A FAM, or Familiarization, trip is more than a free ride for editors to sample your goods. It should be viewed as an opportunity to really strut your stuff to the people who can make or break your story. Spas need to reassess the value of a FAM trip and learn how to capitalize on the experience and expense.
Once you've got influentials at your dinner table, you need to make the most of them. From staff briefings, to checking for food allergies, and designing a unique and inspiring itinerary of activities in the surrounding town, here are some guidelines for planning a glitch-free FAM trip.
Select the magazines, newspapers and trades you want to target for your hotel. Send an invitation letter along with a complete press kit to the appropriate editor (travel, meetings, conventions, incentives, sales and marketing, etc.), highlighting anything new at your property, including golf tournaments, special events, fitness classes/trends, restaurants, amenities etc., that would make an editor want to personally visit your property. Be sure to include the proposed dates of the press trip, Web site address of your property, and your contact information. You may also want to e-mail the letter as well, only attaching one press release at most. Be sure you have spelled the editor's name correctly and have the title of the editor before sending!
Invite no more than five to seven editors. Keep the group intimate without compromising one-on-one time. Be sure to invite editors from non-competing magazines. That way, they all will feel like they are getting the "exclusive" story. You will benefit from inviting different editors who cover different beats.
Inviting staff editors at target magazines is important, but inviting credentialed freelance journalists (do your research and don't be afraid to ask for clippings of recent work related to your client's industry) can be invaluable. Many freelancers can pitch their story to multiple outlets, resulting in more than one story in print.
Plan a unique itinerary. If you have fitness and nutrition experts on staff, arrange for them to meet the editors over breakfast or dinner. It's a good idea to include at least one expert or other valuable employee at dinner, so that the editors can meet the different key players at your property. Be sure to incorporate activities throughout the day. Tours on the property are always a great way to showcase your facilities and grounds including golf courses, swimming pools, and tennis courts. Another day should be spent off property, exploring nearby attractions that your area is known for (lunch at a famous local restaurant, nightlife, sport arenas, and museums).
Contact the owners of other venues in advance, and let them know about the journalists you will be hosting. Inquire about working out a trade agreement since it is good publicity for both of you.
If you are paying for airfare, contact the publicity departments of certain airlines that fly into the nearest airport to see if they will help cover the airfare for a press trip, or if not, whether there are reduced rates for journalists. Frequently, airlines will require a letter of assignment. Since most editors cannot guarantee an assignment up front, plan far enough in advance to book a 21-day advance fare or at least a 14-day advance fare to cut down on costs. Be sure to confirm the itinerary with the editor and get his or her approval on times before booking.
Ask whether they have a frequent flyer number for a particular airline. If so, include that in the booking. If not, set up an account for them. They will appreciate your efforts. Be sure to e-mail and fax a copy of their final travel itinerary, along with contact names and phone numbers in case their flights are delayed.
Be certain to arrange for limo or car service to pick the editors up from the airport and take them to your property. Try to arrange several arrivals at the same time, to reduce the number of trips to the airport. The same should be done for the return.
Send a memo to all department heads, alerting them to the dates of the trip and who will be coming. If possible, arrange for a staff meeting to go over the itinerary and logistics in advance.
Avoid any negative or embarrassing billing problems, or confusion at checkout. Include in a follow up letter, once the editors have confirmed, what your property is going to cover during the press trip -- room and tax, all meals, etc. If you are not going to cover long distance phone calls, alcohol, mini bars, etc., it's important to put this in writing. The front desk should be clear on what is comped and what isn't. It should also be stated that gratuities are not included, and that a 15-20% gratuity per service is standard.
Create individual itineraries for each editor prior to the trip, incorporating a daily schedule of activities, meal times and locations, etc., which should be given to the editors a few days prior to arrival so that they are familiar with their schedule. A hard copy of the itinerary should be waiting for them in their room or at the front desk when they arrive.
Arrange for a welcome amenity and a hand-written note from the GM waiting in the room prior to check-in. Gift baskets with products from your hotel, a book written by an expert at your property, a robe, candies, or flowers, and late night snacks or cheese and wine should be delivered to the room each night while you are at dinner. This is a wonderful gesture and one that the editors will not soon forget!
Be prepared, pay attention to details, and be a graceful host.
Trent & Company, Inc.
(212) 966 — 0024
Nancy Trent is the president and founder of Trent & Company, Inc., a New York City-based public relations firm that specializes in publicity for spas, resorts and hotels.
When it comes to spas and resorts, health and beauty aids, fitness, fashion and anti-aging products and services, Trent & Company has a reputation for creativity, client service and major publicity achievements. The firm is especially noted for developing remarkable story ideas that journalists want to use, merchandising media publicity results and providing clients with new revenue streams. Their client list includes some of the country's largest trade shows and conferences, including prestigious events in the spa industry, kitchens and baths, and jewelry.