Written by Lemongrass Marketing on 16th Mar 2022
The world has changed so much in such a short space of time. Since 2020 there’s been nothing short of chaos. But as a semblance of normality settles over us, a lot of us are finding that we can’t just go back to the way things were – and that’s true in travel PR, too.
As the travel market begins to open up once again, our clients and other travel brands are sending invites out – calling PRs and journalists to London for Media Meetings and press events.
But there’s a little problem… Covid changed the press landscape fundamentally. Not just in the UK, but worldwide.
In 2020, 16,000 US journalists lost their jobs. (We believe that these are times when good, factually accurate journalism is needed more than ever!)
There are fewer journalists in work – and those who still have jobs have precious little time to hit their targets. They need to produce more work to cover the staffing shortage. More freelancers have entered the fold, but they’re currently fighting for commissions.
Because of this crunch, we, as travel PRs, have a responsibility to make the best use of journalists’ time and our clients’ time and budget!
So, we ask; are Media Meetings, Missions and Press Days still relevant in a post-Covid world?
(Definition Media Mission: a full day of one to one meetings with journalists and client present. As opposed to Media Calls where we, the PR agency meet with journalists, but no clients are present.)
Yes, they do – but with caveats. They work, but only for really big news or grand openings AND if you have an excellent spokesperson who comes off well when meeting the media.
To give you an example; when our client Lanserhof announced a new location – Lanserhof Sylt – the global press, from Forbes to the Financial Times, were keen to learn more. We had eight meetings lined up that day, back to back with A-List publications only. All were keen to either visit or review.
A turnout of this calibre is exceptional and we always brief our client on the purpose of a Media Mission and every journalist they are going to meet. The purpose of a Media Mission is to build excitement for the brand, organise and agree a future press visit, or land an interview. It’s important to understand that the outcome of a Media Mission is NOT immediate coverage. Luckily, we’ve done Media Missions with Lanserhof for the last 6 years – and they understand how it works.
There are exceptions though to obtaining immediate coverage and that is the trade press. So, when we do Media Missions for a budget design hotel brand, like Motel One, we would invite a mix of consumer press and say design trade press and pre-arrange interviews, which will then lead to immediate coverage. Just bear in mind that with the travel trade press (as with say the MICE press) there are only a handful of good titles in the UK, so organising a Media Mission just for the trade press wouldn’t work (unless you are desperate and just want to fill numbers and slots – which is not what we ever advocate to our clients because it brings them no commercial benefits whatsoever).
But let’s go back to one of the key details – your spokesperson. Your spokesperson is everything. Because, as we’ve experienced, the delivery is just as important as the message.
In the past, we’ve switched spokespeople at Media Missions – from a subject matter expert to an expert in communication, armed with the right message. It always pays to use the most charismatic, personable, confident public speaker to deliver your message, because they can sell the story. Someone who’s stiff and uncomfortable will come off that way, leaving the audience on edge. The story won’t land; but the awkwardness will.
The most important element is news!
You’ve got to have something newsworthy to bring to the table – a headline or image that you can tease in your invitation to journalists – before giving them the first scoop when they come. A grand opening, a major new undertaking, a “world’s first” – something along those lines.
Something of scale. A new package won’t cut it.
There has to be a strong reason for the media to come, as journalists are busier than ever trying to hit their deadlines. So an hour or two away from their desks (be that office or home office) will need to be worth their while.
And when they get there, make every minute count. A well-planned day is essential. Run it half-heartedly and expect half-hearted results. Make it count!
For us, we also have to remember that the client usually has a long way to travel, too. Coming back to the Lanserhof example, we organised eight meetings at 45 minutes each. We gave a clear briefing to the client on each journalist, an hour before meetings began over breakfast.
The publications we had lined up for the day were: Times Luxx, The Times, Country & Townhouse, Tatler, Harper’s Bazaar, Wallpaper, and freelancers from The Glossary, Telegraph, Elle Deco, Observer Design, Guardian and Breathe Magazine.
That’s a lineup worth travelling for.
Keep it relevant – but make sure your invites go out to a mix of media outlets and journalists, with a mix of in-house writers and freelance journalists.
Don’t forget that travel PR is not just about hitting newspapers and magazines. Increasingly on our Media Missions, we make sure the client is in front of the best travel podcasters and travel content producers – from YouTubers to TikTokers to Instagrammers – provided their platform is relevant to the client.
This ensures maximum reach, diversity and quality of future coverage.
Always have key messages: what is the main thing to communicate?
Your messaging needs to be super clear. Get the key news points out first, and then go into more detail around the brand. But perhaps the most important thing to remember is personalisation.
It’s hugely important to tailor the talking points to the publication you are meeting with.
We tell our client what the journalist is most likely to be interested in, and what kind of outcome we should aim for – a press trip, social media collaboration or an interview. We also would have researched whether the publication has covered the client or their competitors beforehand – and if so, what the story was. This prevents re-treading old ground with old stories and leaving a sour taste with the journalists (“haven’t they done their research”?).
We guide our clients to listen, because no journalist wants a sales pitch, and the best stories are usually found in the nooks and crannies – the unspoken sentences that might hang in the air, or in a side comment that a journalist may have dropped, or a hobby that they have.
Hook your pitch to their personal interests. Communicate your key messages. Use your time, and their time, wisely.
London spaces are becoming harder to confirm for longer periods of time without payment. So, if you don’t want to keep budget aside for space hire, then the chances are the Media Mission may have to be split across a few different locations.
But this can be a good thing; because not all journalists are based in one area. This will create a wider net and is likely to improve attendance among key contacts and publications local to your chosen venues.
It’s also important to find a quiet venue. If you’re in a hotel lobby, make sure there isn’t music blaring out. Luckily, we have several London hotel clients – like the Langham or the Athenaeum – so we can always access quiet meeting spaces (and great rooms) for our clients who come over from abroad.
It doesn’t always have to be a boring meeting room, though. Years ago, for Borgo Egnazia, we carried out meetings in a suite, so the journalist could go to an adjacent room for a spa treatment. The client had a fantastic spa, so we brought over their spa therapist to give the journalists a sample of this hotel, there and then.
Venue costs, team time, travel, flights, accommodation, expenses… The financial costs can be high. But so can the environmental costs; and this has to be considered as part of a client’s branding.
We’ll talk more about this in one of our next blog posts on press trips.
These are one to one meetings that we have with a journalist, but without a client present.
In the past, Media Meetings have always been face to face, but now it’s moving into a hybrid model, with face to face meetings often taking place outside of London.
Some journalists can’t wait to meet in person. For others, it’s not always as easy for them to do meetings. Some just prefer Zoom calls, full stop.
One thing we’ve found is that a ton of journalists are based outside of London. Once, we arranged a meeting with a member of the Tatler team, and discovered they were based 30 minutes down the road from us. So we both vowed that in the future, we’d always meet locally.
Being based in the Cotswolds, we’ve been surprised at how well it works to meet with the media on a Friday, out in the countryside! It means they can start their weekend earlier, too.
So many journalists have been made redundant, so the ones that have been left simply don’t have the time to attend as many meetings as before. So it falls to us as the PR agency to make sure that we use two assets wisely: a journalist’s time and a client’s budget (both are limited right now!).
And it’s important to note that people’s comfort zones have changed, too: some still prefer video calls, even though face to face is now an option again. And that’s completely understandable.
Whenever we organise Media Meetings, we take all news, across our entire portfolio of clients – with a solid understanding of each client and their scope. We research journalists and their recent work, so we can open and build relationships quickly.
We’ll also take image-led presentations of our clients, and we talk through the latest developments for our most relevant ones. Who’s got something new?
We keep a list of clients that are open to press trips, so we can discuss booking those in there and then. A press trip discussion normally can take a long time, but it’s always quicker in person.
We keep the objective of the media meeting in mind. Does the client want to host press trips, or are they keen on interviews for the CEO?
And do the research – make sure you’re not pitching something completely wrong for the publication. The Guardian tends to favour cheaper holidays and travel experiences than the Telegraph, for instance. It’s important to understand the journalist’s and publication’s interests as well as the client’s objective.
Here’s our recommendation: unless you’ve got a serious budget to spend, don’t do a Press Launch event.
It’s really hard to get journalists to come along to anything but a spectacular event with anything but spectacular news (see above: fewer journalists = more work per journalist = less time to attend). And you’ll always have dropouts at the last minute, which is frustrating both for client and PR agency. Yes, a Press Launch is good for relationship building – but you most likely won’t get coverage just because you hosted an event.
It’s an expensive activity in times of stretched budgets, and we always try to get our clients the most bang for their buck.
So if you do it, do it well. Like the spectacular two day extravaganza “Hamburg on Tour” that we organised with the city of Hamburg. We wanted to put Hamburg’s festival scene on the map so the event included live music performances, a Media Mission, a blogger event, desk drops to media. It secured 134 pieces of coverage including TV and radio coverage on MTV and Shoreditch Radio as well as Time Out.
What about virtual events? Holding a virtual event can work for hotels or travel brands, if there’s a strong storytelling element to it – like a live cooking demo of a local dish with the head chef, with ingredients sent to journalists beforehand.
Or send out a nice launch press gift – but make sure there’s a story angle and a point to it. For the recent launch of The Langham, Boston we sent journalists bespoke cocktail making kits. The Langham, Boston has arguably the best cocktail bar in the entire city and we wanted to get that point across.
So let’s come to something that works incredibly well – especially in a post Covid journalist reality. An event where journalists can drop in when it suits them, getting news on lots of travel clients in a short space of time, going home armed with information for several articles and several press trips secured on the spot.
Welcome to Press Day – OR speed dating for journalists and travel brands
It feels like we’ve lived a hundred lifetimes since 2019 – the last time we were able to host the Lemongrass Press Day. And what a day it was. October 12th 2022 (the date of our next Press Day) can’t come soon enough!
And we can’t overstate just how valuable these days have become – and not just because we feel so nostalgic about them! Our contacts and partners in journalism have come to know our Press Day well – and the numbers continue to grow each year.
Well. Except for during Covid.
Time-strapped journalists love Press Days, because they get all the news in one go. We don’t allow clients to attend, but it’s for a good reason.
We love our clients, and we love having them around – but on a Press Day, we need everyone to be able to speak freely. We’ve sat in meetings with clients, and both us and the journalists knew that the story would never fly because it just wasn’t relevant for that publication. But out of politeness, they stayed on.
If the client isn’t there, we can secure stories that we know WILL DEFINITELY happen. This is actually better for the client in the long run; journalists value us as an agency because we are honest, and we will tell them when a client isn’t right for them.
This means they trust us.
That trust allowed us to launch FORESTIS in the Dolomites during a pandemic – with only 3 press trips because nobody could travel – and we still secured over 80 A-list articles and awards for them including including Conde Nast Traveller Hot List, Tatler Spa Guide, The Times, Country & Town House, Food & Travel and Telegraph.
Journalists trust our word. If we say “this is good”, then it is good. They’ll write about it, even if they haven’t seen it.
We’ve gained our position because we only pick out the most newsworthy topics, so attendees know that they can come to us and basically have story ideas handed to them for a day. Word spreads fast among journos hungry for a story!
And that makes our Press Days super valuable for long-term relationship building with journalists. Sometimes, the news we give them isn’t something they can use right away. More often than not, it’s a long process – sometimes months of talking back and forth, until the time is right.
But wow – does it pay off!
We’ve had so many press trips and incredible pieces of coverage come out, months and months later, just off the back of a Press Day meeting.
And we can’t wait to get back into them.
It’s all in the planning and prep – but there are some golden rules. Mondays and Fridays are no good for a Press Day or Media Missions for that matter, but Wednesdays work well. Make sure they’re outside of school holidays to get the best attendance.
We have our Press Day in October every year. That’s when journalists start planning ahead for the year to come, and want to know what’s hot and what’s not. That timing allows us to secure press trips well in advance, so we always agree press trip dates with clients beforehand, so we can book them in there and then – with journalists, influencers or podcasters.
We make our Press Days easy to navigate – and keep the running of the day tight.
We display presentations and introductions, with bullet points on each client under different topics – family, wellness, sustainability, and so on. With this setup, our team can move around news topics quickly and easily, depending on what each journalist wants to know and discuss.
We make sure we’ve got everything we need from our clients beforehand; new openings, what’s new in family holidays, wellness and food – but again, this stuff has to be newsworthy.
And when it comes to making newsworthy stories for our clients, let’s just say we’ve got a couple of tricks up or sleeves…
See how we made global news with publicly available data for our client in tourism.
Lemongrass Marketing is a specialist PR agency for travel brands and a trusted source for niche, travel, and mainstream press. Want to join our next event? Complete the short form below for exclusive pre-release invites!
Let’s start a project – call +44 (0)1865 237 990 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re Lemongrass Marketing – we help travel brands grow by delivering PR and content strategies based on digital audience insights. Let’s talk about your next PR, Digital PR and content campaign. Message Mirjam@lemongrassmarketing.com or call +44 (0)1865 237 990.