Creating awesome media famils
Tips for making media famils awesome.
Welcome to episode 76 of Tourism Upgrade, the podcast unpacking marketing trends from travel, tourism, and marketing leaders. I’m your host Holly G., and today we will be discussing tips for creating and running awesome media famils, and I have with me Emma Castle. Emma works for Intermedia Group and is editor of industry publication SPICE news, and is Deputy Editor of Hotel Management Magazine. She also blogs at shegoes.com.au, and is co-founder of Women in Tourism Leadership Events with me, so welcome to the podcast, Emma.
What is a media famil?
Emma Castle: Famil is an abbreviation of the word familiarisation. When you hear people say, “Oh, we’re going on famil,” it just means they’re going on a media familiarisation, or it could be a travel agent familiarisation. There’s lots of different ones, and the itineraries are quite different on those different styles of famils.
HollyG: And their purpose is for someone to get to know a destination or a product essentially.
Emma Castle: Exactly, yeah. Usually so they can sell it or so they can write about it.
A famil is an abbreviation of the word familiarisation and is an in person experience to get to know a product, business or destination with the purpose of mutual benefits.
Types of famils
HollyG: And you’ve been on or involved in a few different types of famils.
Emma Castle: I have. I’ve organised famils. I’ve been on blogger famils, I’ve been on kind of consumer-facing media famils, and I’ve been on trade media famils, and they’re all completely different actually. The objectives for the coverage that the client wants out of it is also quite different.
Types of famils may include blogger famils, media famils, photography famils, consumer facing media famils, trade media famils, influencer famils, travel agent famils, travel trade famils – and i’m sure there is even more!
Emma Castle: There’s objectives for the people in the destination, too, because sometimes the people organising the famil, they have a mandate to send a certain amount of media or bloggers to that destination or get a certain amount of articles in media publications. It’s almost like sometimes these agencies or whoever’s organising the famil, you’re actually helping them meet their KPI’s simply by being there. That can actually influence what you end up doing when you’re on the media famil as well.
HollyG: Yeah, and I guess it’s important in organising a famil to look at it from both those objectives. The destination’s got objectives to get media into the destination to create stories and coverage and awareness of the destination, and then the blogger or media person going on the famil obviously wants to get stories to write about.
Emma Castle: Oh, absolutely. The thing is you kind of, from the media person’s point of view, journalist or blogger, you want to get as many stories as possible. I mean, a lot of famils are designed so that it’s sort of like a single angle, so it’s like outdoor active or it’s romance or it’s family or whatever. Sometimes I think that you could potentially look at actually running kind of more angles on the famil, like you could actually kind of weave more storylines I guess, for want of a better word, into a famil. Yeah, so that’s something I think destinations could think about, yeah.
The destination’s has objectives when running media famils to get media into the destination to create stories and the journalist also has objectives, being aware of both is a great start.
HollyG: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, so then potentially there’s more opportunity for coverage or story ideas.
Emma Castle: Absolutely. The thing is, good journalists will be able to spot these stories themselves, so I’ll be able to see the angle. Because sometimes people in destinations don’t actually know that what they’re telling you could be a really great story coming out for, like a honeymoon special. Or maybe your title particularly deals with openings or refurbishments. It could be kind of anything, like it could be manta ray season. There’s so many different angles. Without confusing the people who are on the trip, it’s good to kind of offer up a few different angles for that itinerary if you can.
Tip for running media famils
HollyG: You’ve been going on famils for a lot of years. Have the way that we do famils, have they changed much in 10 years or so?
Emma Castle: Not as much as you might think. The only thing that I’ve really notice change is the social media, the push for social media, which is completely understandable. Any journalist worth their salt will be happy to assist with that because, I mean, it’s good for their publications usually, good for their own profile. Destinations do put a lot of money and time into famils, and the least you can kind of do as the journalist who’s there is actually tweet, Instagram, Facebook, and check in to things. It’s a very easy thing to do if you’ve got mobile reception, so I guess one piece of advice is just to kind of make sure that media or travel agents or whoever’s on your famil, make sure they’ve always got the wifi cards for the hotel. Even if you’re just doing a side inspection. Because it means they can broadcast live, essentially, from the destination without having to have roaming on their mobile, because a lot of people don’t want to do that.
HollyG: When we were discussing this topic and planning to talk about it, we put the question out on a private travel writers Facebook group that we’re both part of to ask them for their tips. Someone came back with that they would love a one or two-page document that includes the social media handles of all the places that they’re going, and the web addresses and hashtags and things like that. I thought that was a really, really great tip, and I think something that can easily be included.
Emma Castle: Yes and it just requires pre-planning. So basically rather than having a whole bunch of people there in the destination kind of going “Oh, what’s the wifi card? What’s your hashtag?” Sometimes you’ll get a director of sales or you’ll get someone who actually isn’t maybe that social media savvy, and so they actually don’t know and so they get back to you later, or they don’t get back to you. To have that information up front, that’s just gold because it just kind of means that all the preparation’s been done and you’ve done everything you can do to ensure that the people included in the famil are going to get as much coverage as possible.
HollyG: Now, what are some other specific tips for businesses or destinations who are organising and running famils?
Emma Castle: I would definitely say try and get the itineraries out to people with a little bit of advance notice, because the one thing people will complain about is if they get their itinerary really, really late, like they get it the day before or they’re not ticketed until the night before it. I mean, we’re still travellers. All travellers have a sense of anxiety if they don’t know when they’re going, what time they’re supposed to be there, what they’re going to be doing when they’re away. But what it also does is if you don’t get your itinerary until really late, you can’t plan your stories.
You might have a rough idea of what you’re going to do, but if you’re sending freelancers to a destination, they need time to pitch those stories to their editors and research those activities, those destinations that they’re going to be visiting. Often they’ll come back from a trip and pitch stories because then they’ve got a much more holistic idea of what the angle is, but a lot of people break it. So to not give people an itinerary until really late will probably just frustrate the people who are going to be attending your famil. Yeah, I mean, it’s the same as you if you weren’t ticketed for your flight and you didn’t know what time you were supposed to be at the airport until the day before. It’s not a good feeling and it sort of sets things off on a bad course.
HollyG: Yeah. Yeah. What about when putting together group famils and group dynamics and that sort of thing?
Emma Castle: That’s actually a really tricky one, because often journalists haven’t met each other, the host might not have met people. Often the first time you’re going to meet your group is at the airport lounge. Sometimes you’ll meet in the business class lounge or you’ll just meet at the airport at the gate, or even sometimes you don’t even meet the people until you get off the plane in the destination. You kind of don’t know what the dynamic’s going to be. For the people setting up the famil, I would certainly say give everyone a call or email them some questions, try and find out about their preferences.
Just get a sense of their personality, and also try and suss out if there’s any competitors on the trip. With freelancers you’ll often have two people who might write for the same titles, and so you sort of don’t want to invite people who are competing for the same story because that sets up a pretty bad dynamic from the beginning. But also some people just don’t get along, and so there’s only so much you can do to avoid that because if you talk to anyone, they’ll say, “Oh, yeah, it was a really amazing itinerary but the group dynamic wasn’t that great.” Or “The trip itself was pretty stock, standard stuff, but man, we had a good group.”
Emma Castle: Yeah. You can try and influence that just through good planning and through a bit of pre-interviewing the people who are coming along. Boy, you’ll have a much better time.
HollyG: Yeah. And also, I guess two things, is: If you actively participate in building relationships with journalists and freelancers and media ahead of time, then you can better pick your group. If you’re actively going to different lunches and different things like that and getting to know people, then that can be a great thing, just for the long term.
Emma Castle: Yeah, definitely, and sometimes you can actually, once you’ve kind of confirmed a couple of people … If, say, you’re going on a famil that is like a outdoor active family focus, you can actually ask some of the people who are going to be coming who else you know that writes for this space. Because obviously there’s competitor titles. But one thing about the travel industry, it’s just uniliterally extremely friendly. I go on famils with my competitors all the time, like from competing MICE publications. Because they’re MICE famils, and there’s only a handful of us in Australia so it would be weird to run individual famils when you can kind of send us all in one go.
You can actually ask your other participants which other writers they know might be able to kind of cover a similar territory but for a different publication. I know that kind of goes against what I said about not inviting competitors, but I think if you’re up front about it, if you communicate about it and actually give people a chance to invite journalists that they might have a really good working relationship with or just good friendship with, you’re kind of setting up a positive dynamic. It’s not cloak and dagger. It’s not like two people from the Sydney Morning Herald are going to show up and be like, “Ah, what are you doing here?”
Emma Castle: You’ve already sort of talked to them about it
HollyG: I think, yeah, that was going to be my other point, is about letting participants know who are the other people going on the famil ahead of time. I’ve never, ever had that. It always seems to be a bit … You don’t tell who else is going to be there, and it’s just like “Surprise,” and I’ve never quite understood that.
Emma Castle: Well, actually I’ve been on famils where they have actually told us who’s going to be there and even supplied you with a link to their LinkedIn profile. Or there’s been a group email to sort of introduce everybody prior to the trip, and then people have a bit of banter before they go. It’s not commonly done, but I have definitely seen it done. It certainly helps because it also means that if you can look people up on LinkedIn or whatever, you know who you’re looking for at the airport.
HollyG: Yeah, totally.
Emma Castle: Which can really help.
HollyG: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Okay, any other tips or must-do’s or don’t’s?
Emma Castle: Relevance, I have to say. There is nothing more frustrating as a journalist and being sent on a famil that is completely irrelevant. I did go to a destination in the last couple of years where obviously the tourism boards had funding to promote their regional … This is an international destination that had funding to promote their regional centres, but this is a destination that’s only just emerging for Australian, in my case, meeting planners. So you would probably only send a meeting group to the capital. But instead of showing us the capital, they showed us all these kind of [inaudible 00:16:15], regional areas, which from a personal perspective was interesting, but was completely useless from a coverage perspective because …
Our duty is to our readers. We’re supposed to be creating content that’s relevant to them. By sending me to somewhere in the middle of nowhere, it’s totally useless because my readers would never book an event there. I mean, it’s hard enough to get them to consider the destination first and foremost and then to get them to kind of consider sending a group to the capital city. So just always keep relevant in mind. You might have pressure as a tourism board [inaudible 00:16:58], as a hotel, wherever you’re coming from. You might have pressure to kind of attract journalists to whatever it is you’re doing, but always think “Is this relevant to them?” Because if you do invite them, you’re sort of wasting their time and they’re not going to be very happy about it.
HollyG: Yeah, yeah. No, I think that’s probably one that should be at the top of the list, is that relevance. It can be discussing this with maybe some media that you were considering ahead of time, or maybe instead of planning group famils you’re looking at individual famils because then you can sort of hand pick it for people that it might be relevant for.
Emma Castle: Ah, definitely. Individual, like doing a whole heap of individual famils, is undoubtedly a lot more work. You’re setting yourself up for heaps more work, but you might get a much better result because there are also some journalists who don’t like to travel in groups. They’re introverted people and the thought of spending a week with a loud, friendly group of people is their worst nightmare. Because if you’re kind of thinking about the type of people who are attracted to writing as a profession, particularly freelance writing, they might be quite solitary creatures. You could be sending them on something that they just will hate purely because of their nature. The other thing you can do is within a group famil, you are still able to tailor aspects of that itinerary to any individual. I’ve done that before-
HollyG: Yes, this is a good point. That’s a good point
Emma Castle: You can still fly everybody in together, do the welcome dinner together, maybe do some activities together, but you can always … This is a much easier way to do it, is send individuals off to do their own activities during the day, or they can go to a dinner by themselves, or they can have a free day when everyone else is on a tour together or something. People might get a bit weird and jealous [inaudible 00:18:56], but ultimately you’re making less work for yourself if you kind of can actually get everyone in together, solve their problems on the ground when you are actually there in person, because-
HollyG: Yeah. I think it’s a really good point and something, yeah, definitely for businesses and destinations to consider.
Emma Castle: Yeah. Yeah, because the thing is, when you’ve got the advantage of having a host there … Hosts are just there to pay for things and solve problems basically. You can kind of guarantee that a group famil is going to have less problems than an individual famil, because things do go wrong. It’s travel. It might not be due to your planning. It’s just that if you’ve got someone who’s kind of familiar with the destination right there and who knows some of the operators, they can solve problems so quickly, whereas your journalist might not know who to talk to. Or how to talk to them.
HollyG: What about someone else … When we put this question out to a group of travel writers they also said definitely allow some spare time for story uploads, for checking emails, for social media and that sort of thing.
Emma Castle: 100%, and the same would be said for travel agents. I mean, I think travel agents are actually a little bit more tolerant than journalists, to be honest, when it comes to this stuff. Just giving people a chance to check their email. If you do want social media coverage, give people time to actually load up their photos or whatever, because there’s also the problem of slow Internet speeds. When I’m away for work for my SPICE [inaudible 00:20:41] I still have to do newsletter, so regardless of where I am in the world I still have to write six new stories twice a week and load them up and get them sent out. That can be a real challenge if you’re using hotel wifi that’s really slow or whatever.
Yeah, you might end up with a really tired group if you’re kind of getting them up early, giving them activities back to back all day, giving them half an hour to get ready for dinner, taking them to a dinner. Often these things are quite boozy. You might end up having a really big, long banquet dinner with lots of wine. Then you’ve got to come home and do three hours of work on slow wifi, so you really just have to take into account what they need to do while they’re there for their actual jobs, and also just be kind to them [inaudible 00:21:33]. If you’re in a week-long famil, you need to give people free time because they’ll start to fall apart after four or five days of these kind of lots of eating and drinking and lots of activities. Yeah.
HollyG: Yeah, yeah. What about being a host, so the host themselves and things from a host’s perspective? Because I know we’ve talked about a vast difference in some of the hosts that we have encountered.
Emma Castle: Ah, absolutely. Look, I think 100% if you are a tourism destination or an operator. Put someone who loves your product. Make sure the person hosting the famil is a lover. They need to be passionate about what they’re talking about. You can’t have someone who’s sort of ambivalent about what they’re showing you. They need to really love it, and ideally they need to have established relationships with the people they’re introducing you to so there’s kind of already this beautiful rapport and energy. Obviously that’s not always going to be practical, but you definitely need to have someone who loves what they’re doing. You need to have someone who’s practical, who is a good problem solver, who’s punctual, someone who’s very, very clear about giving instructions. I used to be really shy about this because I’m a very laissez-faire sort of person, which actually makes me not the world’s greatest famil host because I’m like, “Everybody do whatever you want.” That does not work when you’ve got a bunch of sort of high-strung [inaudible 00:23:04] journalists.
Five minutes late at every stop means that you have awfully late at the end of the day. If people go missing because they’ve gone shopping or they’ve gone to the toilet, everyone gets really frustrated, and it’s usually only one or two people. You have to be yeah, really, I guess, assertive about the itinerary and about your group, and you have to be approachable. You don’t want people to be scared of you, but your job is to make sure that everything runs on time and that everyone gets on the bus. Yeah.
HollyG: Yeah. So it’s that balance of being really passionate about your destination, because I think that is so important, but also just having those skills to keep things on track and knowing that that is actually part of your job. In reality that’s part of your job as a famil host.
Emma Castle: Yeah. Oh, one thing I would add is follow-up. Obviously people love to hand out their shiny media kit. They love to give you these beautiful piece of print production that they’ve spent a tonne of money on. A lot of journalists don’t like that. They don’t want to carry around 50 press kits, or they’ll throw them out. So you’re kind of wasting your money. You’re better off to either get their business card and send them an email after they’ve visited you saying “Hey, what do you need? Here’s a Dropbox link to the images that you actually wanted.” Or give them a USB. That’s another option.
Not my preferred option, either. I prefer a follow-up email after I’ve visited, either from me or from them, but if you want to be proactive as the destination, get everyone to email the journalist or get a essential point of contact to email the journalist and say, “Hey, what do you need?” Because they’re going to need information. There’ll be stuff that they’ve forgotten, there’ll be images that they … Their images didn’t turn out well or whatever. That is a much more efficient way than handing out these big press kits with wedding packages and stuff, because that is not relevant.
HollyG: Yeah. I’m really glad you mentioned that. That follow-up angle is yeah, is very, very, very important. Yeah, I think you’re more likely to cover off someone who interacts with you than someone or one of the places you visited that doesn’t, so yeah, really good point.
Emma Castle: Yeah. Well, also it means it opens up the lines of communication for you, whether it’s your hotel, your destination, whatever, to have an ongoing relationship because that’s the goal, is … Okay, you’ve managed to get the name, managed to convince them that this is a great place. Okay, so what else can you do? You need to keep updating them. You need to keep telling them hotel openings, new activities that are launching, activities that might be changing or updating. The lines of communication are now open. You’ve basically got permission to communicate with this person, so milk it. You’ve invested. Do, do whatever you can to kind of continue that relationship.
HollyG: I know you also wanted to mention the money thing, if people need to tip, buy meals or put hotel holding deposits on their personal credit cards, they need advance warning as it’s so embarrassing to run out of cash on a work trip!
HollyG: We’ve covered:
- plan a few angles, its ok to have diversity in the itinerary
- create opportunity to build relationships while on the famil
- share social media handles, hashtags and wifi codes ahead of time
- get itineraries out as soon as possible (even a draft)
- be aware of dynamics on group famils and trying to manage that beforehand as best you can
- make sure the itinerary is relevant to the media on the trip
- don’t over-schedule the itinerary – ensure some time for people to work, check emails, post on social media etc
- be a great host, be passionate and tapping into a local host can add huge value
- ensure clarity about extra expenses, tips, holding deposits and money in general
- follow up
HollyG: Where can people connect with you?
Emma Castle: Ah, definitely. For my work stuff, for SPICE Magazine, my website is www.spicenews.com.au, or www.hotelmanagement.com.au. You can kind of find my work through there, and you can email me. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m on Twitter and Instagram, @sheg0es. So that’s S-H-E-G-zero-E-S, because that’s what was available. I also have a blog, so www.shegoes.com.au is my blog. You can always find me there, too.
HollyG: Awesome. Now, are you up for the bonus question?
Emma Castle: Yeah, always
Now it’s time for our $1000 bonus question
HollyG: Awesome. I ask all my podcast guests the same final question, and that is: If you only had a $1,000 marketing budget, what would you spend it on?
Emma Castle: Well, truthfully, I would say famils. From a media perspective, or even from a buyer perspective, just get the most important people, the people who have the most influence in whatever sphere you’re trying to reach, and send them on a famil, send them on the best famil you can possibly afford. Hopefully people in the destination will comp you stuff, like they’ll give you stuff for free, so your $1,000 will go a long way. Hopefully that is just going to have to cover flights and a few incidentals because with destination support, hopefully everyone will offer FOC because they see the opportunity in having these really, really high priority people in their destination.
HollyG: And, I mean, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a group famil. You could just pick one publication or one journalist and really impress them, and you’re going to get a great return on your $1,000, right?
Emma Castle: Ah, absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, especially if you get someone who has an interest. That’s another point, is sometimes if you can kind of invite someone who has a personal passion for whatever it is you offer, like say you’re a wine region and you happen to find a journalist who’s got a really huge interest in wine, that’s a relationship that will just keep giving as well.
HollyG: Yeah. Cool. Well, awesome to have you on the podcast. Oh, actually we should mention for those people who are based in Sydney. International Women’s Day we are running an event, that’s the 8th of March, 2017, yeah, talking all about men’s roles in women’s careers. It’ll be a beautiful lunch event, so people should check that out.
Emma Castle: Yeah, yeah. We’ve got really good speakers, so Hayley Baillie from Baillie Lodges, Simon McGrath from Accor Hotels, and we’ve got Peter Hook from Hook Communications as the speakers. Yeah, it’ll be very enlightening I’m sure.
Tweet me with any comments or feedback @hollygalbraith or email is good too holly (at) hollyg.com.au
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