So if you have been following my Twitter feed over the past 24 hours you might have guessed that I am attending the PRSA Travel and Tourism conference in this beautiful city of Tampa Bay. Lucky for me, I only live 5 minutes away from where the conference is being held, but I also was honored to speak about a few of my favorite things: family travel, social media, press trips, travel, partnerships and PR. I was fortunate enough to be on a panel with Angie Orth of Angie Away and Lee Abamonte, the infamous youngest person to travel to every country in the world on a panel called Dive into Digital: Go Beyond the Traditional Press Trip. These two are travel experts and have so many tips to share every time they talk. My addition to the panel was family press trip planning and how to travel with kids. (And I hope I didn’t scare either Lee or Angie from having kids sometime in their life!)
Our experience to demonstrate how digital media can not only enhance a press trip and the exposure for the point of interest, hotel or CVB, actually began on Sunday as a select group of us were hosted at Busch Gardens for a Digital Press Trip. Using the hashtag #PRSATravel and host handle @BuschGardens we all Tweeted, Instagramed and Facebooked our way through the day using our experiences of feeding giraffes, riding roller coasters, meeting more animals were easily found, shared and promoted through our network of friends and others on our social networks. We got a glimpse of the impact, the influencers, and analytics we generated collectivly as a group during the time. We learned about a few social media metrics tools the pros use (TweetReach, TweetBinder, Storify and KeyHole) that will give you results to analyze your impact with numbers based on your hashtag. Typical PR stuff that bloggers should know as well as will help PR see the value of using you as in influencer for a campaign or partner!
Now, on to talking about planning press trips with kids…
During our session, we spoke about all that goes into planning press trips with kids, the do’s and dont’s, best practices in general for travel bloggers, partnerships vs trips, how to plan them, who to invite and more. We all talked alot. I know I defintiely learned alot too! But I have condensed my tips from the session and hope you find them helpful if you are planning a trip that involves parents AND their kids. (And if your planning one with adults, Angie has some great perspective too!)
Selecting a Partner Now a days, I feel that bloggers are their own brands and these “trips” shouldn’t just last the weekend. Bloggers are digital media journalists who are multifaceted people that can help your brand reach an audience beyond just an article on their blog. These well connected networkers have mastered the art of connections and can do so much more than just write an article about your city, your point of interest or your hotel. If selected carefully, you will be able to partner on larger projects, reaching larger audiences, on a number of platforms using various forms of media. These bloggers are SO MUCH MORE! If you do your homework, you will be able to nail down the right person to help develop a longer and more meaningful partnership with them to give you quality content that you can share with the world.
Plan Ahead With kids, planning a trip is much like planning a typical day for any busy parent. We are skilled in planning logistics and fortune telling. I can estimate the possibility of a mega meltdown the day before and how this situation can be avoided if I plan acordingly based on the schedule of what is to come. A simple adjustment to my schedule can propel me into looking like a rockstar parent with well-behaved children all because I got them to nap before the excursion. Itineraries can be made really fun and mutually beneficial for everyone if both parties can communicate about goals, expectations, places they MUST see vs. places you would LIKE them to see vs. places I would like to see. Coming to an agreement early on and working together is key when planning a press trip with kids.
Itineraries Planning. Planning. Planning. Planning is key when hosting any kind of press trip with or without kids. However with kids, there are a few basic tips that we discussed that would make ANY trip out of this world:
- Ask about my kids. This will make planning the trip so easy in terms of trying to figure out what activities to do.
- How many kids and I allowed to bring? No big deal! But tell me you only want me to bring 1 or 2 vs. 3 or 4.
- Is there an age limit? My toddler cannot scuba dive or snorkel yet.
- Will there be other families on this trip? If so, that is fine. However, just let me know.
- Planning Downtime. You have to. It is a must. BUT, when is the question!
- Asking advice on what the writer/parent might think their child would like to do.
- Allergy, special needs, final itineraries are very important to get to the attendee about a week out to make sure everyone is on the same page. Surprises on press trips with kids can be, ummmmmmm….well, let’s just say even fun ones like ice cream parties should even be confirmed with a parent before you show up at their room with a rolling cart of sugar at 9:30 at night! No one wants a mega meltdown if it can be avoided.
Recommendations: I LOVE to be actively involved with planning ANY press trip. And you need to deal with the person who will be attending the trip! Do not deal with a middle man as things WILL get lost in translation.
Communication Yes, some people don’t like to be bothered with an actual phone call, but I find that at least ONE CALL to hash things out and answer any last minute what-to-pack questions, is in order. Closer to the trip is fine, but I personally like a planning one too. E-mails are great, but you really can cover alot in one simple phone call…JUST in case! Sending suggestions and planning a trip together is best and will mutually benefit everyone because
Setting Goals & Working Together Being up front with the goals of the trip and strategizing a plan to achieve these goals can easily be done in advance and should be used in planning out what will be expected when you arrive and throughout the stay. If your brand is not on Twitter, then my tweets might not mean anything to you. These conversations should be had early on and working together to develop clear expectations is key.
Reporting Results What is the REAL goal for this visit? Tell us! We want to help you. And we MIGHT be able to even connect you to others who could also help you! But if you don’t tell us, we can’t. I also want to make sure I am going to get you the results you are looking for.
Gifts vs. No Gifts The solo traveler vs. the family traveler had different views on gifts. Kids LOVE gifts. Period. They will get photographed and used in many shots. And honestly, parents are won over by their kids happiness. If they are happy, we are happy. Lesson is to give items that could be used on the trip, they might not get taken home, or could be left behind. But jump drives are the best and maybe even mail me items so I don’t have to travel with them home.
Extending Your Campaign Through Social Media Content is king. It cannot be said enough. Personal experience and 3rd party reviews of destination are now the way that most search for vacations online. Also, working with a trusted outlet that can help you create a ripple effect in exposure and impressions is best. Finding that multi-talented, super connected, locally trusted personality to work with your brand in more of a partnership capacity would be ideal. Others look to them for advice which is also key to choosing who you invite to participate and PARTNER with you! Make these relationships last! There is SO MUCH content that one can generate from a press trip that this should be the beginning. There are ways to avoid the one day spike and continuously promote your campaign throughout the campaign. Kicking off the conversation before the trip, maybe a series of posts, tips about the area, hidden places, and creating more depth than just a review. Be creative. There’s so much more opportunity.
For all those who came to meet me and listen to our panel, I had a wonderful time getting to know you all and learning more about the travel and tourism industry as a whole. Thank you to Visit Tampa Bay, Trekaroo, and the PRSA Travel and Tourism conference for inviting me as an expert on family travel. Can’t wait to see you all again (hopefully in your city with my kids!)