How to ensure everybody wins when organising a press trip
Organising a successful press trip can be one of the most rewarding ways to showcase a client. They are great for journalists looking to bring exciting stories to a wider audience, offering unique insight unavailable elsewhere.
For stakeholders on the other side of the fence – hotels, airline, destinations and travel stakeholders of all kinds – there is no stronger way to demonstrate a product. How better to experience something than first hand?
But, with margins thinning, sustainability concerns rising and channels multiplying, there have been questions around the value of such events. Are press trips still an effective tool in the public relations tool kit, or an anachronistic relic from a bygone era?
Today, curating a successful trip is a delicate balancing act – let’s explore how to make them a success.
What do we need to consider
To ensure success, organisers must keep three things in mind. It’s vital to ensure attendees are carefully selected, that itineraries reflect the ambitions, and budgets, of the hosts and, most importantly, there is a story to tell.
Before a ticket is booked, identifying the right attendees is vital. Content creators of all kinds, with access to the right audience, must be welcomed to tell the best story. Connecting with the right readers or viewers, and encouraging them to follow in the footsteps of the trip, is the ultimate metric of success, so ensuring the right people attend is critical.
Once the attendees have been identified, clearly articulating the story to be told is the next step. Journalists’ time is limited and there is no point paying for a plane ticket if there is nothing to say.
Freelancers, especially, may be expecting to get a number of pieces from a trip, used in different publications and for different audiences, so being clear upfront about what is happening is a pathway toward success. That does not mean attendees are obliged to repeat this story, spontaneity while on the road leads to a great deal of creatively, but there must be something on the agenda worth discussing.
Close collaboration between the journalist, PR and client can make this happen, ensuring everybody is on the same page before departure and that there are no nasty surprises later on.
With the group is assembled and the value of the trip established, finding the most effective way to tell the story is next. Hosts – those airlines, hotels, restaurant and destinations – will expect appropriate return on investment, while commissioning editors need to be sure they are getting value for money if they are covering the costs.
The itinerary must reflect this – how long does the trip need to be in order to effectively tell a story? What quality of accommodation or cabin class is the group expecting? All must be discussed beforehand. Being clear who is paying for what – and what they expect in return – will allow for things to run smoothly. However, ultimately planning must be in the service of a good story – paying for a hotel does not give a stakeholder the right to dictate coverage.
If a writer has agreed to come on a press trip, the bargain is that they will offer something in return – be that a story, video, post or other deliverable
Writers have a responsibility to engage constructively with a programme – if you have agreed to come you cannot simply then disappear and go shopping until the flight home. At the same time, writers are not prisoners, obliged to examine any number of minor sights or carry out countless interviews because an organiser has paid for their flight over.
While on trip, a balance needs to be struck between showcasing a client and the needs of the journalists. They may have other work to do while on the road or just need a rest from a packed schedule.
Journalists can also be as generous as possible. Offering a HTML link costs little and is greatly appreciated, while crediting images appropriately, including accurate prices, opening hours and locations are all small courtesies that are often neglected. This does not mean writers are obliged to copy exhaustive ‘fact boxes’ verbatim.
What are the pitfalls to avoid?
Sustainability is a key metric for success when organising any travel – and minimising the carbon emissions of a press trip vital. Can we take a less carbon intensive route, can we offset the impact in some way – or is it justified to take a large number of people to the other side of the world? Might there be a better to way present the story – with a metaverse tour, press release or other avenue?
At the same time, we must avoid taking a one-size-fits-all approach – a social media influencer is going to need to create different material than a writer from a glossy print publication. To create successful outcomes, this is going to need to be respected – allow time for in-depth interviews with museum curators or industry experts in the same way we make space for beach selfies – both reach different audiences but are equally valid.
Effective leadership on the ground is also key. Some solo trips will see a journalist exploring on their own, but group trips need a leader willing to showcase a destination or trade show, while also respecting the needs of a writer to write their own story.
Clear, open communication can mean the difference between a successful trip and a miserable time for everybody. Used well, stakeholders can showcase their product in an attractive and exciting way, while journalists can get a great story.