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.

Meet the Team: Keely – Design and Multimedia Specialist

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To help our audience learn who is behind the content on this blog, we’ve been releasing a series of Q&A’s from our team. In this month’s edition, you will learn all about our Design and Multimedia Specialist, Keely Smith.

Keely brings an eye for design to the (W)right On team. Her experience stretches from web to print media, designing for local businesses, schools, and corporate structures. Keely seeks to create art that motivates the audience to see and experience the world in fresh and exhilarating ways. As an artist and innovator, she engages various mediums including graphic design, sculpture, illustration, dance and music. With a passion for expression she strives to build relationships around fostering creativity and collaboration. Keely has a Bachelor of Arts with an emphasis in Graphic Design from San Diego State University.

What would you be doing if you weren’t at your current job?

My dream job would be to work as a travel journalist with my own travel show (the female Anthony Bourdain). There’s nothing better than being paid to explore the world!

What’s one word you would use to describe yourself?

Eclectic.

Fill in the blank. “If you really knew me, you’d know ____”My worst fears.

What super power would you like to have? The ability to change into any person or animal.

What would a “perfect” day look like to you?

Sleeping in, have a tasty brunch somewhere, spend time with friends/family, go for a nice walk or bike ride, end the day with a good movie and a glass of wine.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in the past year?

I’m not defined by my failures or misfortunes.

Best vacation you’ve had?irelandI went to Ireland for 2 weeks after I graduated college. Some of the most joyful and sarcastic people I’ve ever met!

What’s your most embarrassing moment at work?

After a trip to the ladies room, I was that girl who walked down the hall with my dress tucked into my underwear. Needless to say things got a little “cheeky”.

Favorite quote?

“I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.” – Michael Scott

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would be cast as you?

Jennifer Lawrence – she is crazy talented and has a great sense of humor.Drew Barrymore – because people say I look like her

What’s your drink of choice?

A whiskey-ginger or a glass of cabernet sauvignon.

If you were stuck on an island and could only choose 5 CDs, what would they be?

The Civil Wars – Barton Hallow

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Double Trouble

Ben Howard – Every Kingdom

Banks – Goddess

No Doubt – Tragic Kingdom

Fill in the blank. “People would be surprised if they knew____” That I am part Hispanic even though I’m pretty much translucent.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

When you go out of your way for someone on the road and they don’t give you the courtesy wave, you know what I’m talking about.

What tv show/movie is your guilty pleasure?

Oh man, let’s just say I watch most of the HBO, Starz, masterpiece, and Showtime series. Some of my favorites: GOT, Girls, Homeland, Outlander, Penny Dreadful, and of course Downton Abbey.coffee

What’s one thing you can’t live without?

There are 2 things I can’t live without…coffee and cheese.

Favorite line from a movie?

“You accept the love you think you deserve.” – The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Do you have an office nickname?

What is it? Yes, K Slizzle.

What’s the best/worst gift you have ever received?

Worst – a small tea light candle… just one.

Best – when I was a teen, my mom took me and 2 friends to see my favorite musical Oklahoma.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Spend time with friends and family.

Meet the Team: Danielle

DCobb---webTo kick off our “Meet the Team” series, we’ve chosen to highlight communications coordinator Danielle Cobb. Danielle brings expertise in media relations and blogger and influencer programs to the (W)right On team from her time working at top PR firms in the Bay Area. She is passionate about leveraging her knowledge to help organizations further build their brands and establish strong connections with their customers through digital platforms. Danielle has worked in various industries including food & beverage, lifestyle, consumer & enterprise technology, healthcare and fashion. Danielle graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with an emphasis in PR and a minor in Sociology. Learn more about Danielle:

What would you be doing if you weren’t at your current job?

I would be a critically acclaimed food writer.

 What’s one word you would use to describe yourself?

Sassy.

 Fill in the blank. “If you really knew me, you’d know ____”

I’m obsessed with food, especially dessert, and l love to try new restaurants any chance I get.

 What super power would you like to have?

It might be a tie between teleportation and flying.

 What would a “perfect” day look like to you?

A perfect day would be waking up early and going to BodyPump at 24 first thing. Then I would hang out at a coffee shop in Hillcrest or North Park reading “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me.” I’d go shopping at some cute boutiques until lunch rolled around and pop into Snooze for lunch. I think I’d just hang out with some friends for the rest of the day and go to dinner, then end the night with a glass of wine and dessert. Doesn’t get much better than that.

 What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in the past year?

Might sound like a cliché but that everything happens for a reason – also that timing is everything.

 Best vacation you’ve had?

I went to Italy with my family this past summer and it was amazing! We went to Florence and Rome and now I just want to travel everywhere.

 What’s your most embarrassing moment at work?

It’s more sad than embarrassing, but my grandma died last year and I was at work when I found out. I was crying on the stairwell outside the front door of our office and one of my coworkers came out because he heard my blubbering. He saw me look a hot mess – literally mascara running down my face and my ugly crying face.

 Favorite quote?

Can I quote myself? “Sassy – not just a word, it’s a lifestyle.”

 If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would be cast as you?

Shay Mitchell.

 What’s your drink of choice?

Byron Pinot Noir.

 If you were stuck on an island and could only choose 5 CDs, what would they be?

Britney Spears “Greatest Hits”, Beyoncé’s self-entitled album, Lorde “Pure Heroine”, Drake “Thank Me Later”, and No Doubt “Tragic Kingdom”.

 Fill in the blank. “People would be surprised if they knew____”

That I hate the rain and the cold, but someday I want to live in Seattle.

 What’s your biggest pet peeve?

When people don’t text back.

 What TV show/movie is your guilty pleasure?

Right now, I’d have to say any of the Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules.

 What’s one thing you can’t live without?

EOS lip balm.

 Favorite line from a movie?

Any line from Mean Girls, and can basically quote the whole movie.

 Do you have an office nickname? What is it?

Dcobb or DC.

 What’s the best/worst gift you have ever received?

The best gift I have ever received would be for my college graduation. My mom got me 8th row floor seats to a Justin Bieber concert. I could basically touch him from my seat, I was that close.

 What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to exercise, try new restaurants and coffee shops, watch ungodly amounts of Hulu and Netflix, hang out with friends, and explore San Diego.

 

Be bold, develop a brand voice and differentiate yourself: Lessons from my PR internship

When I interviewed at (W)right On Communications, I was asked, “What makes you different from the other candidates applying for this position?” I confidently answered the question because I knew others would see it as a temporary opportunity to get a taste of the PR profession. I, however, had no intention of treating this job as if it was just another internship, but rather, as the start of my career. Maintaining this mentality throughout my internship challenged me with opportunities that seemed intimidating, while I quietly observed and absorbed from this stellar team.

It would be easy for me to list all of the skills WOC has taught me, like drafting a formal press release, researching media contacts, or how the cost of a stamp actually matters when sending snail mail (I’m a millennial, give me a break). However, working here has taught me more than just technical things that I can easily Google on any given day. The best thing about (W)right On is the small team of PR pros that bring genuine passion and commitment to their jobs. The intimate nature of the agency allowed me to learn deeper, more valuable skills that a web search doesn’t have the capacity to. These are a few of the many things that WOC has taught me that I will cherish and carry with me as I grow in the PR industry:

  1. Be bold and dive in feet first: When we welcomed new Communications Coordinator Danielle Cobb to the team a couple months after my internship began, I was instantly drawn to how confidently she jumped into her new role. Her aura just fit in with the atmosphere of the agency as if she had been with WOC far before I had been. Although Danielle had just moved from the Bay Area, she was confident in her ability to talk about client partners in San Diego. As we got to know each other, she would tell me how she was making new friends using Meetup.com (a website that allows people new to a city to find others in the same situation and meet based on age and common interests). I was so inspired to be around someone who was not afraid to take initiative and be bold doing it. She wanted this job, so she made sure she was giving her all to it. She wanted to make new friends, so she used her resources to make that happen. Moving forward, I will always remember that if I want something, I have to be bold, put myself out there, and just go for it. The world isn’t going to hand things over to me, it is up to me to find the opportunities I want and confidently take them.
  1. Public Relations is a profession for people who think of others before themselves: One of the first times where I felt like a PR hotshot was when Communications Strategist Chance Shay asked me to collaborate on poster ideas for a client partners’ Halloween event. Although I shared some great ideas, they didn’t necessarily work because it wouldn’t appeal to the intended audience. The ideas I suggested included references that were a bit outdated for the target audience of elementary school students (the revelation of which prompted my mid-life crisis at age 22). Although my seemingly suave suggestions didn’t work, the lesson here was simple: working in Public Relations requires a person who can think of others before themselves. I had to step outside of Philip and put myself in their shoes to achieve success. Even when Chance asked me to search for media opportunities for potential client partners, I was reminded that constantly thinking about others is how you not only succeed, but also exceed, as a PR pro. After all, it’s when you have others’ backs that they’ll have yours.
  1. Every client has a unique voice; it is your job to make sure that voice is heard: My training as a social media guru commenced at (W)right On. Although some people may think that managing social media is equivalent to chillin’ on Facebook and Twitter all day, it is so much more than that. I was fortunate enough to work very closely with Communication Strategist Erica Schlesinger to manage a variety of different social media accounts. The only thing more fabulous than Erica’s insane shoe collection is her way with words and creative ideas. Training with her has taught me to speak as an ambassador. Social media is a very powerful technology; each client has different objectives and motives for using it. You must also be sensitive to the audience that is reading it. The verbiage used when launching a social media campaign for a medical center’s annual charity gala is going to be much different than one for a cool hotel intended for young bachelors. It is a PR pro’s job to make sure that the client’s voice is heard loud and clear, but in 140 characters or less…
  1. Find your differentiator: On my very first day at (W)right On, I asked my supervisor Molly Borchers the one piece of advice that she could give me as I started in my career. She said “Find your differentiator,” and those words have stuck with me ever since. I have learned so much at (W)right On because each of the people that I have worked with has something so unique and irreplaceable that makes them stand out in what they do. I know I have a bit more work to do before I find my differentiator and I am okay with that. As you move forward, all the little things you learn along the way will somehow come together and help you paint the bigger picture, and painting a masterpiece takes time.

I started day one of my internship intimidated, nervous, and reserved. However, I kept the “start of my career” mentality and took in as much as I could, allowing each lesson to crack my shell a little bit more. As I round out the last couple weeks I have left in San Diego, I am a much more aware and confident young professional (I have waited SO long to call myself that) ready to take the PR world by storm. Thank you (W)right On Communications, I’ve loved every single moment!

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(W)right On Communications Promotes Erica Schlesinger to Communications Strategist

Erica Schlesinger Promoted

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(W)right On Communications  has promoted Erica Schlesinger to Communications Strategist after only six months at the agency. In her new role, Erica will direct and execute communications and public relations efforts for the agency’s clients, focusing most heavily on the hospitality and lifestyle industries.“

Erica’s passion and enthusiasm for her client’s success is truly contagious and infects the rest of the team,” said Julie Wright, founder and president of (W)right On. “She knows the lifestyle and hospitality industries inside and out – and her creativity and excellent writing skills bring outstanding results for our clients. We’re excited to see her flourish in this next step in her career.”

Erica will oversee and implement client initiatives including comprehensive PR and social media strategies, media and community relations programs, branding, crisis communications, multimedia and web development and event planning in collaboration with (W)right On’s team of communications, multimedia and design experts.

A San Diego native, Erica brings more than three years of experience in public relations, social & digital media and branding to the Communications Strategist role. She has worked with top industry brands including Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, Hilton Hotels and Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite and achieved media placements with outlets such as Outside, LA Times, Fodor’s, Forbes, San Francisco Chronicle, NBC San Diego, Westways and more.

5 Things All Young PR Pros Should Know

Best Publicist

In my very first PR internship, I was in awe of my boss. She was smart, witty, had a killer resume and could write a pitch like nobody’s business. I wanted more than anything to become my own version of her. Beyond going down in history as the juncture in my life when I officially caught the PR bug, that internship taught me a great professional foundation that has taken me where I am today. And while I’m by no means an industry veteran, I’d like to think that foundation has given me some room to offer advice to the next up-and-comers of the PR world.  For as many publicists and PR agencies there are out there, there are probably about as many unique approaches to handling clients, crafting a great press release and hammering out a solid PR strategy. However, there are a few things that undeniably apply across the board that will help you learn, grow and earn respect.

1. My Social Media, Myself

You’ve heard it for years – “don’t put anything on public social media channels you wouldn’t want your mom/grandma/boss/teacher to see.” Many people, especially those lumped into the “millennial” category, disregard it. Well, from one millennial to another – don’t. PR is social-savvy trade by nature, so I guarantee any prospective employers and coworkers will check you out from Twitter to Tumblr. Save the profanities, compromising photos and any dramatic recounts of fights with significant others for after-work vent sessions with your friends. They have no place in the professional world.

2. You Will Mess Up

People make mistakes. People who are new to something, by default, tend to make more of them. Guess what? It’s ok. When – not if – you mess something up, just be a realist about it. Think:

How can I handle this? 

Think of a solution (or several) before ‘fessing up. Your supervisors will appreciate the forethought, and it shows maturity and initiative. However, if you’re really struggling, of course ask for help.

Who needs to know?

More often than not, probably just your immediate supervisors. If a client needs to know, they’ll guide you on next steps.

What can I say?

Explain what happened, apologize and move on. Unless it’s something absolutely earth-shattering, other people involved will, too.

Then, just make sure you learn from what happened and let it go.

3. Don’t Be a Diva

As you’re finding your place in the industry, you’re going to have to be an intern or an assistant, maybe even several times over. You’re going to have to do things that aren’t “fun” or “cool” or like you’ve seen Samantha do on “Sex and the City” (which, let me say, is incredibly unrealistic for 99% of PR pros). Don’t ever think you’re above it. The people that are directing you to do these things probably did the same stuff 5, 10, 20 years ago – they earned the right to move forward in their careers. As cheesy as it sounds, doing it with a smile on your face and gratefulness for the experience will take you far. If you’re up for a promotion against someone who sulks when they’re asked to update a media list or scan in new press hits – you’ve got that thing in the bag.

4. Media Hits Do Not Make a PR Strategy

Yes, media hits are an important component of a PR strategy. But, they are not a strategy in and of themselves. It will behoove you to learn to think strategically from an early point in your career. When you’re building a PR plan or pitching a story, think not just, “who is going to see this?” but “what is this going to do for my client?” Sure, an editorial feature in a magazine looks impressive, but is it going to sell hotel rooms? Encourage people to sign up for a new juice cleanse? Spread the word about an upcoming charity event and boost ticket interest? If it’s not the right audience or market, the answer may very well be “no.” In that case, move on – don’t waste your time or the client’s budget spinning your wheels on something that doesn’t make sense. Your clients will appreciate you far more if you get them two hits in publications that return great results rather than 20 in publications that just don’t connect.

5. It Gets Better

Being a publicist can be extremely stressful. You have clients to please and coordinate with, deadlines to meet, plans to create, press releases to distribute, events to attend – phew! Keeping it all under control can be a daunting task, especially if you’re a newbie. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Write it down

Some studies have indicated writing down to-dos actually decreases your memory capacity, but I wholeheartedly disagree – to me, they’re essential. Before leaving my office each day, I make a list of everything I need to do the following day. In the morning, I check my email, add to my list and prioritize accordingly. As I wrap up, I check things off – it gives me an idea of where I stand on important projects, plus, it’s always satisfying to cross another thing off your list.

Roll with the punches

There will often be things that come up that are an instant priority above all other tasks. Evaluate your status on other projects and adjust accordingly. We publicists are a paranoid bunch, and we often have the urge to do everything in one day. Resist – there are generally things you can swap around so your plate isn’t so full.

Ask for help

Don’t be afraid to reach out to a senior staffer if you’re feeling overwhelmed or need help figuring out how to plan your day. They’re experienced and they’ve been in your shoes, so they’ll be happy to guide you.

Suck it up

Sometimes, you have to work late or start your day at 6am. Own it. Accept it. That’s your job.

As you start to come into your own and develop a pattern for workload and client needs, your stress will start to subside. It’s all part of the process of becoming a full-blown, a**-kicking communications professional. And, on the days when stress does get the better of you, remember this advice from PR great Kelly Cutrone: “If you have to cry, go outside.”