Working with travel writers can provide your business with thousands (in some cases,
hundreds of thousands) of dollars in free publicity. Equally important, it can give your business
prestige and importance that it could never obtain in any other way. A favorable review or
mention in a top-quality publication is something your business can be proud of and promote for
many years. Some businesses build their entire promotional campaign around travel articles,
quoting favorable remarks from travel writers in their brochures, printed materials and
In addition, most travel writers are very interesting people and working with writers and
developing personal relationships with them can become one of the most enjoyable aspects of
travel marketing. The first step in working with travel writers is to realize that each writer is
different. There are very few absolutes. Strategies that work well with one writer can often be the
worst approach to take with another. As you work with writers, you will discover what methods
work best with different individuals.
The following are some general guidelines to help get you started.
Who Are Travel Writers and How Do You Get A List of Them?
There are many types of travel writers. Most daily newspapers and many consumer magazines
have a full time travel editor and some have travel reporters. In addition, many publications will
allow reporters from other departments to write travel articles so that many travel articles are
produced by business writers, food writers, arts and entertainment writers and even political
writers. It is very difficult to get travel editors to visit a destination since their primary
responsibility is producing the travel section each week or month. Some travel editors do not
travel at all. Instead, they will assign other reporters from the publication or allow freelance
writers to file the story. There are literally thousands of freelance writers who do travel stories.
Dealing with freelancers presents some challenges. A good freelance writer will write a story and
then attempt to sell it to a variety of publications. In this way, one writer might produce an article
that appears in a dozen publications.
However, freelance writers can never guarantee that their work will be printed. Often a
freelance writer takes a sponsored trip with the best intentions, writes an article about the trip,
but is unable to find any publication to buy it. Developing a list of productive writers who you
trust and want to work with is the first and most important step in producing publicity.
Here are some places to begin developing your media list:
• Public Libraries have directories that list all publications in the world. You can ask them to
look up any publication for its address. They also subscribe to 200 magazines and dozens of
city newspapers and you can obtain current names and addresses directly from the
• Cultivate your own list. When you read a writer that you enjoy, call the publication and get
his or her address.
• Subscribe to an online media directory. Within the last two years, media directories that
were in book form now have online databases that are updated daily. Some of the most
popular are Bacons (, BurrellesLuce (, and
• Read travel sections. The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Minneapolis
Star Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, Orange County
Register and Chicago Tribune all have excellent travel sections and are all carried major
Public Library. You can also read Travel & Leisure, Travel Holiday, Conde Nast Traveler
and other magazines that carry travel articles. In addition to travel magazines, many
consumer magazines have travel stories. Look for names and study the types of articles that
are being printed.
• The Society of American Travel Writers sells its membership directory that lists over 400
travel editors and freelance writers, all of whom are screened for productivity. Visit the
organization's Web site at ( or call 919-861-5586.
• The North American Travel Journalists Association was formed in 1991 and is the American
affiliate for the World Federation of Travel Writers and Journalists headquartered in Belgium
with affiliate organizations in 43 countries. Their membership requirements are not as
stringent as the Society of American Travel Writers; however anyone can join as a corporate
member. For information see the association's Web site at ( or call 310-836-8712.
How to Get Travel Writers to Produce Articles
There are basically two ways of getting information to travel writers so that they will write
articles about your business.
• You can convey information to them by a press release, a press kit, a phone call or a personal
meeting and encourage them to write about your business by providing them with story
ideas, information and news.
• Or you can organize a press trip so that travel writers visit your business and experience first
hand what you offer so that they can then write about it.
Getting Publicity with Press Releases, Press Kits and Personal Contact
The best way of getting wide media exposure quickly is by delivering a press release or
press kit directly to a writer. This method doesn't usually result in an in-depth article about your
business, but it can quickly get information about your business to hundreds of publications,
exposing your message to millions of readers in a very short time. This method works best if you
are simply trying to make people aware of your business or your event and encourage them to
call or write for more information.
For this method to work, you must have some "News" hook. There has to be some
newsworthy aspect to your release. The mere fact that your business exists will not be enough to
get this type of release printed. This method can be expensive since it requires mailings,
handling, postage, photos, writing and other miscellaneous expenses.
The Tools of Publicity
This is the staple of all publicity efforts and needs to be done no matter what other way
you try to obtain publicity. Reporters will always need a press release.
All press releases must have:
1. The date on which the story was prepared.
2. A contact name for more information.
3. A phone number to call and an address for more information.
4. All pages must be numbered, and a marker (either -30- or # #) must indicate when the
release ends. All pages should have the title of the release and the page number in the top
header because pages sometimes get separated.
These are the things all releases must have. After that, there are no absolutes and everyone
prepares press releases differently.
Some Types of Press Releases:
Standard Release: This release follows the "journalism pyramid" of trying to get as much
information in the first sentence and paragraph, with more detailed information following.
The first paragraph should answer: Who, what, where, why, when and how. The following
paragraphs fill in the details.
Feature Release: This release opens with a "grabber" – an attention getting sentence designed
to "hook" the reader into being interested in the rest of the story. The success or failure of the
release depends on the first "hook" sentence, which must create questions and interest in the
reader's mind. All the same questions, "who, what, where, why, when and how," must still be
answered in the release. It would not be a good strategy to leave the reader guessing as to
some facts in the release so that they call for more information. Leave them guessing in the
first paragraph, but answer every question in the release.
"Just the Facts" Release: This release, which is also known as a media alert, dispenses with
any type of narrative and just presents the facts as cleanly as possible. It is used as a reminder
to an upcoming event. This release is generally employed when announcing a press
conference or some type of event. Usually, the release consists of a left column that has
simply: "Who, What, Where, Why and When" with a brief paragraph for each category
giving the facts. In addition to the above categories, you might also include "Photo
Opportunities," "Visuals," "Sound Opportunities," and "Interviews." The entire point of this
release is to provide detailed information about a complicated event in as simple a manner as
possible. You want the media to attend this event, so you should include all the information
you can to entice them, including who will be there that they can interview, what type of
photos or video will they be able to get, etc.
"Backgrounder" Release: This release also dispenses with a flowing narrative and simply
presents the facts in categories. It is designed to make it easy for the journalist to find simple
facts without having to read and reread through a long release. Frequently, a Feature release
will be accompanied by a "backgrounder" release so that feature "hooks" the reporter's
interest and the "backgrounder" makes it easy for him to write his story by presenting all the
facts in a quick reference. The type of facts on this release might include: name of company,
when founded, how much business is done, type of business done, how large business is,
why there is a news story, who works there, description of the business, etc.
A press kit is a collection of information put together in one neat shell, such as a binder
or pocket folder. It can include photos, or a photo sheet showing what is available. Its primary
purpose is to allow you to break up your story into a series of documents all detailing just one
aspect of your business. The shell keeps everything neat. Current press releases can also be
included in the press kit..
Great amounts of money are spent on press kit design and printing, but some people use
just a common plain-color shell. Most travel writers state that more money is wasted on press
kits and press kit shells than on any other aspect of the business. Writers frequently complain
about the weight, the waste of paper and the waste of money. Yet, since so many other
destinations and businesses do produce attractive kits, it may be important, at least
psychologically, to stay competitive with an attractive one.
A Good Press Kit:
1. Contains the basic information on the destination/business in separate documents:
a. fact sheet
b. history
c. events calendar
2. Contains the business card of the primary contact.
3. Has some background brochures, but is not overloaded with every piece of printed literature
ever produced on the business.
4. Has "backgrounder" releases and current releases that summarize all the hard-core news
information so the writer does not have to go through everything to obtain simple facts.
5. Contains clips from previous feature articles about the business.
6. Has good headlines on all documents so that it is clear what type of information will be in
each one.
7. Contains photographs or slides. Most writers would prefer to have you spend money on photos
than spend it on colorful press kit shells.
A travel editor of The Denver Post once counted his mail for a one week period and
found that it contained over 1,200 press releases and press kits. How do you possibly stand out
from this crowd?
Mail to the correct name of the travel editor, rather than just to the title "travel editor."
Almost all travel editors report that they divide their mail into two categories: those
addressed to them personally, and those addressed to "travel editor." They open all the mail,
but they open the letters addressed to them personally first. Also, some public relations
people handwrite the headline of the release on the outside of the envelope. This again
encourages the editor to open the letter -- providing he is intrigued by the headline. BUT BE
CAREFUL. Some travel editors report that they throw away unopened any mail addressed to
a previous travel editor by name. If you're not sure the name you have is correct, then it is
safer to address all releases to just "travel editor."
Some travel editors report that they open hand-addressed mail first. They know this is
foolish, but it's just human nature that in these days of computerized mailings, a handaddressed letter at least holds the promise of being more interesting.
Some travel writers appreciate a personal note and will be more receptive to a release if it is
accompanied by a note or letter. Others find this a waste of time. Remember: there are
thousands of professional public relations people trying to convince these travel editors to
print their release. Anything original that you do will help you stand out. Another technique
is to suggest a department in the publication that the release might be good for. This shows
that you know the publication and are trying to help the editor. The personal touch also
shows that you did not merely write one release, Xerox it and send it to 800 publications.
Travel editors are not offended if you write, "This release might be perfect for your
"Weekend Get-a-Way" column." Even if they don't use it, they will know that you know their
publication, and they will be more receptive to future releases from you.
The best way to stand out and have your release printed is to prepare your release in a
professional way. Give the travel writer some "real" news story that readers will be interested
in, supply all the facts, and list a contact for more information.
Remember, it is the travel editor's job to supply their readers with interesting information about
travel destinations and businesses. If you prepare your release like this, you will help the writer
do their job and you will have your release printed.
In most cases, you should not fax your release to travel editors. Many travel editors complain
about receiving so many faxes that they can't send one or have writers send them stories that
they desperately need. At large newspapers, faxed releases seldom even make it to the travel
department and often end up being trashed. One travel editor is forced to change her fax
number every two months because she receives hundreds of unwanted faxes. In general, mail
the release unless it is a deadline.
Remember "time leads." Newspapers work one to two months ahead of time; magazines
work six to nine months ahead of time. If you are preparing a release for summer, you will
have to have your materials ready before March or April to make many of the magazine
sections. If you are pitching stories that will be written by the editor you must work even
farther in advance so that they have time to research and prepare the story ahead of their lead
The first rule in telephoning travel editors is never do it. At least, that is what the travel
editors will tell you themselves. What they mean is NEVER phone them to:
1. Ask if they received a release.
2. Ask if they are going to run a release.
3. Ask if they have already run a release.
4. Ask if they will send you a copy of the printed release.
It is your job to monitor the publication to see if the release has been printed. Some
papers will send you a clip if they run your release. Some won't. If you want clips, you must
subscribe to a clipping service. Never ask the travel editor to monitor your clips for you. It is the
most annoying thing editors are asked and it will hurt your chances of being printed in that
publication again. Also, never ask a travel editor if they have received a release. If you think they
might not have, send another. With 1,200 releases arriving each week, the travel editor can not
keep track of individual ones.
It is permissible to call a travel editor to:
1. Thank them for running a release (although a note is better).
2. Pitch a very hard news story to them that is so current a press release won't work.
3. Invite them on a press trip (again, it's better done by mail, but will probably require a phone
call to follow up).
When calling a travel editor, the best opening line is:
"Hello, this is _________from ___________. Have I caught you at a bad time, or do you have
one minute?"
If they have a minute, then go...but take only a minute.
Travel writers are not royalty, but they are very busy and if you treat them with respect for their
time, you will do much better. A good analogy can be seen in the movie "The Player." Travel
editors are a lot like movie producers. If you call them, you have a minute to "pitch" a story and
they'll let you know whether they are interested or not. Do not call with ten story ideas...pitch
one story. But the best advice is, don't call unless the story is urgent, hot, or very, very good.
Never "drop in" on a travel editor unless you have already established a personal
relationship with them. If you feel it is important for you to get to know the editor, call for an
appointment. But there should be some reason why you want to meet them in person -- some
reason that the same business couldn't be handled by a press release or a phone call. It is, of
course, beneficial to establish personal relationships with travel writers...but that shouldn't be the
reason for your call (at least, not on the surface). Have a story idea or some reason for calling on
them. When meeting with the editor, be brief and to the point.
If a travel editor or writer ever sends you a clip, write them a thank you note immediately.
Some writers are offended by being mailed gifts or promotional items -- others admit that
they sometimes work and get them to open and read a release. It is a touchy issue.
Destinations mail posters, T-shirts, bags and a variety of gift items along with releases. There
is no clear-cut answer for this.
Code your press releases so you can see what type of response and pickup you are getting.
It's simple to code a release -- just end it "for more information write: Company name, Dept.
A, address. If you receive 15 "dept. A" letters from Dallas, you know that the release was
printed in Dallas. People answering 800 numbers should be instructed to ask, "Where did you
hear about us?" If you keep records, you will learn which travel editors are more inclined to
print your materials. They would obviously be good candidates to invite on a press trip.
It's becoming more and more of a visual world, and today a press release is not enough to
obtain good publicity for your business. Top quality, professional photographs can get you more
publicity in better publications than any other single technique.
Color Photographs
The vast majority of publications want color slides or color transparencies. Transparencies
are the same as slides only larger, coming in sizes of 2 1/4 inch squares or 4x5 inches. They
are the best because they provide better quality for reproduction, but slides generally work
fine. Some publications can use color prints, but most still prefer slides.
Original slides (that is the slide that consists of the film that was actually in the camera) will
reproduce the best of all, and for your own printing you should always use the original if
possible. HOWEVER, you should never supply the original to a publication. Publications
frequently lose or damage slides, and an original slide is irreplaceable.
Instead, you should make duplicates of the original slide at quality custom photo processing
shops. ALWAYS make duplicates from the original. A duplicate made from an original slide
is called a "first generation" slide. This is what every publication wants. NEVER make a
duplicate from a duplicate...the quality of the slide will be ruined.
A good technique is to label all original slides in red as "Original" when you receive them,
and put them in a safe place. Use them only to make duplicates and for your own printing.
Always label a slide with the name of the business, phone number and description. Write it
right on the slide mount. Travel editors all have horror stories of having dozens of loose
slides with nothing on them and having no idea what they are or who they belong to. Caption
sheets get separated and lost. At a minimum, put your name and a brief description on the
slide, and then attach a detailed caption sheet if needed.
Always have people in the photo. A photo of an empty restaurant or attraction sends the
wrong message. Travel editors will not run photos that do not have people.
Protect your slides by putting them in plastic sheets (available at any art store) and with
cardboard mailing protectors. Slides can be damaged very easily.
Good duplicates are expensive, so it is not necessary to send slides out with every release.
Just put on the top of your release and again at the end: "Good-quality, first-generation color
slides available on request." HOWEVER, if you can afford it, a good quality slide will often
get your release picked up faster. You don't need to send many slides, just one will work.
Professional photographs are not easy to shoot. If you have the budget, hire a professional
photographer. The cost will be paid back very quickly in publicity. Don't spend a lot of
money on duplicate slides until you are sure you have a good original to begin with.
If you hire a photographer, try to purchase all rights or all personal use rights to the photos.
At any rate, be sure you understand what rights you are buying from the photographer.
Black & White Photographs:
There is less need every year for black & white photography since fewer newspaper travel
sections print black & white covers and since good quality black & white photos can be made
easily from color slides. However, you will increase your chances of having publicity materials
printed if you have black & white photos as well. Some tips:
Have your duplicates done at a high-speed photo processing plant. The quality is acceptable
and you can have copies made at a fraction of the cost. The Communications Department can
help you with names of high-speed photo processors.
5x7 inch photos are a minimum size for black & white; 8x10 inch are preferred. Have the
photos made with white borders so they can be cropped.
It is possible to have the photo caption printed right beneath the photo for a minimum charge.
This will save you time in captioning the photo. The alternative is to paste a caption to the
back of a photo. NEVER write on the front or back of a black & white photo with a pen. It
can ruin the picture.
Pictures with high contrast (dark blacks and bright whites) will reproduce the best.
Black & white photography is the most difficult of all, requiring the use and knowledge of
filters. If you have to shoot your own, you will probably have better results shooting slides
and converting the slides to black & white by making an interneg. Always have this type of
work done at a good commercial photo lab.
Most publications will not return black & white photos, which generally have to be marked
up to be printed and would be of limited value if returned anyway.
More and more people are getting travel information from video thanks to cable
television. In addition to the Travel Channel, there are travel programs on TNN, CNN and other
affiliates. There are syndicated travel shows picked up by local news stations on all three
networks. Many independent travel videos are being produced for travel agents, meeting
planners, group tour planners and motor coach operators. To have a complete marketing mix for
public relations efforts today, you must also have video of your business. Although you might
want to create a complete video of your business for other marketing needs, usually all the
electronic media is looking for is generic footage. Here are some tips:
News and video crews will always need 3/4 inch video or broadcast quality beta. If you want
to have your video used overseas, it will have to be converted to PAL or other systems.
The most practical video to have for publicity purposes would be:
1. Generic shots of your business with pans in and out, sweeps, and steady shots showing
action, people, excitement. Best would be with live sound, but this is not always necessary.
2. Offer as many variations as possible: start in and pull out. Start out and zoom in. Pan left.
Pan right. This gives the editor using your material the most possible choices and ensures that
your shots will be included.
3. Make sure you have all rights to the video so that it can be used for any purpose.
Never give 1/2 inch or VHS video. It can not be used and edited for broadcast purposes.
Press trips fall into a variety of categories. The most complicated is where you organize
the trip, invite the writers, set the schedule and control every aspect of the trip. Occasionally, you
will be contacted directly by an individual writer to provide some service. The following are
some tips on how to work with writers in the field during a press trip.
Organizing a press trip is a large undertaking, and a risky one. If the trip is not smoothly
organized, you run a risk of actually generating negative publicity or stories that are not overly
flattering to your business. If successful, however, you can generate space in publications that
might cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if purchased as advertising space. The press trip is
the best way to get large feature stories about your business. If your business is too small to be
the subject of a feature by itself, you can combine with others and be included in a feature on the
entire area.
Organizing a Press Trip
1. Try to tie in with a trip being organized by someone else. This will save you a lot of time and
money and usually makes more sense. The Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau,
Colorado Tourism Office, Colorado Ski Country and many other tourism organizations
regularly sponsor press trips. Look into your own state tourism agency or city CVB. Contact the
public relations people at these agencies, let them know what you can offer, and tell them you
are interested in participating in a trip.
2. If you can't tie in with anyone or want to organize your own trip, begin by establishing an
itinerary of what you want to accomplish with the trip. Imagine the type of article you would like
to see printed, and base the itinerary around that.
Some tips:
Develop a theme. No one can write about every aspect of a business. Try to narrow it down
to a theme that has good commercial prospects of being published.
Allow free time in the schedule. A 12-hour day will be more productive for most writers than
a 16-hour day that leaves them exhausted. Give them at least 1-2 hours a day before evening
meals to freshen up.
Never include on an itinerary anything that is not available to the general public. Don't cook
a special meal for travel writers -- they can't write about it because the public can't order it.
Don't take them backstage of your business unless the public can do it as well. You can make
things easier for the writers by dropping them at entrances, taking them to the front of lines,
etc., but generally they must experience exactly what the general public will experience.
Unless food is important to your business, don't schedule long lunches and don't serve
alcohol at lunch. Long lunches waste time that could be spent seeing things, and alcohol in
the day reduces productivity for the afternoon. Box lunches are a good way of keeping
writers in the field.
Remember: travel writers are working during your trip. Freelance writers are receiving no
pay while on the trip -- they will only be paid if they can convert the trip into a marketable
Don't waste their time. They don't care about meeting your boss, or city councilmen, or
hearing speeches. They need to spend their time productively, gathering information.
Don't tell writers about your product -- SHOW THEM. Many hosts will sit writers in a room
and show them a video and give them a speech about their museum instead of showing it to
them. Never give writers a speech in a room. Explain your business to them as you walk
them around it. Allow them free time to explore on their own as well.
Do a run-through of your itinerary in person to make sure you have allowed enough time for
transportation, getting in and out of vehicles, parking, traffic, etc.
Check and double check with key contacts all the details of your trip so that everyone
involved knows what is expected of them at what time.
Make up a master list of the schedule and a contact list of everyone who is helping to
organize the trip. Make sure everyone involved has a copy of both. The contact list should
include the phone number and address of every person involved. The schedule should include
directions to every stop on the press tour.
Know right from the start what your budget for the trip is and what you can include. Most
travel writers will assume that all meals, housing, transportation and entertainment will be
included. If you don't have the budget for this, you must indicate in the itinerary what items
will be the responsibility of the travel writer. Work up a price for the trip if the travel writer
must pay for it. Many publications do not allow their writers to take free trips and so they
must pay for everything.
Plan on your partners dropping the ball. Your partners will include airlines, hotels,
restaurants, attractions and sports activities. Plan on everything going wrong at the last
minute, because it probably will. Counter this by always having a list of all contacts and a
portable phone and a list of backup activities if something goes wrong.
Review the menu so that the writers are not served the same meal all the time. Often you will
have only one part of a trip at your business. Make sure you do not offer the same meals and
activities as the next part of the trip.
Don't forget tips. A restaurant might provide a free meal for a group of travel writers, but still
expect the staff to be tipped. Arrange every detail beforehand. Don't expect the writers to
leave a tip. They generally won't. That is the host's responsibility.
Don't let fear of bad weather affect your planning. Travel writers understand that you can't
control the weather and will still write favorably about a business, even if it was seen in less
than ideal conditions because of rain or snow or cold. However, if bad weather will totally
ruin an experience, make sure you have a backup plan, and cancel that part of the tour
immediately if you encounter bad weather.
Don't schedule many activities for the first day. Flights are delayed, luggage gets lost, people
fail to make connections, etc., all delaying the arrival time of the travel writer. In addition,
some people like to shower and change after a long flight and are not ready for a two hour
walking tour of the destination immediately after getting off a plane. The best alternative is to
offer free time after you get the writer checked into the hotel with activities beginning that
evening at a cocktail reception that brings the group together for the first time.
Psychology plays an important role in press trips. Usually, the writers and hosts will all be
meeting each other for the first time and will be spending a considerable amount of time
together in tight circumstances. This can lead to many new friendships. It can also lead to
nightmares when groups simply don't 'gel,' resulting in what is referred to by public relations
professionals as "the press trip from Hell."
The best way to avoid this situation is by taking away some of the pressure. Begin the trip
in a relaxed atmosphere with cocktails and a quiet dinner where you and the writers can all
talk and get to know each other. Don't try and sell too much on the first night -- it's more
productive to meet and get to know your writers. Remember that you are the host and you
must work to make the party a success. Don't spend the entire evening talking to one writer,
no matter how fascinating they might be. You must watch for quiet writers and draw them
out, you must keep apart writers that don't appear to get along, you must steer the
conversation away from subjects that are controversial or could lead to arguments. While the
others are relaxing, you must continue to work and constantly be thinking of how to keep
each of the individuals in the group happy and productive.
Writers will expect to be given a first-class, single room. In certain circumstances it is all
right to double writers up, but it must be an unusual circumstance (i.e., a mountain cabin that
only sleeps six). If you are going to provide the writers with anything less than a single room,
you must notify them of this in the invitation.
Once your itinerary is complete, you are ready to invite the writers. Invitations will have to be
clever and early to have a chance of succeeding. Good travel writers receive dozens of
invitations to press trips. Here are some tips:
Send it out three months in advance. Include a full itinerary so the writer knows what will be
involved over what dates. Spell out exactly what will be included for free and what will be
the writer's responsibility. Include a price for the trip if the writer is not allowed to accept
free trips.
Make the invitation as clever as possible. It will not only have to jump out from the 1,200
weekly mailings but also from the other invitations.
Know how many writers you can accommodate. You will no doubt have to invite many more
than can accept, but if you can only accept three writers, don't invite 300 on the first goround. You never want to be in the position of turning down a writer who wants to come if
you can avoid it.
Don't invite writers who don't make sense. Don't invite a publication that only writes about
Hawaii to a Colorado press trip. Research everyone you invite.
The Travelwriter Marketletter is a private newsletter that prints news about press trips for
writers. You are under no obligation to accept people responding, but it will get news of your
trip out to a variety of travel writers -- some excellent, some marginal. For information on
this service, which is free) contact Robert Milne, (212) 759-6744.
Be sure to let writers know what type of clothes will be needed for the trip (formal, business,
informal, warm, cool, etc.) and let them know any other information they will need to know
before arriving (i.e., this activity is strenuous, requires people in good shape, etc.).
Plan on calling each invitee and plan on having people drop out from the trip -- even on the
first day of the trip. Someone will generally drop out at the last moment.
Most press trips do not allow writers to bring their spouses. However, you will frequently be
asked if a spouse can attend, or if a writer can pay to bring along a spouse. Many couples say
they work as a team with the spouse acting as photographer. Some writers will bring dates,
claiming they are photographers. This is a difficult call that can only be done on a case-bycase basis. Many times, couples do work as a team and you benefit by having two writers
sharing one room. Some businesses would prefer to have the writer bring a spouse. A cruise
can be lonely and miserable without a spouse, so cruise ships will almost always allow a
writer to bring a spouse. Whatever policy you take, you must decide it beforehand so that you
know your answer if the question comes up.
If the itinerary changes for any reason, inform all the writers who have accepted
immediately. Often a writer will pitch a story to an editor based on the itinerary, and if you
have eliminated that part of the trip, they need to know before they leave.
The Trip
You will be expected to greet the writers at the airport or have some way of getting them
from the airport to the hotel.
Pre-register each writer at the hotel so they can check in easily. Even with a comp room,
most hotels will require a credit card for incidentals. Assume that some writers will not have
a credit card. Make arrangements with the hotel ahead of time to cover this.
Most travel writers do not have to be pampered completely. You can trust them to carry their
own luggage to the hotel. After all, these people travel for a living and know how to pack.
They are not like a VIP tour of relocation executives. Their biggest concern is time -- getting
the most accomplished in the least amount of time. As a rule: if something can be done to
save time, do it. If it is being done simply to pamper the writer and make him/her feel like a
VIP, you can still do it, but it is not necessary and will not affect the final article.
REMEMBER: writers can only write about what the general public experiences. They can't
mention the beautiful fruit basket in their room on arrival unless it is a standard policy for all
guests to receive one.
Try to stick to the schedule. Nothing causes more problems than changing the schedule
midway through a trip and suddenly canceling some activity.
On the other hand, be flexible. If there are real problems with a schedule and everyone hates
it, don't stick to it just because you feel obligated to stick to the schedule. Change it. But have
your phone numbers and portable phone so you can contact everyone affected by the change.
Trust the writers. They know how they work and what they have to do to produce an article.
If they want to skip certain parts of the trip, let them. The writer is always right and whatever
they want to do should be graciously accepted.
However, don't let a writer bully you into making changes that will affect others in the group.
This can lead to disaster. If a writer does not want to accompany the group to some scheduled
activity, that is fine. But don't let the writer order you to create an alternative activity for him
alone. Writers accept a trip knowing what the schedule is. If they depart from it, they realize
they are on their own and should not ask you to arrange a personal schedule for them. If it is
a minor change, certainly help them. But some writers will accept a trip, and then demand
that an entirely new and different trip be created for them on the spot. Try to be helpful, but
be firm if problems arise. Make it clear that the writer can join your group or they can be on
their own but you can not create an entirely new schedule for them.
Be flexible. It is the single most important thing. No matter what you plan, changes will be
necessary. They are a normal part of any press trip. Be ready for them, and have the
flexibility to change the trip instantly.
Prepare ahead of time for tips, parking, etc. You will need to have cash on hand for minor
emergencies that might come up.
Have press kits available, but don't hand them out unless the writer wants them. Most writers
prefer to receive press kits before they come on a trip. This allows them to do their research
ahead of time. But some will always forget to bring it with them and will want to have one to
refer to while traveling. Others will want another press kit with specific items, but they won't
want the weight of carrying the kit so will ask to have it mailed to them. The only solution is
"be prepared." Be prepared to give them the kit, or mail it to them. The same applies to
Always count heads each time you enter a vehicle after a stop. It is amazing how easy it is to
leave someone behind. Don't go by faces or's too easy to make a mistake. Count
how many bodies leave in the vehicle at the beginning of the day and make sure you have
that many after each stop.
If you have the manpower and can afford it, have a chase car and an extra person. The chase
car will follow the press tour and run errands, wait behind if someone gets lost or fails to
return when they should, or take writers around on special requests. Planes are delayed, cars
break down, people get lost...if you have a chase car you can handle these emergencies
without it disrupting the entire trip. The chase car should have a mobile phone so it can keep
in touch with the main group.
When the writers arrive, give them a detailed itinerary immediately. The itinerary should
spell out: what time they have to be at each event, where they should go to meet, what type
of clothes they should wear, what will happen at each event, and when they will be back. The
more details you put in, the fewer questions you will have to answer over and over again.
Make plenty of extra copies of this itinerary and carry them with you because half the writers
will lose their copy -- some on the first day.
Working on Press Trips Sponsored by Other Agencies
As previously stated, the easiest way to do a press trip is to be a part of a press trip
sponsored by someone else. This allows you to concentrate on showcasing your business rather
than on all the small details of hosting a group of writers.
Restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, attractions and stores will almost always just be a part of a press
trip organized by someone else. Even though you are not in charge, there are many things that
you can do to make your participation more successful.
Always be on time. If the group is arriving at 12 noon, be ready for them at 11:45 am. The
group might be late, but you should always be ready for them to arrive.
Don't waste time. Getting to know the writers through casual conversation is important, but
inappropriate when hosting one small part of a trip. You can imagine, if the writers linger for
a half hour of small talk at each stop, over the course of a day this will add up to a great deal
of time. When writers arrive at your business, get them on a tour immediately.
Have press kits ready. Not all the writers will want them; some will ask that you mail the
press kits to them. This is a reasonable request. Over a week-long press trip, a writer might
pick up 40-50 press kits which could weigh several hundred pounds. If they would like the
kit mailed to their home address, do it.
Have photos ready and with you. It does no good to have photos of your business, if you
don't have them ready to give out when writers arrive.
Know your stuff. Practice answering some typical questions before the writers arrive. If you
don't know the answer to a question, don't say, "I don't know." Instead say, "I'm not quite
sure, but I'll find out and get back to you."
Don't trust your memory. If a writer asks for something, get one of their business cards and
write the request on the back of the card immediately. Later, this will help you remember
who wanted what.
Send out thank you notes after the trip to the writers, reminding them of your main selling
Have menus, rate cards, and other practical information pieces ready to give to the writers
before they ask. They will almost certainly ask for this type of information, so it is better to
offer it and have it ready.
Everyone who organizes press trips has a list of horror stories. Planes are delayed,
luggage is lost, people get ill, motor coaches break down, guides get lost, cameras get stolen...the
list is endless. Here are a few things to watch for and some possible ways to react:
The most common problem is delayed flights, lost tickets, airline failure to deliver tickets or
a missed flight...all resulting in the travel writer failing to arrive at the airport when expected.
This can complicate things very fast, particularly if you have a tight schedule and little staff.
HOW TO AVOID PROBLEM: Plan a relaxed schedule for the first day; have extra
volunteers ready to work late to pick up writers at the airport, no matter when they arrive.
Lost luggage can be a problem, especially if you are moving the group from location to
location. HOW TO AVOID PROBLEM: Make sure that the person greeting the writer at the
airport has the complete itinerary with all stops and all contacts. In this way, information can
be given to the airline letting them send the luggage to the proper destination once it arrives.
This doesn't happen often, but sometimes a writer will bring along a spouse, a brother, a
sister or a friend that you had not expected. They will say something like, "Oh don't worry,
they'll pay their own way." Don't believe them. Worry. This causes many problems. In a
quiet moment after you get them checked into the hotel, you must sit the writer down alone,
explain that you had not expected them to bring a guest, and spell out exactly what the costs
will be. It is a difficult situation because you don't want to antagonize the writer. Each
situation will dictate how you handle this, but the best solution to avoid this in the future is to
report the writer to all other public relations people you know. If the writer is a member of
SATW, report it to them. This type of behavior is not acceptable, but it does happen.
Cars and motor coaches do break down, and it can be awful when they break down with a
full load of travel writers. The only way to avoid this is to have mobile phones and to have a
chase car. If a car does break down, get the writer off the road and to a restaurant, town or
unscheduled story opportunity as soon as possible. Waiting on a highway is dead time, and
writers will get impatient very fast. Frequently, something goes wrong with the tour. A tour
guide fails to show up, or is very boring, or is not what was promised. You must decide
quickly what to do, but don't feel obligated to stick with the schedule. If you save the writers
from two hours of wasted time, they will be grateful. There is no greater sin to commit on a
press tour than wasting the writers' time.
Illness is a problem when people travel. Many travel writers are older, but people of all ages
get sick when experiencing different foods, water, etc. Be flexible. Know before hand the
names of medical clinics and dentists where you can take a patient without an appointment.
Never make a writer feel guilty about missing part of a tour if they are tired or not feeling
Some writers consume great amounts of alcohol. There have even been occasions where
writers have brought drugs. As the host, it is your responsibility to monitor these activities
and stop them if it is becoming annoying to the group. Every individual should be free to do
what they want, but if someone's drinking is bothering the rest of the group and interfering
with the group's ability to gather story material, you as the host must step in and take some
action. Other frequent complaints include cigarette smoking, pipe smoking and cigars. If
someone's smoking is bothering other writers, you should be the one to ask them to stop.
Remember, as the host you are the leader of the group.
Writers sometimes get into disputes with hotels. Things are stolen, their rooms are not
cleaned, there is a mistake on the bill, etc. In every case, you should become the
intermediary. Tell the writers at the start of the trip, if they have any complaints about any
part of the trip, they should bring them to you rather than going to the host business. This
solves lots of problems.
Some writers are notoriously late, failing to show up where they are suppose to be. This is
very frustrating to everyone else in the group. When the group is supposed to meet in the
hotel lobby at 8 a.m., and everyone else had gone through the trouble to be there, it is
unsettling to have to wait 10-15 minutes or more for one late writer.
HOW TO AVOID PROBLEM: Have a chase car and have it wait for the late writer while the
rest of the group goes on. When someone is five minutes late, call their room. Don't wait 15
minutes to call, you're just wasting time. Better to seem a little "pushy" to one writer than to
appear incompetent and poorly organized to the entire group. Even though it is not the host's
fault if a writer is late, psychologically, everyone blames the host for everything that goes
wrong. And if something goes wrong, it is your job to fix it. If the problem persists with one
writer, take them aside and explain how their lateness is keeping other writers on the trip
from doing their job and making the trip less productive for them. If that doesn't work, if the
itinerary is very clearly marked, if the problem writer is continually late and upsetting
everyone else...then leave without them one time. This is a poor solution that will cause great
harm in your relationship with that writer, but sometimes it is the only solution. To make it
easier, sometimes the host will put the problem to the rest of the group, just saying, "Shall we
leave without him?" This way the group votes and makes the decision...and that information
will get back to the problem writer. This is, unfortunately, a frequent problem and over a
three-day press trip several hours are usually wasted in 15-20 minute intervals waiting for
Follow-Up: What to do After the Writers Go Home
Frequently, the happiest moment of a press trip for the host is when the last writer gets on a plane
and goes home. But the work is not done yet. Follow up can be just as important as any other
aspect of a press trip. Here are some tips.
Send immediately any press kits, releases, brochures or photos that the writers have asked for or
asked you to mail. You want them to receive these materials as soon as possible.
Send a thank you note to each writer on the trip. Remember, with a press trip you are trying to
establish long-term personal relationships with the writers so they will write about you again and
again. Extend the personal courtesy of thanking them for the time they spent with you. Good
writers can go almost anywhere in the world on trips. Remember this and thank them for pending
their time with you.
Wait a few weeks, but then begin sending them regular press releases to remind them of your
destination. Don't call every two weeks to see if they have written anything yet. If you have not
heard back from them in 4 months, it is okay to call to see if there is anything you can do to help
them with their article. This will usually lead to them saying that it has already come out and
they didn't send clips, or it will be coming out, etc. If they don't indicate anything, it is okay to
ask when it will be coming out, but it is not a good approach to call demanding to know when
the story is coming out. Ease into it gently.
If the months continue to go by and no article appears, continue to call until it becomes awkward
and obvious that writer is not going to produce a story. At this point, the best constructive thing
to do is to find out why. Was there a problem with the trip, did the destination not meet
expectations, or was there some other difficulty? Learn from the experience, and remember not
to work with that writer again.
Part III. What To Do With Press Clips
Since the entire purpose of working with travel writers is to generate clips, it's amazing how few
people do anything with them once they get them. Of course, any printed article is exposing
thousands of readers to information about your business. But that's only the beginning. Clips can
continue to work for you over and over again. Here's how:
If you are on a budget, clips can be difficult to get. There are a few ways to help you get the clips
you want:
Writers who accept press trips know that they should send copies of the clips when they
come out. Be sure to remind them when they are on the trip that you would like clips.
Remind them again in your follow up letter, and if you must, remind them again in your
follow up phone call. It's also hard for freelance writers to get clips and that is why they
sometimes don't send them.
Code your releases so that you can tell by responses where the clip ran. If you get 30 coded
responses from Los Angeles, you can guess that something probably ran in the L.A. Times
the previous weekend. Copies of major daily newspapers are available at most major
libraries. Don't call a travel editor and ask for a clip even if you know the edition it ran in.
This could hurt your chances of having another story run later.
If you belong to a national chain, ask counterparts in other parts of the country to send you
clips when you are mentioned, and offer to send them clips from our local papers when you
see them mentioned.
Work with the local CVB and Tourism Board and ask them to forward clips that mention
Subscribe to a clipping service. Both Bacons and BurrellesLuce have clipping services. This
is not that expensive if you narrow down the clips you will pay for.
Most people put their clips into a scrapbook, or worse, just file them. This is a waste because
clips can be very valuable in other ways. Here are some:
Use clips in your advertisements in much the way that movies use film reviews in their ads.
For instance, if a travel writer from The Dallas Morning News wrote of your hotel, "It is a
beautiful and elegant property, and although its age is beginning to show in some frayed
carpets and drapes, it is still one of the finest in the city," you can edit this down for your ad
so that it reads: "Beautiful and elegant...finest in the city" – The Dallas Morning News.
Don't be disappointed if a writer doesn't give you much of a mention. Remember, when a
newspaper or magazine prints something, they place their reputation behind it. Use their
reputation to help you sell your product. If it is a long article, and all you get is a small
mention along with a lot of other businesses, it can still be helpful. For instance, the Chicago
Tribune writes: "Denver has a score of new restaurants, among them the exquisite Ristorante
Papagayo with its wonderful Northern Italian fare; tangy Anthony's Sea Grotto where shrimp
is flown in daily from the Sea of Cortez, Mexico; and the classy Cafe Embarcadero." If you
own the Cafe Embarcadero, you might be a little disappointed with the coverage, but you
shouldn't be. Because for now and for ever you can always use in your ads, press releases or
anywhere else you think of: "Classy," -- The Chicago Tribune. Put together three or four
Make copies of the clips and use them in your press kits. The third party endorsement by
another writer is more impressive than anything you can say about yourself in your own
press release. Plus it encourages the next writer to produce something different, or at least
find a different way of stating it.
Working with travel photographers presents some special challenges. Photographers can
be a valuable addition to any press trip. Not only do some of them work directly for major
publications, but they also sell their photos through agencies so that their work will appear over
and over again in top quality magazines. Also, you might be interested in buying their photos or
working out an arrangement where you get rights to some of their photos in exchange for
arranging their trip.
Here are some tips:
The best light for photographers is early morning (before 10am) and late afternoon (after 2pm
until sunset). These are the periods you want your photographer shooting. Don't schedule
meetings or meals for them when the light is good. Conversely, don't arrange to have them shoot
an attraction between 10am and 2pm when the light is harsh.
The easiest way around lighting problems is to have a separate vehicle for photographers and
writers. Let the photographers go and shoot when they want. Don't force them to stick to a
schedule with the writers. Also, photographers are very slow, shooting a scene over and over
again from a variety of angles. If you combine writers and photographers together, they will get
impatient with each other. Keep them separate if you can.
Some writers are also photographers. If so, expect them to depart from the schedule at times
...and let them do it. If a writer depends on taking good photos in order to sell his article, they
will occasionally have to miss a breakfast or a cocktail party in order to be outside getting shots
in good light. Help them if you can. It will be helpful if you find out which writers will also be
taking photos before they arrive.
This will let you know how many photographers you will have to make arrangements for.
Inspect your business at different times of day, and learn when the light is best. If you have a
resort hotel and the sun shines on the front only from dawn to 11am, make sure that your
photographer knows this and will have ample free time in this period to photograph it.
Photographers have horror stories of driving for hours to reach an attraction such as Mount
Rushmore, only to arrive one hour after the sun has moved and the attraction is completely in
shade. Know the best times for everything you want them to photograph, and arrange the
schedule accordingly. You will also have to find the best view points from which to shoot your
business. Sometimes the best way to shoot your business will be from the roof of a neighboring
business or somewhere else on private property. If this is the case, let them know ahead of time
that you have a photographer coming so that permission is already arranged for the photographer
to shoot from the private property before they arrive.
Have models. They don't have to be "attractive"...anyone will work and you can use your staff or
friends, but you must have people. You can not trust to chance that someone will be where you
need them when the sun is just right. More important than how your models look, is what they
wear. They should wear red, yellow or pink because these colors photograph the best and will
make the picture jump. They should not wear clothes or hair styles that are too fashionable
because this will date the photo quickly. They should not wear T-shirts with messages or
advertising...unless it is your logo and it is small and not obtrusive. The models will have to sign
release forms allowing the photographer to use the photos for any purpose.
Arrange for colorful characters and situations. Hotel shots are boring. But a hotel shot with a
banquet table in front surrounded by the complete kitchen staff in full white dress and hats is
more interesting -- and printable. If there is a local character that is photogenic and has a tie with
your business, get them to appear in the photo. Celebrities are always interested in getting their
photo taken, and you might try to have them on hand. Ethnic costumes add lots of color and
Food can make a photo exciting, so can drinks or props. A good travel photographer will have
lots of suggestions, but you can help him -- and yourself -- if you prepare ahead and have lots of
staged settings planned ahead of time. Think photogenically, look at Travel & Leisure and other
glossy travel magazines to see how they handle traditional boring shots such as restaurants,
hotels, resorts, nightclubs, museums, etc. and arrange to have the ingredients necessary to
duplicate these types of shots before the photographer arrives.
Most of the principals that apply to photographers also apply to television news, video and film
crews. You will have to worry about light, provide models, and suggest the best view points. But
video and film crews add two more features to consider: sound and motion.
Sound is very important to exciting video, and you will have to come up with some ideas of how
to bring stimulating sound to the coverage of your business. Interviews are good, but try to avoid
"talking head" shots where the person being interviewed stares directly into the camera. Have the
person do something that is related to what he is being interviewed about. Search your business
for interesting sounds that can be added. Remember, there is nothing more boring that static
shots of hotels, restaurants or museums...use sound to bring them to life.
Motion is equally important, and there will have to be some movement in the frame to make
exciting video. This is very difficult for some businesses, but try to think of creative ways to
bring movement and action to the story of your business. Video shooting is a very slow process.
It can take hours to set up and shoot a scene that will last only a few seconds in the final video.
Don't try to schedule too much into one day... you can't possibly see as much with a video crew
as with a still photographer. Work with the crew before you set up your schedule. They will
know how fast they work and how much they can accomplish in one day.
Let a video crew know what footage you have before they come. This lets them examine existing
footage, see what is available and determine how much they will have to shoot.
Step 1: Know Your Product
The most important thing in practicing public relations is to know your product. You
should read everything you can about the business you are trying to promote. You should tour
every section of it, trying to see it as outsiders or visitors will see it. You should talk to every
employee in the business and learn what they do and how they do it.
You should memorize as many facts and details as you can about your business and develop a
list of contacts of people you can go to who can quickly answer any questions that you can't. The
most valuable service you will offer to writers is the ability to help them generate story ideas and
answer questions; to do this, you must know your business well.
Step 2: Take a Broad View of Your Business
In most cases, your business will not be big enough to warrant an article on its own. You
must combine your business with other elements to create a story, and to do this you must not
only know your business, but you must also know everything about the industry of which it is a
part. If you are a restaurant, you must know your competitors and the trends taking place in food
service. If you are a hotel or resort, you must know everything about the entire destination
including arts, history, attractions, shopping, entertainment and food. If you are an attraction, you
must know similar attractions in the area and across the country. Writers are looking for sources
of information. The more you know about an entire subject, the more you can help the writer and
generate press.
Step 3: Find or Create "News" About Your Product
Writers are looking for "news." That is the basis of every publication. Even history
magazines are looking for "new" interpretations of old stories.
In order to get publicity, you will have to generate "news" about your product. Just existing is
not enough. There is always a fresh way to look at anything, and you will have to find it...or
create it by establishing packages and sales promotions around your business. Without a news"
hook, it is difficult if not impossible to get publicity.
Step 4: Know the Publication You Are Trying to Get Publicity In
Knowing your product is important, but it is just as important to know the publication
you are trying to get in.
You should know what type of articles and news they print, what type of columns they
have, who writes them, what sections of the country they cover, and most important, who reads
the publication.
It is difficult to do this for each of the thousands of publications that exist, but the more
you know about a publication, the easier it will be to get a placement in it. Blanket mailing the
same press release to a thousand different publications will not be as successful as targeting
publications, learning about them, and targeting releases to them.
Step 5: Pitch Your News to Publications In A Professional Way
This manual has detailed dozens of tips on how to prepare your news in professional
news releases, how to prepare professional photographs and video, how to present them to travel
writers, how to organize press trips, how to work with writers during the trip, and how to do
Each writer is different, but these guidelines give a general overall viewpoint on how to
project yourself and your news in a professional manner. If you adhere to these guidelines, you
will be respected by travel writers as a professional public relations person and the news stories
you pitch will have a much greater chance of success.
How To Work With Your Local CVB and/or State Agency to Generate Press:
Put the Bureau and state agencies on your mailing list for all news releases. Remember that
newspapers work a month or two ahead of time and magazines 4-6 months ahead of time.
You will have to notify the Bureau and state agencies even further out if you want your
"timely" items included in their press releases.
Provide the Bureau and state agencies with photos that can be given out to the media. Travel
editors don't have the time to call, for instance, five casinos to get a selection of photos of
gambling in Central City. They would like to just make one call, and this is a service that
Bureaus and state agencies can provide.
Send the CVBs and state agencies a copy of all press kits. These are kept on file and used in
establishing "backgrounder" information on the city.
Let the CVBs and state agencies know what video you have so that it can be included in
future videos produced by them.
Developing Media Guidelines
You will save yourself trouble and provide better service to writers if you develop a set of
media guidelines for your business. The guidelines should present the type of services you can
provide to writers, and what you expect from them in return. Don't expect that they will mention
you in the article. The best you can hope for is that they are on assignment or have a specific
article idea in mind with specific markets where they will sell it. Writers that will “guarantee"
you a mention, are generally writing for smaller publications.
Guidelines are useful because they help you when unusual situations develop. If a writer
is asking for eight night’s accommodations, or asking for a rental car and all meals, you can give
them a copy of your guidelines that will spell out what you can and can not offer. Having
guidelines lets the writer know you are a professional use to dealing with travel writers and lets
them know what services they can count on from you.
The growth of the Internet as a public relations tool has skyrocketed in the past five
years. More people are turning to the Internet to book trips, and more writers are going to
websites to obtain information on cities and attractions before writing articles. Here are some tips
to help you make your Web site writer-friendly.
• Make sure it’s easy to find your press information on the website. Include a link from the
home page that says, “Media” or “Press kit.” Writers will want to go directly to the
• Include your full press kit on the site. The Headline should give an indication of what the
press release is about, e.g., “Denver at a Glance.”
• Be sure to include HIGH RESOLUTION images on your website. Magazines and
newspapers cannot use low resolution images in their publication (300 dpi or smaller), so if
you include images, make sure they are at least 500 dpi. To speed up download time, include
a low resolution thumbnail of the images on a page with a link to obtain the high resolution
image. In addition, you MUST own all rights to any photo posted on the web. Any photo
posted here must be able to be used for any purpose. You can have a statement restricting
usage, but realistically, any photo posted will be available for any use. Some people require a
password to get downloadable images and show only thumbnails. That is an alternative.
However, never restrict access to your print information or press kit. Restrict only photos, if
you must.
• Include your contact information. If the writers are interested in doing a story, they will want
to contact you for more information. It is best to include a name, address, phone, fax, e-mail
address, and whenever possible, an after-hours contact number (pager or cell phone).
• DON’T require writers to fill in a request box before information is sent. Most of them will
not want to do this, and you may lose valuable press by turning them off. Instead, offer them
the chance to be included on a voluntary newsletter with updates about your city, attraction,
business, etc.