How can bloggers get maximum out of a press tour?

Bloggers are now routinely being called to press parties, especially by big tour operators, tourist destinations, hotels, governments, companies dealing with big manufacturing projects, at book and product launches, and so on. 

Because bloggers have special needs and they should ideally be given information differently from seasoned journalists, savvy companies also organize press tours exclusively for bloggers.

Whether as part of a standard press party in which journalists from print (newspapers, wire agencies, photo agencies, magazines) and electronic (television, radio) media take part or as part of a bloggers' press trip, bloggers must follow some rules of the game to make the best of the trip and to become more worthy of being invited in future.

Eleven best practices bloggers should follow when invited for press trips

1. Do homework.
Read about the place of visit, the host, special things that you are likely to see. Read material they send you. It helps greatly if you make your draft stories in advance. These may or may not play out finally but you will have ready-made outlines around which you can ask questions or seek more details when you are actually on the location.

2. Be fully prepared.
If going to an unknown place, check weather on the web. Keep clothes suited for the place - umbrella, light or heavy clothing depending upon temperature, jeans, cards. Pack medicine (sun-cream, anti-allergen, antacid, anti-pyretic, medicine for vomiting if going to hills by road). Keep all your gadgetry, and a pencil and a notebook even if you are sure the host will provide that. Keep a cellphone with good camera. Keep a battery bank. Though most hosts try to take full care of guests's needs and emergencies, sometimes they are not that prepared, or unseen things might happen.

3. Be punctual and responsive.
Respond to the invite. Be on time the first time and every time even if others in the group are not that punctual. Use the waiting time for knowing more about the place, organizing yourself, clicking photos.

4. Participate and enjoy.
Be game. Volunteer when there is an option (e.g. in response to 'Who all want the pre-sunrise visit of the temple tomorrow?'). However, don't be adventurous beyond what you can take. If part of the trip is too difficult for you or you suffer from an ailment that does not allow you to undertake that (e.g. trekking), tell the organizers - in advance, if possible. Exchange notes. 
Enjoy the trip. Use the opportunity to make friends. Don't be tense and always looking to be 'on the job'. 

Remember, the press trip is a professional assignment and also a sort of picnic: don't lose out on either.

5. Don't grumble.
If comforts are not as promised, don't make too much fuss. Don't be after food and drinks, better seat on the bus, better room, gifts etc. Don't complain about junior PR guys when their boss makes a courtesy visit. Don't talk about better experiences, like 'In my visit to ... they did this and this.' Don't be too demanding. Don't bargain about your compensation unless necessary.

Don't develop an ego of 'an invited blogger' or 'journalist' who must be looked after well.

Don't forget to send a 'thank you' note, immediately after the trip.

6. Take detailed notes.
Go beyond what information is given publicly by the PR guys. Note down all that you can: mundane details that pad up the story, also details that would add value to your stories.

Exchange contact details with key people especially when you would need to quote them on the blog, or to get background information. This is especially useful when companies  and government organizations take the press to new projects that are hard to explain in simple terms.

7. Think differently.
Think from human angle, think from reader's point of view, find interesting details. 

Don't make the mistake of  writing based on pamphlets and adding a bit of your story; write from your own perspective and based on your experience, and use pamphlets only for padding. 

Don't ask too many public questions. If you want some details exclusively, ask them during lunch break, after the briefing, through a phone call, on email.
If you discover an exceptional story idea that will help the hosts, be discreet in discussing that with others. Propose that as an exclusive story to be done later on.

8. Click, even if you won't use photos.
Photos not only are useful as part of blog posts, they also help recall many things that you might miss otherwise. Click yourself in different settings, but also click shots to emphasize the place and important objects - photos that would support your reports.

blogger trip press tour

9. Work on the spot, on the go.
Do not leave work till you are back. Every evening, before going to bed, work on your draft stories, jot down things that you could not during the day, improve your drafts if already made. You can even write a post while on the tour if you want to make more than one post on the trip. 
Otherwise too, why not issue a 'teaser' post with a photograph to tell the readers about your detailed post coming later? Why not post tweets and photos of the fantastic things that you experience? But be careful: on a professional assignment, your posts/ photos should tell others as a reporter, not as a picnicker.

10. Be honest.  
Disclose on the blog that you were taken on a all-paid-for press trip. 

If it is a sponsored trip [in which you are paid for writing the post, beyond courtesies of a press trip], disclose that. 

Unless it is a sponsored trip, write honestly about good things but be  discreet about criticism - and tell that the views are your own.

Do not talk about personal inconveniences caused due to your host's lack of care, but talk about hardships if they tell a story (e.g. in a submarine, how uncomfortable and claustrophobic it can be to remain in small cubicles for long duration; roughness of sea at a particular coast during rains; winding roads to reach a steep hill, which make you throw up at every turn).

11. Deliver.
Know the organizer's expectations in advance. Some organizers might expect you to post a number of tweets or short posts or photos (e.g. on Instagram) everyday. If that is part of the understanding, fine; if not, go along and do at least the minimum level of postings.

Don't ignore to write posts even if there was no obligation. In fact, write more than what you promised or what the organizers expect. Send them the link once you publish a post even if they did not ask for such details.

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