This story was co-written by Ailys Toledo

Today we’re here to talk ‘FAM Trips’ – and no, we’re not referring to trips with your family. In layman’s terms, it’s an opportunity to showcase a destination, product or service firsthand to a select group of media. The goal is to curate an experience so positive that it turns into potential quality coverage and everyone’s happy. Sounds easy, right?

While it may look easy when PR pros pull it off, looks can be deceiving. There are quite a few nuances and details to consider so it goes off without a hitch. To equip you with the tools, we’ve put together a handy guide to make sure you don’t just survive but thrive during your trip.

The tips listed below offer an introductory guide and a solid foundation for success, but it’s important to re-evaluate and reinvent the plan year after year to remain current with the ever-changing media landscape (e.g., advent of social media, influencers, limited pool of traditional publications, etc.).

1. Start Strong: Make a List; Check it Twice (More Like 100 Times)

When there are so many moving parts (and there will be), it can be easy for things to fall through the cracks. To avoid this, it’s key to write everything down. First, create a detailed action plan with anything and everything that comes to mind – no matter how trivial it may seem at the time.

This plan should include your media targets, outreach plan, itinerary, logistics, flights, transportation – and the list goes on. Make sure to update it on a weekly basis and keep all parties informed. Next, set up weekly client check-in calls with agendas to keep everyone organized and accountable.

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2. Tap Your Network to Maximize your Budgets and Build a Richer Experience

It’s okay – and in fact, encouraged – to ask for help. When planning a FAM trip, you’ll need to account for meals, activities, hotels, etc. and you’re not expected to have all the answers – particularly when it comes to an unfamiliar city. So, ask your colleagues, friends or even your Facebook community to help fill in the blanks. Reach out to your network to support you with insider intel, partner relationships and cost support.

If you don’t know someone specifically, try a polite, subtle introductory email or phone pitch explaining your objectives. Whether you’re looking for the best spot for rooftop drinks in Chicago or a great, bilingual tour guide in Mexico, chances are your network will rise to the occasion to help you out. Another tip is to call the local CVB (convention and visitors bureau) and tell them what you’re looking to do. Odds are, they’ll have a few recommendations and contacts that will help put the pieces together.

It’s always encouraged to be transparent in all communications with partners/vendors, especially when it comes to negotiating trade agreements. Always be prepared to come in with the ROI clearly spelled out. Post-trip, it’s a nice gesture to share results and coverage if they were included. This will help build a trustworthy rapport for future opportunities.

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3. Be Perceptive

It’s important to be flexible and be able to think and act on the fly. Be prepared to adjust the itinerary in case it rains for the betterment of the group. For example, maybe you had a jam-packed day planned, but you realize mid-afternoon that the group is fading. Perhaps you decide to push back the dinner plans to allow for some much-needed R&R.

Additionally, amidst the craziness of running around and following a schedule, take some time to get to know the group on a personal and professional level to make a real connection. Also take into account the different personalities of the group (extroverts vs. introverts, adventure-seekers vs. homebodies), to gauge their comfort level throughout the trip.

While it’s important to stick to a plan, it’s equally important to read your group and adjust as needed.

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4. Reinforce the Message

Keep your eyes on the prize and remember why you’re doing this in the first place – to get your client’s messages across. Make sure to proactively share or facilitate useful tidbits throughout the trip (facts, figures, soundbites, etc.) to make it easy for the journalist to visualize the story.

Know your messages front and back so you can educate and inform journalists and drive these messages home. Sure, you’ve likely shared some of this information before the trip, but nothing beats hearing it firsthand.

That being said, the work doesn’t stop after the trip is over – your follow-up is just as important as the trip itself. Share any relevant information that will help facilitate coverage.

This includes press materials, fact sheets, photos, relevant links and potential story angles. Send it all in a clean email so that the information is easily accessible. Offer to answer any questions or provide anything they feel might be missing. After all, sharing is caring.

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5. Don’t Be A Stranger

So, you got the hits you wanted and wowed the client…now what? Just because the trip has come to an end doesn’t mean your relationships need to do the same. You worked hard to make these connections, and now it’s time to keep them. So how do you keep the spark alive after the trip is over? Stay in touch.

Add them on LinkedIn. Wish them happy holidays. Compliment them on a recent article. Simply put: don’t exclusively reach out when you have a story to pitch or when you need a favor. A little human touch goes a long way.

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Next time you’ve got a FAM trip on the horizon, just take a deep breath, refer to this handy guide and be prepared to rock it. We know you will.