Travel writers and editors are constantly working with publicists. Sometimes publicists arrange for our travels to be comped entirely. More often they provide advantageous media rates at hotels and invite us on group press trips with other travel media people. Sometimes they ask us to do things we don’t want to do. And sometimes they are us – some journalists become publicists, after all.
How to navigate this relationship? There have to be rules. Here are four of them.
1. Get away from email. Meet publicists over coffee or a cocktail. Make them see you in the flesh and they’re more likely to think of you in the future.
2. On a related tangent, say please and thank you. This is really fucking important. A publicist has a job to do, and that job may very well involve helping you as you face an urgent need for information. At the very least demonstrate humility and appreciation when you’re asking for a key piece of information at the last minute. And remember that most publicists will remember being treated poorly by you. A successful publicist may also move agencies and end up serving a deep roster of clients. Your behavior today may matter tomorrow in a domino-effect sort of way. Be polite.
3. Set boundaries. What are you willing to do? Do you want to dine with a tourism minister? Do you want to go on those massive travel blogger junkets? Do you want to go on a cruise? Are you prepared to pay your own way? If you accept an invitation to do any of these things, are you willing to behave as expected once you’re engaged? Figure all this out. Think of this process as the work of developing your own internal behavioral code.
4. This goes to the heart of it all, I suppose. Know who you are. Unless you’re just starting out and you’re willing to take just about any opportunity thrown your way, you should know your shtick and your interests. Communicate what you’re about to publicists. If the publicists you deal with are any good, they will listen and make sure you don’t receive unwanted press releases and invitations. The most responsive publicist I know in London sent me an email prior to our first meeting. The best bit: “Tell me what you do and what you don't so I can help you.” Provide this information for publicists early in your relationship, whether they’ve prompted it or not.