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Create an event that garners coverage, increases exposure and pays off in profits: Planning the perfect FAM trip

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BY TOM KEER 
 
Years ago, a media familiarization trip, better known as a FAM trip, was often synonymous with a boondoggle or a junket. I attended one poorly orchestrated event that quickly deteriorated into something more closely resembling the movie “Animal House.” A good time was had by some, many took offense and the rest were dumbfounded. It was no surprise that participants, me included, chose not to write about the venue or the products used during the event. The venue and the manufacturers who orchestrated the event believed that if the media had a great time they’d write glowing reviews; in the end, too much focus was on fun instead of work.
Large-scale media FAM trips have largely gone away. Some of them died a quick death because of the costs associated with the frivolity and lackluster results, while others disappeared due to the do-it-yourself marketing associated with digital and social media. One FAM trip disbeliever recently told me that the media could learn
everything they needed to know from his company’s website. In the same breath, he complained about declining sales.
Every year I conduct about a dozen FAM trips for sporting equipment manufacturers, sporting venues and conservation agencies. A properly run FAM trip takes a tremendous amount of planning but the results are well worth the effort. For example, one recent Bahamian fly-fishing FAM trip yielded two print articles, three digital articles, three blogs and a few weeks worth of social media posts. Sales following the exposure increased by triple digits. They were the byproduct of an experienced bonefisher who landed more seven to 10 pound bonefish in four days than she had in her life.
Here are a few key components essential to make your media FAM trip just as successful:
Focus intently on the list of invitees.
Combine editors from non-competitive publications with industry leaders and personalities and writers and photographers. The networking possibilities are huge, new connections are made and the sharing of diverse frames of reference enlightens all participants. The group binds together through newly forged relationships and they ultimately deliver an outstanding and diverse series of media messages. The client hosting the event wins big every time.
Set expectations.
Have a clear set of expectations for media coverage. I believe it is important that a sponsoring venue or product receives coverage if I agree to participate in a FAM trip. Encourage media to research the subject online to be sure the experience reasonably will mesh with his or her points of view and outlets. Properly set expectations reduces heartburn for all.
Intersperse print representation with digital media.
Both mediums still have a lot to learn from each other, and a relaxed environment enables members to communicate candidly and openly. Common ground is more easily found, turf is defined and the result is powerful.
Circulate attendee bios to the group prior to arrival.
I try to keep things fresh, so I usually invite folks who are likely to only know each other by reputation or through mutual friends. I don’t particularly enjoy the cliques that frequently pockmark industries and I am a strong believer in networking. So that everyone feels comfortable, I break the ice by sending a personal introduction and bios of participants a few weeks before the event. I include links to the attendees’ websites, recent publications, blogs, awards and other tastes-and preferences. I also supply each attendees’ contact information for pre- or post-event follow up. By doing so the event takes on a comfortable attitude without adding a level of complacency.
Provide a pre-trip planning document to ensure a smooth arrival.
Airport pick-ups and drop-offs, gear lists for field work and recommended attire enables everyone to plan accordingly. It is as embarrassing for an attendee to arrive at dinner in a t-shirt and shorts when evening attire is expected, as it is to show up with orange for a waterfowl hunt.
Plan and balance programming.
In writing, we often say “show, don’t tell,” and it’s the same with a FAM trip. Get people using the gear in natural settings. Let them see for themselves how a project is successfully working. They’ll have fun, while you stay on message. Avoid heavy handed sales pitches, it’s like wearing too much aftershave to a party. A little dab will do.
Create networking opportunities for the attendees that go beyond the scope of the event.
Introducing a photographer to a magazine editor, or a venue to a relevant service provider enables group members to network beyond the confines of the event. Observe group dynamics. Change group pairings during morning and afternoon sessions until you find synergy between specific attendees. Exchanges
become more meaningful when a group is simpatico. When you find a group that is in alignment and has perfect chemistry, consider repeating a separate event in a different setting. And add a few new members to the group to keep things fresh. In the end, it’s not about getting the job done, it’s about getting the job done well. I’ve found that by keeping priorities straight, the fun just happens. And the end results of media placements and connections are a win-win for everyone.♦
–Tom Keer is an awardwinning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines and owns The Keer Group, a full-service, outdoor marketing company. Visit www.thekeergroup.com or at www.tomkeer.com.
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