SATW could benefit from regular training sessions and industry conversations with all stakeholders.
I have been actively involved building relationships within the travel community, both with fellow media as well as DMOs and PR firms. In the past I have held leadership positions in both the travel industry and local community organizations. I would love an opportunity to work within SATW and help shape its future.
SATW has been an important part of my professional life starting when I joined as an Associate in 1999, helping me through the establishment of my PR and writing company, and now as an Active member in the Freelance Council. I’ve always made it a priority to give back to organizations I believe in. With SATW I’ve served as a committee chair at virtually every annual conference I’ve attended, heading up Marketplace, Day Tours, Registration, Nightlife, and First Timers multiple times.
I was involved in the day-to-day workings of SATW as Secretary of the Associates Council for two terms and as chair of Membership Benefits. I’ve also worked on Branding, Sites, Professional Development and Publicity. An organization is only as strong as its members and its ability to foster connection and teamwork. That’s exactly why I proposed the creation of the Volunteers Committee, which I currently chair, with a goal of forward organizational movement.
This year SATW continues to improve its relevance with new bylaws and the digital publisher council. We’re definitely headed in the right direction. Now we are confronted with the unimaginable, a situation that necessitates even greater cooperation as we figure out our new reality. During these times, everyone needs a voice. We need to have a conduit to address concerns, large and small, and I would be honored to serve in that capacity.
My 30 years in PR and writing have given me invaluable experience in navigating hurdles on both sides, from managing client expectations and PR budgets to negotiating writing contracts for guidebooks, print, and now, importantly, self-publishing and online media. I have survived difficult times before, with 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis necessitating radical pivots on my part. Together, we will work to reinvent and resuscitate. To seek out new ways to develop, learn and prosper. It will be challenging, but SATW is an organization that understands and is poised to react and change as the travel world evolves.
The last few months have hit home the message that the travel industry is quickly evolving, and we as travel media must adapt along with it. I entered this space on the digital side of things, working as both a contracting editor for a major media company, a photographer, and a freelance writer for a combination of online and print publications.
Wearing multiple hats for my entire career has equipped me to better understand the evolving needs of many of our members, particularly those who find they don’t fit into a single “bucket.” It is from this perspective that I’d like to run for Member at Large. The SATW is undergoing many important changes, and I would provide a voice in those changes for a membership of increasingly diverse roles.
I joined SATW last year and was fortunate to meet many of you at the El Paso Convention and Big Bend post FAM. Although, an introvert I’m a strong believer in giving back and being an active participant in my community. I’ve served on the Planning Commission in my city, was the Fundraiser and Sponsorship Coordinator, Player Agent, and a Team Manager when my children played Little League, and served two years as the Social Media Twitter Account Manager for IFWTWA.
I’m a former 12 year travel agency owner turned freelance writer, editor, ghostwriter, and content creator since 2009 and have blogged since 2012. As such I’m familiar with the needs of our industry from both the travel side and writing side. I hope I can count on your vote.