Making the most of media trips

One of the great things about working in outdoor media is that from time to time, you are invited to go on some really great trips where the travel, food and lodging are all taken care of. There are usually some great adventures in store for you as well during these familiarization trips, commonly called FAMs, including summits, camps or conferences. However, as much fun as they are, it is important to remember you are invited to attend because you are expected to provide coverage of the event, place, sponsor or organization.
I’ve been on trips where attendees had so much fun enjoying themselves that they forgot the real reason they were there. Others have failed to generate much or anything out of these events except for expenses for their hosts. These members of the media generally don’t get invited back and may even see their invitations to these events dry up as word gets around the industry about their inability to produce. Don’t be that person. You want to establish the reputation of someone who is going to give your host an excellent return on their investment into you. Here’s a few ways you can do that:
Find out from the host exactly what they want promoted. You may be surprised by the answer. I recently attended a FAM trip to a resort in Baja, Mexico, on the Sea of Cortez. This beautiful resort offered miles of hiking trails, a great beach and chances to kayak in a secluded bay full of tropical fish. An added bonus was the stingrays that jumped out of the water around your kayak as you paddled along.
That, however, was not what the organizers wanted us to cover. They wanted coverage of their first annual dorado fishing tournament and the top-notch golf course. Knowing this allowed me to prioritize my time to cover these two areas (though I did manage to kayak among the stingrays for a quick hour getaway).
Be honest with your host about what you can produce. At the resort, I told them I would produce a radio show and podcast while there. If you are a freelancer, obtain assignments before you go. If you have a web and social media presence, let organizers know how you can promote them or sponsors through those channels.
Enjoy the food, the sights and sounds. Get to know your fellow media members and develop relationships that can benefit both of you. But don’t get lost in the adventures.
A case in point is a long-running opportunity that takes place in the Columbia River Gorge, bordering Washington and Oregon, every September. It’s called Fish Camp and promoter Ed Iman brings together members of the outdoors media, a number of tournament anglers and guides with boats, and sponsors who pay for the free camping, food and trips you enjoy on the water. It is really easy to lose yourself in the great fishing here. On any given day you can catch Chinook salmon, cast for summer steelhead, reel in dozens of smallmouth bass, jig for walleye or tussle with a sturgeon measuring up to 11 feet.
However, the way to get invited back to Fish Camp isn’t to nab the most fish, it’s to arrange interviews with the sponsors who are paying the bill. Many of these sponsors are fishing rod companies, fishing tackle manufacturers and sporting goods retailers. All of them are there because they have a story they want told. Some of these stories can be told while you are fishing. Do an on-the-water interview with a field recorder, snap some pictures of their rods or lures in action, but also plan to find a quiet place to talk after the fishing is done for the day to record that interview.
Don’t forget the primary reason you are there. Going back to the Baja, Mexico trip, I knew that building a show around the fishing tournament would be more exciting if we could be at the daily weigh-ins, talk to the tournament coordinator and anglers and share that building excitement on the air — culminating with the awards ceremony.
However, the itinerary laid out for media was for half of us to fish and go to the weigh-in on one day, while the other half went golfing and then enjoyed lunch and a tequila tasting the other day of the tournament. Knowing in advance what the resort really wanted covered (the tournament and the golfing), that’s what I focused on. I arranged to get on a shuttle bus on day two of the tournament to the weigh-in location and covered that instead of partaking in the tequila tasting the resort was providing for the rest of my group. (Yes, sometimes sacrifices have to be made on a media trip.)
When you aren’t reporting, take photos and share them on social media. This can create buzz for your piece, but also the sponsors or hosts.
Be gracious to your hosts, compliment them on the wonderful things they offer and don’t complain. If there is a chance to get your host on the air or to tag them through social media when you post, make it a point to do so.
Once you get home you’ll have some fine memories of your latest adventure and you should also have photos or videos and audio if you need it.
Start producing as soon as you can, while everything is fresh. The great thing about radio and podcasting is how fast we can get something on the air. I can record and produce a show that can air in less than two weeks after I return.
I further promote the trip, the hosts and the sponsors through my website, previewing the show and do the same on my radio show’s Facebook page. I also make it a point through all three venues to promote the host or sponsor multiple times. Most importantly, I
share what I have done with the people who invited and hosted me. If you have a podcast or broadcast, deliver it in a form so they can share it and use it for promotional purposes (SoundCloud and YouTube are both great platforms for this). You might offer organizers great coverage, but they won’t know it unless you tell them.
Media trips are fun and allow you to do things you probably couldn’t afford to do otherwise. Do it right, and you’ll probably be seeing invitations coming your way. ♦
[box size=”large” border=”full”]Want to attend Fish Camp?
Promoter Ed Iman is always looking for new members of the outdoor media to attend Fish Camp in the Columbia River Gorge. It takes place every year from Sunday through Thursday in the middle of September. If you are interest – ed in attending call Iman, let him know you are an OWAA member and tell him how you can help share the stories of Fish Camp and its sponsors. Call 541-298-3753.[/box]
— John Kruse is host and producer of two weekly radio shows, Northwestern Outdoors Radio and America Outdoors Radio. He is also an outdoor writer and the author of “Great Places Washington,” published by Wilderness Adventures Press. He has attended a number of media FAM trips and summits or events put on by conservation organizations.

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