Oh press trips – the holy grail for many a travel blogger.
I remember my first one. Well it was kind of a press trip – I’d managed to persuade my employer to send me to the TBU conference in Porto. It was all very last minute and really exciting. An all expenses trip to Porto, yes please! That weekend ended up being a brilliant insight into the world of travel bloggers – I met so many people who I’d admired online, learnt loads and totally fell in love with Porto.
I got a new job a few weeks later and ended up going to Toronto and New York in my first week so the excitement was trumped very quickly, but I’ll never forget how happy I was that I was getting paid to travel for the first time, for free.
The first press trip for my blog came in the form of Cape Town, South Africa. Pretty sweet hey?
When will you get a press trip?
That first travel blogger press trip was a good 18 months after I first registered my domain name though. As I’ve said before, when you’re building up your blog you can’t rush things. It takes a while to gain traction and interest among PRs and recommendations from other travel blogger influencers. Remember how I said making friends with other travel bloggers is fun and productive – well the press trips I’ve been on have all come from word of mouth recommendations from other travel bloggers.
But no matter how many friends you manage to make in this world, there are a few more credentials to cover before you’re even considered for that elusive spot on a press trip.
You need a substantial blog
By that, I mean to have some substance. However great your five posts are, that’s not going to get you on the PRs hit list. You need to keep going. As Woody Allen said “80% of success is showing up” and when you’re a travel blogger that means to keep writing, podcasting, blogging, whatever medium it is you use to get your message across. They need some meat to sink their teeth into.
You need some stats
Not all companies want mega high stats across social media and your blog but you need at least some impact. There’ll be companies out there who prefer to see engagement in the comments section, others want a good Instagram following and others will just enjoy your writing style. You can’t second guess it which is why it goes back to the most important thing in travel blogging – to just be yourself.
You need to be what they’re looking for
Someone looking to promote their golf tours to oldies is not going to want me. You can’t try and be what they want – you’re either it, or you’re not. If you’re in a meeting with a PR don’t try and bend what you do to support what you’re guessing their goals are, they’ll see right through it. A strong sense of identity will be much more interesting to a PR than a flake who tries to cover all bases.
You need to be available
When I had a full time job there was a limit to what I could say yes to. Since then I booked myself up with personal travel for pretty much a year so again I’ve had to say no for most of 2015 too. I reckon I’ve been invited on about 50 press trips over the years but I’ve only managed Gambia, Thailand (posts hosted externally), Cape Town and Saint Lucia. Either the offers didn’t suit me, or I didn’t have time for them. Saying no to Israel, Helsinki and Oman were definitely the toughest but if you will book yourself up like I do, then that’s what happens. The travel bloggers that go on the most press trips are flexible and free.
You need to be on the PRs radar
Do companies that offer press trips even know about you? You need to meet people and get on their radar and that’s where travel conferences and events come in. If you can’t make it to them just drop your destinations of interest PRs a note and introduce yourself to see if they work with bloggers.
You could write for other outlets
I’ve had two articles in Wanderlust magazine and mentioned it to one PR and was immediately offered a trip to the Cayman Islands. After I explained I was featured and not a regular contributor the emails went quiet. But my point is that the more coverage you can offer a PR or travel company the better asset you are. My friend Ari from beyondblighty.com used to write for gapyear.com regularly and could use this to help get some sponsored travel in New Zealand.
During press trip negotiations
Have the right attitude
Depending on where you are in your travel blogging career you might need to take a rain check on your attitude. As a newb you can’t go demanding money for this and money for that, saying you can’t possibly take that many photos in your week long trip or that it’ll take you a month to write it up. When you’re starting out you need to suck it up and be grateful you’re being considered – but you knew that right?
Know your worth
At the same time, you need to understand your value and worth to them. You’ll be working, taking time out of your schedule and making sacrifices to go on the trip. Make sure it’s worth it to you, however it is you want to calculate that worth.
Press trips aren’t just a holiday
Press trips can be hard work. I went to Thailand for 6 days and was expected to write 12 posts on an external blog created just for the trip in return. Every second of the trip was scheduled so there was no time to do anything while I was there. It was tough with all my other work commitments at the time and I’d definitely got caught up with the excitement of going to Thailand rather than thinking about whether I’d be the best fit and if it suited my travel blog goals. Of course it was an incredible week and I got to go in a private plane and even meet the Mayor of Phuket, but I should’ve asked more questions beforehand so I was prepared.
Know what you’re signing up for
Press trips aren’t just a chance for a free holiday – you need to provide some real value back to the company that sponsored you to be there. Before you agree find out what they expect from you, and if you want to get a good name in the industry, always exceed those expectations. In these preliminary questions make sure you know the timeframes for when exactly they’re expecting the content online. Also find out if they’re expecting you to live blog, or update your social media feeds while you’re there. All these things need to be ironed out before you leave so the travel blogger press trip goes as smoothly as possible.
Say now if you don’t like the itinerary
If it’s a solo press trip make sure you’re really involved in preparing the itinerary. Send them suggestions of things you’d really like to do and if you can, arrange a meeting to discuss what would suit your blog best. If the itinerary is sorted for you, whether you’re on a group trip, or a solo trip, and there’s something you’re not comfortable with, make sure you tell them. Give a reason and a suggestion for something different. You don’t have to do what’s set out in itinerary draft one, they obviously want you to be happy too and will want to give you want you want to increase the possibility of you enjoying their destination!
Once you have the press trip sorted
Underpromise and over deliver
Whatever your agreed press trip coverage with your sponsor, it’s a good idea to give them that little bit extra. Even if it’s just one more Instagram photo, another Facebook update or some great photos they can use in their promotional material. You’re more likely to be asked back, and you could be recommended to other PRs too. Just like the way travel bloggers talk about PRs and companies so they talk about you, and us. I’d love to see their Facebook groups!
Be up, ready, alert and all charged up
No doubt you’ll be given a schedule at the beginning on the week and you need to be polite and courteous at all times to everyone involved. You’re not some big shot because you’re on a press trip. I’ve seen and heard of some people press trip diva fits about air conditioning and other such ‘essentials’ at their PR – that’s not going to get you anywhere. Make sure you take some sort of back up kit for your camera and phone. There’s nothing worse that being sent in to interview someone and seeing that little red light flash up warning you to get a move on.
Don’t take the piss
Whether it’s the mini bar, the staff, your driver or the dinner bill, just approach them all within reason. On the press trips I’ve been on I get totally paranoid they’ll think I’ve gone too far but so long as you don’t go all Henry VIIIth at dinner time on them you’ll be fine.
Angie from angieaway.com has some really good tips for staying off the PR Social Media BlackList here 10 Tips to End Up on the Infamous Press Trip Blacklist
Just be awesome
If blog trips had an end of project report you’re aiming for an A+. If an agency is sending you to review a country they’ll want to send someone they can trust. Everyone has someone to answer to and as long as you’re cool and can manage to turn up on time, reply to emails when they come through and conduct yourself in a polite but familial way, or however you do on your blog, you’ll be invited back and recommended within the industry. And if a country invites you of course they’ll want you to be respectful of their traditions and life.
How to get a press trip
If you’ve got all the bases covered at the start of this post then it’s time to track down some interesting PR people who are about to become your new BFFs.
Keep writing, grow your social media feeds, encourage interaction on your blog and get yourself known among tourist boards and PR companies.
Go to events
Go to conferences and events and chat to other bloggers and the companies who’ve paid to be there. They’re the ones who are really interested in working with bloggers and so the people who you’ll have the best chances with.
What can you do for them?
This isn’t all about you you know. A PR will want to know exactly what you can do for them when it comes to press trips, so know your reach, your readership and your skills. Don’t be afraid to show them off either. You need to demonstrate why they should choose you over every other blogger in the world. If you’re meeting a potential press trip organiser at an event you need to be sure of what you can provide them. What can you offer and why should they work with you? Have that right in your head and rolling off the tongue and you’re sure to be in with a better chance.
Helps to be multitalented
If you can take great photos, film and edit, and write, you’re quite the asset to a press trip. If you’re this multitalented make sure the PRs know it. If you’re not, no worries, having an expertise can make you stand out too. You just need to play to and market your strengths.
If you’re planning on starting a travel blog to get free press trips, trust me, you’d be better off getting yourself a minimum wage paid job and paying for the whole thing yourself. But if you just want a happy sideline in a few press trips a year to supplement your travels, then good luck to you!
As always, let me know how you get on…