You just noticed on Facebook that two colleagues are off to the Amalfi Coast on a press trip.
Your heart sinks. Why weren’t you invited?
Chances are you’re not on that invitation list for a reason. So what does one have to do to get on and stay on these lists?
Here are some Dos and Don’ts that apply to any media event, whether a press conference in New York City or two-week trip around Australia.
- Do make sure PR firms, tourism offices and other travel industry people that represent places you cover know of your existence and your outlets. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways such as introducing yourself in an e-mail, by mentioning them on Twitter or befriending them on Facebook.
- Do RSVP. The minute a press trip invitation comes in, check your availability and respond as soon as you can. All too often people delay and wind up responding too late.
- Do carry business cards. It’s very simple. You want people to know how to reach you. Keep it professional—scribbling your information on a napkin is a no-no.
- Do make a point of meeting the host wherever you go. Sounds really elementary, but many members of the media simply skip this critical step. Presumably, one of the reasons you’re at the event is to make contacts. Don’t miss the opportunity.
- Do take notes. While most information presented at a press event or on press trips can be found “in the release” or “on the flash drive,” jotting down notes can help jog your memory. Also, it sends a message to the organizer that you’re engaged in what’s happening.
- Do follow up. When you do write a story that’s a direct result of a press conference or trip, be sure to let the organizers of the trip know about it. While you can do this via mentions on Twitter, it’s really best to be professional and let them know direct via e-mail. Cultivate the personal relationship.
- Don’t be a no-show to press events. That will surely fast-track you to the black list. Even if you have to cancel at the last hour, it’s better to shoot the organizer an e-mail letting them know you cannot make it.
- Don’t huddle in cliques. While you may love talking shop with colleagues and visiting with old co-workers, it’s rude to other people and often leaves the host and others who are paying for the event standing around on their own.
- Don’t text or talk on the phone when at events. In fact, don’t even take your mobile device out. It’s rude and–though widely practiced–unacceptable behavior under any circumstances. (The exception to this is if your hosts have expectations of frequent social media postings during the trip — some do. If not, then wait until an appropriately quiet moment to do your social posting).
- Don’t take pictures of everything you eat. The trend of showing what you ate and posting it on social media outlets that’s so popular these days is best left to amateurs who are tickled to be eating in certain restaurants or eager to let everyone know they are flying off somewhere exotic. (The exception to this is if you’re a food writer and there is an agreement between you and your hosts that your focus on the trip is truly on the cuisine.)
- Don’t perpetuate the starving writer syndrome. While you may think your laid-back style of dressing is reflective of your creative genius, it’s not appropriate to show up at a 4- or 5-star hotel dressed as if you’re a street musician.
- Don’t blabber on about your personal life to the PR folks and hosts of the events. While a certain amount of small talk and exchanging of niceties is in order when meeting people at media events, no one needs to know that your boyfriend of three years just cheated on you or that you haven’t made more than $50 this month.
- Don’t skip events on the itinerary because you have to work on another article (or just don’t want to participate). We all have deadlines. Before accepting an invitation, make sure you’re free and able to participate in all planned events and activities.
- Don’t take a trip and not write about it. We’ve all been victims of assignments that fell through. Magazines close, editors get fired, editors take stories in “different directions.” That doesn’t excuse you from writing about the destination or hotel you visited. Look for other outlets and opportunities and keep in mind that a blog that gets 143 hits a month is not adequate.
- Resell, recycle, syndicate….get as much ink, bits and pixels as you can out of a trip. Make the PR firm that sent you to their client proud.
- Keep in mind that someone is investing in you and your reach. Behind every press trip is a business or a destination that is trying to encourage visitors. While you may view it as an island escape in the middle of winter, your hosts have expectations. Don’t forget that.
None of these tips are particularly surprising. That’s because it’s all just common sense.
Whenever I or one of our contributors to FarewellTravels.com gets invited somewhere, our practice is to think of it like we’re having a party. How would we like to be treated by our guests? That’s the polite way to treat any PR person who thinks highly enough of you to invite you to his or her party or on a trip. As your mother used to tell you: Remember your manners.
Are you regularly invited on Press Trips? Share your advice!