This is a guest post by Angie Orth, a writer, digital influencer, media consultant and adventurer who writes at AngieAway.com.
Over the past 11 or so years in the communication industry, I’ve observed what works and what doesn’t as a press trip coordinator and attendee and as a press release writer and recipient.
As you can imagine, the opportunity to observe the complex relationship between journalists and publicists has given me a unique perspective (and strong feelings!) on the way we all work together. Here are some brief observations on what’s changed, what we’re doing well and what still needs fine-tuning.
Traditional vs. New Media: The Fight is Over
In the past 10 years, we publicists have evolved from suspicion, indifference and even disdain toward non-traditional content creators – bloggers, pro Instagrammers, influencer types – to full-on acceptance, strategic integration and even paid campaigns.
Where I once had to argue my case to bring one blogger on a press trip, now I fill the rosters with online influencers and traditional journalists alike. Most clients now see the value in courting writers who will cover their destinations in creative ways across platforms.
The selection process has evolved, too. Ten years ago, I required an assignment letter from participants, as it was one of the only ways to determine a writer’s legitimacy. Unfortunately it didn’t shed any light on his/her disposition, something that now, after several negative experiences, weighs very heavily on my decision to invite someone on a media FAM.
It’s more effective (and so easy) to monitor social media profiles to get an idea of a writer’s personality and professionalism before extending an invitation.
Press Trips & FAMs
I still feel for the attendees on my first press trip in 2006. I whipped up a boring invitation in Word with limited itinerary details and sent it to our master list of hundreds of strangers I’d never spoken to. It didn’t matter so much who was invited as long as I could convince a few of them to join me on the trip.
I naively thought, “Hey, a free trip! Who wouldn’t want to come?” It was a very cavalier way of recruiting, and it did not always lead to great content.
As a newbie publicist, I wasn’t sure when to push back on client demands to jam-pack the itinerary, so my first trip had lots of early morning wake-up calls, hotel site visits, lengthy dinners with hotel managers that ran late and absolutely no free time. Free time seemed like a waste of resources. After all, we had a captive audience of journalists – shouldn’t we show them everything we could squeeze in, leaving no moment unscheduled? Yikes.
From a blogger’s perspective, free time is hardly a waste. An unscheduled afternoon actually provides the chance to explore and find a hook to make individual coverage richer, and many folks need downtime to recharge, figuratively and literally. If there’s an expectation for real-time social media updates, that should be factored in, too.
Components of a successful modern press trip:
- Invite carefully targeted writers.
- Send a detailed itinerary well in advance.
- Discuss expectations on both sides, re: what’s included (airfare, meals, etc.) & what coverage is anticipated.
- Incorporate free time for writers to find their own stories & work.
- No boring hotel site visits!
For an industry with “relations” in the title, we still struggle with creating and capitalizing on the foundation of our entire business — relationships. The most productive professional relationships are ones where we take care of each other. From a journalist’s perspective, that’s a rare characteristic among today’s PR pros, and I’m sure plenty of publicists feel the same about today’s writers.
It’s understandable why relationship building sometimes falls to the bottom of the priority list. As a young publicist with six clients across unrelated niches, it was all I could do to send out mistake-free press releases to unwieldy lists of strangers. I certainly didn’t have the time to personally get to know hundreds, if not thousands, of journalists. But, I didn’t place many stories from those random and impersonal interactions either.
Easy ways to foster relationships with media:
- Introduce yourself (email is fine) to journalists & bloggers before you ever send them a release or ask them for anything.
- Respect their time and get to the point.
- PR managers should create an environment that encourages junior staff to prioritize relationship building.
The relationship between publicist and journalist has always been the key to cracking our industry, and those who prioritize it will find a more productive path to success.
As a NYC-based agency publicist, Angie Orth once represented far-flung destinations and tourism brands, though her schedule rarely allowed for adventures outside of client projects. In 2010, she traded timesheets for a suitcase and embarked on a solo trip around the world, starting her site, AngieAway.com, to document the journey. After a few years of nomadic living, she returned to her roots in Florida where she now navigates both sides of the media fence as travel + lifestyle blogger, freelance publicist and digital media consultant.