Media Hosting 101

“To be a good host, you must also be a good traveler.”

—Kenneth Lander, THRIVE Farmers Co-Founder

Every story has a beginning, an origin. When a journalist has the chance to personally experience a brand’s process or foundation, it clarifies the lens through which he or she sees the brand. That’s why familiarization trips offer the perfect opportunity to share your brand story through experience.

THRIVE Farmers is changing the way you and I get our morning brew. This coffee company was birthed out of both necessity and a leap of faith after two entrepreneurs realized the brokenness of the coffee industry. The duo set out to change the economic reality for farmers across the globe. Other businesses latched onto this heart-driven ethos, and the brand grew more than 8,500 percent in three years, placing nineteenth on the Inc. 500 list this past August.

We had the privilege of traveling to Costa Rica, the birthplace of THRIVE Farmers, with the incredibly talented photographer, Michael George, for Inc. magazine’s September issue. If pictures say 1,000 words, an expert photojournalist can write a novel with his lens. Our job as communicators is to ensure the journalist has every opportunity to get that perfect shot.

So, in true See.Spark.Go fashion, here are our top #PRtips for hosting a successful familiarization trip:

Set expectations.

In any media coordination, it is important to find out as much information about the editor’s vision for the final piece as possible. The publicist’s job is to serve as the resource to all parties, so ask as many questions as necessary to be sure everyone knows where to be when and what the overall goals are.

How many days are necessary? What are the best flight times? Where should you meet at the airport? Where will you stay? How long is the commute from the hotel to your daily destination? What time of daylight is best for photos? What will the climate and weather be? What style does the photographer typically use? Can you help provide context for the destination with images before he or she gets there? When will the team eat? Do they need large breaks to tend to urgent emails? Will internet be readily available and what kinds of outlets do they use?

Answering these questions and more will help inform your schedule and avoid simple oversights from interrupting the success and productivity of your trip.

Be flexible.

Now that you have a crystal clear vision for all parties, throw rigid timeframes out the window. When was the last time you traveled without at least one unexpected interruption?

You never know when your photographer will need to scale a tree to capture the landscape or when your host will want to drive to his favorite spot to show you the Costa Rican sunset (no complaints here!).

Host everyone.

In the same way you would offer a visitor a drink in your home, you want to be sure you host everyone around you.

The best way to do this is to be sure you’re prepared with an “emergency everything” kit. Will there be bugs? Bring bug spray. Could someone cut themselves? Bring bandages. Will your team get hungry out in the field? Have snacks on hand.

If having an item on hand would make travel a little more comfortable for your host, your journalist or your subject, bring it along. This includes bottled water since we all can use the extra hydration. This extra preparation will pay off, promise!

Tell the story.

Our goal was to showcase the story of THRIVE Farmers from farm to cup—through sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, laughter, tears and dusty roads. Co-founder and Chief Sustainability Officer Kenneth Lander brought us to a few of the very first THRIVE Farmers’ hillside crops and breakfast tables to share the story’s beginnings. 

We hiked through the coffee trees, touched the waxy leaves and ate homegrown mango with tortillas and gallo pinto. We pet kittens, met farm hands and jostled our way down country roads in a pickup truck bed. Farmers looked into the photographer’s eyes with sincere pride for their coffees and thriving crops, knowing they are the faces for something much bigger than themselves. Cuppers shared about the process with which coffee is tested to ensure utmost quality in a scientific lab. With every turn, Ken shared some piece of Costa Rican history or his own funny memory from a particular town.

The trip was steeped with purpose, and our photographer walked away with a deeper appreciation for his coffee than any email pitch could ever provide. He got it because he experienced it from farm to cup.

Have fun.

Remember, you’re experiencing the story too! Be sure to soak in the little moments. Ask about what most interests you as it could lead to something significant for future storytelling opportunities. The more you learn, the better you’ll be able to share. And, don’t neglect your own lens. Personally share the story as it unfolds (but be sure you’re allowed to before you post!). Volunteer to hold the light reflector or stand in if the photographer needs to test out his lighting, and drink in every drop of the experience.

Say thank you.

Public relations, relating to the public, is founded on hundreds of personal relationships. We get to develop friendships with the people who hold the microphones of the world.

Whether the founder of a brand, a reporter on deadline or a coffee farmer, every person we interact with followed a dream, worked hard when no one noticed and took a risk to get where they are today. Our greatest privilege is to acknowledge just how much their work matters.

A hand-written note goes a long way. A swag bag allows the journalists to fondly remember their experience every time they pick up that mug or wear that T-shirt. A signed photo from the photographer to the subject creates a lasting connection that reaches far beyond the article. Gratitude marks the experience.