There’s Something to This “Content Strategy” Stuff…

…and that’s why there are courses teaching it. Content strategy is a thoughtfully-considered, measurable effort to use stories, information, and media to communicate your company or organization’s goals.

I’ve just received certification in “Content Strategy for Professionals” through a five-course Northwestern University program on Coursera. The topics covered included: engaging audiences; managing content; expanding your content’s reach; and ensuring your content’s impact.

While I have been creating and implementing engaging content for my clients for years now, this course offered additional tools and tactics that I’m now able to use in my work. If you would like to discuss building an effective content strategy, please contact me.

Content Marketing Case Studies Presented at the New York Times Travel Show

Last month, I attended the trade day of the New York Times Travel Show – always an excellent start to the year for getting new industry information and fresh ideas for travel writing. I get a lot from the “Focus on Travel Media” track of panels, because this is where the latest and most innovative trends in digital and print media—as they relate to the tourism industry—are discussed.

It was telling that this was the first year a session was offered dedicated to content marketing. Those of us who have been writing content marketing pieces for tourism destinations for years know how successful it can be, and that its potential has yet to be realized. The case studies presented there told the story well.

Sarah Chazan, Senior Editor at Wall Street Journal Custom Studios, explained that custom content—such as the program they produced for the Chase Ritz Carlton credit card—resulted in high brand engagement and improved perception, and fostered trust. This was mainly due to three factors:

  • Authenticity – Story-telling was authentic to the brand
  • A singular focus – Stories had depth and reflected quality reporting
  • Authority – Content reflected the caliber of the Wall Street Journal

Ben Baer, Managing Editor of Forbes Brand Production, shared the success of the “Guide to the Globe” package they produced for Celebrity Cruises, which included 16 original stories on Celebrity destinations that were published on In addition to 558,000 page views, the content resulted in tens of thousands of social actions within social media channels.

Looking ahead, Chazan pointed out that given the measurable success of content marketing in the tourism industry, she expects the focus on content and native distribution to grow.

Which is good news for all of us who enjoy sharing travel stories, and for those of us who know how to incorporate them into a marketing campaign.

Why TRACI-ng Paper?

I named this blog TRACI-ng Paper as a play off my first name, combined with “tracing paper.” It’s a collection of my own creation, including:

  • Curated articles and observations, particularly on tourism, hospitality, and content marketing
  • Case studies and client news
  • Personal essays
  • Book and podcast reviews
  • Travelogues
    I still want to write about my family’s travels, as I did with the blog I published for five years, Go BIG or Go Home. As my kids get older, we don’t travel as much to justify a dedicated travel blog, but occasionally I’ll share our experiences here.


This is “Content Marketing.” It’s also a magazine.

content marketingContent marketing is a buzzword that has commanded the limelight over the past year, and brands in every industry are realizing the ROI in creating valuable assets—such as articles, videos, webinars, and white papers—as marketing tools to attract and retain customers.

A less obvious version of content marketing are magazines created by brands to tell their story within a broader themed context. You may also know it by the name “custom publishing.” If you’ve ever picked up the in-flight magazine on an airplane, or thumbed through your college alumni magazine, you’ve seen this version of content marketing.


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Six Things Every Hotel Should Offer Families

I’ve been writing a lot of hotel reviews lately, and I’ve been traveling with my two kids for 14 years now. There are so many hotels and resorts out there that truly define “family friendly” with thoughtful room design, amenities, and programs. A few have really spoiled us, like the spacious Caribbean Club in Grand Cayman, and the grand-but-not-pretentious Hotel Hershey in Pennsylvania.

character dining
Character dining at Smuggler’s Notch Resort in Vermont

I wish I could convince hotel designers to think more like a parent when creating these spaces that need to serve as our home away from home. With furnishings and room amenities like these, I will remember a hotel, recommend it to my friends and family, and return in the future.

More storage solutions – Supply plenty of places for four or more people to put their stuff. Extra shelves in the bathroom, wall hooks for coats, retractable clotheslines for wet swimsuits, benches with space underneath for shoes, and platform beds with drawers. My kingdom for more than one luggage rack!

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Seven Blog Post Ideas for Tourism and Hospitality Businesses

This month, I was asked by the Dutchess County Tourism office to speak about blogging during two “Lunch and Learn” programs for representatives from local hotels, attractions, restaurants, and other travel and hospitality businesses. The first half of my presentation covered best practices for attracting and working with travel bloggers in order to increase publicity and exposure.

During the second half, I made it my mission to convince every tourism business in the room to have a blog on their website. I told them why, and I told them how. But the part which made people raise their heads and look me in the eyes were the tips on what to blog about.

It seems like content is a stumbling block, but it shouldn’t be. Content is important! Provide useful, relevant information, and go light on the sales pitches. Here are some suggestions on what to post for variety and engagement:

● Suggestions for local things to do and see, places to eat. Keep the business in your local community! Example: Best Seafood Restaurants Within 15 Minutes of Our Hotel

● Lists work really well for blogs. Top Five, Top Ten and Top 20 lists get shared and retweeted. Example: The Top Ten Things You Should Pack for a Trip to the Hudson Valley in the Summer.

● Recipes and “sneak peeks” at new menus, music playlists, tips which showcase your staff members’ niche expertise. Example: Zone 5 Gardening Tips from our Landscaping Team

● Staff profiles. Interesting back stories about their personal and professional accomplishments, or what they do on their days off. Example: Our Team’s Weekend Working With Habitat for Humanity

● Photography and video. Take a break from words with an occasional photo or video clip. Example: Last Night’s Sunset View From Room 101.

● Guest posts from others. They will in turn promote their contribution on your blog to their own audiences. Example: Five Ways to Freshen Your Interior Décor This Spring, from our Designer Jane Smith.

● Special offers (occasionally!) Example: Mention This Blog Post and We’ll Take 10% of Your Next Dinner Tab.

Interested in learning more? Send me an email ( and I’ll be happy to send you my entire presentation. If you need help writing or editing your blog, let me know. I can help!

Telling a trade show’s story through exhibitor profiles

My favorite part of writing the copy for the pre-show planner for NY NOW™, the Market for Home + Lifestyle (formerly the New York International Gift Fair®), was profiling show exhibitors; in this case, a select group of innovative designers and makers from companies like Alchemy Goods, Strand Design, Matouk, and Hand in Hand.

Sharon and Ted Burdett, Strand Design
Sharon and Ted Burdett, Strand Design

“Everyone should work with their spouse. At least, that’s what Sharon and Ted Burdett think, and it works well for them. In 2009, they left their respective design careers to open Strand Design in their home town of Chicago. From their studio in the West Loop, they provide product design services for clients, but also craft objects, by hand, from sustainably sourced and locally manufactured materials.”

For the past two years, I’ve been creating the written content for this digest-format print piece, mailed to more than 90,000 registered and prospective attendees – mainly retailers and interior designers – of this semi-annual trade show.

Signage and Display Copywriting

So often, I send copy off to a client in a Word document, never to be seen again. It was gratifying to see the copy I wrote for these displays in real life at the NY NOW home and lifestyle trade show this week! This exhibit featured fine handmade craft from global artisans who were participating in Artisan Resource ™, a one-of-a-kind market offering U.S.-based importers, direct import retailers and wholesalers the opportunity to meet with international artisanal producers.

Artisan Resource signage

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Call Me “Columnist!”

HVWineMag-Summer2013-CoverA long-standing professional goal of mine has been to write a column. What surprised me is where the opportunity ultimately presented itself — Hudson Valley Wine magazine.  Wine is not a specialty of mine, and I’m as “casual” a wine drinker as you can get. However, I do love to tell stories of the people and places of the Hudson Valley, and this column lets me do that. In “Talking Terroir,” I’ll interview my region’s tastemakers, trendsetters, culinary champions and wine pros to find out what they’re drinking now, and get their take on the area’s wine scene.

You can read my first column from the spring 2013 issue here.

A Corporate Blog Case Study: NYIGF

NYIGFWhen the New York International Gift Fair® (NYIGF), one of the nation’s largest trade shows for the gift, home and lifestyle industry, wanted to establish its preeminence as a sourcing destination for design-driven products, it launched a blog. And asked me to write it. For the past year, I’ve contributed weekly posts on 100 Days of Design, and I’ve completely enjoyed it!

Each week, the blog focuses on a different product category, such as handmade craft, home décor, juvenile resources, and personal accessories. Three superlative products offered by NYIGF exhibiting companies are highlighted with copy and images.

Attention is also given to New York City attractions, restaurants, and stores which fit these categories, because the city is part of the appeal which draws 35,000 buyers from across the globe to this trade show.

This blog is promoted through email to all registered and prospective NYIGF attendees, as well as on the show’s facebook page and Twitter feed. It serves as a weekly marketing tool to sell the show, build attendance, promote its exhibitors, and encourage conversation. And yes, in addition to all that, it does what it intended to do: support the event’s standing as a design-driven market.

Some of my favorite posts include:

Making a Case for “Made in the USA”

On-Trend Textiles

Seeing Green

If you are thinking about how a blog can set your business apart, let me help you craft your message.

John Robshaw
Abaca Pillows by NYIGF exhibitor John Robshaw