Here’s what really goes down on these blogger press trips.
“You’re going where?
… With who? Why?
You’re so lucky.”
… Ahhh, yes.
These are the questions and such that I get from my friends and family — every time I travel with or on behalf of a brand.
They’re kind of hard to answer, because, well — yeah. I absolutely agree and I know I’m lucky to be able to do (and share) this (with you).
Cool though they are, press trips are a lot of work — before, during and after. (And before I move on, it’d be remiss to my fellow blog babes if I didn’t acknowledge that it takes a lot of work to get to this point… So don’t stress if you’re reading this and you’ve never been on one)
There is a lot expected of you and it’s very rare that you have much down-time — if at all.
Anyway, a little behind-the-scenes and some advice for you to takeaway for today.
I want this to be insightful and relevant for you — whether you’re just curious about how it works or you’re wanting to do the same thing in the near-future — so feel free to ask your follow-up questions in the comments below.
And if you’ve had any experience in the category/on press trips, please chime in! I love, love, love reading your comments.
All right. So:
Do you remember a few weeks back when I went to Sarasota for the day?
A quick debrief, either way: Tropicana invited me to their home base in Sarasota to celebrate their 70th Anniversary with a handful of other health and lifestyle bloggers.
It was an awesome, jam-packed trip, but recapping these types of events after-the-fact can be boring – mainly for you guys – so I thought I’d take a different approach.
It’s so much more fun to turn my experience into something that’s valuable, insightful or helpful for you.
If you’re an AOT reader, you’ll have some insight as to what I’m doing behind-the-scenes when I travel. If you’re building your own blog and brand, you’ll have a solid foundation of knowledge under your belt to be better prepared for your first (or next) press trip or brand collab.
I’ll tell you all about the experience first, then I’ll answer some of the FAQ’s I get asked around sponsored trips or partner travel.
Wednesday AM | The Trip (There)
I arrived in sunny Sarasota mid-afternoon on Wednesday — despite it being a 23-hour trip (a girl’s gotta teach some SoulCycle), it was a welcome reprieve from cold and windy Chicago… And as a random side-note, Sarasota may be the smallest airport I’ve ever set foot in. There were 10 gates total, I think. Charming little beach town!
You know the warm-and-fuzzy feeling you get when you turn on your phone after having it on airplane mode and it buzzes with notifications?
Yes! So popular!
Well mine was I actually got a push notification reminding me to check in for my return flight home as soon as I landed. Ha!
Wednesday Afternoon | The Chemical Peel
I was scheduled to meet one of the brand’s representatives (from their marketing agency) downstairs in less than 15 minutes, so I charged my phone, washed my face and made my way down.
I joined a few of the girls in the waiting room of the spa (there were nine of us total), and they filled me in on what I’d missed the morning upon my mid-afternoon arrival.
We indulged in hour-long sessions of Vitamin C facials to kick off our experience — and it was all about “the power of orange” to boost collagen synthesis and repair damaged skin. What I found the most interesting was seeing my dehydration spots underneath a black light.
Hit that H2O hard this weekend, ladies — and here‘s a post to inspire you to do so.
Post-peel, my face felt amazing — as you can see above. I’d never had a chemical peel — and I’m probably not supposed to say this, but don’t I look hig-…
Yeah, I won’t say it… But you know.
I was beginning to notice that everything they’d planned for us over the trip was orange-related or somehow subtly tied back to Tropicana – the details were really thoughtful.
Wednesday Evening | The Dinner
On the agenda that evening was a four-course menu of Tropicana-inspired recipes.
I found myself pressed for time yet again (press/media trips often run on a very tight schedule), so I threw on a beachy sleeveless dress and went to meet the group — my skin felt so good that I couldn’t imagine covering up with makeup. Bless you, Vitamin C!
Side-note: It is essential that you master the art of creating a tried-and-true topknot, ladies. Dry shampoo is the game-changer.
The dinner setting looked like it was straight off a Pinterest board — why can’t I make my table settings look like this?
Our plates were adorned with oranges (name tags included!), the cocktails were all Tropicana-based, and the aesthetic set by the sunset made for the perfect setting.
Everything on the menu was, of course, tied back to the brand. Tropicana-inspired cocktails, entrees and yes, even dessert. It was so cool how the Chef had found a way to work orange flavor into his signature recipes.
Wednesday (Late Evening) | The Work
I finally fell back onto my bed around 11 p.m., and the guilt of having ignored my inbox all day began to engulf. I crawled under the covers an opened my laptop, browsing my e-mail, making sure I had met the day’s social requirements (for Tropicana) and ensuring I had everything I needed to go tomorrow.
It’s times like that I have to remind myself that I’m not on vacation — I’m working. And I will be until the wee hours of the night, in all likelihood — editing photos, logging social media stats and so on.
I finally gave into my heavy eyelids around 2:30 a.m. – we had to be down to breakfast around 6:30 a.m. and we had to check out of the hotel prior to then.
Thursday Morning | The Tour
Damn, that alarm came early.
We loaded onto a small bus and drove to Tropicana’s Orange Groves in Bradenton, not too far from our home base. I settled into one of my BFFs, Julia, who I hadn’t seen in the last six months – and neither of us knew the other was coming, so that was a treat.
We set off to explore the orange groves with two of the farm’s guides, and I swear second you stepped off the bus, you could smell the fresh orange flavor.
They picked fresh oranges during our walk, sliced off the tops and made us what they called “Nature’s Juice Boxes.” When you squeezed the orange, fresh juice would come up. It was so damn good!
Thursday Afternoon | The Packaging Process
During the afternoon, we got a chance to walk through Tropicana’s packaging plants — so we quite literally went grove-to-glass that day.
I was blown away by just how many bottles of this orange-flavored goodness are produced in a day. It’s one of those things where your starts to hurt when you try to stop and process it. You know?
The oranges come from the grove (that we were just at) and are dispersed directly into the processing plant.
As they’re rinsed and washed, there are people who physically sit and watch the conveyor belt to remove any odd looking oranges or anomalies – dead fruit, big branches, bugs (!), etc. I thought for sure the one was sleeping – how could you look at that for hours on end? (Dedication… Respect!)
Thursday Evening | The Trip (Home)
After a quick bite of lunch – orange, themed, of course – we ventured back to the hotel where the group dispersed. Most of the girls went back to the pool, but I grabbed my luggage and headed back to the airport.
I’ll spare you the rest of the actual travel portion of the story (as it gives me anxiety just thinking about it), but we were delayed, delayed, delayed (of course). I cut it really close to missing my SoulCycle class, but the traffic gods were on my side that night.
That was lot… And all in 22 hours. So, press trips are fun – and when thoughtfully executed, really awesome – but they are a lot of work too. Tropicana’s Grove to Glass tour was one of the best I’ve been on; I think in large part because I’ve always had such a consumer-level connection to the brand.
So, here’s a bunch of questions I get around these things:
What exactly is a press trip?
Basically, when a brand wants to promote or highlight something they have to offer, they’ll tap a handful of relevant bloggers (or “influencers,”) to amplify.
Your accommodations, agenda and activities are often planned in advance for you, usually by the agency or company they’ve partnered with to help their marketing efforts.
The mix of “influencers” can include magazine editors, freelance journalists, bloggers and everything in between, but Tropicana specifically wanted to utilize health and lifestyle “influencers” to reach a specific audience.
What’s it like?
In a word, busy.
They’re often packed to the brim with meetings, tours and other things to see, eat and do.
That all sounds great, I know – and it is – but one thing you usually don’t have is downtime. It’s really fun, but it can be very exhausting – especially when you remember that the rest of your life still needs some attention.
When I arrived at the hotel (if you didn’t read above), the concierge handed me an agenda that broke down everything the trip had in store.
Do they tell you what to blog about?
No, and that’s why brands like to work with bloggers – they can explain in their own words why something is relevant or great on their own channels. (Or why it’s not – and I have been on some pretty poorly planned press trips.)
So in other words, a press trip allows certain types of media peeps to experience something or somewhere first-hand so they can share it – honestly – through their channels with their audience.
Have you ever been on a bad one?
Do you still post about it?
Nope. No way.
I mean, how pissed would you be if I “recommended” a hotel or destination to you and when you got there, you had an awful experience? We’ve been friends far too long for me to do that to you.
When I got home, I called the agency (who’d planned my experience) and explained what I didn’t think was ethical and why I wasn’t comfortable sharing it. It’s weird moral dilemma, because you feel bad and almost obligated to “give back” since they invited you to tour their property, but you just can’t. It’s irresponsible.
Think of it this way: If you had a really bad first date, Do you go back for a second date anyway just because of that? No, right? (I hope not, at least!)
Ultimately, here’s what made Tropicana’s 70th Anniversary celebration work — successful for them, relevant and engaging for all of us:
- We were involved. The Grove-to-Glass experience was really hands-on – and while we were socializing the experience across our social platforms, we really weren’t online much all day. I love that.
- It was thoughtful. Everything from the custom orange notebooks they gave us upon checkin to the Tropicana-inspired cocktails and orange-themed details at each meal, you could tell there was a lot of thought and effort put into this.
- It wasn’t competitive – at all. Sometimes if bloggers are all within the same niche (fashion, I’ve found), it can become a subtle numbers game. This was a really cool mix of laid-back ladies.
- And lastly, it was relevant. I just like the brand! You grew up with Tropicana, no? I’ve been drinking it forever (often during brunch and mixed with champagne, admittedly). Busy or not, having a chance to see the process from start to finish (or Grove to Glass) was really cool.
What other questions do you have about press trips? Or this one in general?
In partnership with Tropicana