Here’s how a FAM Tour works: A public relations practitioner schedules a number of journalists (preferably writers/broadcasters who cover towns for economic development or tourism and travel) to come to town at the same time. The trip is paid for by the host town or destination being featured by the journalists along with the restaurants, hotels and attractions they will see while they are in town. The 15 to 20 (sometimes more, sometimes less) journalists will then go back and produce stories about their trip – hopefully telling their readers/viewers that the town is amazing and a must-see destination.
While FAM Tours may sound like a great way to showcase a town or destination, there are more than a few gaping holes in this approach. With the rise of the internet and the struggles most newspapers are having, the quality of journalists participating in FAM Tours has dropped dramatically in recent years. Most legitimate media outlets will not permit their reporters to take a free tour – which excludes many high-value media targets right out of the gate. Also, journalists HATE the concept of getting the same exact story as 15 or 20 other journalists – which flies contrary to the entire concept of a FAM Tour.
To make the whole FAM Tour concept even sleazier, many of the large national public relations firms that specialize in FAM Tours now require journalists who want to participate in awesome tours of Aspen, New York City, Orlando, New Orleans, and other travel hotspots to first cover FAM Tours to towns like Des Moines, Canton, Omaha, Chattanooga, etc. This leaves many FAM Tour journalists simply faking interest and tolerating one tour so they can get to the FAM Tour they are truly interested in – and the coverage from these “required”
In light of the significant challenges outlined above (real reporters not being permitted to accept free trips and the fact that respected journalists hate the concept in its entirety), public relations “pros” have lowered the bar on what they consider “high value media targets” for their customers. The end result is that many “journalists”
The only reason this kind of scam continues is that most clients never do their homework on FAM Tour participants. Public relations firms know that as long as they have breathing bodies on their FAM Tours, the client will believe it’s a success. It is one of the most pervasive and blatant rip-offs in the industry … and anyone who does a little digging can find out what a colossal waste of time and money it is.
Over the past twenty years, I have found that for far less investment, one can target a high-value journalist from a respected media outlet, pitch a story specifically tailored to his/her audience and areas of interest, and bring him/her to town for a one-on-one tour designed entirely around that publication/
A series of large features in high-value media outlets delivers far greater visibility for a client while reducing the cost. And a feature story from a major national media outlet is infinitely more valuable than 15 or 20 stories in tiny local publications or on blogs no one reads. (Clarification:
I have successfully used this approach to attract publications including New York Times, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Constitution Journal, Charlotte Observer, USA Today, Parade Magazine, People Magazine, Southern Living, etc. This highly targeted approach also worked to get coverage by MTV Productions, National Geographic Channel, BBC/Channel One, the Travel Channel, ABC News, CNN and Walt Disney Productions. None of these outlets would have had any interest at all in a traditional FAM Tour.
Finally, the real estate market may be struggling, but Realtors are a creative bunch that may have found a solution to the old, tired and no longer viable “traditional”
If you Google “virtual city tours”, you will find many other examples. Most have a decided travel & tourism focus. You can also read a thought-provoking piece by The Burghard Group (http://strengtheningbrandamerica.com/
If you are paying for traditional FAM Tours, you should do some investigating right now. Ask who the journalists are, who the media outlet is, what the circulation/