Whether you’re seeking a luxury travel and lifestyle PR agency or need the ultimate guide to over 100 countries, look no further than Melanie Brandman. As Founder and CEO of The Brandman Agency, she’s as well-connected as she is worldly, and is known to be one of the most credible travel experts in the business. Read on to learn about the media maven’s career highlights, and get the scoop on her top five travel destinations for 2017.
What does The Brandman Agency do? And its sister company, Blackbird?
Both companies are multi-disciplined public relations agencies. At Brandman we focus on the luxury hospitality industry and all its facets, from world-class hotels to the destinations they’re located in and the designers who crafted them. Blackbird is our lifestyle affiliate and we’ve handled everything from premier liquor brands to pop-up dining experiences and posh children’s clothing.
What drew you to this industry and what do you most enjoy about it?
When I first started in PR, the job had a reputation of being a glamorous profession. It was the ‘80s, after all; the glory days, I like to call them. Clients spared no expense to entice media and I have fond memories of jet-setting to extravagant events. While that has changed, I continue to enjoy what drew me in 25+ years ago, and that is the opportunity to be inspired through travel. Each destination (and I’ve been to more than 100 countries) leaves a lasting impression.
How did you start the business? What were you doing at the time?
I started this business back in 2001 because I wanted to create the agency I always wanted when I was in-house at InterContinental: creative, responsive, engaged and a true extension of the in-house team.
What are some of the major ways you’ve seen the media and PR business landscape evolve since you started? How are you moving your businesses forward to align with these trends?
I feel the industry is constantly evolving, which is what I love most about doing what I do. Certainly the influx of digital and social influencers. This has been an evolving space over the past several years with its own undeniable value which, in turn, has made the social and digital space that much more integral to our strategy. We’re seeing the rise and value of micro influencers, so not evaluating influencers solely based on following, but on the quality and depth of their followers.
We’ve recently launched our Brandman Digital department and hired our new Director of Digital Strategy, Tanya Blum. It’s no longer acceptable for a brand to have social media channels that fall flat. They must be a direct, professional representation of what they offer and what makes them different from their competitors.
Tell us about the website you have called Travel Curator.
I founded Travel Curator in 2012 as way to share my tried-and-tested favorites, under-the-radar experiences and best travel essentials. It was an organic extension of what I was compiling for family and friends on an ongoing basis. I was constantly receiving inquiries on what to do and where to go, so for me it was an opportunity to funnel my knowledge into one organized and chic space. The site has grown to an impressive 250,000 opt-in subscribers and our combined social channels are over 60,000. This past week we unveiled a redesigned site and it’s getting rave reviews.
Can you share a few travel tips or products you love to travel with?
To stay organized and avoid rummaging through my suitcase to find anything, I rely on my Muji containers. I have a smaller carry-on bag that’s always pre-packed with flip-flops, sunscreen, a bathing suit, eye mask, earplugs, extra reading glasses, an extra pair of sunglasses and an envelope with 20 single dollar bills for tips. This handy ready-to-roll bag means that way I can get packed in ten minutes if I have to. Another favorite of mine – an international hair straightener that can be used as a hair curler.
Top 5 travel destinations for 2017?
Melbourne, Australia – I admit I’m biased being an Aussie, but this cultural city is brimming with art, amazing food and creative energy.
Helsinki, Finland – It’s the Brooklyn of the Nordic Countries with its young hip vibe and an emerging food scene. Not to mention the design culture of the Finns is also something to take serious note of.
Lisbon, Portugal – I adore the colorful architecture of Portugal and even more so the warm Mediterranean climate. The food, the wine--all incredible. It’s a destination that’s very Instagram-friendly with its clay tile roofs and quaint alleyways.
Oaxaca, Mexico – This is where I go to truly immerse myself in authentic Mexican culture.
Los Angeles – Between the bevy of chic new hotels, the emergence of downtown LA’s art scene and the new public transportation infrastructure, it deserves an in-depth trek to take it all in. When I visit our LA office I always make sure to take time and explore what’s new there.
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