FAIL of the FAM: Why a press trip is better for journalists and DMOs

As a professional travel blogger, I get invited on a lot of FAM and press trips from destinations, attractions and members of the lodging community. Unfortunately, is seems as though FAM (short for familiarization) and press trips appear to be an interchangeable term or phrase. In this post, I would like to inform and encourage the proper use of these terms. I think by establishing the distinction between a press trip and a FAM that the ROI (return on investment) for trips of both types will greatly improve for the destination, as well as the experience for the journalist.

It wasn’t until recently that the contrasting difference between a FAM trip and a press/media trip became abundantly clear to me. I also discovered talking with other travel journalists what a disservice destinations are doing to themselves by not knowing (or offering) the difference between a FAM and a press trip.

A FAM Trip is (or should be) designed in such a way as to give the attendee a taste of what the destination, attraction or lodging entity has to offer.  These trips will likely be fast-paced, cramming as much in as possible. From sunup, to sundown. These trips will likely be short in duration, 1-4 days (1-2 days for a resort or attraction, 3-4 days for a destination). These trips would also likely be conducted in a large group (20-50 people), where individuals would need to stay within the heard and be confined to an agenda. A FAM trip is perfect for a travel agent or tour operator, it’s a terrible format for the travel blogger/journalist. In a FAM format the participants are mainly seeing things, not experiencing them. Travel journalists need the experience in order to evoke the types of emotions necessary for good storytelling.

Why a press trip is better than a FAM - by MikesRoadTrip.com

A press or media trip is (or should be) designed in a way so that travel journalists get introduced to sights, attractions and highlights, but leaving them enough time to flesh out a story, capture images or film footage. A press trip could be organized in different ways, but ultimately there needs to be free and flexible time to flesh out, discover, interview and capture a story , much more so than a FAM trip allows.

One way to achieve this might be to take journalists around in the morning or afternoon, leaving the other half of each day free to peruse on their own (or perhaps an entire free day at each stop of a press trip depending on the duration). A press trip should be a small group (3-5 tops), or individual. It’s also worth segmenting the types of influences being hosted. For example, trips should be organized with similar influencers. For example, traditional journalists in one group, photo journalists in another, bloggers in another group, and video folks in yet another group.

Traditional travel media writers often don’t take photos, but need time to interview and flesh out stories. In order for a photo journalist to capture stunning photos of your destination, they need the flexibility to to go back to a sight they saw earlier when the light is in their favor. Bloggers are often writing, taking photos and possibly vlogging. Video bloggers often need the most time of all. I have been on trips where I will spend 2-3 hours each night off-loading my photos and video footage from 3-4 different cameras and have to work into the wee hours of the morning, only to get up at first light and do it all over again.

So many destinations and attractions are short sided when looking at media attention. For example, many are just interested in getting a mention, or a link for their tourism partners, without looking at the long term benefits to quality storytelling. Due to the funding methods in which CVBs and DMOs obtain their operating capital, many are forced into FAM situations with journalists rather than a press trip. If you work for a DMO/CVB, I would highly recommend educating your tourism partners on the benefit of a press trip vs. a FAM. Many of us who have a fantastic time in your community will talk about it for years to come and often re-purpose content.

As a professional travel video blogger and publisher of MikesRoadTrip.com for nearly seven years, this is my two cents worth. I would love to hear from fellow journalists, PR professionals and CVB/DMO representatives. Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Mike Shubic

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Mike Shubic is a seasoned road trip travel video blogger, traversing the byways of the world looking for those hidden gems of the road. From unique destinations, unexpected discoveries, creative cuisine, intriguing inns to exciting attractions…the road is his page. The experiences are his ink. And every 300 miles, a new chapter begins. Whether you live vicariously or by example, Mike will do the exploring so you can have an adventure.

18 Comments

  1. Mike,
    This is so true! I hate it when the PR people get this mixed up and take us on one of those non-stop whirlwind tours where we can’t remember half the things we did! Less is more! We need the time to curate a story and to engage in social media while we are there!

  2. I so agree with this, Mike. So many times there are incredible experiences set up for me, but I want to be able to tell my readers what THEY might be able to experience while visiting a destination. I only find that out by exploring. And while it’s great if special experiences are set up for me, can my readers experience that, too? So many great points here. Thank you, Mike!

    1. Hey Kelly, thanks so much for sharing. You too make some great points. Perhaps we can keep the conversation going with other travel influeners and DMOs so that in the future we can obtain what both parties desire. See you soon. Safe travels.

  3. Mike – I would totally agree. I hate the “fam” concept. I usually prefer individual trips where I can create an experience and tell a story. If I am running from morning until night, I never have a chance to process the events. I never have a chance to tell the story properly. There needs to be a chance for me to find that special “wow moment” that makes this a unique place. I need to be able to tell my readers why they need to go to this location versus the millions of other places they could visit. If I’m dragging along, it’s not going to happen. We need time and less is definitely more.

  4. I completely agree! I’ve been on only a few fam trips (no press trips), and one of them in particular went so fast that I found almost nothing to write about on my blog. What many bloggers end up doing is a simple retelling, i.e. we did this, then we did that, etc. I much prefer to post about each individual sight or place and how I experienced it, but that doesn’t happen on a fam tour.

  5. Totally agree about slowing things down and having flexibility to spend more time in a space for content creation. For me, there’s nothing more frustrating than being at an incredible spot/activity and having terrible harsh light. But I am all about the photos 🙂

  6. Informative article. From the journalist side, of course I concur. I prefer working with brands with an understanding of this concept, allowing the free time, mostly in the evening, for note organizing, reflection, or media processing.

    Hopefully PR and DMOs will see this article.

  7. Hey Mike, this is very interesting and informative. Im just getting into blogging so I found this quite helpful. Thx, John!

  8. Not just brands even influencers get confused in the terminology. I agree FAM trips are utter wastage of time and resources. Luckily I have only done press trips so far. I don’t take any trip that takes away my freedom. I am not the one who will simply write I did this… I did that…I need to capture the hidden story. And thus I need time.

  9. Hey Mike,

    Thanks for this great article! You really hit the nail on the hat.

    We attended some FAM trips and decided not to do it anymore. You never have enough time to capture the videos you want and at the end of the day everyone is writing about the same experience.

    And I feel with you “spending 2-3 hours each night off-loading my photos and video footage from 3-4 different cameras”. We film in 4K which is enough to copy at night, so we never edit during the trip.

    Happy Travels

    1. Hey Ursula, my pleasure. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I indeed feel your pain, the off-loading of images and footage is very time-consuming. All the best, Mike

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