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How Not To Run A Travel Media Lunch

How Not To Have A Travel Media Lunch

It may be that I’m hypercritical, but I don’t think so.

After the umpteenth Travel Media/Press lunch,  I declined the last few simply because  they promised to be  photostatic copies of most every other press lunch held.

In spite of some web sites that offer advice most PR-driven media lunches still  mirror those held for travel content providers for years.

PR and Marketing firms who are members of  SATW (Society American Travel Writers),  arguably the most important (or self-important)  association of professional travel writers, should be getting   advice from the organization on how to manage this important tool in today’s content world.

Besides, they should  change their name from “Travel Writers” to “Travel Content Providers.”

Typically Press/Media luncheons  are held in a classy hotel.

The lunch is served on the kind of long table that makes real cross-conversation impossible.

The hosts from the presenting countries are always up front, at the head of the table, with the predictable power point presentation, or some other variation on the “show and tell” approach.

We listen to enthusiastic presentation about new hotels, attractions, museums.

We look at expensively prepared slides of people having fun; sleek new buildings or charming old streets with look-alike cafes or museums.

We’re treated to a fine meal, then more presentations from various partners like a hotel chain.

Worse, we’re given take-away bags jammed with obscenely expensive, glossy brochures and booklets highlighting every aspect of the destination’s attractions and appeal.

Sadly, if the presenters followed the media guests out, or to their homes, they’d find the bags and the costly brochures in the trash bins.

And no one’s the wiser.

May I suggest:

* Invite the travel media to sit at conversations areas where they can catch up with each other and compare notes, literally and figuratively.

* Skip the power point or slide show presentation! Instead ask the group what new travel trends they’re following.
Ask what’s new in the niches they cover.
Ask what new thoughts they have about the destination being presented.

In other words, engage the content people.

Find out what’s of interest, to them.  What matters, to them; what’s on their minds relative to the industry they cover?

Also forget the show and tell.

Use the event to gain information and insight, not present it.

Have a dialogue, not speeches or slides.

Skip the big lunch served by waitstaff. Sandwiches and fruit will do nicely.

Please ditch the expensive bags and brochures. Save the money and the trees.

Send information that the journalist or blogger is specifically interested in, or curious about. Target it.

The media lunch will be cheaper and more eco-friendly. The event will produce ideas and partnerships, conversation and dialogue, that will more directly help the destination and media.

Off and online journalists are seeking a richer give and take, hoping to break barriers, looking to inject life into an increasingly static travel event that should be bristling with new ideas.

About Kaleel


  1. Hi Kaleel:
    I just wanted to point out a couple of things – first that you won’t find disagreement with many of your views albeit they are pointing the finger at the PR/Marketing agencies with no recognition of the media’s role in this form of lunch. First – SATW actually does a great job of presenting as its annual marketplace, allowing media to sit across a small table from those entities they are interested in learning more about or writing stories on, asking questions, getting info, etc., one-on-one. Second – PR/Marketing firms do what is expected by the media. If the media was not happy with the approach you have criticized, they would not come. And we could all happily cost our clients a lot less money and have more productive lunch meetings as you describe. We would be happy to drop the expensive meals in favor of your approach (and do when it is appropriate) – can you get the media to drop the need/expectation? We can only guess how fast the media would pass the word about how the media lunch they went to for X was cheap, or lacked class, or etc.

    Last thought – self-important isn’t the best phrase to toss around as the travel media has its fill of self-important writers (communicators).

    Hope this helps to address both sides of this issue.

    • Thanks, Elliot…this article received quite a few reactions since it was also posted on Technorati, Tripatini and others.

      I think my main quarrel with your well-reasoned position is the idea that media expect a rather classy lunch, etc. The media have lost much of their importance and a great deal of their former clout. The power of social media has more or less democratized the media, or at least dethroned them.

      I suspect most working content providers are more hungry for discussion, trend alanyses, partnerships in developing content than they are fillet of haddock.

      I don’t mean to be facetious, but clients and media and travel professionals are a bit like the emperor’s new clothes these days: without much cover.

      So, I suggest assuming what you think and value, are as important as what you think the media want, and go ahead, reinvent the press lunch and the press release ( my other article) and watch the media, follow suit because they would like to get to a working reality and not follow an increasingly empty tradition.

      Always a pleasure to hear from you, however rare :)

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