When Audra pitched us with the idea for this post, we said yes right away. We were super curious to find out the behind-the-scenes of a blogging press trip.
Who pays for what? What are you supposed to do in return? Is it really as fun as it looks?
Audra answers these questions (and a few other questions we emailed her) in the post below.
Take it away, Audra!
Shortly after taking Gina’s course 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success, I hit the ground running in the parenting and family niche. I soon began writing on a regular basis for Disney’s parenting site Babble, and that affiliation opened up the horizon to opportunities I never would have earned on my own.
I was asked to join Babble contributors for an event at the White House, and I believe that opportunity gave me the visibility I needed (in writing, blogging and social media) to open doors to other opportunities in my field.
How Freelance Writing Led to Going on a Press Trip
Freelance writing led me to press trips, specifically to Washington, DC and Orlando, FL. Though I do have a journalism background, I don’t have a huge blog or massive following, so I was so glad these doors opened for me.
A press trip is an event that includes writers, photographers, bloggers, videographers and the like to experience and cover noteworthy events as media. There are many different kinds of press trips, from movie premieres to tech gadgets and innovation, program updates, latest and greatest company news to vacation destinations.
I was given the opportunity to visit the White House in 2016 to meet with Michelle Obama as she gave a progress report on her Let’s Move! initiative on children’s health and fitness.
The following year, I was invited to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, a press trip about all things new and imagined under the Disney umbrella. It was an event at the Walt Disney World parks in Orlando and on board the Disney Wonder Cruise ship to the Bahamas, with the option to bring my family with me.
Both were amazing opportunities for me personally and professionally. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to attend both functions. But there were a number of things to consider underneath my intense enthusiasm for even getting an invite.
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What’s the Catch with Going on Press Trips?
Some press trips are covered in their entirety, especially in high-caliber travel blogging situations. But most press trips aren’t free.
My travel expenses were going to be on me in both cases, which were considerable from where I live in Nashville, TN. I also had a limited amount of time to RSVP and arrange travel. Since these opportunities would not come cheap, I had to look good and hard in the mirror and weigh the pros and cons of what trips like these could mean going forward.
Would I get enough of a return on my investment to justify the cost? It’s an individual choice to make on a case-by-case basis and both personal and professional factors come into play. Is it the right move for you?
Here are 10 Things to Consider Before Going on a Press Trip:
1. Travel Expenses
Where is the event located? Crunch the numbers on travel from where you are. Is it cheaper to drive or fly? Will it require an extra night’s hotel stay before or after the event?
Consider costs for airport parking, checked baggage, parking garages, rental car, gas, tolls, and food costs en route.
Make sure you plan travel far enough ahead to allow for time zone changes, traffic or airline delays.
2. Transportation to/from the Event
Will you have a car or event transportation available, or will you need to use Uber, Lyft or other public transportation to get around?
In DC, I bought a card for the rail to get around. It was a minimal cost, but something I hadn’t figured in.
In Orlando, I needed an early morning ride to the airport from a different hotel location. I didn’t realize how much farther I was from the airport and the Lyft fare cost me $50.
(Gina’s Tip: My friend Bryan Richards, travel blogger and beer connoisseur, teaches a class about how to use your blog to score sponsored trips. He really knows what he’s talking about, and he was paid to travel to awesome places both in the U.S. and abroad. If you’d like to learn how to leverage your blog to get press trips, Bryan offered our readers a 30 percent discount with the coupon code HORKEY for his class 15 Steps to Sponsored Blog Travel. <– affiliate link)
3. Work Load
It really is a lot of work to do a press trip. You are gathering media and taking notes to generate good content. It can be a difficult balance to work and truly be able to soak up and enjoy all that’s in front of you, especially in a high-energy environment.
Make sure you know of any content requirements or expectations before accepting a press trip. I didn’t have hard and fast requirements for either trip, but it was important to me to do a good job and I was busy. I posted to four social media channels, my own blog, and travel site.
At the end of the trip, you will also need down time to organize media and plan content, unpack and physically try to rest your body and your brain.
4. Registration Fees
It isn’t cheap to put on an event, and registration costs vary by event size. Does the fee include a room and/or meals and how soon before the event does it need to be paid?
If it isn’t reasonable for you to swing the registration fee, it might make more sense to find a smaller conference or event in your area to start with and go up from there.
5. Your Meals
Most events include at least one meal but you will likely be responsible for others on your own. Are there options at or close to the event to grab meals and snacks?
6. Clothing Costs
I wasn’t planning on buying new clothes before either trip but at the last minute, decided to invest in nice, new clothes and shoes.
Will you have time to do a little sightseeing? I also bought new flip flops, sunglasses, sunscreen and a cover up for a sunny destination.
7. Childcare Costs
If you have kids, consider the logistics of planning and paying for childcare in your absence if you need it.
For most conferences and press trips, it isn’t appropriate to bring kids with you. I do a fair amount of travel blogging and I was able to bring family on the Disney trip, but extra costs are involved.
8. Tech Gear
My laptop had a meltdown just before the Disney trip and I had to replace it, cha-ching. It’s also a good idea to make sure you have plenty of portable backup power for electronics because you’ll be out all day and outlets get crowded fast. I bought new headphones and a power bank to make sure I had plenty of phone juice to last all day.
9. Return on Investment
What is your end game? Will this opportunity grow you personally or professionally? Can you network and build relationships and see it leading to future work?
Is it truly a good fit for what you do?
You were chosen for a reason if you got an invite, but carefully weigh all that’s in front of you. If the costs are going to put you in financial straits or cause undue amounts of stress working out the logistics, or if the event itself is a stretch for you and just not something you’re interested in, it’s okay to politely decline if it isn’t right.
If the event is located outside your city, make sure to figure in costs for souvenirs! I always spend more than I think I will. I don’t get crazy, but don’t forget this expense in your bottom line.
Were the Press Trips Worth It?
These two trips for me came with 4-digit price tags (on the lower end), mostly due to travel costs from Tennessee and things I wasn’t planning on like the laptop and clothes. But I got to see and do things that meant a lot to me personally.
3 Reasons Why Going on a Press Trip Was Worth It
1. Tax Deductions
I was able to work out travel costs without incurring debt. And because both trips were in a professional capacity, I was able to deduct the travel costs on my tax return.
It is not a dollar-for-dollar deduction, but rather a percentage of the total cost, but I considered that in my decision and felt it was worth it.
2. Blogging, Social Media Growth and Brands
I grew professionally overall in blogging and social media numbers, and locked arms with a lot of colleagues.
The Disney trip led to two good relationships with brands that were a great fit. I made contact with one of the representatives of an event sponsor and followed up several weeks after, suggesting ideas for posts and offering a partnership.
The other partnership I gained was unrelated to the conference, but came about simply because I had the confidence to pursue them afterwards and they liked my ideas.
These kind of resulting relationships are not guaranteed, however, and not everything will be a fit. It did not work out with a second sponsor I was in talks with after the trip, but it was a great conversation and could grow into something in the future. So the hustle is still there!
It’s up to you to get moving on networking once you’re there, and come from a genuine place.
3. Discernment and Confidence
It takes a lot of willpower to turn down opportunities when you get an invite or pitch from a company or brand when they find you through freelance writing. I have turned down opportunities that I didn’t feel were right for me, or would help me build the right relationships.
It’s easy to feel a spark of jealousy if you see an opportunity come up for another writer, and I still feel that from time to time. But I know all that is involved behind the scenes and I am able to truthfully say that some things just aren’t a fit for me or the timing isn’t right and that’s okay.
I’m grateful for all that I’ve already done, and look forward to what’s ahead. One of the most valuable things I also gained from the experience was an increase in confidence to aim even higher in what’s possible, and know for a fact that freelance writing can take you anywhere.
Have you ever been invited on a press trip? Did you accept or decline and why? I’d love to hear your experience!
Audra Rogers took a break from news journalism to enjoy the simple life out in the country with her family. She works from home as a freelance writer for Disney’s Babble, TravelingMom and her blog RealHonestMom