Getting familiar: Behind the scenes of a press trip

26 Feb 2016

“I’m going to Dubai next week with media,” I announced. My friend immediately shot me an envious look. A media tour always sounds fun and glamorous to my friends. Yes, it’s a way to almost certainly guarantee coverage for a client. And yes, it’s eye-opening and you get the chance to go to places where normal tourists sometimes can’t go. But, it can also mean four shootings a day on a tight schedule across a range of locations and weeks of preparation work. Here is a sneak-peak into the real world of a media tour.

What is media tour?
A media tour – also called ‘FAM’ (familiarisation) trip, is an opportunity for media to have a first-hand experience with a client’s brand or product. Through offering this experience, PRs are able to secure a comprehensive and in-depth stories from key media. FAM trips could involve taking media to a company’s headquarters to get to know more about the brand heritage, inviting media to join an international launch event, or meeting the designers of a product.

Selection of media
We carefully select specific media to join the tour based on the client’s budget. We then negotiate the best coverage possible and the publishing date with the media, aiming to get optimal exposure for our client and align this with the client’s marketing plan.

Tour guide meets PR
Anything from arranging hotel bookings, visas and plane tickets, to selecting the right restaurant for a welcome dinner can be part of the preparation work for a media trip. We need to be across many details such as if anyone is a vegetarian, the type of passports the media hold, the dress code at events and whether there is Wi-Fi in the hotel room. We act as PR and tour guides at the same time. Both the client and the media rely on us for any unexpected problems. For example, I always have a supply of basic medicine with me just in case anyone gets sick in the middle of the tour. And there have been times I have received a late night knock on the door from media looking for medicine!

Cultural differences
We always think ahead and prepare for any possible problems that could be caused by cultural differences before taking off. For example, accidentally taking picture of a woman on the street in Dubai is an offence. And in Japan, it is considered very disrespectful if reporter cancels an interview that has already been confirmed. Cultural differences can be a challenge to handle on site. It’s the PR’s responsibility to keep everyone happy and keep the shootings and interviews going smoothly.

The art of gifting
It’s nice to present welcome gifts to reporters upon their arrival, bearing in mind that reporters usually prefer to pack light and the last thing you want is your lovely gift to become a burden to your guest right after they arrive. We also like to treat reporters to a welcome dinner, at which giving a small yet meaningful gift is a good way to show your warmest welcome.

Building relationships
A media tour is a great time to build strong and lasting relationships with media. I like to take the time to enjoy dinner or a drink with media after a long day, which also gives me the opportunity to find out if a reporter has any issues with the arrangements so far, and soothe any concerns anyone might have. It’s much easier to build real friendships with media when on tour, as you’re now travel buddies!

Follow up after the tour
The follow-up work after a media tour is one of the most crucial parts. It may affect the quality of coverage and the message delivered in the final article. Usually Hong Kong media have a tight schedule for publishing the coverage. However, sometimes third parties that we are relying on to provide the information required can need a longer turnaround time to provide the relevant information. I like to start doing the follow-up while still on tour to avoid this problem!

Last but certainly not least, I try to always remember to bring back some souvenirs or local snacks to my dear colleagues who have held down the fort back in the office!

Read more: #PRTips: How to prepare for a press trip

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