Researching for FAM Trips: Getting to Know a Country You’ve Never Been To Before You Get There

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring a three-part series on how to propose, research, and write for sponsored press trips. Kristin, who is currently in Taiwan on a special press trip sponsored through the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, will be reporting on these topics from her perspective, as this is her first official FAM trip. If you’ve ever wanted to know how to propose a press trip to a tourism bureau, here’s exactly what you need to know. Enjoy!

Here’s the scenario: You have been in contact with a tourism bureau you’re interested in writing/blogging for, and they’ve asked you for a detailed, day-by-day itinerary of your proposed trip so they can decide if you’re the right candidate for their current promotional project. You’ve never been to this particular country before (let’s face it: you’ve never even been to the continent it belongs to!), and yet, the bureau needs your itinerary—which will include a budget breakdown as well—in exactly one week. You know you need to put something impressive together, as you don’t have a huge social media following yet and you’re only blogging consistently for a few places. What do you do? Where do you start? How do you put a proposal together that will catch their eye, actually make logical sense, and put together a relatively genuine budget forecast?

Never fear—if I can do it, anyone can. (Not only am I a terrible planner, but I’m also the most directionally-challenged person on the entire planet and I have a completely naïve sense of what things cost). So, grab a notebook, power up your computer, and do the following:

Step One: Tourism Bureau Website.

First, check out the country’s tourism bureau website. Most likely, they’ll have lists of interesting itineraries for you to use as a starting place (Taiwan’s site, for instance, has a whole list of travel suggestions). Take a look at how they’ve sketched out their suggested trips, and pick out a few sites/places that sound interesting to you based on the niche you’re trying to establish. You can use these intersections as jumping-off points as you continue planning. At this point, though, don’t worry about anything other than pinpointing a vague idea of what you’d like to write about (culture, sports, cuisine, romance, shopping, adventure, etc.) and a few places/ideas that might fit into the theme you’re interested in pursuing.

Step Two: Find Bloggers.

Next, do a quick web search and find out who else is blogging about this place. Put yourself in contact with that person (no shyness acceptable when it comes to travel writing!) and ask if you can call him/her to discuss potential itineraries. You

Promoting outdoor activities in Taiwan is our itinerary's primary focus

never know what might happen when you do this. Tim recommended I speak to adventure writer Matt Gibson, who lived in Taiwan for seven years, and after a few correspondences, we proposed a dual itinerary for the Taiwan Tourism Bureau based on both of our strengths as writers—and soon enough, here we are in Taiwan!

Step Three: Buy Guidebook & Start Budget.

Then buy a guidebook. Lonely Planet’s guidebooks are always a popular choice, as they typically map out suggested itineraries so you can decide, for instance, if your ideal trip from Taipei to Kenting in one day is actually geographically possible (it wasn’t). Also, here’s when you’ll want to start creating your budget: flip through the guidebook and write down general prices for public transportation, accommodations, restaurants, and activities. Figure out what you want to spend each day and break this down accordingly on an Excel spreadsheet. No doubt you’ll have to alter this later, but at this point in the process, you’re simply offering a general set of guidelines you’d like to follow during your trip.

Step Four: List Guaranteed/Potential Outlets.

Then, make a list of all the ways you can personally promote your trip—before, during, and after. After all, you need to create momentum, sustain it, and then reflect on your experience, all while keeping your readers interested and engaged. Think about these questions as you work on this part: What social media sites or outlets do you frequently use, and can you justify using them on your trip? Where do you currently blog/write and how are those places ranked? (Try downloading and using Alexa if you have no idea how your sites rank). Where would you like to blog/write? What kind of Google analytics data can you find and offer for these places?

Step Five: Send It In & Get Ready to Revise.

Send off your proposal and be open and ready for suggestions and revisions from the bureau. After all, you’re about to be sent on a beautiful journey to do what you love most—and get paid to do it!

More next week, but until then, greetings from Taipei!


Posted in May, 2012 by Kristin Mock.

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