Ah, press trips. Travel experiences organized on someone else’s dime — a dream come true. What seems like a mythical opportunity is actually a very real part of the travel industry, and something that both content creators and consumers should be aware of.
What exactly is a press trip?
A press trip is a trip that’s paid for by another organization, offered in exchange for exposure/content creation. Press trips are usually organized by DMO’s (destination marketing organization), PR companies &/or private brands.
What are the differences between different types of press trips?
Sometimes you’ll hear press trips called by the name fam trips (familiarization trips). The idea behind all of these types of trips are the same — they are organized in an effort to increase exposure. Tour operators or agents are often invited on fam trips; rather than creating content around their trip, they are offered these trips in hopes that, based on firsthand experience, those destinations will be marketed to their clients. Sometimes, fam trips cost a nominal fee.
Who goes on press trips?
Press trips are offered to a wide array of content creators, ranging from traditional journalists to bloggers, social media influencers and videographers. Usually, a press trip is arranged for a similar group of professionals. This is because the itinerary is catered to that group’s interests, but also because different types of content creators usually want different types of experiences. For example, a traditional journalist’s press trip will often be much heavier in seeing a wide variety of places and hearing in-depth information on each location, and a social media influencer’s trip (usually photographers) will be more geared toward destinations that are ‘Instagrammable,’ and they’ll spend more time in those locations to shoot.
How much is paid for on press trips?
Typically, press trips are expected to be all-expenses paid (flight, food, accommodations, etc), but this is not always the case. Flights are notoriously the hardest component of a trip, and in a lot of cases, organizations organize only the on-the-ground logistics. Sometimes, certain components of a trip aren’t paid for or they are reimbursed at a later date (for example, I’ve been responsible for arranging my own transportation from the airport to the hotel, and there have been cases where I was given a Visa giftcard to help subsidize that cost, and I’ve also been in a scenario where they requested a receipt and a reimbursement check was mailed later).
How long is a press trip? What do you do?
Press trips vary in length, and can be anywhere from 1-2 days to 10-12. Personally, I think the sweet spot is in the 3-4 day range (longer trips can be very tiring). Your itinerary is put together by the organization you are working with, and the content varies, but usually, your full day is planned out.
What is the best type of organization to go on a press trip with?
As mentioned, there are several types of organizations you can work with on a press trip — ranging from tourism boards to PR companies and private brands, and each has their own nuances. Sometimes, these organizations are working together to promote a common message (for example, I went to Malta for Isle of MTV, which the tourism board put together in tandem with some PR agencies).
Tourism boards are my personal favorite to work with, because you typically get a better understanding of an overview of the destination. You visit a number of different spots, usually blanketed by a common theme (like adventure, luxury, or sustainable travel). PR companies often arrange press trips for clients which feel fairly similar to a tourism board press trip, but remember that their job/end goal is to promote one specific brand. For example, I went on a fantastic press trip to Nashville with Taylor PR for George Dickel whiskey, and they did a great job at promoting the music and food scene in the city, but it was also certainly geared at finding unique ways to tell the story behind the distillery. There are also press trips with private brands, usually done in-house to promote their specific experience. With both PR companies and brands, these experiences can be just as great as press trips with tourism boards, but make sure the experience is aligned with your passions. For example, if your focus is on local/boutique spots, it probably doesn’t make sense to work with a large hotel chain for a press trip to Hawaii, just because it’s a free trip to Hawaii.
The Good, the bad and the in-between
I always feel bad for knocking on press trips — after all, not everyone is lucky enough to travel, let alone do it on someone else’s dime. But the truth is that there are certain things you need to be aware of before embarking on your first trip. Press trips are not a vacation. They are back-to-back itineraries, and can be incredibly exhausting. Remember: You are there to do a job, and your schedule is not your own. You can’t pick and choose the components of the trip that you want to go on, and skip the ones you don’t — you are expected to wake up when someone tells you to, go to the restaurant they’ve set up for you, and keep up with the itinerary in place. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before the trip, and make sure it’s right for you (you should always receive an itinerary in advance).
What exactly am I expected to do on a press trip?
Always, always, always negotiate your deliverables beforehand so that both you and the client know exactly what to expect. If you’re a writer, how many articles are you expected to push out? Will these be promoted on social media as well? If you’re a social media influencer, how many posts are you expected to do per day? Are you expected to live post, or curate content after the fact? Are you supposed to use a certain hashtag?
On every press trip, because it is offered in exchange for promotion, the type of content you create is up to your own discretion. So a client may ask for an amount of articles/social media posts, but they cannot dictate what goes in those pieces.
Know the client’s overarching goal so that you can help frame promotion in a way that makes sense for your personal brand and audience. Remember that you are going on a press trip because they respect and enjoy your work, so help them understand your work flow and what makes your brand unique. Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t do a certain type of thing, because at the end of the day, if you do something out of the norm and it doesn’t feel authentic, your audience won’t respond as proactively. For example, I’ve had several clients ask me to do Instagram stories, and that’s just not my vibe. I find it easier to be off of my phone for the most part, so that I can absorb the experience and reflect/finalize content on it later. Many of my photos are also film, so it’s actually impossible to post while I’m on a trip. Once I explain this to my clients, they can actually see that it can be a benefit — they’ll get some live content while I’m on the trip, but the majority will come once I’m home (so it’s like getting two rounds of promotion). Everyone works differently, so just remember to communicate where you’re coming from so your client knows what to expect.
How do I land a press trip?
Ah, the million dollar question 🙂 There are plenty of different ways to land a press trip — sometimes you are approached by an organization (psst: brands, this is my favorite type of email to receive 😉 ) and you can also pitch to destinations. If you want to work with a tourism board, Google that destination followed by ‘tourism board,’ and you’ll usually be able to find a media page with an email or contact form, usually in the website footer. Pro-tip: There are different types of tourism boards/DMO’s, often each with separate offices. For example, the Denver tourism board works in tandem with the Colorado tourism board, but each DMO has their own role. If you want to work with a specific brand/company, look on their website to see if they have a media contact or a PR firm they work with. I’m big on developing close relationships with the PR companies I work with because they often represent several clients that fall under the scope of the work I want to do.
Remember that an in-person connection goes a long way. If someone organizes press trips as part of their job role, chances are that they receive a lot of cold emails. If you can meet someone in person, you’re more likely to book trips. No, this doesn’t mean to stalk them down or request meetings. Go out and network.
There are also agencies that arrange press trips for the influencers they represent. If you’ve read this far, I’ve got a secret for you. I’m always looking for creative individuals to collaborate with, especially with the brands I represent longer-term. I organize several press trips each year and pride myself on my ability to match talented content creators with brand opportunities that are relevant for them. You can email me at email@example.com, but please keep in mind that I won’t necessarily have an opportunity for you right away, and I also appreciate you telling me a bit about yourself and what you’re hoping to accomplish, as well as some background on your career (ie. why a client should book you).
Regarding exactly when you’ll be able to land a press trip, that’s another grey area. Some clients look for a minimum amount of page views or social media followers, others are just seeking quality content. Remember that this isn’t a post on “how to travel the world for free,” we’re talking about landing press trips. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into building your brand, platform and reputation before you’re able to land press trips. Know your numbers and what sets you apart, and include that in your pitch.
Are press trips paid?
This is a tricky one, because again, it’s dependent upon the trip itself and the client you’re working with — and also your own personal background/career. Sometimes, press trips are organized and the budget is maxed out from the expenses on that trip (as background information, remember that you are not receiving these experiences comped — someone else is paying for you). Sometimes, clients get creative with the way they can offer compensation for a trip. For example, I recently went on a trip with a great PR company that didn’t have the budget for sponsored content, but they created a social media checklist, and for each time I posted content from that checklist, they donated $100 to a charity of my choice.
Many content creators only go on press opportunities that are paid, and this is because if you’re a freelancer, a free trip is great, but it also means several days out of your regular work schedule when you could be billing other clients. Traditional journalists usually go on comped trips and will actually turn down paid opportunities since it could effect their bias — but they also have the flexibility of doing this because their full-time company pays them, and their editor sends them these opportunities. Again, it’s a grey area, and it’s about determining what’s best for you. On a personal level, I usually do press trips at no fee, and then I pitch my stories to outside publications for freelance work post-trip or I work with brands while I’m on those trips (for example, working with a clothing brand to do a shoot/promote on social media while you’re in a destination). I’ve chosen this path because it allows me to only create the content I truly believe in, and also gives me a sustainable path to manage my freelance career. But again, to each their own. Decide what’s right for you.
For those looking to launch a freelance career in this field, read my post on how to get paid as a travel blogger.
Tips for the first-timer
All of the lessons I wish I knew on my first press trip:
- You can request to customize your itinerary before the trip, especially if it’s a small group. Also, if you’re approached by an organization for say, an agritourism trip, it might not be the exact right fit for you, but they are potentially organizing a sustainable tourism trip later in the year. Communicate what your audience responds best to so that they send you on the trip that makes the most sense for you.
- You can request to fly in or out of the destination on a different date. Of course, the added time in your itinerary will be out of your own pocket, but this can be a great opportunity to see more of a destination on your own terms.
- Brands appreciate when you can help them connect with other talented content creators. Speaking from experience, it can be difficult to find the right (and available) content creators to work with on brand opportunities. If a creative is able to make a recommendation for other talented individuals, you bet that person is getting shortlisted for future opportunities.
- If you’re traveling on your own, you still should reach out to the tourism board/local companies that interest you. At the very minimum, you’ll receive valuable advice from locals whose job it is to promote their city, but chances are that they might hook you up with some press experiences while you’re there. Remember to clearly communicate what makes your content creation valuable in exchange for promotion, and set pre-agreed upon deliverables with the client.
- Don’t be “that one.” I cannot stress enough that developing quality relationships with the brands you work with is imperative. This means delivering content that you agreed upon, and also the way you act on a trip. I’ve heard horror stories from brand reps where influencers drink too much or consistently couldn’t manage their schedule and kept the whole group waiting. Your reputation is not the only thing on the line — especially with smaller companies, collaborating in exchange for press coverage and failing to deliver, means you could be messing things up for another content creator down the line. Also, I’ve been told by more than one tourism board that there are “blacklists” that help organizations sift through influencers they don’t recommend working with. Much like content creators look out for other creatives, brands look out for brands. Be a professional creative; brand reps should be your cheerleaders.
- Under-promise, and then over-deliver. I always negotiate my deliverables based on what I think is fair as a standard for similar content creators, and then after the trip, I’ll add a little bonus to set me apart from others (such as sending a Dropbox with all of your images, even if you didn’t post them on your own platform).
- Thank the organizations you work with. This should go without saying, but just in case… 🙂
Have you ever been on a press trip? What other advice do you have for beginners in the industry?