Your reputation is your biggest asset. And, while it can be lost in a second, cultivating positive public perception takes time and effort— especially for cities, states and regions. Understanding the tools PR pros use to accomplish this is the first step in boosting your reputation, increasing tourism and even spearheading economic development. So, what’s one of the best tools in our influencer outreach toolbox? Familiarization tours (or FAM tours for short).
A FAM tour is a trip designed to help travel writers and influencers become “familiar” with a destination. They highlight the best of what the destination has to offer at little or no cost to the travel writer.In return for promoting their experience, influencers generally expect most of their trip to be covered by the host. While travel expenses aren’t mandatory, influencers living more than two hours from the destination often request to be reimbursed for travel. A good rule of thumb: if you want them to write about it, you probably need to pay for it. There are two ways to organize a FAM tour: in groups or individually.
This option is excellent if you want to engage several writers at once. It’s also easier to facilitate, less time consuming and even slightly cheaper. However, group tours provide a less personalized experience and often exclude potential influencers because of schedule conflicts.
While group excursions have been the gold standard for years, influencers often prefer individualized experiences. According to a 2018 study, 57% of travel writers reported that they expect trips to be tailored to their needs and preferences. While individual FAM tours involve more legwork, it ensures each person has an experience that resonates personally, which will translate to their followers.
Influencer outreach is a great way to expand reach and boost awareness through a credible third party. A 2018 study revealed that 30% of consumers are more likely to buy a product recommended by a social media influencer than traditional brands or celebrities.
While travel writers and influencers can expand your destination’s reach, they also:
Best of all, travel writers participating in FAM tours often post about their experiences several times on social media and write at least one long-form article.
It’s important to know what you want your influencer outreach to accomplish before identifying and pitching travel writers. Are you interested in reaching young couples to promote your destination as a weekend getaway? Or do you want to position your community as a family destination? One great placement that reaches your target demographic may be more impactful than five placements that don’t.Taking time to understand your goals and objectives will make it easier to identify influencers who are a good fit. Get to know each writer’s online presence—paying special attention to post frequency, quality, engagement and overall following. Start with a simple Google search and, if don’t find what you want, try one of these eight free influencer identification tools.
While travel writers and influencers have agreed to write about your destination, they’re not obligated to write something nice. If they have a bad experience, they can — and likely will — write about it. So, it’s essential to button up the details to ensure they have a pleasant experience.Following these five tips can help ensure that your FAM trip is a success.
1. Triple Check the Itinerary
Pay attention to details like when businesses open and close and ensure that all reservations are correct. Taking the extra step to let businesses know when influencers will be visiting can also help ensure they have a great experience.
2. Discuss What You’ll Cover
Prevent possible confusion by ensuring that influencers understand what expenses you’re covering. Explain in writing what meals and activities are free of charge—and for how many people. It’s also important to discuss if meals will be comped afterward or if they will be given a stipend beforehand.
3. Communicate Clearly
Always reach out a few days before the trip to remind influencers of any important information, including itineraries, addresses, confirmation numbers and stipends. If you’re not providing a tour guide, make sure they have your phone number where they can reach you any time of day.
4. Help Them Tell a Story
A good story can transform a simple destination into a memorable landmark. For example, knowing that famous musicians like Madonna, Eminem and Stevie Wonder came from Detroit can instantly change the way tourists see the city. Helping influencers connect to stories about your destination will make their trip more exciting and their content more compelling.
5. Engage on Social
Make sure your organization is engaging with visiting influencers through social media. If they post a picture on social, be sure to like, comment and share it in real time. This helps you expand their reach while ensuring they’re using hashtags and social handles properly.