Newfangled Fams Inspire Media Relations Makeovers

The recipe for press trips, a longtime staple of tourism marketing, has been pretty cookie-cutter over the years. Invite freelance travel writers to visit, herd them into a van and drive them around to attractions from dawn to dust. But as more and more bloggers join the fray, progressive destinations are evolving media familiarization trips to be more interactive -- and generating outstanding results along the way.

Here are three different examples of next-generation travel media relations:

  • The Lanai, Hawaii, Visitors Bureau commissioned seven well-known travel bloggers to be New Media Artists in Residence, each bringing an assistant to help develop their stories. Spending a week at the beach, scuba diving, and enjoying a variety of other activities, the travel writers shared their articles on a Posterous blog, generating links that cross-posted to Twitter (#VisitLanai.) Although bloggers were on location in Lanai at different times, they continued to interact with each other through social media over six months, sharing comments and recommendations of where to go and what to do with each other and their followers.
  • Travel Oregon invited 25 food writers for a Full On Oregon culinary immersion weekend, taking small groups crabbing at the Oregon Coast, whitewater rafting on the Rogue River, foraging on Mt. Hood and wine tasting in the Willamette Valley. Bloggers went behind the scenes to make and taste chocolate, fruit and vegetable preserves, tea, charcuterie, ice cream and cocktails. Camaraderie developed over meals prepared by some of Portland's top chefs using fresh local ingredients. A strong, supportive (#fullonOR) community resulted after participating in unique, authentic experiences for only 48 hours.
  • Spain's Valencia Tourism Region hosted a blog trip (#blogtripF1) for a variety of journalists, travel bloggers, social media pros, Internet technologists and web designers. To kick off the event, each attendee presented a topic related to their expertise in a venue where they could then meet, discuss, debate and collaborate with each other. The four-day Valencia excursion also included a trip to the Formula One Grand Prix of Europe race. Guided tours resulted in blogs about a range of activities, including eating local fare, becoming inspired by modern architecture and experiencing the F1 race.

Although unique in their approaches, each of these examples is based on the same core principles. Follow these guidelines to drive your media relations makeover.

Interactive Media TripsOld-school Familiarization Trips
Invite writers conversant in social media
who are likely to get along well
Select writers based on the media outlet each will be writing for
Avoid stating requirements other than
disclosure of entity sponsoring the trip
Letter of assignment
Share information on who is coming prior to the trip
and provide links to their blogs, media outlets and
Twitter handles to build momentum for the event
and extend the program's reach to before
and after the event
Meet upon arrival
Online resource page featuring URLs,
photos and Twitter handles for all involved locations
Paper press kit
Small groups that change for meals and outings One group
Unique, memorable experiences so each writer
finds their own angle
Everyone gets the same story
Select attractions visited based on stories about people,
e.g., second restaurants opened by award-winning
chefs or family-owned businesses
Visit classic, most popular attractions
Interviews with interesting artisans, guides and chefs so writers get fresh, untold stories Breakfast with the general manager
8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m. departures plus free time for exploring and writing Jam-packed schedule starting
at 8 a.m. or earlier each day
Twitter hashtag for the trip No sense of community
Possibility of multiple blog posts One story per media outlet
Measurement is based on influence and engagement Measurement is based on media outlet's circulation
Focus on building relationships and networks Focus on generating exclusive stories

Inspired? Infusing these concepts into your PR program will help you turn your next media trip into an engaging, memorable experience.

Tags: pr, travel
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7 comments about "Newfangled Fams Inspire Media Relations Makeovers ".
  1. Durant Imboden from Europeforvisitors.com , September 27, 2011 at 2:23 p.m.

    One thing I don't see in your table is any indication of how ROI should be calculated. What does "measurement is based on influence and engagement" mean? The number of Twitter followers a blogger has, how many "Likes" his or posts have, a Klout score, or something else?

    Just as important, some of the items on the left-hand side of your table could just well be applied to media trips where participants are invited on the basis of circulation and outlets: There's no reason why a group of magazine writers, newspaper writers, and writers of "evergreen" Web coverage can't be offered "unique, memorable experiences" or "small groups that change for meals and outings," for example.

    FWIW, I've been on two Switzerland Tourism press trips where the attendees were split into smaller groups based on their interests. On the first trip, the dozen or so attendees began the trip together, then went off to different areas of the country for a few days, then reunited for several days at the end. The "together" part covered a specific theme (design and architecture), while the "different areas of the country" part focused on the different cities and regions that the writers visited on their own or with a colleague. In effect, it was two trips in one--or half a dozen trips in one, if you count all the permutations that were offered.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , September 27, 2011 at 2:32 p.m.

    I can see how this can work well. You can receive many more viewpoints and contributors opinions can be judged on their prior writings and experiences. In a couple of weeks, I will be traveling around Ireland by car by myself using a couple of books, maps, lots of info I gathered on line w/o FB or twits and asking people along the way. The only other connection I will have will be a phone for local calls in case of emergency. All hotels, car and 1 day tour (the rest are self tours) are already booked. Reading and planning ahead of time has always been huge helps when traveling and I do appreciate people sharing their experiences, especially the driving on the wrong side of the road for this one. No doubt, many other people appreciate travelers chiming in, too.

  3. Nancy Brown from What a Trip , September 27, 2011 at 7:43 p.m.

    Great article, Vicky! I love your chart mentioning, "interviews with artisans, guides and chefs vs. breakfast with the general manager." So true!

    As a freelance writer, who also lives in the social media world as a travel blogger, I wear two hats, three if you count PR consulting as a side job. As a pr consultant I find that "vetting" travel bloggers is quite different than the old school way.

    Putting on my blogger hat:many of the fam forms that I'm asked to complete list only one publication and rarely reference online media. Those forms need to be updated. In fact, it is not uncommon for travel writers and bloggers to write for multiple publications.

    You could probably write an entire post on the importance of including #hashtags on social media trips. My next trip: #seeMaui

  4. Durant Imboden from Europeforvisitors.com , September 28, 2011 at 11:27 a.m.

    Another thought about press trips in general, and "blogger trips" specifically:

    Blogs are, in many ways, the online equivalent of Sunday newspaper travel sections (albeit with smaller audiences in most cases): The goal of coverage is to build awareness, and the useful life of that coverage tends to be short--like the Sunday newspaper travel story that ends up in the recycling bin on Monday morning. (With "social media," the referral life cycle is even shorter--no more than about three hours, according to a recent Bit.ly study:

    http://blog.bitly.com/post/9887686919/you-just-shared-a-link-how-long-will-people-pay

    "Evergreen" Web coverage, on the other hand, is the PR gift that goes on giving--sometimes for years. And if the site attracts significant traffic from search engines like Google and Bing, evergreen coverage is also useful for decision support among readers who are looking for more information on a destination, hotel, cruise, etc., meaning that positive coverage can help nudge the reader from "prospect" to "buyer."

    Bottom line: When organizing media trips in the online era, PR people should be looking for a blend of immediate buzz and long-term awareness-building, Web referrals, and decision support.

  5. Vicky Hastings from Maxwell PR + Engagement , September 28, 2011 at 3:38 p.m.

    All, thanks for your comments. Nancy, it's great to hear from you! Durant and Paula, it's nice to "meet" you via MediaPost. I agree that inviting a mix of writers is a good idea. As for measurement, the goals of the three programs described were to create a community or network of advocates and inspire consumer engagement or two-way communication. This can be measured in traditional ways, e.g., numbers of impressions, but we prefer to track number of comments and retweets as well as key elements of the conversation.

  6. Roxanne Darling from Bare Feet Studios LLC , September 28, 2011 at 8:39 p.m.

    Vicky - Thank you so much for featuring the #VisitLanai New Media-Artist-in-Residence Program. I was the producer on that campaign and we are all thrilled with every aspect of the program! The bureau announced today that visitor spending is up 27.8% YTD for Lanai, (much higher rate of increase than Maui which is the dominant destination here.) We also increased Google listings for "Visit Lanai" by over 500% and the positives just go on and on.

    Everyone is invited to read more about the program here:
    http://www.barefeetstudios.com/2011/02/10/new-media-artist-in_residence-program-for-lanai/

    One of these days I will write a summary companion post!

    Aloha! Roxanne

  7. Vicky Hastings from Maxwell PR + Engagement , September 29, 2011 at 2:12 p.m.

    Roxanne, congratulations on a great program! I learned about the it from Chris Gray Faust and Kara Williams. It struck a chord with me as being innovative and effective. Also thanks for sharing the ROI metrics, validating its success.