As a PR professional, one of the most exciting aspects of working with food & drink clients is the opportunity to plan group press trips. Press trips are a valuable tool that enable PRs to personally showcase a client’s products, services, or destinations to the media as part of a unique and immersive experience that can make a lasting impression on guests. When planned to perfection, press trips translate into positive coverage in guests’ respective media outlets.
However, running a successful group trip presents a lot of challenges, including:
- Guaranteeing the itinerary meets the interests of all invited guests, whilst also staying within budget.
- Logistical planning for transportation, accommodation, and food arrangements.
- Ensuring journalists have a good, enjoyable experience to generate positive coverage.
- Unexpected issues such as weather conditions or last-minute changes in schedules.
So, what exactly does a successful press trip require? Here’s some of my top tips:
1. Securing a good mix of guests
The first step in planning a successful press trip is identifying the right guests. This involves researching the media landscape to find journalists, bloggers, and influencers who align with the client’s brand and are likely to be interested in the experience being offered. Outreach should be done well ahead of the trip as journos’ diaries fill up fast. It’s also crucial to note that you should avoid inviting people who have no relevance whatsoever; a journo can spot a blanket invite a mile off!
Another important consideration is ensuring a well-balanced group of guests are selected. Having a harmonious group of guests with similar backgrounds and interests can make for a more cohesive and enjoyable trip, as guests are likely to bond over shared experiences. It can also make planning the trip easier, as the itinerary can be tailored to the group’s specific interests.
However, this can also limit the range of coverage generated by the trip. Media outlets may be looking for unique perspectives or experiences, so having a group with similar backgrounds and interests may limit the variety of viewpoints or experiences available. In this instance, it may be worth looking at individual trips for a personalised approach.
Ultimately, PRs should consider both factors when planning a press trip and strive to strike a balance that meets the client’s goals whilst also ensuring an enjoyable and successful trip for all guests.
2. Avoid these common pitfalls
When selecting your invite list, there are a few faux pas that are worth avoiding. For example, overpromising journalists is a common mistake, whereby hosts make grand promises or exaggerate the benefits of a press trip to encourage journalists to attend. This is a big no-no as it leads to unrealistic expectations and often disappointment. If a host cannot deliver on their promises, journalists may feel misled, which damages the relationship between the two parties. Additionally, overpromising can lead to negative publicity, as journalists may write negative reviews or articles about their experience. Therefore, hosts should be transparent about what they can offer and focus on delivering high-quality experiences that meet or exceed journalists’ expectations. This builds trust and a positive reputation, making it more likely that journalists will attend future press trips hosted by the same organisation.
Another common mistake is double booking. This can cause logistical nightmares as certain guests could be left stranded or needing to find alternative accommodations. This often results in a negative experience and can damage the reputation of the organisers. To avoid this, it is good practice to approach the people you definitely want there and wait for their response before approaching secondary targets. While it might be well organised to create a backup list of journalists who can attend the trip if someone drops out or is unable to attend, it doesn’t present a great message to the journalist or influencer in question if they already know they’re second choice.
For more information on how NOT to approach journalists with a press trip, here is a great thread from Food & Drink Travel Writer, Jeff Bogle:
3. Manage client expectations
It’s important to set realistic expectations with clients about what press trips can achieve. Whilst they can be an effective way to generate media coverage, they are not a guarantee.
PRs should understand the goals of the trip and what the client can expect in terms of coverage, brand awareness and relationship building. Setting pre-determined KPIs to demonstrate success is a must, and managing expectations upfront can help avoid disappointment down the line. Don’t promise your client that a freelance is going to get coverage in every paper they have ever written for when that’s highly unlikely!
One effective way to manage expectations with clients is to establish confirmed deliverables. Confirming these pre-trip points with your guests helps to ensure that the client’s expectations are aligned with the reality of what the press trip can achieve. It also allows for a more targeted approach when planning, as the itinerary can be designed with specific outlets or journalists in mind.
In addition, it provides a level of accountability for both the PR and the media outlets. The media outlets have committed to covering the client, and the PR has a clear understanding of what needs to be achieved during the trip.
Nevertheless, confirmed deliverables should always be realistic and achievable. Overpromising can lead to disappointment if the coverage doesn’t materialise, and can damage the relationship with the client, as well as the journalist. All deliverables should be mutually-beneficial and flexible.
4. Plan out every detail to ensure everything runs smoothly
Press trips can be complex and involve many moving parts, from transportation to accommodations to activities. As a PR, meticulous planning and attention to detail is key to ensure everything runs smoothly, and guests have a positive experience. It’s essential to work with trusted partners and vendors to ensure that every aspect of the trip meets the client’s expectations.
As such, a well-crafted itinerary is vital. The itinerary should be designed to showcase the best of what the client has to offer and provide guests with a unique and immersive experience. It should also be flexible enough to allow for last-minute changes or unexpected developments. Some tips for creating a successful itinerary include:
- Balancing activities with downtime: Guests need time to rest and recharge, particularly if they’ve travelled a long way, so it’s important to include downtime in the itinerary.
- Incorporating local culture: Including local cultural experiences can help guests better understand the destination and the client’s brand.
- Offering unique experiences: The itinerary should include experiences that guests can’t find anywhere else.
- Providing opportunities for networking: Press trips are a great way to build relationships with journalists and other media professionals, so opportunities to network should be included.
I’d advise sharing an itinerary pre-trip. A personalized itinerary with added information can provide journalists with a clear and helpful overview of the client’s offerings and destinations, making it easier for them to craft their stories and generate positive coverage, and plan their precious time accordingly.
Ultimately, press trips can be a powerful tool in the PR industry, providing an opportunity to showcase the best of a client’s offerings, generate media coverage, and build relationships with influential journalists, bloggers and media outlets. By paying close attention to the details and working closely with clients and media outlets, PR professionals can ensure that press trips are a valuable and effective part of their overall PR strategy.