“Hey Matt, do you like Vietnam?”
Chief Editor of The Bureau Asia Matt Cowan has been living in Ho Chi Minh City since 2010. Whenever the Australian meets new people there, he knows they will ask him this question.
So Matt, do you like Vietnam?
“I do, I honestly do love living here but it’s not a holiday for me,” said Matt, who established the Vietnam-based lifestyle and travel media platform in 2018.
Back then, SEO, social media advertising, and Google Analytics were all new to him. He knows these are important, but he views content as the jewel in the crown. “I am always grappling with ideas, and I’m always trying to think of how I can set myself apart from everybody else in making content,” he said.
The Bureau Podcast is one of the channels Matt uses to engage his audience. Recently he spoke to Bill Bensley, a luxury hotel designer who has created over 200 properties in 30-plus locations. The pair discussed experiences away from the actual hotel, which Matt considers escapism a hot trend alongside wellness and sustainability travel.
As travel restrictions ease, Matt notices an uptick in press releases about the luxury travel market in the region. This trend is confirmed by hoteliers he met at the International Luxury Travel Market trade show in Singapore, who told him the luxury travel segment resumes to or even outperforms the pre-pandemic level.
Having travelled around Southeast Asia, be it work or vacation, Vietnam holds a special place in Matt’s heart. In his words, Vietnam is dynamic, young, and energetic. Living the most with that spirit, he often jumped on a motorcycle and steered through the narrow streets to take on the next assignment.
In the seventh episode of PR Newswire’s monthly podcast series, Behind The Byline, Matt shares how he started The Bureau Asia, what he learns in the journey so far, and his exciting assignments and views on the luxury travel market. Besides work, Matt talks about his experience living in Vietnam and what he likes about it.
Here’re the highlights from the podcast:
1. As an English-speaking lifestyle journalist based in Vietnam, how would you describe this country? What is the glamour of Vietnam and what makes you stay?
Whenever I meet someone, they ask me the obligatory questions: “What’s your name? How old are you? Are you married? Do you like Vietnam?” For me, it’s still a complicated question for me to answer. I do, I honestly do love living here but it’s not a holiday for me. It’s where I have chosen to live, my partner lives with me here, we’ve made it our home.
It’s definitely dynamic, it’s young, it’s energetic every day. I think one of the main things that I love about it is that every day when I leave the door, leave home, I don’t really know what’s going to happen. It’s a funny situation to be in because I actually like routine and I generally like to know what’s coming next. But on the other hand, I still like the fact that something unusual could happen 5km up the road or I may meet somebody who changes my day.
2. Can you share some challenges you have faced and how do you overcome them?
I was new to creating content digitally, so I probably wasn’t even familiar with SEO. I wasn’t really sure what those letters meant perhaps for four or five years. I had to get my head around that and always make sure I am conscious of SEO whenever I am making content, especially for my website. But at the same time I’m aware that I don’t want to sound too clickbait-y as well, there is a delicate line between creating a headline that is attractive or clickbait-y. I didn’t want to become known as too tabloid-y.
3. How do you think media pitches to you can be improved?
Be nice, don’t treat my channel or my platform as a kind of dumping ground that you just need the box ticked. I have never worked in a PR agency before but there are KPIs I think people have to meet each year. I have worked hard to get my platform to where it is now. I don’t want it to be used as just a paper bin, or think that they can send press releases to and I will post them (as it is).
1m32s: Fun facts about Matt
2m22s: How Matt started The Bureau Asia
5m53s: Challenges Matt faced in running The Bureau Asia
10m5s: Matt's views on Vietnam and what he likes about Vietnam
16m9s: Matt's notable stories after easing of travel restrictions
19m16s: Trending topics in the travel industry
26m1s: Matt's most memorable assignments
28m34s: Press releases that catch Matt's attention
29m50s: How media pitches can be improved