When Good Press Trips Go Bad

When Good Press Trips Go Bad
6 August 2010 Post Author:
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When we go on press trips, we hope that we’ll have fun, eat the local food, meet interesting people and pick up a story or two along the way that will knock the socks off of our editors.

Unfortunately, there will be press trips that are unorganized, boring and uninspiring … and finding a story to write is next to impossible.

If you can’t honestly craft a story without deceiving your readers, then don’t.

Luckily there are ways to salvage your time when press trips go bad.

What can you do?

  1. Talk to the person in charge of the trip. If things are not going well, quietly let your host know. She wants you to have something to write about (preferably positive), so if you let her know that something is wrong with your room or the activities aren’t what you expected, she may be able to make adjustments to the schedule to accommodate your needs.
  2. Find the “mini story” in the mainstream experience. If you’re being hauled from your hotel to one tourist activity after another without any opportunity to seek out a story beyond the glossy brochures, find a story within your constraints. Interview your tour guide about how he shares his city or country with his kids. Ask about partnerships between the hotel or adventure companies with other local businesses. What happens to the leftovers at the hotel buffet?
  3. Look for a different angle. If you are hoping to cover a specific story but it’s just not going to happen, find another one that doesn’t require as much hands-on coverage. For example, what did you have to pack to visit this destination at this time of year? Can you write something about all-inclusive resorts in general and just mention the one you’re staying at as an example? What observations have you made about the mood, weather or attitudes of the locals? Can you write a wider view piece that encompasses any of those things?
  4. Supplement with desk research. Observe and do what you can while you’re on your press trip, even if that doesn’t equate to much. When you get back home, fill in the gaps with research from books and the web and by contacting other sources.
  5. Be sure to still take meticulous notes, plenty of photos, record some video, and collect brochures, menus, and other research items. You never know when inspiration will strike, an assignment on that destination may come your way, or another writer may need help.

One final tip:

One of the best ways to avoid bad press trips is to ask lots of questions before you leave. Find out what activities you’ll be doing, how many people will be on the trip and why the trip is being held. What is being expected of you as a writer? Just as your host should research you and your needs as a writer, you have a responsibility to make sure the trip is a good fit for you.

Also, don’t forget that it’s important to maintain your journalistic integrity. If there isn’t a story or you can’t honestly craft one without deceiving your readers, then don’t. While there is an expectation that you will write something based on your press trip experience, if the trip was so bad that you can’t salvage anything from it, let your host know that you won’t be able to deliver and move on.

Hopefully your next trip will be better.

~JoAnna

Have you been on a Press Trip from Hell? Share your experience!

11 Responses to “When Good Press Trips Go Bad”

  1. Nathan
    Twitter:
    says:

    We haven’t been on any press trips yet, but think it would be such a great experience – thanks for sharing these tips JoAnna, they may come in handy very soon :)

  2. Pam Mandel
    Twitter:
    says:

    I love this. I was on a trip recently and after being hauled from place to place and really needing showers, all of us, we had to tour a really second rate hotel. And we were standing in the “suite” and we just collectively started to laugh. The absurdity of it was too much to bear, this sweet hotel marketing gal, with such genuine enthusiasm, and these positively wilted writers, and oh, it was really very funny.

    For the record, it was actually a great trip, it just kind of fell apart in that one moment. And that moment was saved by a good sense of humor about the whole thing.

    It’s good to say no to press trip invites. Sometimes you can tell they’re not for you from the get go. You just KNOW, and saying yes because you want to travel or get a change of scenery is just wrong.
    .-= Pam Mandel´s last blog post: Shower =-.

    • I totally agree Pam – sometimes it’s best to just say “no thank you”, and I think you have to really trust your gut instinct….I decline way more press trips than I accept primarily because I no longer have any interest in writing property reviews – there just has to be some other angle in it for me – so if I feel that I can’t produce something of value to the hosts, I don’t think it’s right to let them host me. But that’s just my take.

    • JoAnna
      Twitter:
      says:

      I’m just now starting to understand what that gut instinct feels like, but I’m glad I know now what questions to ask and what makes sense for me. I agree that “yes” is not always the right answer.

      You also bring a really good point about traveling with a sense of humor. Even on the best press trips, a good sense of humor can go a long way.
      .-= JoAnna´s last blog post: What’s the Secret Behind Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay- Jamaica =-.

      • Becky says:

        I have a rule of thumb – I focus on trips from tourist boards/CVBs that offer a range of options. And I never say yes to a press trip unless I can find three items on the agenda that look like a story I can cover. The exception is if it’s an organization (e.g., white water rafting association) that I know well enough to ensure that I can leave with a story. So far, I have yet to return from a trip without at least one story.

  3. Abbie
    Twitter:
    says:

    I saw this article and thought of you JoAnna – and then saw that you wrote it :) Great tips!

  4. I’m a professional travel writer. However, in today’s economy, I’m rarely reimbursed for my travel expenses, thus the need to accept press trips.

    These are good tips, JoAnna. If any new bloggers are reading this post, my tip to you is that you disclose to your readers that you are on a hosted press trip.

    My tip to CVB’s, please allow us time to access the internet during our travels. If you want us to tweet and upload pictures and video during our press trip, we need complimentary internet access.
    .-= Nancy D. Brown´s last blog post: Things to See and Do in Copperopolis- Calaveras County- California =-.

  5. skippy says:

    Press trips give access to a travel writer that they otherwise may never have, especially with the costs to travel these days. I always research before accepting any PTs. Most CVBs are good I have found, especially in California. I cover a lot of desstinations in So. California including LA, Santa Barbara, San Diego and Palm Springs and when I can…San Francisco and No. CA as well. Best recent press trip I took was one to Cabo in Mexico. There are also some very good firms around too such as Murphy/O’Brien in LA area that are true pros.

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