Aspiring Travel Writers and Bloggers often 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 used more frequently these days.
Put simply it’s a trip sponsored by a destination (sometimes a resort , PR other times a Tourist Board or Chamber of Commerce) that is offered to people who work in the media (journalists, writers, universal press release reporters, bloggers, etc). Generally these are all-expenses-paid trips, universal press release 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). Usually a PR Firm handles all the details and coordinates the invitations and writers or bloggers.
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 requirements (such as a documented writing assignment from a publication with a circulation above a specified amount, or a documented minimum level of website traffic on a high-ranking travel blog). On rare occasions a Media Trip may be available to beginning travel writers or travel bloggers by a web-savvy marketing person who understands 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 travel 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:
1. 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;
2. DO be sure to check out TripAdvisor, Yahoo Travel, iGOuGO.com, and PR other travel review sites – read the reviews, focusing on any that are within the past year or less, keeping 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. Simply take note and see if you spot improvements while you’re there and PR be sure to mention it in your review…….which leads into….;
3. 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;
4. DO take both a good quality digital 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 universal press release videos to work with when you get home;
5. DO take a Twitter-capable mobile phone and Tweet often about your trip DURING your trip (don’t have a Twitter account yet? Better get one.). If you can, post often during your trip to your Facebook and MySpace accounts as well. The idea is to build interest for the articles you’ll write and post;
6. 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.
7. 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. After all, your obligation is to your readers – you’re there to “report” on everything so do a good job of it;
8. DO sample as much of the food as you can (after you take a photo of it). Note that 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 that you’d find anywhere;
9. DO try to find a local contact who is really ‘plugged in’ to the local scene – whether that is a Marketing/PR (via)/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;
10. 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
1. 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?
2. DON’T be afraid to ask questions of other guests about their experience. Strike up a conversation at the pool bar. If someone tells you something that you really like the sound of, ask if you can quote them in your article;
3. 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, press release and follow the lead of your trip organizers – as they dress more casually it’s okay for you to do so as well;
4. 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 press release will likely tell others as well. It’s all audience building, baby;
5. 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;
6. 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!;
7. 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;
8. 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;
9. DON’T forget to follow up upon your return with a thank you to your Media Trip sponsors and organizers – this is just common courtesy;
10. 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;
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.