When it comes to press trips, protected-origin food and beverage brands invest heavily. Flying media from the U.S. to Europe, enthralling them with amazing meals and wine, and creating a romantic experience (all day, every day) for a week is expensive, and not just in dollars. There are countless hours spent by several people to pull off the perfect bespoke trip.

It’s more than worth it, of course. With the right planning, a few days spent exploring the chateau of the Médoc or the rolling hills of prosciuttificio in Parma (client) can lead to fruitful and long-term relationships with KOLs and influencers, several months of earned media, and the organic recruitment of more brand evangelists for your client. After years of wine press and trade trips everywhere from Sicily to Alto Adige to Northern Spain, I’ve come up with a shortlist of best practices culled from the most successful trips I’ve had the good fortune of co-hosting.

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Below, Part I of my do’s and don’ts for a press trip that exceeds expectations for both hosts and guests: curating the ideal group of guests.

  • Avoid preexisting conditions: You know you have friends and relatives you love but would never travel with. Well apply the same logic to press trips, but to the 100th degree. The chemistry of a press trip group is a delicate thing and can be disrupted to such an extent that it will ruin the experience for everyone. Do your homework! Don’t bring along people known for over-imbibing and being late every morning (some people just go on these trips to party and yes, word gets around). Avoid people who have little experience traveling outside the U.S. (they tend to be unreasonably high maintenance and behave inappropriately around hosts). Save yourself and your client grief by sleuthing around on social media for professional tone and a gracious personality. (I once decided against inviting a guest because I noticed some snide remarks on their channel about a booze brand event they had attended.) Be sure you are aware of any industry feuds and don’t mix people who directly compete on a business front. I refer to these factors as preexisting conditions and all of these will upset the group and your client.
  • Less is definitely not more: Brands (and therefore we) occasionally feel compelled to bring the largest group the budget allows on press trips, for reasons ranging from fiscal regulations to predetermined KPIs. However, this is one area where you want to be most careful and most nitpicky. Don’t fill a seat for the sake of having one less seat to fill. Make it a select group. All guests should feel special for being invited and nothing should give off the vibe that they are a mishmash of last-minute replacements. Furthermore, you shouldn’t consider a guest unless they have several examples of previously published work that show they will implement what they learned in a professional and timely manner. Don’t invite someone on a press trip if you can’t envision exactly the kind of story they will successfully pitch their editors. Personally, I think of the stories I want to see first and work backwards from there to hand-pick guests who can potentially write that story. By applying these criteria, you’ll come up with a group that exemplifies quality over quantity.
  • Ask around: Sounds simple, but you would be surprised at how much aggregate wisdom is out there if you just ask your colleagues. There is quite a bit of information that should be considered about a potential guest but can’t be derived by reading the last few pieces they published. Most press trips have plenty of anecdotes both good and bad, so make it your business to inquire about the comportment and congeniality of the potential guests on your shortlist. Ask other brand reps, and writer friends about people they’ve traveled with to help you dodge some bullets.

Now that you’ve come close to constructing the ideal group, stay tuned for Part II on tips for creating a press trip that keeps on giving!

Have any fun and/or horror stories on past press trips? Let’s discuss via Viviana.Pinzon@PadillaCo.com.

Full disclosure: I am fresh off the plane from an outstanding week in Bordeaux (client) with some of my favorite writers and I couldn’t be more grateful for the experience!