Hindsight is always 20/20. When you’re first starting as a travel writer, everything is new and you’re bound to make mistakes.
To help you secure more press trips, here are a few things I wish I had known then that I know now…
1. Patience is a virtue. I’ll never forget my first press trip. I received an email from an editor asking if I’d be interested in representing her magazine for a press trip on the island of St. Thomas.
As a press trip newbie, I anxiously waited and waited for my airfare confirmation. Not being the patient sort, I started emailing the press trip public relations person about every four days wondering when my airfare documents would arrive. What I didn’t know then that I know now is… press trips are fluid and most of the airfare, hotel, and itinerary details don’t get nailed down until just before you fly. Two months is an eternity in the press trip world. Rarely do you get details that far in advance. Relax. And stop bugging the hand that feeds you.
2. Let the right people find you. As I gradually learned the ropes of travel writing, I noticed that the successful writers were visible.
Their writing was prominently displayed on various travel websites, on social media, and most had a personal website showcasing their work.
As someone who is not the most tech savvy person, I still made it a point to establish a professional online presence. I keep two websites, www.timcotroneo.com and www.traveldreamsmagazine.com. Some PR firms or golf courses have found me through my websites or on LinkedIn. It’s more beneficial than you think.
3. Be on time. Another significant lesson I learned was on a press trip to St. Augustine, FL. The press group changed hotels halfway through the four-day trip. I got pretty involved checking emails and unpacking after arriving in our second hotel — so much so that the next thing I heard was a knock on my door. The group was waiting for me in the van heading to dinner. Lesson number two: Don’t be that person who makes others wait.
4. Read the PR Rep’s eyes. Another tip I’d recommend is try to help the PR person that’s coordinating your trip. During a press trip to the Canadian Rockies, the group visited an Olympic indoor rock-climbing wall. The PR person asked for a volunteer to climb the wall. No hands went up.
PR people go to great lengths developing relationships with the various vendors you encounter representing a particular city or destination. After observing the PR person’s somewhat pained expression, I raised my hand and started climbing the wall. Even though my climb was the shortest in Olympic history, I definitely cemented my relationship with this PR person.
5. Say thanks for the memories. A good habit I’ve gotten into during the holidays is sending a greeting card to the PR people and editors that have treated me right. This past holiday season, I received an email from a PR person with a list of their upcoming press trips to the Caribbean. This email arrived literally days after I sent her a greeting card.
6. Get your camera ready. Take photos of your own during each trip. A photo I shot during a trip to Great Exuma in the Bahamas ended up on the cover of a golf magazine. Your personal photos enhance article presentation options beyond what the hotel, resort, or PR agency can provide.
7. Deliver and deliver more. There is no better compliment than to have a PR person say that “you’re the gift that keeps on giving.” Over-delivering is often why I’m invited back on press trips.
8. Be like a scout. I’m writing this before leaving on a golf press trip to Santa Barbara, CA. As I was packing, I glanced again at the trip itinerary. I noticed for the first time that they recommended I wear a sport coat for the formal dinner planned on the initial night. I had to creatively re-pack to fold a sport coat in my carry-on bag. So my last lesson is to “be prepared.”
Most of all, I wish you the best as you anticipate your first press trip.
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