by Roopinder Tara, Tenlinks.com
Quite often, companies pay for journalists to attend their events by covering all the costs. This has most journalists jumping for joy: it's one of the perks of being part of the press. There are not a lot of journalists who work for publications with a travel and expense budget, and few journalists could ever see faroff exotic locales on their own.
So if we can get airfare, hotels (usually a nice, downtown, business-class hotel), and meals (sometimes at the best restaurants in town) -- and be the envy of friends and family. Even hang around at the bar and get the tab picked up. We jump at the opportunity. In return, the companies get some coverage. It's an unwritten rule ...until recently.
Sometimes, I just can't find a unique angle that I think will interest anyone. And so I was notified that I would not be welcome at an upcoming big bash held by a CAD company annually. I had been to their last big bash, but wrote nothing about it. Nothing. Not a d*mn word. And so I had not met "expectations." Finally, it was in writing.
I don't question the decision. There was a pretty good chance that I might have gone again and still not found anything worthy of note.
Or, this time I might have taken the opportunity to get to know the company and its products better, using that information as "background" (journalist-speak for involvement not directly resulting in articles).
Or, I might used the trip to further business relationships.
Or, I might faithfully transcribe the keynote speeches, rehash the material presented to each of us, painstakingly and carefully prepared for me by a diligent PR team who has worked hard to provide press releases, product information, even graphics and captions, bios of the execs and case histories.
Some of this material is ready-to-use. I could do a cut-and-paste article, with little thought of my own. But there are journalists who are better at this than I am, and I could always refer to their work.
Rules for Free Trips
There are could be many who strive to see the world at the expense of companies who seek only immediate favorable coverage. I thought I'd take the opportunity to write out some of the unwritten rules. There's not many of them, and they are very simple.
- Basically, you behave like a good guest, don't write anything bad or critical while you are there, and then send a warm "thank-you note" in the form of a complimentary article about the company and its products disguised as a report from the field to your readers.
- Tweet like mad. It doesn't matter if your followers can't keep up with your hundred tweets during an event and may likely unfollow you. What matters to companies is that they have PR staff who counting the tweets. They know who the top tweeters are, and so you need to let them know that you are industriously and frantically covering their show.
- Pay particular attention to the wit and wisdom dispensed by the top executives. Companies trot out their top executives at these events, so shouldn't they be well-photographed and -quoted? They have scripted and rehearsed, honed their points, put their entire company on-message, and practiced their jokes.
(How would you feel if you did all that and the paid guests (journalists) wrote nothing? If you have been given an interview, don't think for a minute that the CAD exec has been reading your stuff or is delighted to finally meet you. In his mind, he deigned to give you some of his valuable time and that had better turn into something that makes him look good.
- Follow up with a longer article, or series of articles after the event, and if the event is expensive enough (i.e., you have been flown across oceans), then you had better keep up the coverage all year long so that when they plan their next event, you will be on their mind. Also, be receptive to press releases, company events, etc. There should be nothing, no matter how trivial, that you should ignore from such a generous host.
Following these simple rules will guarantee that you will be invited to future events.
[Reprinted by permission of CAD Insider.]