How to Behave on a Hosted Media Trip
- By Guest Author
- July 22, 2015
- Category Working with Industry
I sat slack-jawed at my host’s telling of the story.
A year earlier, the tourism organization had put together its first tour with a focus on social media members and how they could help get the word out about its brand. Some heavy hitters were among the invited group, but, overall, the trip was a bust, and the organization reconsidered who it would invite in the coming years and how it would better vet those influencers.
The story that got me was of a blogger couple who flat-out made no secret that they had no interest, really, in providing any content from the tour because the type of travel didn’t fit their niche. Instead, they told anyone and everyone that they planned to use the trip as a vacation.
I am withholding names of the people involved in this retelling because they are not important. What is valuable from these types of tales is what we as bloggers and social-media influencers can learn about how to behave and present ourselves in the best light so that we enhance the reputation of our budding industry — rather than cast doubt in the minds of those who might consider working with us.
If you are going to accept an invitation, certain best practices should prevail. The blogging industry grows more valuable if we all strive to be consistent and professional. This doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and be true to our own brands. We just have to be clear with the host organizations about what they expect and what we expect out of the trip. If we can’t agree on that in the early stages, then it’s best to say, “Thanks but no thanks for the offer.”
In truth, many of you might have had a bad experience with a hosted trip, so you simply don’t do them (or maybe you never did because they don’t fit with how you want to run your business).
But if you do land an offer, consider how you should represent yourself and the blogging industry as a whole.
Make requests, but don’t be a diva.
Carol Shaughnessy, who represents The Florida Keys and Key West for Newman PR, says she has seen journalists and bloggers on press trips who know they aren’t among the members in the group who have the largest number of social-media impressions or following. Thus, they feel intimidated, so they overcompensate and become demanding.
“They request things and act in a way that instead of demonstrating supreme professionalism, shows that they are not professional,” Shaughnessy says. “If we have chosen you for a press trip, we are already impressed with your reach for the particular message we want to create. We want your audience.
“It’s not usually the big guys who act like divas.”
Shaughnessy says it’s OK to ask for stuff, though, especially if it will be valuable in telling your story in your own unique way.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for a specific experience you want,” she says. “There is a balance between being too demanding (for no reason) and making requests that fit story needs.”
Say no if it doesn’t fit.
You have to be true to your niche. If the tour is not going to fit your style, personality or readership interests, turn down the offer. If you write about frugal backpacker travel and get invited to stay at a luxury resort for a week, it might seem like a great chance to recharge and relax before getting back out on the dusty road. But it just isn’t a fit. Nothing wrong with that. Say “Thanks a lot, but it won’t really work. Let’s try to connect on another opportunity.” The organization obviously reached out to you because it is impressed with your writing or your social media reach, so it would be pleased that you are so honest and would look at how you can work together on a campaign that is a better fit.
Know what work is expected, and be reliable.
Some (perhaps most) organizations that have you on a trip, simply say “Go ahead, and do your thing.” They know you will be pumping out prolific amounts of tweets, posting on Instagram and Facebook and cultivating content for your blog and freelance articles for publication elsewhere. They’ve seen you in action before — or checked up on your work on previous trips (that’s why you were invited, after all).
Or maybe the tour is part of a specific social-media push and the host outlines specific hashtags to use and how many postings are expected. They also might have specific deadlines or a desire to have you give them permission to use some of your photos or videos. If any of this is unacceptable to you, say no to the trip.
It’s important to follow through on what is promised. Work it out ahead of time and stick to your word.
“Be honest with what you will be able to deliver … and send us a link,” Shaughnessy says.
Have fun, but not too much.
We’ve all been there. Press trips and other events, with the free-flowing booze. Before tipping back another one, consider what might happen if you get a bit out of control. What you might say, how you tend to behave and how that affects your professional reputation. It’s great to loosen up, have fun and network in a relaxed social setting. It’s also important to not go so far as to lose control of your good judgment and faculties.
I was hosted on a cruise and found myself almost carrying a well-respected magazine editor down a flight of steps to dinner after a far-too-indulgent happy hour. She practically fell down before bracing herself on my shoulders while descending to the main dining room. Now, that’s quite a grand entrance, huh?
About your plus-one.
Most of my hosted trips have allowed a guest to join. This can be a great treat for your guest, whether a friend or family member, to come along on your travels. However, make sure he or she understands that you are at work and what to expect. While the adventure is meant to be fun, your guest’s behavior will reflect on your reputation — and ultimately the blogging universe, overall.
It seems like a no-brainer, but I have seen numerous instances of “T-shirt, jeans and sandal guy” to formal dinner events. Try to make sure you’re at least in the ballpark as far as what is acceptable attire for any particular event.
Don’t be a jerk.
Your tour guides, cruise ship staffers, hotel workers, etc., are there to give you service. Of course. It’s their job. You’ll probably get better attention and treatment than the usual guest, too. You know why? Because your host undoubtedly will make it very clear to these people that you are important and will be writing about the place or posting a video critiquing or highlighting your experience.
Now, don’t let that go to your head. Make sure you treat the people you encounter with the respect they deserve. Be happy for any special treatment you are getting, but do not grow to expect it all the time. Just do your job — observe and relate your experiences to your audience. Be honest but not entitled.
Threats? C’mon! That’s not right.
Were you expecting to get the presidential suite at that resort hotel for your hosted stay? Wanted more included excursions or onboard credit or spa treatments or Wi-Fi minutes on your FAM cruise? Maybe you’ll just hint or suggest that you might not be giving as good a review on your blog if your host doesn’t come through with some more freebies on your trip. Don’t even joke about it. You’ll damage the credibility of your blog and the industry if you don’t take an above-board and honest approach to how you report on your trips.
Shaughnessy, who has worked for more than two decades writing about and promoting travel and tourism, says PR companies and organizations they work with are increasingly seeing the value that bloggers and social-media influencers offer.
Her most important tip is “to respect your own professionalism.”