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Media FAM (Familiarization) Trips are Well Worth the Time and Investment


Honey Lake Plantation Media Event

Honey Lake Plantation Media Event orchestrated by The Keer Group. Photo Credit Nancy Anisfield. From Left to Right: King Montgomery, Bob Williamson, Lars Jacob, John Thames, Tom Keer, Angela Keer, Kelly Waldrop, Ken Cook, Irwin Greenstein

Years ago, a media FAM trip was often synonymous with a boondoggle or a junket.  I recall one poorly orchestrated event that quickly deteriorated into something more closely resembling the movie Animal House.  A good time was had by some, many took offense, and the rest were dumbfounded by the whole experience.  It was no surprise that participants, me included, chose not to write about the event.  The venue and the manufacturers who orchestrated the event believed that if the media had a great time they’d write glowing reviews; in the end, too much focus was on fun instead of work.

Large-scale media FAM trips have largely gone away. Some of them died a quick death because of the costs associated with the frivolity and lackluster results while others disappeared due to a budget-tightening recession. One FAM trip disbeliever recently told me that the media could learn everything they needed to know from their website. No comp trips were offered, no products were field tested, and no expenses were incurred. In the same breath, the disbeliever complained about declining sales.

TKG just concluded what I believe to be our most successful media FAM trip yet. We held the event at Honey Lake Plantation, a gorgeous venue in Northern Florida. The event took a tremendous amount of planning, but the results were well worth the effort.

Below are a few key components we’ve found essential for a successful Media Fam Trip.

  1. Focus intently on the list of invitees. By combining editors, industry leaders & personalities, writers and photographers you’ll find that the group will work together to deliver an outstanding and diverse series of media messages. The client hosting the event wins every time.
  2. Set expectations. Having a clear set of expectations (for coverage as well as for conduct) creates a mutual understanding. Clarity and simplicity are key.
  3. Intersperse print representation with digital media.  Both still have a lot to learn from each other and a relaxed environment (i.e. out of a formal work environment) enables both groups to communicate candidly and openly. Common ground is more easily found.
  4. Circulate attendee bios to the group prior to arrivalOftentimes, folks invited to a FAM trip will not know each other but they probably have mutual friends in common. Include links to the attendees’ websites, recent publications, blogs, and such.  By doing so you’ll find that the event takes on an ‘old-home week’ attitude.
  5. Provide a pre-trip planning document to ensure a smooth arrival. Airport pick-ups and drop-offs, gear lists for field work, and recommended attire enables everyone to plan accordingly. It is embarrassing for an attendee to arrive at dinner in a tshirt and shorts when evening attire is expected.
  6. Create networking opportunities for the attendees that go beyond the scope of the event. Introducing a photographer to a magazine editor or art director or a venue to a relevant service provider enables group members to network beyond the confines of the event.
  7. Observe group dynamics. Change group pairings during morning and afternoon sessions until you find folks with synergy. Exchanges become more meaningful when a group is simpatico. When you find a group that is in alignment and has the perfect chemistry consider repeating a separate event in a different setting.  And add a few new members to the group to keep things fresh.

In the end, it’s about getting the job done. We’ve found that by keeping priorities straight, the fun just happens.  And the end results are a win-win for everyone.