Five Simple Ways to Host a Successful Media Trip

Five Simple Ways to Host a Successful Media Trip

By Erica Schlesinger, Communications Strategist

For our hospitality PR client partners, a key component to a successful media relations strategy is planning press visits. Sometimes, this involves setting up an individual journalist with a hotel stay, activities and meals on their own, but often, we will plan a group press trip. Also called a familiarization, or “fam” trip, these team endeavors are a great way to form personal relationships with members of the media while also securing multiple features for client partners. I have personally planned and attended more than 10 press trips, so I like to think I know a thing or two about making them smooth and successful!

Check out my top five tips for pulling off a great getaway:

  1. Plan ahead – As much as possible, start narrowing down dates, general trajectory of the trip, how many people to host and target audiences about four or five (or even six for a longer trip) months in advance. Many sought-after travel journalists have trips lined up back-to-back, so getting on their calendars is much more likely when you give them the chance to plan ahead. It may seem like overkill, but you’ll have a clear picture of who can make it – and who can’t – with enough time to fill your trip and stay organized… without having a last-minute panic attack.
  2. Be flexible – Schedules change, people run late and guests can develop newfound food allergies or fears of heights when you had a meticulous tasting menu and zipline excursion planned. There is no such thing as a perfect fam trip – when you’re balancing five to seven writers, their guests, their requests, different onsite teams working together and robust itineraries, something is bound to change (and often last-minute and on-the-go). It may not always be convenient or ideal, but tackle it as you would any professional issue: take a breath, use your head, ask for help as needed and take it from there. You’ll soon have it handled. I’ve had writers have overnight flight delays or at-home emergencies, change preferences on a completed itinerary, show up with an unexpected guest and much more. At the end of the day, you’re there to make sure they arrive safely, have a good experience and leave happy – and want to work with you again and say nice things about your clients as a result. Another tip – be transparent with your client partner and inform them of any issues that may impact their teams, but if they don’t need to get involved, don’t bring them into the mix.
  3. Be a control freak – Staying organized is critical for a successful fam trip. You need to make sure a lot of details are sorted and effectively communicated to all involved parties, travel arrangements are made, itineraries are approved, rooms are booked – you get the idea. At WOC, we have a few things that always make their way into our fam trip planning rotation:
    • Bio sheet – Ask each press trip attendee for a photo, brief bio, what their story will be about and the reach of their outlet, then compile into a single document to share with stakeholders. It gives a snapshot of who they’ll be meeting so they can prepare to chat with them, address any special preferences and get an idea of what sort of result they can expect from their time and money.
    • Google Docs/Google Drive – AKA your press trip BFF. Load any spreadsheets, bio sheets, itineraries and other documents up, add approved editors and watch edits appear in real time… without having 50 back-and-forth emails. Isn’t that nice?
    • Preference sheet/head count sheet – This is like a press trip “master document.” Here, we will have all key information any given member of our team or our clients’ team may need at any time to plan the trip. Excel is a great platform to build this in, then – you guessed it – load it into Google Drive. At the very least, this should include all contact info for each attendee, information on their preferences and any health or dietary needs, their guest, their meal selections and their activity preferences. For the latter two, build a “total count” row into the bottom of the sheet – this makes interfacing with activity partners and building BEOs a much easier process.
    • Itinerary – Also like the Press Trip Bible. This is a very detailed timeline covering everything attendees can expect from their trip, right down to notes about driving times if they’re arriving separately and check-in tips for spa appointments. It will keep you, your team and your guests on track from day one to waving goodbye. We WOC-ers like to add each element of the itinerary into our smartphone calendars with a 30-minute warning so we can always be one step ahead.
  4. Be a social butterfly – As a PR pro, you are on a fam trip to represent your client partner, guide the trip and act as a go-to source for information, but in reality, you’re the chief entertainer, too. You will be the person these folks will see the most over two, three, sometimes six or seven days, and it is your job to make sure they all feel welcome and are having fun. When everyone arrives, get them all introduced to one another (including their guests) – and you should not have to refer to any notes for names or what outlet they’re from! During the first meet-and-greet with key members of your client partner’s team, introduce both parties with full names and titles. While at meals or driving in a group, make an effort to mix and mingle with different people. Sometimes, some attendees are much harder to connect with than others – resist the urge to stick with Chatty Cathy the whole trip through. It may be Silent Sue who has the most questions, is the most uncomfortable around groups or just needs some encouragement to open up.
  5. Be a human clock – Real talk… media attendees are rarely keeping track of the time and itinerary while on press trips. Which is fine, since they’re there for the experience. PR pros, however, need to be on schedule at all times. During activities, keep an eye on the time and give updates (“Hey, guys, we have about 20 more minutes in this location. Is there anything else you need to see or photograph before we prepare to move on?”) – this can even mean politely urging a tour guide along, or pulling a chef aside in advance of a big meal to remind him or her of your after-dinner itinerary. If sending people off on free time before another set of activities, and during the last get-together of the evening, remind people of the time and location of their next scheduled stop. It might seem like a lot of “hovering,” but you’ll be surprised how quickly people forget when dinner is or where they need to check it for their morning horseback ride after a full day.

Putting together a winning press trip takes much more than following a few guidelines, but these are a great place to start. Hospitality PR pros, what other tips would you share after running trips of your own?

To learn more about (W)right On’s hospitality PR team, results and capabilities, check out WrightOnComm.com/Hospitality.

12 Signs PR Agency Life Isn’t for You

By Julie Wright

1. Month end is just another day to you.

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2. You’re happiest doing one thing at a time.

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3. You don’t read the by-lines as closely as the articles.

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4. You don’t measure your life in 5 minute increments.

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5. You come up with song hooks instead of news hooks in the shower.

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6. Your only sense of urgency is when the barista takes too long with your latte.

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7. You had to Google KPI.

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8. You think the work day is 9 to 5.

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9. You wouldn’t describe yourself as a people person.

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10. You follow the Kardashians more closely than Facebook’s algorithm changes.

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11. You fall asleep Sunday nights with no thought to the client projects waiting for you Monday morning.

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12. You fall asleep Sunday night.

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Measuring the ROI of Public Relations: Five Experts Weigh In

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By Molly Borchers, Sr. Communications Strategist

Public relations and business growth go together like peanut butter and jelly. The last new restaurant I tried? It was because of a good review I read in a local magazine. The last lip-gloss I purchased was the darling of Allure beauty editors. The last business software I evaluated wasn’t because of some advertisement. It was through word of mouth. And as we often say at my company, PR is the ultimate word of mouth.

In fact, the famed Guy Kawasaki recently came out in support of PR as the way to get the most bang for your marketing buck:

“Brands are built on what people are saying about you, not what you’re saying about yourself. People say good things about you when (a) you have a great product and (b) you get people to spread the word about it.”

But despite this advice, I know of many companies who would rather devote their entire marketing budget to advertising. For marketing people, advertising is easier to wrap their hands around. Leads and quantifiable metrics, like click-through-rates and page views, often make marketing people look good in front of their bosses. In advertising, you can often see directly how people are moving through the funnel. With public relations, it’s a bit less tangible.

To further complicate things, actually measuring ROIthe return-on-investment (ROI) in PR is a seemingly herculean task. I hate to say it, but marketing directors and PR folks seem conflicted on measurement. Some are (still) using the antiquated Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) metric. Others come up with statistical correlations that are tailored to each client’s needs. Some are adopting the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles. Others are measuring tactics like reach and number of placements, rather than outcomes (like increase in sales or website conversions).

So, to help you better advocate for a slice of the marketing pie, I have asked five experts to provide their best practices on PR measurement.

In the beginning, ask “Why?”: Shonali Burke (@shonali), ABC, president and CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc. knows a thing or two about measurement. She is Adjunct Faculty at Johns Hopkins’ M.A. in Communication program, founder and curator of the #measurePR hashtag and Twitter chat, and owner of the popular blog/community, Waxing UnLyrical. To start, Shonali says that one of the most important questions to ask when trying to figure out how to measure the success (or failure) of your campaign or initiative is, “Why?” Why” are you investing time and resources into a particular campaign? What do you hope to get out of it? Ultimately, your PR efforts should support your business objectives, so don’t stop asking, “Why?” until you get there.

Agree on measurement goals upfront: Shonali says that her biggest challenge in measuring the ROI on PR is that some companies sometimes think of measurement as an afterthought. Her advice is to bring it front and center. In fact, she doesn’t sign contracts until she and her client have agreed on the measurement goals they’re working towards.

Deirdre Breakenridge (@dbreakenridge) is CEO at Pure Performance Communications, adjunct professor at New York University, and author of five books. She agrees with Shonali on setting measurement goals up-front. But she says you also need to determine in the beginning how to quantify and benchmark progress over time.

Don’t just analyze outputs – also benchmark against competition: Aaron Brown (@abrownFMPR), senior vice president at Fahlgren Mortine, says that his method of measuring share of editorial discussion resonates with his clients. This approach requires analysis against key competitors within target strategic areas in a defined set of media. So, if technology is an area of emphasis for the brand, how is it performing on technology-related topics against competitors in the most influential media outlets?

Broken-Silo-2Break down the silos: Deirdre Breakenridge likes making the connection between spikes in PR coverage, website traffic and then conversions to leads/sales, but says it’s important to work closely with other areas of marketing, web and sales to have access to data that may not be readily available. When you break down the silos you can show a more accurate picture of ROI.

Julie Wright (@juliewright), president of (W)right On Communications agrees with Deirdre. She thinks of PR as fitting with the flywheel concept in the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. When you are doing many things right across social media, PR, branding and more, you can achieve a better overall outcome than when you take a siloed approach to your communications.

Aaron Brown says, the best measurement approach crosses silos and accounts for earned, owned, paid and shared media. This helps to account for all of the ways target audiences engage with the brand. Failure to incorporate these areas of marketing and communications leads to a measurement report with holes.

Use social media for a two-way dialogue: Jennifer Dulles (@DStreetTweet), president of D Street PR, advocates for social media listening. Today, we can poll audiences, ask people their preferences and see where they are going. It’s a much richer world for measuring results than back in the days when we had to hire a survey research firm for pre and post-telephone surveys. When brands need to measure sentiment or gauge whether opinions changed, they can simply ask.

Give it time: Julie Wright says that moving the needle and making an impact requires a sustained commitment. However, many companies are looking for a one-time silver bullet to timeachieve their communication goals. If you think of communicating with your stakeholders in the same way you think about it with your spouse, you know it is not a process that you turn on and off at will or just give it your all every once in a while. Predictable, consistent and, of course, interesting communication is the key to building trust and relationships with your audiences.

Ultimately, in our data driven world, it’s a challenge to show dollar-for-dollar the value of public relations. But PR does have its benefits, even if we struggle to explain them. Julie Wright said the best measurement tool she ever had was a line out the door at her client’s store after an article hit on their product. How’s that for value?

Originally posted on Huffington Post.

Why PR is Becoming a Visual Game (and How to Win)

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Remember when you were a little kid and your parents asked you to pick out a book to read? Did you gravitate toward the one that was a sea of black-and-white letters, or the cool one with lots of colorful, eye-catching photos?

In high school geometry, which was the better textbook? The one that wrote out how to determine the surface area of a trapezoid, or the one that showed you?

Even now, are you more engaged and likely to retain information with presentations that are strictly verbal, or ones that have graphics and charts?

It’s a fact: human beings are visual creatures. As a general rule, we remember 80% of what we see, compared to 20% of what we read and a small 10% of what we hear, a New York University psychological study found.

Applying this to PR, an industry in which the main objective is to communicate positive messages about a brand or person, Wharton School of Business researchers determined that presentations based on visuals were found more compelling and convincing than those that were only verbal.

Furthermore, 67% of the audience in the study said that merging visuals with verbal aids were all the more effective. So how can we, as PR professionals, leverage these findings to the advantage of our brands?

Get Social

With the popularity of visually-driven social media networks like Pinterest and Instagram, there’s no time like the present to socialize your PR strategy.

pinterestPinterest is especially great since a pin can link directly back to a website. If you pin a PDF of your fresh press release and put some compelling preview text in the description, your audience will not only want to read that particular release, they’ll be taken to your news room, blog, etc. and likely read many more. And check out your team. And explore your website.

In an industry like hospitality, make sure to load your website and e-menu up with lots of great photos showcasing your space, food and amenities. With one click, users will be on your site and one step away from making reservations.

instaInstagram isn’t to be forgotten, though. Although it lacks the referral power Pinterest has (at least for now), it’s a great vehicle for furthering community relations efforts or raising awareness of your brand offerings.

For example, nonprofits can benefit immensely from showcasing their volunteer efforts and positive impact in real time, while a fashion line can post sneak peeks of their new collection and the behind-the-scenes design process to get fans excited to buy.

With a few well-placed hashtags, even non-fans will be in on the action. Networks like Facebook and Twitter, as well as outlets like blogs, can also add to your visual storytelling power in their own unique way.

Create a Better Press Release

Notice I say “create” rather than “write.” That’s because although words still rule in PR, the changing face of the industry requires a little something extra for maximum connectivity and traction from both consumers and media.

As mentioned last year in our piece on putting together a great press release, adding just one photo to a release will increase views by 14%. Applying elements like more photos and video continues the upward trajectory, culminating in 77% higher consumption when visual education tools like infographics comepolaroids into play.

This all depends on the industry, too. B2C brands will do well with high-quality photos of their products or properties, while B2B people may be more receptive to charts and graphs.

As with any PR effort, think about your target audience when adding visual elements to collateral like press releases.

Get Ready for Your Close-Up

If you’re not sprinkling video into your PR plan at least occasionally, you should be.husky

ComScore found that in the US alone, people watch more than a billion online videos every day. Why?

They’re dynamic, typically easy to consume and people equate them with entertainment. Video makes it simple and fun to showcase brand philosophy, spread the word on updates and give a glimpse at the human side of a company, which consumers love.

If you’re trying to rebrand a respected, but traditionally conservative corporation, try a regular feature showcasing employees doing volunteer work or shadowing them for a day on the job. If you’re a tech-savvy company, dabble in mixing up your written press releases with video ones.

Video is also a great tool for media relations. At (W)right On, we’ve had great success creating client b-roll and sending on to news stations for high-quality, late-breaking event coverage – plus, it allows you to pick and choose the footage you want to show off. And, video is a fast way to introduce people to who you are as a company, piquing the interest of potential customers, media influencers and even investors.

What other ways have you found visuals instrumental in a successful PR program? Tell us in the comments or find us on Twitter.

Communication Changes, Constantly

At (W)right On, we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of good communication practices. Had the agency been around in the 50’s – 90’s, things would have been easier – there was stability and relative predictability. There were also far fewer communication channels (e.g. in TV, radio and print), journalistic work wasn’t executed at such breakneck speed and attention spans were longer.

Times have changed, and “dramatically” would be an understatement. Hundreds of communication channels became thousands, then millions with the blog community; communication became instantaneous and instantaneously global; Gen Y (Millennials) entered the scene having only known life with a gadget in their hands; sound bites became character bites (no more than 140); recipients’ message absorption capacity decreased with a greater need for stimulation and interaction is increasingly digital instead of human-to-human. I could go on. Stating these facts is not meant necessarily as an indictment of them. To the contrary, there’s much good to be found in them – it’s simply recognizing that many aspects of communication have profoundly changed.

But through these decades, and for centuries prior, there remain constants in stories.

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Stories will never go out of style. We humans often have the most engaging conversations when a story is shared: Around the dinner table. When there’s actually news. Sharing wisdom with a child or friend. Motivating a group to action. For entertainment and relaxation.

The same rule applies to business communication, too. The art of and need for storytelling – beyond a status update or picture share – is ageless. Involve any element of intrigue, protagonists and antagonists, humor, conflict or any of the universal themes we gravitate toward and your message will get across.

While distribution channels and methodology will continue to evolve, telling stories is a stalwart in conveying messages. Well-told stories capture attention, elicit emotion, engage the audience, provide relevance and inspire to action. For organizations, stories can connect and emotionally invest people in their brand.

Storytelling – just one of many constants in the sea of communication change.  What’s your story?

5 Social Media Lessons from my Green Tea Party Protest

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Here’s what I learned trying to bring back Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass after my favorite tea was discontinued.

I discovered Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass a few years ago and became hooked on its soothing, subtle flavor. All other green teas were too bitter or tasted like grass. Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass became a daily ritual for me.

But late last year, I had trouble finding my beloved product. In January, I discovered that Good Earth had overhauled its product line in a rebranding and my favorite flavor had been discontinued, tossed aside in the pursuit of the millennial market.

I did what any devoted customer in the 21st century would do: I complained to Good Earth on its Facebook page. The company responded, steering me to their new product, Citrus Kiss – part of a sassy new lineup that also included Tropical Rush, Sweet Chai of Mine, Wild Chaild, etc.

Yes, Citrus Kiss contained green tea as well as lemongrass, but it also contained stevia (a natural sweetener) which means it tasted nothing like Green Tea Lemongrass (GTL). Unacceptable! And a waste of my money!

I started a Facebook page called Bring Back Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass. Other disgruntled fans of the former product found the page and ultimately it drew nearly 200 fans.

In the process, I learned five lessons about social media that I’ll share below. You’ll have to read to the end to find out whether I scored a victory or not:

1.       It’s not the size of the audience but the depth of their engagement that matters

The Good Earth page has over 64,000 “Likes.” My page has only 749. However, my protest page attracts more comments on its material with real conversations taking place between commentators than the brand’s page. The small number of people involved are very invested in the cause and know that they’re part of a community that cares just as deeply (and who would never steer them to a pre-sweetened alternative!). Bring back Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass!

2.       You can’t buy engagement

Early in my protest, I would go to Good Earth’s Facebook page and comment using my page’s identity on the complaints of other ex-GTL customers. My message was always respectful. I just wanted to let the poor tea drinker know our page existed and that they could find others who shared their passion for the product there.

Then, suddenly, Good Earth’s social media folks banned my page from commenting on their page. That made me mad and I had to get even.

So I spent $30 or so to grow my page’s following quickly – targeting fans of Good Earth’s page specifically. The campaign added 100 followers in a flash. But those folks, like Good Earth’s thousands of followers, didn’t interact like the ones who engaged organically. So I didn’t continue it. Instead, I would occasionally post as myself on Good Earth’s page with a link to the Bring Back GE GTL page. That strategy was slower but far more effective. I would have done it more often but I’ve got other things to do besides fighting to bring back Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass.

3.       The Facebook algorithm is a beast and must be fed continually or atrophy

Once I had more of an audience, I felt Good Earth would take the page more seriously. However, I noticed that if I got too busy to show my page some love for a few days, my next post would get fewer likes or comments. On the other hand, if I kept up my activity, I saw more interaction.

Another helpful activity was to continually like, comment on and tag commentators in replies (if their settings allowed it). This helped stimulate more engagement, which raised the visibility of the posts so that more people saw them. But it was also a strategy that recognized we are all human and social media must always be approached as a conversation and not just ad copy or canned responses.

4.       Social media is a conversation

That’s truly the only approach that works.

I shared my picture on the Bring Back Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass Facebook page so people would know I am real and just like them. I made some really cool connections, too, which has become my favorite part of this experience.

Al and Sheila from New Jersey mailed me a few GE GTL Decaf teabags after they won an eBay auction of some of the discontinued stock. I loved Al’s note that came with the bags. I mailed one of those teabags back to Christina in Tulsa who had tipped me off to the eBay sale in the first place. There were so many others… Inna from San Clemente. Lisa. Chanan. Nigel.

One person credited GE GTL with getting him through MBA school. Another said it got her through chemo.

It’s also true to say that we were all having a conversation with Good Earth on its Facebook page, too—or at least trying to. But did we get anywhere?

5.       Social media is powerful

It worked. Sort of. At the end of April, Good Earth announced that they would be bringing back a limited supply of GE GTL. In late May, they began taking orders. They were sold out in five days. I got two of those cases, or 12 boxes of 20 teabags. My Facebook friend Paula also found me five boxes at a CVS in Escondido since I shared some of this information on my personal Facebook page, too. (Thank you, Paula!)

The question now is whether the new Good Earth products are generating the sales the company had hoped for when they ditched their loyal customers. If not, they should bring back the classics, Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass and its decaf cousin.

Our mighty little community demonstrated the marketplace demand, and, now, Good Earth has a national network of passionate product enthusiasts they can activate the minute they decide to do so.

So, Good Earth, what are you waiting for?

 

P.S. For those of you who care about the business side of this, Good Earth was started in Santa Cruz, Calif. in 1972. It was acquired by Tetley in 2005, a subsidiary of Tata Global Beverages.

In January 2011, Tata shut down production of Good Earth in Santa Cruz and moved all the ops to New Jersey. In 2013, it launched the rebranding and basically did away with the company’s heritage and its product lines.