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11 tips to maximize gains from media tours, press conferences

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

Because bloggers have special needs and they should ideally be given information differently from seasoned journalists, savvy companies sometimes organize media 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 rules of the game to make the best of the trip and to become more worthy of being invited in future. The same goes for press conferences. 

11 best practices for press tours and press conferences

[These tips are useful for not only bloggers but all media persons.]

1. Do your homework.

For media tours, read about the place of visit, the host, special things that you are likely to see. Read the 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.

A bit of advance study helps also in getting a better hold on press conferences. Those who know the subject well are not only able to understand the context in which the subject is being presented, they also prepare their report better and fast.

2. Be fully prepared.

If going to an unknown place for a day or more, 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' needs and emergencies, sometimes they are not that prepared, or unseen things might happen.

Never forget to take camera to a press conference. I have seen many bloggers take a small camera stand too. This helps in making a video or podcast for the blog. If you are not interested in that, it helps you at least to get the recording so that you do not miss a point. It can be very valuable to defend yourself when the presenter retracts a statement later or challenges you for wrong reporting.

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, networking.

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 pier tomorrow?'). However, don't be adventurous beyond what you can take. If part of the press tour 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 with others. Don't shy away from checking facts with the hosts. Do this especially when things are not clear (e.g. on a highly technical or politically sensitive subject).

Enjoy the tour. Use the opportunity to make friends. Don't be tense and always looking to be 'on the job'. 

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

5. Don't grumble.

On the press tour, don't make much fuss if the comforts are not as promised. Don't be after food and drinks, a 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 media tour. Of course, you must send them the link to your post.

6. Take detailed notes.

Go beyond what information is given publicly by the PR/ press conference 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 media persons or bloggers to new projects that are hard to explain in simple terms.

7. Think differently.

Think from the human angle, think from the reader's point of view. Think how your story can be different from others.  

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 and fact-check. 

Don't ask many public questions. If you want some details exclusively, ask them during lunch break, after the briefing, through a phone call, on email. Note that top print media reporters seldom ask questions in press conferences.  

If you discover an exceptional story idea that will help the hosts, be discreet. Don't share it with others. Propose that as an exclusive story to be done later on.

8. Click, even if you won't use photos.

As mentioned before, photos not only are useful as part of blog posts, but they also help recall things later. When on media tour, click yourself in different settings, but also click shots to emphasize the place and important objects - photos that would support your reports.

press conference

9. Work on the spot, on the go.

Do not leave work till you are back. If you are on a long press tour, work on your draft stories every evening, before going to bed. Jot down things that you could not during the day, improve your drafts if already made. 

Think of writing one or more posts while still on the press tour. Such posts 'from the location' look very authentic. Otherwise too, why not issue a 'teaser' post with a photograph to tell the readers about your detailed post coming later? 

If the press tour or press conference is interesting and newsy, post messages on social media. But be careful: on a professional assignment, your posts/ photos should tell others as a reporter, not as a picnicker.

10. Be honest.  

If you were taken on an all-paid-for press tour, say that clearly on the post. 

If it is a sponsored trip [in which you are paid for writing the post, beyond courtesies of a press tour], 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 a 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 press tour hosts might expect you to post several tweets or short posts or photos (e.g. on Instagram) every day. 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. Such 'going the extra mile' builds trust with the organizers, and the word goes out to others too. Such actions are likely to get you more invites and assignments.