Over this past year we have been fortunate enough to have been invited on several press trips. From tourism boards to cruise lines, hotel chains and tour companies, we have definitely had an exciting year of sponsored travel.
We have learned a lot during these trips. We've experienced a different way of travel, been spoiled and pampered and enjoyed some of the most amazing adventures of our lives. At the same time we made a lot of mistakes and discovered that there are many factors that a travel blogger needs to take into account before accepting just any free trip.
We have been very lucky in the fact that most of the companies we have worked with have been absolutely incredible and taken great care of us. We were lucky to kick off our series of trips with the Princess Cruises Twitter Trip. It set the standard as to what we knew to expect from each tour afterwards. When you start high, you now what should be included in the rest of the trips.
We take our work very seriously and a Press Trip is very hard work. There is a lot expected from you and you are not there to simply party and enjoy the beach. While other guests are enjoying their vacation, you are back at your room working until all hours of the night getting posts out and sending out photos and regular publicity.
Here are some tips that we have learned since last June and nine press trips later.
Ask the right Questions
When you receive your first email inviting you on a press trip you will be very excited and will end up saying yes to anything. But you want to make sure that you will have access to everything that you need to be able to do your job properly. Are flights covered, are tips and gratuities taken care of for you, is the trip within your niche? If you don't have any of the above, how can you properly do your job? You aren't getting paid for this trip, they are offering you a tour in exchange for you writing about your experience. No money should be coming out of your pockets to help them promote their product.
You are a travel blogger not a travel writer for a newspaper. Your job is to be online. You need to tweet and Facebook about your trip and you can best create interest by sending out twitpics and links during your time on your press tour. If you don't have access to an internet connection you cannot do your job properly. Every trip should offer free internet service during the time that you are there. Nobody has been able to top Princess Cruises when it came to Internet Access. They gave us unlimited wifi coverage all over the ship and even provided iPhones for people that didn't already have a smart phone so that we could tweet regularly. They created an exciting campaign that ended up reaching millions of people.
Be Clear on What They Expect From You
Will you tweet and Facebook regularly before, after and during your trip? How many posts will you write and where will they be shown. Will you have to provide them with posts for their own blog above and beyond writing on your own site? Will you have to be available for interviews? Will they want your photographs to be used in promotion and what rights will they have to your photographs and articles. We tend to give everyone quite a bit of coverage. We are a little geeky in the fact that we go above and beyond and even send them links to all of our articles once the trip is over and provide statistics if they require.
Like we said, our trips have been so well tailored that we can provide a lot of coverage for them and in return we have gotten excellent content for our blog. Our trip to China with Intrepid Travel was a turning point in our blog. We gained new followers, we found that we ended up inspiring people to go to China and developed an excellent relationship with Intrepid Travel. By providing them with the details of our travels, they can gain more information on the power of a Bloggers coverage and we can hopefully develop a long and happy working friendship.
Don't be Taken Advantage of
Some companies may think that just because you got something for free, you should be grateful and give them whatever they want. This is not true. Your time is valuable and while you are on a media trip each and every minute is scheduled. You will not have time to network, answer advertisers or promote your blog. They need to know that this is your job and there should be a mutual respect. It is upsetting when a company actually makes you feel that you should be happy to be there and if anything goes wrong, well that's just too bad, you got a free trip.
Tourism Fiji did an excellent job in making sure that we were comfortable in Fiji. They phoned us and emailed to see if there was anything more they could do, they asked. They even asked us for feedback upon our return home on how they could improve for the next trip. They understood that power of social media and made sure that they invited different styles of writers to cover different aspects of Fiji.
Will they send you on excursions that fit your niche? It isn't going to do you or your readers any good if you are an adventure blog and you are stuck sitting on a bus for a month. Make sure that they will send you out on trips and excursions, that they are included in the trip and that you don't have to pay for them and most of all that they are something your readers will want to read about.
The Flying Kiwi did an excellent job of lining up adventures for us in New Zealand. If we didn't have excursions each and every day, they would not have gotten their money's worth from us because we wouldn't have had anything to write about. By sending us out there to skydive, swim with dolphins and bungy jump, we could showcase the best of New Zealand and let our readers know that the Flying Kiwi is an excellent way to move around the country while having the adventure of a lifetime.
You Can Change Your Itinerary
You have a right to change things if you like. We have made the mistake on a trip by assuming that the company will give us an adventure simply because they said they would. We have had to take matters into our own hands once we arrived rather than have it all laid out in email beforehand. It turns out that companies want you to have the best time possible and if there are things on the tour that don't fit with your travel style, they are willing to change it. But if you don't speak up, you will come away without a story and that isn't good for either party.
When we traveled with the Smiling Albino for the Tourism Authority of Thailand, they respected that we were there to showcase the best of their country. We discussed our itinerary before the tour began over skype and they tailored an amazing two weeks that fit in well with our type of Blogging style. We had never had any company pay such close attention to making sure that both parties were getting the most out of this media trip.
Press Trips take up a lot of your time. Nearly every minute is scheduled and you won't have time to do your usual work. Before we leave on a press tour, we schedule tweets and posts so that we aren't worrying about getting to an Internet. We even go as far to say what is on our schedule for the day. If we know that we are going to Petra by Night, we will schedule a tweet for that day stating that we are excited for seeing Petra tonight. It is important to alleviate as much work as possible. We don't put up posts about our trip while we are there, we take our time when we get home to do that. Instead harness the power of social media to create interest in your upcoming posts and take notes while you are there instead. We also use the press releases and brochures that they give us. We pick up every flyer and pamphlet that we can on the destination that we are visiting.
If the Dates Don't Work, They Can be Changed
Sometimes trips are scheduled for a certain time to harness the power of multiple Bloggers all at once. But sometimes you are on your own and you can turn down the first offer when it comes to dates. If you are too busy or on another trip, let them know that another time would be good for you. They will most likely be flexible. Or they will invite you back for the next one. Once you are on someones radar, they will keep an eye out for you in the future. We have turned down three trips since returning home because we have a lot of preparations for the Mongol Rally that begins in 53 days. The PR and Tourism boards were gracious and told us that they would have us come and visit in the fall upon the completion of our trip.
You Can Say No
Sometimes a trip just isn't a very good offer. We have had people want us to buy our own flights for a 4 day travel and we have had people invite us on a trip that doesn't even work for our readers. We cannot accept this type of work. We have said no and then watched other Bloggers accept the same trip and wonder why they said yes to such poor terms. You need to have integrity. Another trip will come along. As your blog grows people will want you to come to them to help promote their destination because they enjoy the way you write. I know it can be tempting. Travel is expensive and to keep going non stop for years on end it helps to have some free trips come your way, but you should never give up your vision and end up spending a lot of money for a few free days.
Tell the Truth
Let the company know up front that you will be telling the truth about the experience. Nobody wants to hear a fluffy press piece selling a property just because you got it for free. We let companies know that it states clearly on our “About Page” that we tell the truth about travel. If we don't share the good and the bad with our readers, they will never take anything we say seriously. You also need to let your readers know that this was a sponsored trip. They will appreciate your honesty and if you tell a truthful account of your experience, they won't even care that it was.
People believe us when we say that we like a place or destination because if we didn't we would say so. Just because someone gives you a free trip, don't feel obligated to write an amazing review. We always think of movie reviewers, it is their job to help you decide if you want to see the movie. Like them, we feel that it is our job to provide you with all the information you need to decide whether you want to see a country for yourself or stay at a hotel that you stayed it.
We won't change our blogging style just because someone gave us a trip for free. But we can guarantee that a company will receive unprecidented coverage in the online and social media industry.
For Coverage from our Other Press Trips so Far here is a list to links below.
- Jordan Tourism Board – Jordan
- Rancho La Puerta, Mexico
- New Zealand with the Flying Kiwi
- Tourism Authority of Thailand
- Rawai Muay Thai – Thailand
- Intrepid Travel – Grand China
- Tourism Fiji – FijiMe Influencers Tour
- Paradise by Marriott – BlogParadise
- Princess Cruises #Follow Me At Sea in Alaska
- Air France Premium Voyageur
- General Motors Chevy Equinox Rocky Mountain Adventure Drive
- Fairmont Hotels, Montreal