There's a lot of talk going on at the moment about IT journalists being sent on overseas trips. These "junkets", as they're often called, are perceived in wildly different ways depending on which side of the fence you were born (or fell, as the case may be).
It generally works like this: Acne Engineering decides that it needs a higher profile, and the best way to get it is to show journalists around its head office in Kentucky. So it invites a few journos over for a look. In an ideal world, it'd be able to invite as many people as it needed to, and there'd be no suggestion of the journalists having to write anything in particular. The end benefit to Acne would be a better understanding of its company, better lines of communication, and hopefully, a fair coverage of Acne in the future.
But things are never that smooth.
Understandable cost constraints raise questions like: how many publications to invite (and who can be safely left out); will they go if we only send them economy class; do we pick up all their costs or just those associated with official functions; do we ask them how much coverage we can expect in return.
Cost to publication
To balance this equation, remember the cost for the publication. Sending someone on one of these trips usually means losing them for an entire week. Despite the stories that might come from the trip, and the knowledge and experience they gain, it's essentially non-productive time. That's why some publications now have a test they apply to trips before accepting them.
In case you're wondering what annoys journalists and their editors, here are a few examples:
The invitation is to attend a major trade show such as Comdex, yet the journalists are all but locked away with the vendor and aren't allowed to see the rest of the show.
The invitation comes with only a few days to spare. This means the publication is a late substitution after someone else pulled out.
The plane arrives at San Francisco at 11pm. At six the next morning everyone is piled on a bus for a long commute to Silicon Valley. After three days of this everyone is bussed back to the airport late in the evening after having checked out of their rooms at six in the morning.
Instead of flying direct, the trip involves stopovers in two or more out of the way airports, with extended periods spent in airport lounges.
Being asked to fill in a pre-trip report, explaining what coverage will come from the trip, and in which issues. (Rare, thankfully).
Being put up at an expensive hotel where the journalist has to foot the bill for all hotel meals.
Notwithstanding any of the above, a well-organised press trip can be rewarding for both the sponsor and the journalist and publication. A suggestion to vendors and PR companies: ring the editor first and bounce your ideas around. After all, they're practically human.