For travel and tourism brands, attending media events are a great way to get your destination in front of travel bloggers, journalists, editors, and freelancers. But it’s more than just showing up. A lot of time and effort (and sometimes money) goes into attending tourism media events. I’m going to walk you through our process- the prep work done beforehand, the conversations you have, connections you make during the event, and the follow up to seal the deal.
Researching the Media
Most tourism media events fall into one of two formats- networking-style or scheduled appointments. In either instance, it’s important to prepare.
Networking-style events are usually more casual, where media mingle and are free to walk around from table to table. Event organizers will usually send you a list of attendees a couple days before the event. This is your chance to research who will be there. Browse their bios, note their publications, study their faces, and make a list of who you want to talk to.
Other tourism media events involve scheduled appointments, somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes each. These appointments may be arranged in two different ways:
- The media chooses you. Media attendees have the option to learn about the destinations ahead of time and choose which ones they want to learn more about. A few days before the event, the destination will receive a schedule of meetings with the writers that are interested in their assets.
- You request each other. A more complex system where the destination and the media create profiles. Both parties have the opportunity to browse the profiles and select (sometimes up to 45 people) who they are most interested in meeting. The event organizers then do their best to pair top matches to fill the time slots. This method requires a lot of time and effort on your end. But it gives you the opportunity to learn about the attendees and what they’re interested in before even arriving at the event. Plus, it leads to more meaningful conversations with media who are truly interested in learning about your destination (and not just the giveaways at your table).
In either instance, there will still be time for mingling. So you can talk to a writer you didn’t have an appointment with.
Building your Booth
Tourism media events could have 25 different destinations up to a couple hundred! So how do you get your destination to stand out from the rest? Think about interesting and memorable ways to highlight your destination. Things like creepy photographs of stops along the Haunted History Trail, a fun demonstration to try fly-fishing indoors, eye-catching (and hands-on!) exhibits from a toy museum, and delicious grape pies from Naples, NY – the home of the annual Grape Festival. These give writers a taste of your destination and are great conversation starters. Always check the event layout and booth setup first, and run any unique ideas past the event organizers.
Some events may give the media swags bag when they arrive. But that doesn’t mean the media wants to collect a handful of collateral at every booth. Keep it minimal. Stick to one piece of printed collateral that you can refer to and they can take with them. Have media kits (on a branded thumb drive), free giveaways and your business cards easily accessible. It’s also good to have a brochure to guide your conversation (you may choose this to be the collateral they take with them) and a map to give them a frame of reference.
You’re bursting to start pitching your destination to the first travel writer you see! Take a breath and slow down. You’re not there to “sell” anything, you’re there to start a conversation that will hopefully lead to a mutual relationship.
Let the writer guide the conversation. Here are a few key questions to start with:
- What publication do you write for?
- Have you ever been to [your destination]? What did you do or see while you were here?
- What do you like to do when you travel?
Once you know what they’re looking for, it’s easy to suggest assets or events that work for their publication or interests. Talk up the interesting and unique aspects of your destination, and show any videos or photos you may have. If your destination has the funds to host a travel writer, bring up the idea of a FAM. Describe what a visit might look like- the glamping tents they would stay in, the wine they would taste, the outdoor yoga they would try. Focus on what’s new, so their story would be different from what has already been written about your destination.
At the end of the conversation, jot down some notes about what you discussed.
Following Up with Media Leads
It’s crucial to follow up after the event- otherwise attending would have been for naught. A couple days after the event, reach out to everyone you talked to. Explain that you met at the event and remind them what your destination you represent. Personalize your message by using your notes to recap what you discussed. Share any additional information or links you promised to send. It’s important to stay organized, so keep track of your interactions using a spreadsheet or CRM (customer relationship management) tool.
If you’re lucky, some of these may start the FAM planning process or lead to a media placement. The rest will be good relationships to have and to nurture for future angles.
TIP: When you pitch them a story in the future, open by saying you met at the event. That relationship may help your email get noticed.
Tourism Media Events We Recommend
- TravMedia’s International Media Marketplace – which is held all over the world
- Travel Media Showcase for one-on-one appointments with travel writers
- TBEX– a conference and networking event for travel bloggers and online travel journalists (this summer taking place in the Finger Lakes!)
Travel and Food/Bev media