At the heart of media relations – especially when it comes to Travel PR – is building relationships with the writers, bloggers and influencers that you want to work with. And while email pitches, travel shows, and even the phone call all have their purpose, there is one more public relations tool destinations need to use.
Email is a great way to start a conversation. Pitches grab the media’s attention, give you a sense of what is resonating, and help you gain coverage for your destination and partners. Phone calls take it to the next level, opening up your pitch to a more casual and candid conversation. Travel and trade shows allow for face-to-face interaction and the chance to really dive into your destination’s assets.
But like anything else, there are pros and cons to each tactic. An email can only convey so much. Phone calls need to be to-the-point, short and sweet. At travel shows and trade shows, you only have a little bit of time – along with everyone else who is there. That’s where desksides come in – your best, most under-utilized tool for earning coverage.
What is a Deskside Visit?
A “deskside” visit or media appointment is a pre-scheduled, one-time, one-on-one meeting with a writer, blogger, or influencer. It’s your chance to talk directly to the people you are hoping to build a relationship with, find out what’s on their radar – and make sure that radar includes you.
A deskside doesn’t have to have a time limit or any particular agenda. It can last 30 minutes, an hour, or as long as the conversation and your schedules allow. And – contrary to its name – it doesn’t have to happen at a desk.
How do I set one up?
Step One: Schedule. Figure out the dates and times when you are available for desksides. Plan for about an hour per deskside, plus 15-30 minutes of travel time in between appointments. This will give you a rough idea of how many people you can meet during the time you have available.
Tip: We often bring clients with us on dedicated trips for deskside appointments. Recently, Visit Rochester sent a representative on my trip to Toronto to discuss our Canadian PR clients. Another great way to meet with the media is to fit in meetings when we are already traveling to an area.
Step Two: Identify Media. Make a target list of the top people in the area who you want to schedule a meeting with. Let that list act as a starting point for outreach. It’s okay to include a few more names than you have time for – inevitably people will have conflicts and you’ll want those extra names in mind. Start by contacting the top 5, then continue to reach out and request meetings based on how your schedule fills up. For those that can’t meet, offer to schedule a phone conversation or (if possible) meet at a later date instead.
Step Three: Outreach. Reach out to your contacts several weeks in advance of your trip. Let them know when you are traveling, times that you are available to meet, and the purpose of your visit (ie. “I thought we could talk over some travel angles and ideas in regards to [your destination]“).
Tip: Suggest a casual meeting spot near where you are staying. A Starbucks or other coffee shop is always a good go-to, or leave it open to suggestions from the writer. For top prospects, suggest grabbing lunch or dinner while you talk travel – conversations often flow easier and last longer over a meal.
Step Four: Confirm. Before you leave, send a quick email to confirm the appointment date, time and location. Provide your contact information and any details you want to share prior to your meeting.
What do I bring to the meeting?
Travel Guides, photos of your destination, a media kit, and a map are all good resources to have on hand during a deskside visit. And while you should bring enough for every person that you meet with, don’t be surprised if they decline to snag a copy of your printed piece. So much content can be found online now, fewer and fewer writers are opting to walk away laden down with paper.
If there is something you really want them to take, keep it simple and straightforward. Things like your website, image gallery, top stops, and more can be sent along later on when you follow up via email.
What do I say?
Ask how their week is going and start with their coffee order…
Seriously – keep it casual and conversational. You are both there for a business meeting, but you don’t have to launch into your elevator pitch right away. Part of building that initial relationship is taking an interest in their work – so in travel, start by asking where they’ve been recently!
After you get the ball rolling, lead into the bulk of the conversation by asking if they’ve ever visited your destination before. Or jump in naturally by sharing something exciting about your area. Tell them about a few top spots, talk over angles, discuss when a good time for a FAM trip might be. Don’t worry about locking down dates or pitching for a placement right at that moment.
Your goal should be to pique their interest and entice them to keep the conversation going long after the meeting has ended. Let your excitement and passion for your destination shine through, and the rest will fall into place.
The follow up. This is where all the hard work falls into place. After the coffee is empty and the meetings are over, follow up on your conversation. Send over more details on the places you discussed and follow up on any questions you didn’t have the answer to right away. I also provide a media hosting form and discuss dates for a FAM at this point. Don’t hesitate to include photos, links, a digital travel guide, or anything else you think is relevant. Now’s your chance to pitch that new stop, ask about coverage, and set guidelines for working together.
The follow up is the most important step in this process, so don’t wait too long to reach out. Send an email as soon as 24 hours after your meeting, and no later than 2-3 weeks after. Writers are busy people – if you wait too long you run the risk of their schedule filling up or worse, forgetting the exchange you worked so hard to set up.
The follow up is where a meeting turns into a relationship and a conversation can turn into national coverage!