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It was a cold October evening, and Gabriella Wisdom was feeling uninspired as she and her now-fiancé, Michael, tossed around potential names for her new travel blog. Physically, she was at home, looking out over the damp streets of Norfolk, England. But mentally, she was on a beach in Hawaii during an around-the-world trip the couple took in 2016.
“Have you ever been somewhere, and it just feels like a part of you?” Wisdom asked. “Every time I go, I just get all-over-body tingles. It’s like I’m rooted there in some bizarre and inexplicable way.”
The sensation returned as she reminisced about her time on the islands. That feeling, coupled with memories of love letters Michael has penned to her on postcards since they were teenagers, served as the inspiration for what eventually became Gabriella’s passion project, Postcards from Hawaii.
Although the trip in 2016 became the turning point for Gabriella and her decision to pursue a career as a content creator and travel blogger, Gabriella explained that she has been fortunate enough to travel her entire life. From her first memorable adventure to South Africa at 10 years old to a year spent in Paris during her early 20s, Gabriella has always been smitten with faraway places and immersing herself in a completely new culture.
Even before officially launching her blog, Gabriella collected tips to help nurture a similar wanderlust in others. But the more she traveled and the more she shared, she began to realize that sustainable travel and lifestyle habits would become essential for future generations to enjoy the world’s wonders the same way she did.
As her content evolved, Postcards from Hawaii grew into more than just a travel blog and became a resource for those who want to “do more on and for the planet.”
“The more I traveled, the more I realized that I was just kind of banking a bit of useful information that I wanted to share,” Gabriella said. “And that’s what started Postcards from Hawaii—the desire to help others enjoy their trips as much as I was.”
Gabriella’s passion didn’t immediately translate into a reliable career as a content creator. In fact, it took about two years to gain any significant traction on her travel blog.
“I definitely got discouraged—quite a few times, actually,” Gabriella admitted. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, am I ever going to make money from this?’”
But instead of waiting for someone to approach her with an opportunity, she decided to manifest her own.
She started by looking at the brands she already used and loved. And the one that immediately stuck out to her was TouchNote—a UK-based card-making app used to send personalized greeting cards.
“I’ve been using them to send my own quirky Christmas cards for years,” Gabriella said. “So, I thought, ‘Hmm, maybe I can do something else with this.’”
Gabriella’s pitch to TouchNote came at the perfect time. The brand had recently released a line of travel stickers and agreed to a paid partnership that involved Gabriella using the app to help document her travels. The collaboration came with three sponsored blog posts, a couple of interviews for the brand’s YouTube channel, and one huge break for a talented creator who, until that point, hadn’t found a way to generate revenue through her content.
Nowadays, Gabriella doesn’t have much trouble finding brand partners. But one thing remains the same: She only works with brands whose products she actually uses.
“I think it’s really important to be genuine in our space,” she said. “I mean, how can you expect other people to experience something you aren’t willing to do yourself?”
Gabriella’s genuine nature isn’t lost on her audience. By regularly engaging with her followers and taking a vested interest in their lives, many of her fans have become friends.
She had a chance to meet a few of them in person for the first time in February during a trip to Maui. And when a COVID diagnosis forced her and Michael to cancel Valentine’s Day dinner plans, her new friends pitched in to bring the couple takeout from the restaurant and delivered it to their hotel.
“I’ve made so many friends on social media—just wonderful, gorgeous people,” Gabriella said. “And these friendships just came out of Instagram.”
These strong relationships don’t happen by accident. Gabriella pays close attention to who likes, comments, and shares her content and does her best to return the favor.
“If I see someone who’s coming back again and again and again, then I’m going to put in the effort to get to know them, as well,” she said. “I’m not in this to be put on a pedestal. Like, I want to get to know my audience. They’re putting their time into me, and I want to put my time back into them.”
Gabriella reflects the respect she has for her followers in the products and companies she promotes. Rather than pushing a product and appearing “salesy,” Gabriella recommends brands the same way she would to any other friend.
“I’d say the best way to build trust is to not bombard your audience with endless ads or products,” she said. “Watching other content creators, I am very put off by people that just constantly share brands that I’ve never seen them use before, and then never see them use again.”
Instead, Gabriella details her favorite brands and explains what she loves about them. The goal, she said, is to share that brand’s story and talk about the good work they do for people and the planet—not just the products and services they provide.
“[Your audience] should be inspired by you and feel like you’re their friend,” she said. “I want to be someone people look up to. That way, they say, ‘Oh, she’s genuine, and she trusts them, so I’m going to give them my faith, too.’”
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Gabriella looks for the same authentic spirit in the brands that reach out to her for partnerships. And something as simple as personalized outreach can go a long way in nurturing a strong working relationship from the start.
“I swear, it’s the simplest thing and the first thing we’re ever taught in school or applying for a job or anything; a name,” she explained. “If it doesn’t have my name, I’m immediately put off. It’s not like I won’t give them a chance, but that does not feel like they are putting in the effort.”
From there, Gabriella needs to feel like they are interested in her work, not just fishing for someone to sell merch. For brands looking to stand out, a great first step is highlighting a specific piece of that creator’s content and explaining why they think it would translate well to a particular campaign.
For example, if a shoe brand reaches out, Gabriella wants to know which content caught their eye and made them want to contact her. Not only does that make it clear the brand has done its research, but it also gives her an idea of the kind of content they are looking for.
“It could just be something like, ‘We see you wearing this brand all the time, and we love the way you shot [this particular shoe]. And we’d love to be the shoe that you love wearing all the time, too,’” she said.
And while it’s important for brands to provide a blueprint for what they need, they should always keep in mind the reason they hire creators in the first place: to create. And while it hasn’t happened often, Gabriella has had experiences where brands try to micromanage her content.
“It happened with a blog post where they were pushing what they wanted [me to say] rather than why I used their app,” she recalled. “But I was very much like, ‘No, I know why I use this, and I know what I want to say. I can say less of it, but I’m still going to say what I want to say.’”
But Gabriella considers herself lucky to have mostly partnered with brands who give her the freedom to create the content she knows will resonate with her audience, or at the very least, be willing to compromise, so the final product benefits both parties equally.
“If that is what [the brand] wants, then we’re going to find a way that we can do this, and both of us benefit,” she said. “That way, I’m not being disingenuous, and you get what you need.”
Whether through promotions on her blog or helping brands photograph their products, Gabriella’s journey as a content creator has provided plenty of opportunities to grow her personal brand.
But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t encountered her fair share of naysayers. Despite a loyal readership on Postcards from Hawaii, Gabriella has been told that her modest Instagram following simply isn’t enough to compete with larger creators in her niche.
“I hit 4,000 followers recently, and a lot of people think, and have told me, that that’s not enough,” she said. “But I’m trying to show that you don’t need to have all these followers to have success in content creation.”
What really matters is providing authenticity for your brand partners and audience—an invaluable asset that only arrives when you stay true to yourself.
“That’s something I’m really focused on right now,” she said. “I want to empower others to realize that if you focus on your skills and have faith in yourself, other people will recognize that, too.”
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