Group press FAM trips are an effective marketing tool for travel and lifestyle reporters to experience first-hand a hotel and surrounding destination. The proviso: get top producing writers with assignments to your property, and avoid non-producers, aka freeloaders, at all costs. Your travel PR agency should know whom to invite and which ones to stay away from.
To attract quality journalists, it is wise to develop signature, one-of-a-kind experiences to peak reporters’ interest and solidify media coverage. Reach out to first-rate journalists who’ve published consistently over a period of time.
The key is identifying high-quality and prolific journalists with multiple media outlets including Forbes, Conde Nast Traveler, The Robb Report and Huffington Post. It is best to invite TV on a private tour because they can be disruptive and require lots of attention. Besides proven freelancers, you will want a few staff editors from top outlets as well. A mix will prove the most effective. You want to get the maximum return on your investment.
To get the best journalists, plan ahead. Shoot for five or six months’ lead-time. And be patient. Often the publishing date can be several months after the trip. Legitimate press will keep you posted on the run date, but it requires consistent and polite follow up. The last thing a writer wants is to be badgered – even if you’ve hosted them five star all the way. Trust is essential.
So, how do you organize a successful group press trip of top journalists – also known as a FAM trip? Quite simply, you must focus on the experiential offerings and services, and what will resonate with their readers.
Working with writers – avoid freeloaders
Legitimate working writers will only accept a group press trip if they have a confirmed assignment. However, beware of freeloaders, and make a note not to invite them. Make sure you check their credentials carefully. Ask to see stories from the past year, and let them know they must secure firm assignments. After all, this is how freelancers make their living and they need to guarantee they will get paid for their stories.
In addition to knowing the reporters’ preferences for news, an experienced hotel public relations publicist pays careful attention to a press person’s phone etiquette since it can be very revealing as to how the individual may or may not interact with other reporters and your staff on a group press trip. The overall press trip vibe is often ruined when there is a ‘special’ case on the trip. From experience, you will learn the best writers to take along.
It is extremely important to have chemistry and harmony on a trip. Travel PR folks have scored a home run when reporters just naturally click with each other despite the age differences or background on a group press trip.
Accommodations and logistics
Accommodations should also match the overall theme of the trip. If you are presenting a luxury trip, then the hotels should be quality assessed and provide an oasis of luxury for the discerning traveler writer. Work with tourist boards to secure complementary airfare to reduce your costs.
Once you think about the novel experiences to present to reporters, then it is vital to pay attention to the logistical details such as the time it takes to travel from point A to point B. While this little tidbit may seem like a no brainer, it is really important to keep the trip at a comfortable pace so journalists can soak in the atmosphere along the way.
Create an intriguing itinerary to spotlight the highlights of the trip is essential. And make sure you provide some downtime. Too often, there isn’t enough of a chance for the writers to transcribe their notes, and wander on their own.
UK Countryside Tours, got it right on the recent press visit throughout England’s lovely countryside showcasing a mix of ultra-modern to classic English country houses to offer insight into the wide range of hotel offerings. Some reporters liked the classic English country house hotel because it conveyed the feeling they were staying in someone’s home.
Fine English fare has been an oxymoron for many years. However, the participants on this press trip savored a wide-range of regional English cuisine ranging from the traditional fish and chips to ultra-modern delicacies incorporating lamb and salmon on the menu. And, what good English meal is not complete with a pint of English beer.
Here are highlights of the “Telling the Stories of England” trip:
Meandering through Cambridge University and seeing the original manuscripts of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species.
Uncovering the legend of Robin Hood at Sherwood Forest and beholding an iconic 800-year-old Oak Tree. Legend has it that Robin Hood actually hid in this tree during his crusade to steal from the rich and give to the poor.
Walking in the footsteps on the Great North Way – the actual road the original pilgrims would have taken before they embarked on their journey to America.
Meeting a real duke, the captivating Duke of Devonshire, which is just one level below royalty, and meandering through his family home Chatsworth House. During our visit, the fashion exhibition focused on the Duke of Devonshire’s ancestors throughout the ages.
The Duke of Devonshire’s ancestors have a real family connection to one of Princess Diana’s ancestors, Lady Georgina and the Spencer family. US travelers are intrigued with the Prince Diana connection since she is still revered over here, 20 years after her death.
A behind the scenes tour with Lady Manners of Haddon Hall and tour of have the historic home used as a backdrop in many movies such as Jane Eyre, the Other Boleyn Girl and Princess Bride.
On this visit, Haddon Hall had been setting up for another period television shows or movie. Despite attempts to uncover the secret, Lady Manners kept everyone guessing about the next period show to film at her family home.
In terms of selecting journalists to tell your story, contact a boutique PR firm that has a track record of assembling quality writers with a track record. Find one that has developed an intimate knowledge for reporter’s beats and knows how to reach them. Ask to know which outlets were hosted on other recent FAMs so you can determine if they are right for you. Vetting the agency is just as important as vetting the journalist.
By Lorraine Abelow
Lorraine Abelow has had a 30-year, award-winning, boutique travel PR firm in New York City and is at the forefront of trends affecting traditional and digital media. Her firm has represented such blue-chip names as Four Seasons and Hilton Hotels, as well as boutique properties across the globe and island destinations including St Barth’s and Necker. The agency’s affordable hotel PR campaigns are designed to move the needle regularly gaining eye-catching feature exposure in such top outlets as The New York Times, Travel and Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. It’s the long-standing relationships the Abelow PR team has with high-level editors that insures coverage in A list media in every campaign. Coverage in influential blogs and social media campaigns round out Abelow PR’s expertise. Lorraine serves as an honorary judge for the Hotels Sales and Marketing International Association, from which she has won awards for her outstanding achievement over her illustrious career. For more information about this boutique New York City PR firm visit www.AbelowPR.com. You can contact her at Lorraine@AbelowPR.com or 203-226-9247.