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QUESTION:  Share one important lesson you learned in 2014 in your travel industry or media job.

Tracy Ford, director of public relations, Eaton Chelsea Hotel, Toronto, replied:

Over the course of 2014, it was a priority for me to work with bloggers specifically focused on family travel.  Through referrals and word of mouth, I was able to connect with a few excellent bloggers. 

The most important factor that influenced my decision when selecting bloggers to work with was engagement level and conversations with their followers and fans. I needed to know that their followers or fans would be truly interested in our hotel for families and visiting our city. 

As a result, I have made some significant connections in the blogger world and generated some great buzz about our newly branded and newly renovated hotel.

Anne Marshall, co-chair (industry), Ontario chapter of TMAC, replied:

One important lesson I learned in 2014: Don’t underestimate the power of the volunteer. People want to be engaged and they continuously shine when the objectives are clear.

Trying to take that model over to your paid employees is not so easy — that has been the biggest challenge for me in the past.  Fund-raising or volunteer work is usually built around an event, so the focus and the goal are easier to envision.

Rather than cheerleading or providing incentives for employees, I am trying to make the goal clear. Guest service isn’t as sexy as a worthy cause, but the rewards are great for those who believe. My lesson continues ...

Michele Sponagle, editor and writer, past national president of TMAC and member of Professional Writers Association of Canada, said:

My 2014 was an elevator year — full of frequent ups and downs. My business started strong, crashed in May, then bloomed over the summer and came up roses in the fall.

I learned to push out of my comfort zone. I sent out cold-call emails to companies I wanted to work for. I dared to hard-sell my skills and experience, and it worked. I added many new clients to my roster. I’m doing more online stuff, and contrary to popular belief, I didn’t have to sell my soul in order to write blogs.

Yoga practitioners always stress the importance of being mindful and staying “in the moment.” I’ve done that with my business. I am no longer pining for the days when print ruled. I am focused on the reality of the current media landscape and making it work in my favour.

The lesson? Get your head out of the past, or be left behind. Whining about the good old days is keeping you stuck.

Karan Smith, editor and writer, replied:

Hmmm, what did I learn in 2014 in this business? This year was a reminder of two things that are so important in any field, including ours: the relevance of social media and the importance of old-fashioned networking.

It’s easy to get buried in deadlines, but I found whenever I emerged to focus on either of these things, I could see how it paid off. Specifically, I’m thinking about how important Instagram has become in travel stories, and what I gained and how much I enjoyed meeting industry and fellow writers on press trips and at a conference.

And as social media keeps evolving — YouTube Vloggers, Tumblr travellers etc. — I’ve realized I need to keep looking up from that computer screen and thinking about what’s next. (I also imagine that if I ever want to become a Vlogger, I will have to go to the gym more as a lot of hosts seem to wear bikinis.)

Brigitta Kroon-Fiorita, owner of Kroon Communications, replied:

“The most important lesson I learned in 2014 as an industry PR professional running a start-up business is that I need to more strongly advocate open and honest discussions about both client expectations and what can be delivered based on a pre-determined budget.”