How to run a press trip and make the most of the investment
Updated: Aug 23, 2021
from targets to hosting journalists and securing that coverage
Now that travel is on the cards again it’s going to be a scramble to get press trips conceived, set-up, organised and last - but most importantly - filled with the best media possible!
If you have a hotel, tour, package, attraction, airline or anything overseas that you want the media, and indeed the world, to know about, there is no better way to do this than with an organised group press trip. Here we give you advice on where to start, what to do and how to ensure it’s engaging from start to finish.
Planning is key while some travel businesses such as tour operators with their own airlines, hotels etc. have everything available at their fingertips, most businesses will need to seek the support of a partner or multiple partners to put together a fully inclusive trip. It’s important to think about every element from airport parking and lounge entry to flights, transfers, accommodation, activities and meals. A well planned and executed press trip will reap the best rewards.
Well established brands and well connected individuals shouldn’t be too hard to find contacts who’ll support a trip in return for coverage. It’s a win, win situation for all partners when terms and conditions are agreed from the outset.
Top Tip: Not all PRs do this but we’d recommend including airport parking, fast tracked security and lounge access for press trips - starting off with these little extras included sets the scene of a professionally run trip from the outset.
Theme or news focus
To help when pitching the reason for the trip going ahead to both partners and media, it’s important to have a theme or news angle. Avoid using annual events as themes as most journalists don’t like to hold a feature for almost 12 months to make it timely to promote the next one. Also, there’s always a possibility an event may be cancelled.
New products are a great angle: a new hotel, new airline route, new attraction. It’s newsworthy and the media love to be the first to try out something new. Failing that, get creative with a fun theme that taps into current sentiment.
Once a theme is agreed, prepare an invitation to the media outlining the details of the trip. It’s important to include key pieces of information at this stage including dates, times and locations while also making the invite sound intriguing and exciting. Hint at the highlights of the trip and make it very clear what is and is not included to avoid any issues down the line.
Top tip: Add links to the main highlights, whether that is a hotel, attraction or amazing restaurant so those receiving the invite can easily look up the details, and save them for future reference.
Targeting your journalists
While the initial idea may be to secure all the top national media on a press trip, it’s important to be realistic. Some media outlets won’t send writers on a group press trip (they prefer specially targeted, exclusive individual trips that they can take on dates to suit them and ideally with their family). So have a think about the trip theme and its news story. Is it family focused, couples, suited to the youth market or more fitting for retired travellers? Perhaps it’s activity packed or more about history and culture. Wherever it is, a good understanding of the itinerary will help you understand which media will be perfect for the trip.
There are print media, blogs, vlogs, digital magazines and online titles covering every genre and audience demographic imaginable. Research the publications, their readership, DA (Domain Authority), social media engagement and the type of features they usually cover. This will help formulate a well targeted media list that is all involved, and ensure it fits with the theme or angle of the trip.
You’re then ready to create your target list, write your invitation and build your list of attendees.
Top Tip: We recommend the final list of attendees features no more than five media per host. This allows maximum time for the host to spend with each journalist in attendance and also with a smaller group it allows more flexibility in the itinerary to ensure all of their story angles can be effectively covered.
Keep a detailed paper trail of what you're doing.
Keep a note of all media invited and their responses. Some media might be interested but unable to make the dates. It’s a good idea to keep a note of these, either to invite them on future trips or to offer an individual trip on a date of their choosing.
Keep a detailed record of those attending the trip. This should include: Name (as it appears on their passport and what they like to be known as), contact email and phone number, publication and key areas of interest relevant to the trip, dietary needs, disabilities or special requests, plus an emergency contact name and number.
It’s important at this stage to get any attending media to sign up to a ‘Media Agreement Form’. This is a document that outlines what you will provide and what you and any partners expect in return - the all important coverage! Ensure the media sign and agree to provide exposure to all those who have invested in the press trip - even if in some instances it’s only in the factbox. When working with freelancers, ensure that the form is signed by the editor that commissioned their piece. Ensure all the partners and you as lead host have agreed in advance all expectations and that this is communicated to the media attending. This should cover everything from the main coverage expected plus supporting social media. Some journalists are not authorised to post social media to their publication’s accounts but may agree to share on their own feeds.
You should also prepare information you’ll need to provide to attending journalists. This should include an outline of the itinerary (even if it’s not finalised), details of when and where to meet at the airport, with an exact time for them to arrive. Provide them with the contact details of the person they are meeting. As tickets are usually e-tickets, now is the time to make sure they have their e-ticket, and details of how to download a boarding pass. Make sure all information clearly states luggage allowances and other expectations. When hosting a trip that requires special clothing or other useful items, be sure to make this very clear.
Top tip: Log when attendees have returned their signed Media Agreement form and estimated publication date for coverage. Ensure management of personal information meets data protection requirements.
On the trip
Ensure that on arrival at the airport, a member of the team organising the trip is ready to meet and greet the journalists and provide them with a final itinerary for the trip. Timings should be clearly outlined so they know what time they are expected to be up and ready to go each day.
As host, a rule of thumb is to be the first up and last to bed. However, if you have party animals on your trip that want to stay up very late, it’s not necessary to accompany them at all times. They are indeed adults and can be treated as such. Just make sure they remember what time they need to be up each morning.
Top tip: Keep some free time available for the group each day. While it's important for them to be guided and shown around, to make the most of a trip it’s also valuable to give them time to explore alone and take their own view on an area. Some might also need just a little extra time to rest or catch-up on office work or other deadlines.
Challenges and issues
Across our team we’ve seen every type of challenge you can imagine on a press trip - from delayed or cancelled flights to sickness, lost passports, fearful flyers and accidents requiring medical treatment. There is also the tricky journalist: the one who wants to complain about everything.
It’s important as a host to remain calm, be helpful yet firm, cheery yet serious and have an army of numbers and contacts at your disposal to help you out should you encounter any of the above. Amongst these contacts will be key people on the ground in the destination who you can reach 24/7 if needed. If a junior member of your team is hosting their first press trip, perhaps ask if a partner can send a second host too or someone in the destination can act as a second, to provide support if required.
Top tip: While not a cure all for every issue, a trip to the bar and buying a round for the group can solve a multitude of problems.
Following up after the trip
A day after you return, follow up with everyone that attended. Check they enjoyed the trip and got home safely, but also use this opportunity to circulate factboxes from yourself and the trip's partners. Use this opportunity to reconfirm what features might be published and reiterate what was agreed in terms of the publicity the journalists will provide.
Top tip: Make sure factboxes have pricing, dates, links and general information. In this instance more is always better. Provide images or access to an image library: media may use their own, but providing key shots will help fill in any gaps.
Why hosts need to be prepared for all eventualities
Press trips often run without any hitches or issues but once in a while, dramas do occur and it takes a certain level of tact and professionalism to deal with the events and how they unfold. Here are a few tales from trips the team has taken:
After a fun night of drinking one member of a group decided it would be fun to dance on a table top…...the larger than life personality was soon brought back down to earth when the table collapsed below them taking them and the drinks tumbling to the ground
It’s not uncommon to find media that are true exhibitionists and a late night skinny dip in the hotel pool was too much of a temptation for one person
Sometimes people don’t pack enough clothing for the duration and one attendee discovered that the microwave was not a place that could be used to speed dry clothing….it caught fire
It’s not just children who are unable to control their bladder overnight. Wet beds are hugely costly to hotels and one journalist discovered that after suffering an incontinence issue
Beware of the journalist not afraid to break the law which is exactly what one did when they brought two prostitutes back to the hotel and even asked the PR to pay for it when they were caught in a compromising situation and no money to cover the cost.
Double/triple be clear on the itinerary as trips that involved swimming saw a PR with a non swimmer on her hands. Similarly, one journalist in Cyprus arrived and announced they didn’t like heat or sun…..in June!
The team at Haynes MarComs are available to help any businesses set up individual and group press trips. Please contact us today to find out what we can do for you.