Many beginning Travel Writers and Bloggers ask us “what exactly is a ‘media trip’ (or a ‘press trip’)?” These two terms are used interchangeably, though you’ll see and hear Media Trip more frequently these days.
If you read my last post “Travel Media Trip – Cozumel Follow Up” you’ll have a good idea of what a travel media trip is all about.
Put simply it’s a trip sponsored by a destination (sometimes a resort, other times a Tourist Board, Convention & Visitors Bureau, or Chamber of Commerce) that is offered to people who work in the media (journalists, writers, reporters, bloggers, etc). Generally these are all-expenses-paid trips, but on occasion only the hotel & meals are covered and you provide [part or all of] your own airfare (sometimes a resort might cover your expenses from, say Miami to Jamaica, so you just have to get yourself to Miami).
Media Trips are sometimes offered privately to established travel writers, but most often are open to anyone who wants to apply IF you meet certain (sometimes stringent) requirements (such as a documented writing assignment from a publication with a circulation of 100k or more in subscribers, or a documented minimum level of website traffic on a high-ranking travel blog). On some rare occasions a Media Trip may be available to beginning travel writers and travel bloggers by a web-savvy marketing person who understand that there are some very SEO-savvy travel bloggers writing today that are increasingly influencing travelers by taking advantage of strong social media networking skills.
To help beginning writers we’ve compiled a list of “Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts” so that if you are invited on a Media Trip, you’ll come across like a seasoned pro (and maybe get invited on more of them)…….
First the DO’s:
- DO be sure to do your homework before you go – look up the destination online and read everything you can find – start at the official website and print out information that you can refer to as you’re writing. Create a list of questions before you go and take it with you – add to your list as you are experiencing the destination and you think of new questions;
- DO be sure to check out TripAdvisor, Yahoo Travel, iGOuGO.com and other travel review sites – read the reviews, focusing primarily on any that are within the past year or less, and keep in mind that one place cannot please everyone, so you’re bound to see some bad reviews mixed in with the good ones. Ignore them if they are over 6 months old – many resorts read them too and do a good job of reacting by making improvements. If they are more recent, simply take note and see if you spot improvements while you’re there and be sure to mention it in your review…….which leads into….;
- DO write up a Review for TripAdvisor.com and post it along with some photos. Not a member yet? Better join. It’s the number one spot on the internet that smart travelers check before they go somewhere, so it’s both a good way to increase your audience and another outlet for your writing. Join their forum and post there as well. Be sure to follow all of their guidelines;
- DO take both a good quality digital still camera and a small video camera (the Flip HD or Mino is ideal) – more importantly USE them both frequently – you can never have too many digital photos or videos to work with when you get home;
- DO take (at the very least) a Twitter-capable mobile phone (one that also takes pictures) and Tweet often about your trip DURING your trip (don’t have a Twitter account yet? Better get one…..). If you can, be sure to post often during your trip to your FaceBook and Instagram accounts as well;
- DO take advantage of any time you get to spend with the people who work at, and for, the resort or destination so that you can ask your questions and get some official answers.
- DO take advantage of any activities offered to you – even those you might be reticent to participate in because of your personal likes/dislikes or phobias (Read My Example).
I am absolutely PETRIFIED of being in tiny enclosed spaces and even more afraid of being in tiny enclosed spaces underwater, but I agreed to go on a Submarine Excursion so that I could write about the experience. To say I was nervous is an understatement, but I boarded the submarine with a positive attitude and actually had a great time. It was so interesting that I didn’t think much at all about the fact that I was inside a small vessel over 100 feet under the surface of the water. Don’t let your fears rule you. Conquer them and write about it instead.After all, your obligation is to your readers – you’re there to “report” on everything so do a good job of it;
- DO sample as much of the food as you can – note that I didn’t say “eat”, I said “sample” – you don’t want indigestion but you do want to be able to give a thorough review of the food available to anyone who goes there – and that means at local eateries as well as those at the resort you may be staying at. Be sure you’re trying the ‘local cuisine’, not just the standard fare (or chain restaurants) that you’d find anywhere;
- DO try to find a local contact who is really ‘plugged in’ to the local scene – whether that is a Marketing/PR/Activities director at the destination, a chamber of commerce employee or member, or someone from the tourist board. Ask them to keep you abreast of local happenings and events that you might want to return for, or perhaps they can submit guest articles about them if you can’t. If your readers find your travel article on a particular destination interesting, it’s a good bet that they’d be interested in learning more;
- DO submit any articles, blog posts, or reviews that you write to article marketing sites such as EzineArticles.com, AffSphere.com and others with links back to those expanded articles on your website;
Now for some DON’Ts
- DON’T ask questions for which the answers can easily be found on the company’s website – hence the pre-trip research – you don’t want to look like a newbie who doesn’t do his/her homework, do you?
- DON’T be afraid to ask questions of other guests about their experience. If someone tells you something that you really like the sound of, ask if you can quote them in your article;
- DON’T hesitate to take LOADS of photos and videos – you may not use most of it, but having plenty to choose from will give you some terrific shots and clips to really enhance your travel articles. Be sure to ask permission to take photos of other people and let them know it’s for a travel blog – often they will ask which one so that they can see their photo on your site, and will likely tell others as well. It’s all audience building, baby;
- DON’T behave as if you are “on vacation”…..dress nicely when you arrive and meet your sponsors and trip organizers (remember you have only once shot at a first impression). Keep in mind that restaurants at resorts often have dress codes (particularly for evening dining), so pack appropriately, and follow the lead of your trip organizers – as they dress more casually it’s okay for you to do so as well;
- DON’T forget to take plenty of photos of YOURSELF having a good time – even if you need to ask someone else to take the shot or video. Documenting your experience builds credibility and trust with your audience. They will trust your review if they know you were actually there;
- DON’T forget to take photos and video of small details – like the airport at your destination, the transportation you take from the airport, street vendors, local residents, and even at your hotel or resort – take shots of your accommodations (before you mess up the place), the bathroom, the toiletries, the view from your window or balcony, and any food you eat before you dig in. Readers are very interested in those things!;
- DON’T overlook the value in collecting online links to additional information about your destination to post with your travel article, like related websites, maps, online brochures, information on local customs, learning the language, etc. If you can become an authority other sites will link to you as well;
- DON’T ignore the importance of networking with your peers that are also on the same Media Trip – I have met some WONDERFUL writers and bloggers on Media Trips and stay in touch with many of them. I’m happy to link to their sites and follow them on Twitter, and many of them link to and follow me as well;
- DON’T forget to follow up upon your return with a thank you to your Media Trip sponsors and organizers and anyone else who attended the trip,after all this is just common courtesy;
- DON’T forget to provide the sponsors and organizers with links to your articles, photos, videos, and reviews – this is a MUST-do. Travel writers that can be counted on to assist the Media Trip sponsors and organizers with their goal of increasing awareness of their product will generally be invited on future Media Trips;
I know it seems like a lot to remember, but if you can follow this advice you’ll be a seasoned pro in no time at all and it will soon become second nature. And you’ll gain a reputation as a go-to travel writer when those Media Trips become available.
Have you been on Media Trips? Share your experiences!
Great advice. I especially like Don’t #9. Many people don’t send a thank you card after an interview :) It would behoove you to send a “thank you” card after a media trip and an interview.
If you don’t think this matters, better think again. I’ve had people “thank me” for sending them a “thank you” card. Of course, it helps to write a stellar “thank you” note. Forget about sending a “cookie cutter” thank you note. Make sure you tailor a “thank you” note to the person you’re sending it to.
I would be interested in media trips…wasn’t sure if I could or would be able to go on media trips. Who knew! This would be a totally cool way to travel for free or semi-free. Sweet! I better review the dos and dont’s a few times.
Right on! Even if you’re an amateur photographer, don’t let that stop you from taking photos…ya never know, your photos could win a contest. BTW: don’t spend a lot of money on a digital camera. Check out eBay for some great deals or Amazon.com. Keep traveling on my friends.
Thanks for the feedback! I’ve been emailing back and forth quite a bit with a few writers I am mentoring, and we have talked a lot about the issue of media trips and free travel.
I was surprised to learn that even some established writers I know are hesitant to go on media trips for a variety of reasons – in some cases they didn’t want to “compromise their integrity” (I explained that there is generally no obligation, it’s just a trip), but in some cases they were simply intimidated and not wanting to look foolish. So I thought that this could be helpful to maybe a few others as well.
And one more….DO make lots of friends on your travels. You never know what wonderful new friends you can meet.
EXCELLENT addition to the list, Jon – and good advice. I have met some great people on media trips, but this last one to Cozumel was a particularly terrific group! I do plan to stay in touch with everyone, but Rod and I had such a great time hanging out with you that I just have a feeling we’ll be BFFs – at least I sincerely hope so!
As president of IFWTWA, your tips list is right on. Something I’d like to ad is publish. If your paying client falls through, publish to a blog, or http://www.ezinearticles.com or http://www.suite101.com or some site like that. There are many.
I don’t like to write for free, but it is important that I come through for the hosts that have invested in me. The internet has diluted the pay for writers, but has increased the outlets. Take advantage of that while you build your skills and people seek you out. It does happen, just takes time. Keep improving your skills.
Press trips used to be all inclusive. Times have changed and airlines certainly have. On occasion, one will be all inclusive, but frequently you need to come up with the air. When that happened the term media trip came about. For me personally, they are interchangeable. However, that is how some define the difference.
Thanks for dropping by the site! Your comments are right on – especially the part about the internet diluting the pay for writers but increasing the opportunities – so true. Another conundrum is that there are so many new and aspiring travel writers now that it also is making it more difficult for established writers to find paying writing opportunities, but on the other hand, every industry needs fresh blood to keep it moving forward and keep audiences interested (and buying).
Your insights certainly reflect your experience! Hopefully most writers will be able to adapt, survive, and even thrive in this new age.
Thanks for the Dos and Dont’s. I agree that it helps to do your homework about the destination. It’s like a job interview — research the company before the interview so research the destination for the media trip. This way you’ll know a little something about the place. I’d have to remind myself that I’m not on vacation – I do enjoy wearing Hawaiian shirts with brown sandals :)
Thanks for the Dos and Dont’s of media trips. Many people are very focused on “getting something” or “achieving something” when they go on media trips. As Jon says, “…DO make friends.” You never know when you’ll need a helping hand and you can learn a lot from people. Who knows, you may be stuck with your writing and someone may have the answer for you.
Wow! Superb information! Totally rocks! Never been on a media trip. I think I’d like to do so. Good thing I read this post. It probably would do me some good to re-read it. I think I’ll begin a search for media trips that I’d like to go on. It would be a great way to network with your peers. Guess I better replace my digital camera, it recently broke…bummer!
Wow! This was a great post to find. Thanks! Didn’t think about media trips. Guess I’ll start keeping my eye open for them. It would totally cool and a GREAT time! Come to think of it, I could use a break. A trip would be refreshing. I could stick my toes in the sand…
Thanks for the great suggestions Trisha! I’m getting ready to take my first press trip and can use all the advice I can find!
Wonderful! I hope you enjoy the trip – feel free to ask questions if you have any – I’d love to hear about it when you get back!
Trisha, thanks for the awesome tips. I’m just back from a week New Orleans and every one of your suggestions was right on target. – Stephen Young / TravelGuyde.com
Great Post Trish! Until today I thought that an easy strategy for getting paid to travel (in a style I would like to become accustomed to) would be to just wait for the opportunity to arrive in my email box! Now, I am refining my focus and allowing that in order for opportunity to find you, you have to find the opportunity.
Awesome writing and interviewing tips,I especially like ‘DO’ No. 4 and ‘DONT’ No 7 & 9. I think I will read your list again several times so I can remember it all. Happy travelling!
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