To comp or not to comp: The PR answers (Part 4)

To comp or not to comp: The PR answers (Part 4)

Do real journalists go on comped press trips? Do proper publications accept stories based on free hotel stays and experiences? If yes to both, what does this do to the accuracy of the stories that result?

This is the fourth and final part of a series travel writer, editor and author Edie Jarolim and I have put together, split between our two blogs. The first two parts are a debate between Edie and myself, the last two parts hand the e-microphone to two press relation professionals.

Part 1 (Edie’s blog): I answer Edie’s questions about comping policy at CNN, around the world, and how I felt about them as an editor.

Part 2 (this blog): Edie answers my questions about how she, as a writer, deals and thinks about comps.

Part 3 (Edie’s blog): Peggy Bendel, who runs her own PR firm, talks about balancing client and writer needs on press trips.

Part 4 (below): Anita Lam of Petrie PR reveals her thoughts on what writers are expected to do after a press trip, and what happens when they don’t do it.

Answers from Anita Lam at Petrie PR in Hong Kong

How do you decide, when a client offers a press trip, who to invite?

It depends on the nature and story angles of the press trip such as the destination, itinerary and duration of the trip as different publications have different requirements for joining press trips so we consider carefully before inviting the most relevant media according to their own interest and specialization where applicable. Another consideration is whether the publication has covered the property previously as we would like to give the opportunities to other publications that haven’t been before.

Do you push for press trips from clients or do they always come up with the ideas themselves?

Some clients will have a separate budget (including air tickets) set aside for press trips such as in the case of a launch event or new hotel.  The clients with limited budget, we will approach our industry partners such as airlines, travel agencies, tourism boards and etc for a sponsored partnership in order to realise the press trips.  We constantly seek opportunities for partnerships to co-host the press trips which combines the PR & Marketing efforts of both brands.

What are your expectations from writers when you offer a press trip? What coverage do you expect and what do you expect NOT to be included?

It depends as some clients have clear instructions and expectations on the level of coverage resulting from the press trip.  However, the journalists in Asia tend to be very professional and often share intended focus and anticipated storyline further to the press trips.

If a writer goes on a press trip and you and the client are not happy with their coverage, what actions do you take? How will this affect future press trip invites for the writer?

We try our best to ensure that the media are taken good care of while on a press trip and go to great lengths to support requirements and special requests.  If anything arises during the trip, we would immediately discuss how we can make the experience better.  If the media decides to share any negative comments in the resultant review, we would of course respect their opinion and would further debrief with the client on areas of the experience which may need to be reviewed.

When inviting writers/media to events such as dinner, drinks, meeting clients etc, what do you expect to get out of it?

Media events are an opportunity for the media/writers to meet the clients, learn about the product/services/experiences as a first introduction to building relationships and to hear the latest news/announcements as applicable.  We would hope that the media find the meetings insightful and informative and that there will be opportunity to work together in the near future.

How many times can a writer attend events or press trips and not include coverage of the client, before being ‘unfriended’?

Petrie PR has not yet experienced this situation and normally we would advise our clients the meetings/events are a way to introduce the product/services and build relationship with the media.  Often the media who attend will produce stories or inclusion as a result.

Many publications refuse to write content that’s been arranged via press trips. What are your views about this?

We understand and respect that some publications have an independent editorial policy and will not accept complimentary trips. However most of the “independent” media will work with us to organize trips on a media rate or other applicable rate basis and pay for their own flight ticket.

3 thoughts on “To comp or not to comp: The PR answers (Part 4)

  1. Thanks James (and Edie and the PR folks)—lots of interesting material in all four pieces. I’ve gone on a number of press trips and was never told by the PR people anything like, “Give me 1500 words 10 days after you return on these themes.”

    I was always given a good deal of flexibility in what I wanted to focus on in the articles, and never told not to write about problems on the trips.

    I’ve only felt an understated or implicit sense that the venues would very much like wholly positive pieces, but their interest in that is just common sense. And for the most part, the places I’ve been (Florida Keys, Vegas, new MGM opening across from DC, ranch in Carmel, CA) have had their own fascinations that were easy to write favorably about.

    And some of the negatives—like the 30-hour (including layovers) flight I took returning from a media trip to Myanmar—just aren’t that interesting to write about.

    I’ve had consistently good communication with PR people in getting follow-up contact/venue information after the trips, and none of them have objected to the trip being identified in the pieces as being comped. (I also write “straight” travel pieces for places like the LA Times and the San Jose Mercury News that are on my own dime—I don’t try to sidestep their policies of no comped trips.)

    Anyway, I’ve enjoyed this series of articles, thanks.

    1. Thanks Tom – yes I don’t think any PR would dare ask for such prescribed accounts of a trip! But it sounds like you have a good balance going on between pleasing the PRs and writing credible pieces.

  2. Hello–I know I am late to the party with my response to this article, but I am glad this is in circulation, even though I have been writing travel stories–with or without press trips–since 2003. As the landscape has changed for OG print writers like me (even though I do a lot of online press, as well as social networking posts to support my hosts), what are your thoughts on influencers, and of hostility they may express towards writers over 45? While I have traveled with fellow writers who are fascinating, professional and supportive, I have had a small handful of encounters in more recent years with 1) Influencers significantly younger than me getting preferential treatment, or in one extreme case last year, getting away with bullying me by leaving no seats for me on the van (i.e. putting their shopping bags on the seats) and eating all the food in a family style meal while I am interviewing the chef or bartender, and ruining my photos or 2) Getting invited and then disinvited from a press trip because my numbers are less than an influencer’s even though my 10,000 or 50,000 readers are more likely to be able to afford what I am covering ?

    *Theoretically, if my numbers are not big enough, why waste my time–I know it’s the prerogative of the client to choose who should ultimately go, so if they prefer influencers, that’s their decision)

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