Online media has been around for a while, it didn’t just hatch out of an egg in the last 18 months. Social media has also been around, in the form of chat rooms and forums. The difference is that with Facebook and Twitter, the curtain has been pulled back allowing backstage to become public and the audience gets to see what goes into making a show. This has given the public the tools to produce their own show.
No matter how the show is produced, there are some basic old school rules that still need to be observed, even if you’re in the new school. I wrote these rules for newcomers a few years ago, and after hearing too many press trip horror stories over the past few months, I thought it best to revamp and remind so that we can all go through this metamorphosis of media with grace.
1. Realize that press trips are not free vacations. Press trips and junkets are working research trips and if you think you’re going to spend your time at a destination relaxing beachside with an umbrella drink, then you’ll be disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, there probably will be cocktail time, but not all day.
2. Press Trips are for Adults. Unless a press trip invite specifically asks you to bring your family, then don’t be offended and trash the company because you couldn’t bring your little one along on the adventure. Press trip itineraries can sometimes be brutal and aren’t conducive for those that need nap time. While I am totally sympathetic to those that want to bring their children, if you really don’t want to leave your children at home, then you shouldn’t go on a group press trip. Many destinations and companies can arrange an individual visit for you at another time.
3. Press trips do cost something. There will be costs involved for you in a press trip. While I have seen a small shift in the business of the press trip, such as gift cards for incidentals and car service to offset parking costs, you will be giving up your time, and sometimes transportation to the destination isn’t included. Also, most press trips do not include cocktails, phone calls home, and sometimes don’t include all meals. Make sure you check your itinerary and ask questions when in doubt about what is covered.
4. Review your itinerary. You may not be comfortable with every activity on the agenda. Be sure to let the trip organizers know your concerns before you even step on the plane so they can make other arrangements, if possible. Don’t wait until you arrive at the activity to notify the organizers that you won’t participate, due to health issues or a fear. Also, use some common sense and don’t agree to go on an adventure press trip if you don’t like adventure. Or, if you are a vegetarian, don’t go on the beef industry culinary trip.
5. Take notes and fact check. Anyone can start their own website or blog, but do you really know what’s involved in writing a travel story? Also, you may not realize it now, but you’ll be so busy that things of interest may be forgotten by the end of a day of activity when you finally sit down to write. If you haven’t taken a journalism or writing class, be sure to pick up a few style books such as the AP Stylebook or the Chicago Manual of Style. Today’s writing style is more experiential, but you still want to make sure your facts are correct before publishing something travelers will use for their own trips.
6. Be respectful of other travelers and your hosts. Two conversation topics that always cause a heated discussion on press trips (or anywhere) – politics and religion. These are passionate subjects where no one ever agrees, so it’s just best to avoid these topics. A press trip is not the place to curse, either. It’s disrespectful to those in your group and other travelers around you. Also be aware of local customs if you are traveling internationally. And dress appropriately for the activity or occasion.
7. Show up on time. Try to be a few minutes early for scheduled activities. This may seem silly to some of you, but SHOW UP to the activities. You aren’t there to sleep late or laze about. You are working. Some writers/bloggers do make prior arrangements to break off from the group and conduct interviews or cover something that isn’t on the itinerary, but just skipping out without letting someone know is bad form. And don’t think the hosts don’t know what you do in your room. If you clean out the mini-bar and are late the next morning, you probably won’t get invited on another trip with that company.
8. Voice any concerns to the trip organizer. Sometimes issues are easy to fix, but if no one knows there’s a problem, then it can’t be addressed. If you had a problem in your home, would you prefer a visitor to let you know about it first or would you rather find out publicly?
9. Thank your hosts. Handwritten thank you notes hold more value these days because they’re so scarce. You may not be into snail mail, but a quick thank you can go a long way.
10. Send clips. Trip organizers and account managers get paid to keep up with publicity, however it doesn’t hurt to send links to your published clips from the press trip to the organizer.
There are so many other tips to add that can help all of us. Have you been on press trips? What comments or suggestions do you have to add?