FAIL of the FAM: Why a press trip is better for journalists and DMOs
As a professional travel blogger, I get invited on a lot of FAM and press trips from destinations, attractions and members of the lodging community. Unfortunately, is seems as though FAM (short for familiarization) and press trips appear to be an interchangeable term or phrase. In this post, I would like to inform and encourage the proper use of these terms. I think by establishing the distinction between a press trip and a FAM that the ROI (return on investment) for trips of both types will greatly improve for the destination, as well as the experience for the journalist.
It wasn’t until recently that the contrasting difference between a FAM trip and a press/media trip became abundantly clear to me. I also discovered talking with other travel journalists what a disservice destinations are doing to themselves by not knowing (or offering) the difference between a FAM and a press trip.
A FAM Trip is (or should be) designed in such a way as to give the attendee a taste of what the destination, attraction or lodging entity has to offer. These trips will likely be fast-paced, cramming as much in as possible. From sunup, to sundown. These trips will likely be short in duration, 1-4 days (1-2 days for a resort or attraction, 3-4 days for a destination). These trips would also likely be conducted in a large group (20-50 people), where individuals would need to stay within the heard and be confined to an agenda. A FAM trip is perfect for a travel agent or tour operator, it’s a terrible format for the travel blogger/journalist. In a FAM format the participants are mainly seeing things, not experiencing them. Travel journalists need the experience in order to evoke the types of emotions necessary for good storytelling.
A press or media trip is (or should be) designed in a way so that travel journalists get introduced to sights, attractions and highlights, but leaving them enough time to flesh out a story, capture images or film footage. A press trip could be organized in different ways, but ultimately there needs to be free and flexible time to flesh out, discover, interview and capture a story , much more so than a FAM trip allows.
One way to achieve this might be to take journalists around in the morning or afternoon, leaving the other half of each day free to peruse on their own (or perhaps an entire free day at each stop of a press trip depending on the duration). A press trip should be a small group (3-5 tops), or individual. It’s also worth segmenting the types of influences being hosted. For example, trips should be organized with similar influencers. For example, traditional journalists in one group, photo journalists in another, bloggers in another group, and video folks in yet another group.
Traditional travel media writers often don’t take photos, but need time to interview and flesh out stories. In order for a photo journalist to capture stunning photos of your destination, they need the flexibility to to go back to a sight they saw earlier when the light is in their favor. Bloggers are often writing, taking photos and possibly vlogging. Video bloggers often need the most time of all. I have been on trips where I will spend 2-3 hours each night off-loading my photos and video footage from 3-4 different cameras and have to work into the wee hours of the morning, only to get up at first light and do it all over again.
So many destinations and attractions are short sided when looking at media attention. For example, many are just interested in getting a mention, or a link for their tourism partners, without looking at the long term benefits to quality storytelling. Due to the funding methods in which CVBs and DMOs obtain their operating capital, many are forced into FAM situations with journalists rather than a press trip. If you work for a DMO/CVB, I would highly recommend educating your tourism partners on the benefit of a press trip vs. a FAM. Many of us who have a fantastic time in your community will talk about it for years to come and often re-purpose content.
As a professional travel video blogger and publisher of MikesRoadTrip.com for nearly seven years, this is my two cents worth. I would love to hear from fellow journalists, PR professionals and CVB/DMO representatives. Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.