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.
Luckily there are ways to salvage your time when press trips go bad.
What can you do?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
Have you been on a Press Trip from Hell? Share your experience!