In an era where anyone with a smartphone likes to think they can be a travel writer, SATW’s role is more important than ever.
We’re an organization of professionals, and membership can and should set us apart from the pack. SATW needs to be shorthand for quality, a seal of expertise. And if elected as your President, I will work to make that happen, leading us to build and enhance our reputation.
My background shows I’m qualified for the task. I started my career in newspaper journalism, serving on a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in breaking news. Later, I pivoted to travel writing, rising to become Travel Editor of the Dallas Morning News and then, Coastal Living magazine.
In the last decade, I’ve freelanced for papers, magazines, and websites. I’ve written and edited books, run a website, and practiced public relations. Over the years I’ve earned eight Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism awards. In short, I know our industry, and the challenges we face. I understand how we make a living.
I also know SATW. I served on the board twice, once as Editors Council chairman, and recently as your vice president, where I was in charge of membership. When that role ended, I volunteered to continue as membership chairman, which I still do now.
During my tenure, we’ve simplified the application process and point system, making it easier to join. For many applicants, becoming a member is as easy as filling out a simple form, taking just a few minutes.
Yet at the same time, we’ve tightened loopholes to ensure we maintain our standards. We’re now approving most applications in just a few weeks or less. And our membership numbers are high and growing.
So, I know our business, and I know our organization. In many ways, I built my career through SATW. It’s where I made crucial contacts and connections. I learned how the industry works through both formal presentations, and casual conversations with seasoned veterans.
Now, with your support, I’d like to give back to the society that has been such an important touchstone in my professional life.
I want to see us to continue to enhance our professional services and development. We’re already making strong strides, putting seminars online, and sponsoring webinars. I’d like to see this expanded, and investigate ways to monetize the content by selling access to non-members. This would serve the dual-purpose of enhancing our reputation, and helping our bottom line.
I also want to continue to develop relationships with other organizations. We’ve begun making connections with the British and Australian travel writing groups, and we should continue, with the ultimate goal of creating opportunities to attend each other’s meetings. We should build bridges to groups like ASJA, the American Society of Journalists and Authors. And I’d explore ways to connect with NABJ and NAHJ, the national associations for black and Hispanic journalists. For us to grow in the years to come, we need to partner with journalists from all backgrounds.
That’s the broad picture. But there are several things to do on the Society level. We need to continue tweaking our conventions, as I know board is doing now. It’s important to make our meetings as affordable as possible for actives—when attendance is high, everyone benefits.
We also should focus on member benefits. We can and should be offering more—travel discounts and also professional benefits, everything from web services to liability insurance to price breaks on co-working sites. While it takes work to set these up, it would add value to your membership, and make a compelling case to attract more members.
But most of all, we need to draw on the expertise we have. This spring, I’ve attended every Society chapter and council meeting, and been impressed by the dedication of new and veteran members alike. There’s a buzz in SATW now, a new energy and purpose, and the time is right to capitalize on it.
In conclusion, I’m here asking for your vote, but more importantly, I want to ask you to be an advocate for SATW. You’re the best ambassador for our organization, and if we’re going to thrive, we will need to work at it together.
I am honored to run for the office of president of SATW. My history with the organization goes back to 1987 – as an Associate member. Okay, you can stop gasping. I’m no longer an Associate member (they can’t run for the office of SATW president.) Like many of you, my career changed. I moved to the ranks of Active membership when my job focus shifted to that of editing and writing. I believe having been an Associate and now an Active member gives me a well-rounded approach for SATW. I understand both sides of the membership better than most.
One thing I have learned about SATW over the years is that we must always find new ways to make SATW more relevant and ahead of the game – a leader and not a follower. Unfortunately, SATW doesn’t always do it better, but we could.
A few key areas of focus that I would like to work on if elected president include professional development, meetings, networking, and overall communication with members. These are just jumping off points. I will work to explore new benefits of membership that you can use to succeed in your profession. Since this term for president doesn’t start until the fall of 2020, I’m sure there will be other ideas and issues that will rise to the top that SATW will want to explore during this time as well.
We need more out of SATW. More networking. More professional development at meetings and online. More opportunities to develop our skills and make a living from these. And more communication from and about SATW.
In this day of instant everything why can’t we have more professional development opportunities for our members online and during or just after conferences when the content is first presented? We shouldn’t have to wait months after a meeting for this to happen. And many times it doesn’t happen. The technology is there. I’m passionate about professional development and promise to bring PD to the forefront for SATW.
There has been a lot of talk about the structure of our meetings. Do we need chapter, council and annual Society meetings every year? Should we offer smaller more frequent niche meetings? Should our meetings continue to have a little of everything – part press trip, a little PD, limited marketplace – or should we restructure these? When I first joined the board a few years ago, I and several board members voiced concern about our current meeting structure and the costs that members pay to attend these. And yet here we are today offering the same style of meeting.
In the recent SATW survey, we consider networking with other members a top benefit of SATW. So we need to focus on networking opportunities between Actives and Associates, but can we do this with our current meeting structure? Can we do more online through virtual networking opportunities? Right now, we can’t network very well if we don’t attend meetings. We need to work on the costs of our meetings, including the cost to get there, so more members can attend and network. We need to better manage our meeting dates so one meeting doesn’t overlap another. This happened recently; the Eastern chapter and Associates council meetings are back to back this year, so fewer Associates are attending the chapter meeting.
And for a group of communicators, we really don’t communicate well with our members. When I was on the board of directors a few years ago I knew so much about SATW, but within one year of leaving the board I had little understanding of the organization’s focus, vision and direction. I hope to change this and loop members into the workings of SATW more often. We are all SATW and we should know what is going on.
I feel I’m well qualified to help guide the organization. I’m a business person who has worked in several environments; from public relations and marketing at tourism offices and my own PR agency, to developing and editing a print magazine, and managing several websites, all with the focus of making a living. I understand what most of you experience throughout your work day.
I also know SATW. I’ve been on committees for membership applications review, industry relations, public relations, branding, history, sponsorship, member benefits, chapter and Society meeting planning, and a host of other Society activities, including chair of the Associates council for two terms. You can see I like to volunteer and give back to SATW.
Reach out to me if you have ideas and want your voice heard. We are all the reason for SATW. Thank you for your vote.