You’re about to host a journalist to write about your awesome adventure tour and destination. FAM trips (for familiarization) or press trips, as they’re also known, are an integral part of your tourism PR and marketing program. The travel stories they produce are top-of-funnel inspiration that can drive leads and potential bookings further down the line. Taking the time to do it right will pay dividends.
If you’re hosting a travel writer, you’re usually comping in exchange for coverage. Gone are the days when publications paid the trip expenses of writers. The biggest cost here is almost always airfare. Ideally, your DMO or tourism board will have a budget to cover this, but it can be time consuming and frustrating navigating bureaucracy to get funding. As well, you risk giving up control of the itinerary when others get involved.
Timing is another consideration. Most operators find shoulder season works best. Giving a spot to a journalist when you’ve got space, and conditions are still good, means you’re not turning away a paying customer, and can still ensure the writer has a great experience.
Clearly discuss the story angles the writer is after. (These should align with your business goals.) Does the writer need to interview anyone outside of your business? Do they require images or video or will they be producing their own? Are there any special activities they want to do? A media kit can be a good way of giving additional background info on your destination or tour, but make sure it’s fact-checked, up to date and available in PDF. And always make sure they get their itinerary in advance, the sooner the better.
Don’t show off by setting up unreal experiences that regular guests will never be able to do. A travel journalist should not ask for this either. The last thing you want is people coming and expecting something you don’t offer.
Don’t cram the writer’s itinerary so full she’s running around from dawn till midnight. This is a potential pitfall of working with a tourism board or DMO (see above). Often, they want to show off their fancy journalist to every one of their tourism partners (who also want coverage) and the poor writer is shuttled from hotel to restaurant to tour, most of which is not relevant for her stories. I’ve seen journalists revolt and go AWOL mid-trip and partners freak out for missing their promised media visit.
Don’t vett a writer’s story. Fact checking and insisting on a website link or mention in the story is fair. Expecting the writer to print what you say is not. Most writers are only taking notes, and won’t even start writing the story until after they get home.
Do expect travel media to behave. They may have special requirements, like taking photos, getting interviews and shooting video, but they should not be running the show. That’s your job. Writers should not get any special treatment you wouldn’t give a regular guest, especially at the expense of those paying guests.
Do include downtime in a journalist’s itinerary. Getting a story is a lot of work. A writer needs time to digest the experience, take notes, and may stumble across other stories while on the trip. Having time to pursue these ideas can pay off much more than a crammed itinerary. As well, most writers will have other projects they’re working on, need to check email, post to social media and may even want a nap. I find a few hours downtime in the afternoon works well. It also tends to be a good time of day for taking photos.
Do follow up. Did he get everything he needed? When can you expect publication? Will you get a copy and be able to post a link on your website and social channels?
A great story may even put you on the radar of other travel journalists, generating even more coverage and position you as an expert in your field. There’s a lot to consider here and future posts will delve into some of the other issues involved such as how to qualify travel media, hosting groups vs individuals, and using editorial to move leads further down the customer journey. For help with setting up a FAM trip, drop us a line.