5 Tips for a Successful Economic Development Press TripJune 30, 2015
The best way to understand a community is to experience it firsthand. Press trips and journalist visits are well-known tools used by CVBs – but they are just as effective for economic development organizations looking to garner positive publicity and create media allies.
DCI spoke with tech freelancer Michael Kassner, who has attended multiple press trips and benefits from the networking and experiences they provide. Kassner covers tech topics such as data centers, networking and security for CBS Interactive publications and DatacenterDynamics, and he shared some observations and advice that helped us compile the following five tips for arranging a successful trip that creates a lasting impression.
1. Charismatic Spokespeople Count
Choosing the right business and community spokespeople will bring your community’s story to life and give reporters new “sources” they can contact for future stories. Consider your community’s biggest cheerleaders, and people who are willing to engage and have a two-way conversation with reporters.
Most journalists prefer to interview a senior-level executive or expert within a company or organization, but personality also plays a role. For Kassner, a spokesperson’s personality is more important than their job title. Choosing a spokesperson who is charismatic, has an interesting story, is easy to speak with, and open to media publicity, goes a long way.
Kassner has also found that companies that are “hungry” for media attention are more engaged both during and after the trip. Since reporters often have follow-up questions or requests after press trips, connect them with a marketing person or another company contact who can help them get what they need to produce a story.
2. Free Time Isn’t a Bad Thing
While it is important to maximize reporters’ time on the ground, it is equally beneficial to give them schedule breaks and extra time to explore the area on their own.
“When I was visiting Columbus, Ohio, I got there early and walked around downtown a lot,” Kassner said. “I got a really neat flavor for the area. That attitude helps when you write a story because you understand the area’s big picture.”
Consider giving reporters the option to fly in early or extend their stay after the tour – even if it is just by a couple of hours. Arrange a central hotel location to make it easy for reporters to walk around and explore on their own. Reporters also appreciate time to decompress or get other work done after a long day of meetings and tours. Allowing free time between your last appointment and dinner, for example, can help keep reporters focused and refreshed.
3. Authenticity is Key
While the goal of a press trip is to showcase your greatest assets, it is important not to try and cover up your weaknesses.
No community is perfect, and reporters can see right through “marketing speak,” so being genuine and honest about any challenges your community is facing will show favorably with journalists.
“I know it can be really hard to take an honest approach, but those are the people that stand out to me,” Kassner said.
4. Size Does Matter
Bigger is not necessarily better. Depending on the industries you want to showcase, consider bringing in individual reporters, or a small group, and tailoring the itinerary to specific interests. The more you can tailor a trip, the more productive it will be.
“I prefer when it’s smaller – like 1-2 people,” Kassner said. “You get to hear more from the spokespeople and don’t have to fight other reporters to ask questions.”
When designing the itinerary, ask reporters what they are most interested in seeing and read their recent articles to understand the kinds of topics they cover. If one or two specific companies are of most interest, incorporate more time in the agenda for those and spend less time at others.
5. Hospitality Wins
Bear in mind that due to the changing media landscape, many media outlets have slashed travel budgets. Offering to cover reporters’ travel expenses is often the only way trade reporters and freelancers are able to attend a press trip.
A welcoming, accommodating and well-organized host will make your press trip stand out. While you don’t need to bust your budget with a swanky hotel, lodging is important and can leave a lasting impression – good or bad – of your community.
Showcase your community’s quality of life by selecting a nice – but not necessarily up-scale hotel – that is centrally located, along with unique restaurants that highlight local cuisine. Use this time to engage with reporters and get to know them. Point out landmarks, major companies or interesting sites as you drive around your city, ask for reporters’ impressions and perceptions, and be flexible to accommodate reporters’ specific needs.
Extra touches, while not required, can make your organization stand out. Consider picking up reporters from the airport, or leaving a small welcome gift or letter in their hotel room.