You may remember my last snarky PR & Social Media post, 10 Tips to End Up on the Press Trip Blacklist, where I picked on some bad-behaving writers I’ve traveled with in the course of my career. Now I’m turning the tables — it’s your turn to learn, PR cohorts!
I’m speaking at PRSA Travel today on a panel with Marisa Langford and Lee Abbamonte called Dive into Digital: Go Beyond the Traditional Press Trip. Having planned dozens of media trips in my PR agency days and now having attended quite a few as a writer, there are some best practices that we could all adopt across the board to make everyone’s lives easier. I’ll discuss much of this in the chat today, but for those of you who aren’t joining, I’m including some notes below.
How to Plan the Perfect Blogger/Writer Press Trip
Before the Trip
Blacklist. Get a hold of the infamous press trip blacklist and ensure you haven’t invited any horror shows. Ask peers at other agencies who may have traveled with folks on your invite list. Don’t subject a whole group of people to a nightmarish week with an entitled peacock just because he or she has an excellent reach or a great assignment. Send them on a solo trip if it’s possible, or better yet, don’t reward that behavior at all and keep the jerks grounded. A 10-minute phone call with a new contact should be enough to know if someone is capable of attending a group trip or not. And keep an eye out for diva demands… those folks only make press trips difficult for everyone else.
Stalk them. Bloggers live their lives online, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get a feel for someone’s personality via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and their blog. Seems pretty obvious, but with all the limitations PR folks have on their time, background research and pre-trip relationship building can be the piece that falls through the cracks. Be diligent in getting to know bloggers online, and it will eventually pay off.
Expectations. We’ve come a long way in the past 10 years in travel PR. We used to dance around what we hoped to get out of our invited writers. Now it’s totally acceptable to write up some bullet points about what results you or your client are hoping to achieve. That can include number of Tweets, or use of a hashtag, or Instagram and Pinterest action. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to discuss with your bloggers up front. If they’re worth inviting, they’ll likely have some cool ideas to help you maximize your message. It’s ok to have your trip attendees sign a contract or form indicating what you’re giving, what they’re getting and what happens in the event the contract is not fulfilled on both sides. Writers need to know what expenses they’re on the hook for in advance. It might seem like an uncomfortable conversation to have, but it’s not as uncomfortable as waiting around to see who is supposed to pick up the check!
Pay for airfare. Budgets are tight, especially for smaller destinations and clients. Trust me, we understand! But if you’re reaching out to invite writers on a trip to create content for your destination, asking them to pay their own airfare is not cool. Blogging is not a hobby – it’s a job, and if it costs us $$1,000+ just to get to your destination, that puts us behind. It’s especially obnoxious when hotels invite me to a media experience at their hotel that’s 4,000 miles from my house for ONE NIGHT and expect me to cover airfare. That’s not helpful! If your budget is small, find a way to maximize it with big campaigns with a few heavy hitters. Your money will be better spent.
Packing. Provide us with a packing list a few days in advance, especially if the itinerary takes a while. I need to know if I am packing an underwater camera, tennis shoes or a ball gown!
During the Trip
WiFi. It must be free and it must be fast. At least fast enough to send documents and upload photos. If WiFi is not an option due to remote location, that’s totally understandable, but make it abundantly clear to your invitees WELL in advance. Preferably at the time of invitation. For bloggers who depend on the Internet to work remotely, taking just a few days “off” without connecting could mean hundreds or thousands of dollars in lost business.
Downtime. Give your writers time to sleep, work and have some time alone to explore or recharge. Though many bloggers seem extroverted by way of their larger-than-life online personas, often we’re really closet introverts who need time each day alone to decompress. And most of us get our best stories from wandering off on our own and meeting people outside the PR sphere. There’s nothing worse than returning home from a trip and realizing you don’t really have a story to tell… just a list of experiences you had with a group of strangers. Factor in wiggle room for bloggers to do their own thing. Trust me, it’s where the magic happens. And remember if it’s a digital trip and you are looking for immediate coverage — that takes time, too! Give your writers a little space to do their thing, and you’ll be pleased with the results.
No site inspections. I am never, ever going to write about a hotel I visited for 15 minutes just to see what the rooms look like. I write about experiences – preferably fun and/or memorable ones – so viewing a hotel room, no matter how pretty, is not newsworthy to me. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. I recently visited a hotel in St. Kitts that’s still under construction but I was so wowed by its dedication to sustainability and its unbelievable architectural design that I haven’t stopped talking about it. In 10 years in this industry, that’s just about the only time that’s happened.
After the Trip
Follow up. After a couple days, it’s unbelievably helpful if you follow up with a list of sites visited, restaurants, tour operators, key contacts and information tailored to the specific trip. Include all social media handles for properties, activities, attractions and personalities you encountered. Is this totally necessary? Of course not. But it is the sort of above-and-beyond move that will put you in the Master Class of press trip planning publicists.
Now that I’ve shared some basics, it occurs to me I have a lot more to say on the topic. (Big surprise!) Stay tuned for part 2.
Question time! What tips do you have, either from the PR side or the writer side of the press trip?