Press Trip Confidential: Top Tips and Horror Stories

One of the many benefits of working in communications is the opportunity to go on a press trip – an event which, when planned properly, can be extremely effective in bringing to life a particular product or brand and in building relationships with influencers. However, even the best laid plans sometimes go to pot. Before I provide insight into some of the most amusing and challenging things that I have experienced, here are my tips on what you need to do to make sure a press trip runs as smoothly as possible:

1.    Planning – in the case of media, where it is often like trying to herd cats, proper planning really does prevent piss poor performance. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of ensuring that you have your itinerary locked and shared with all stakeholders long before the trip actually takes place. Last minute arrangements nearly always result in disasters!

2.    Preparation – there are often multiple components to press trips to make sure that you have all materials prepared up front. This includes all briefings notes, itineraries, contact sheets and travel documents. There is nothing worse than not being able to track someone down because you have left their phone number on your desk at work!

3.    Production – the production of a press trip is what separates the wheat from the chaff. Be creative with your activities, organise things that you know will appeal to the different journalists, plan a travel itinerary that is accessible, make sure that if you are launching a product you have plenty of product on hand for media to test, partner with brands which will positively enhance the experience eg a great hotel / restaurant and have relevant spokespeople on tap

4.    Play – whilst the primary aim of organising a press trip is to drive positive coverage and awareness, relationships are often built during the more informal moments. Take the time to build in a bit of fun – this will help break down any potential barriers and will give people a bit of much needed down time

5.    Practice – as the old adage goes, practice makes perfect, or nearly perfect anyway! The more you do it, the better you will get at executing, at delivering the best results and at dealing with issues that do arise and at not panicking when things do go tits up

In my career I have probably organised and / or been on over 100 trips. A veteran at it and something in which my agency www.fiveinaboat.comis very experienced, it has however not always been plain sailing. Here are my top 10 most entertaining, shocking and difficult moments!

1.    The time at a major global product launch when all of the technical equipment failed and the CMO had to continue his presentation with no deck, no sound and limited lighting

2.    The time when someone was run over and killed right in front of us!

3.    In the early days of my career, the time that my clients and the attending journalists decided to strip off and jump in the jacuzzi together 

4.    The multiple times that products have got stuck in customs and, in some cases, haven’t turned up in time for the actual launch

5.    The time that, after a particular wine-fuelled dinner, one of the journalists decided in his infinite wisdom to try to drive the coach back to the hotel. Cue a 10-minute conversation in French between me and the coach driver about why he should let this particular journalist back on the bus instead of leaving him stranded in the middle of the desert

6.    The time that two very important journalists missed their early morning flights and therefore their interviews with two very important international sports stars who then refused to do the interviews when the journalists did arrive – it all got sorted in the end!

7.    The time that I was mistaken for a lady of the night and offered $100 (when the going rate was $200) whilst attempting to put some very uncomfortable shoes back on after an event

8.    The time when my plane was grounded for three hours and surrounded by a SWAT team due to suspected terrorists hiding in the wheel arches – probably one of the worst experiences of my life!

9.    The time when the entire first day of a two-day press trip to Hong Kong was cancelled due to one of the worst rain storms and flooding on record

10.  During the same press trip, the time and my team and all of the journalists got invited to Willie Chan’s (pictured) - famous film producer and manager of Jackie Chan - birthday party at which we were asked to sing karaoke to, surprisingly, rapturous applause (probably because we had finished the song)

JourneyJulia Herd