Home Wine Business Editorial Hospitality Hosting a Successful Media Fam Trip: Experts Weigh in on What Works

Hosting a Successful Media Fam Trip: Experts Weigh in on What Works

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Hosted trips are about introducing your brand, building relationships and delivering a memorable experience for guests to share back home.

By Melanie Young

Familiarization (aka “fam”) trips are an effective way to introduce media and trade to a wine region and its producers. Like any organized tour, there are multiple moving parts and personalities. Every host wants things to run smoothly and produce tangible results. Here are some expert tips to make that happen.

Size and mix matter

“I design a trip to be like a well-rounded playlist that crosses genres of music,” says Christopher Taranto, communications director for Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. “It can’t be all metal or hip hop, and it needs good transitions. We try to limit the group to four to six writers. Smaller groups can sit at one table where the conversation can be heard by all. Also, it makes it a little more exclusive. When we bring in winemakers and other spokespeople, they can be one-to-one. And logistically, a smaller bus is less expensive and more nimble when going into vineyards.” 

Producers at a Roussillon tasting held at a wildlife park [Photo: Melanie Young]
Producers at a Roussillon tasting held at a wildlife park [Photo: Melanie Young]

It’s important to plan separate itineraries for writers and influencers whose approach to covering wine tours are different. Writers may not appreciate waiting for an influencer to stage a video shoot, for example — though mixing wine media and trade can work well. “I’ve seen journalists get first-hand insights from sommeliers and retailers on a trip to use for quotes in a story,” says Irene Graziotto, wine media strategist, Colangelo & Partners.

Advance work eases the journey

“Spend time learning about each attendee’s beats and interests. Ask about dietary restrictions and allergies and relay this information to wineries and restaurants,” shares Graziotto.

“I like receiving a detailed itinerary in advance, including the list of wineries, their websites and social media handles. It’s nice when the organizer sends packing tips noting weather conditions and which events are casual or dressy,” says Lisa Denning, a New York City-based wine writer. 

Organizers of a Loire Valley wine trip arrange vineyards tours by VW buses [Photo: Melanie Young]
Organizers of a Loire Valley wine trip arrange vineyards tours by VW buses [Photo: Melanie Young]

Hire a tour operator with 24/7 access (in case of delays) and whose transportation offers USB phone chargers and WIFI access so attendees can work. Stock the bus with bottled water, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, bug spray and a first-aid kit.

Keep arrival day low-key to accommodate people coming from different time zones and flights. A welcome aperitif and dinner with a selection of wines is sufficient. Hosts and vintners should wear name tags and have been provided bios on each attendee.

Keep the itinerary paced but not packed

Schedule adequate time for winery visits and don’t overbook. “Visiting too many wineries in one day is exhausting — and unfair to the last winery, as the journalists’ attention and palates are shot by then. An occasional four-winery day is unavoidable, but two or three visits is better and allows for down time before dinner,” says Denning.

“We also leverage visits. If the theme is ‘organic farming,’ we invite a few other brands to be a part of the visit to one producer’s vineyard/winery. They add to the conversation and extend the number of producers journalists meet,” says Taranto.

A wine seminar and tasting led by a local expert is always welcome. [Photo: Melanie Young]
A wine seminar and tasting led by a local expert is always welcome. [Photo: Melanie Young]

Mix cellar tours with guided excursions to historical landmarks, food markets and natural attractions to highlight the culture and heritage of the area. “Adding non-tasting related activities not only prevents fatigue, but also gives a fuller picture of the wine region the group is experiencing. Many writers pull information from many aspects of a trip, and we always want guests to get a fully immersive experience,” says Daylyn Weppner, public relations associate manager, Quintessential Wines.

Be prepared and accommodating

Consider safety and comfort. A vineyard lunch with no shade can leave guests — and wines — overheated. Always make sure bathrooms are available. Electric bicycle tours through vineyards sound fun, but mishaps can happen.

When guests descend from the bus, refrain from launching into the history of your winery in the parking lot. Give everyone time to get situated for note taking. Serving cheese and charcuterie at a tasting is welcome, but it’s not a meal replacement. Allocate time for balanced meals.

At Emidio Pepe in Abruzzo, sisters Elisa and Chiara Pepe present their family's wines. [Photo: Melanie Young]
At Emidio Pepe in Abruzzo, sisters Elisa and Chiara Pepe present their family’s wines. [Photo: Melanie Young]

Keep paper handouts minimal with a QR code option that includes the itinerary and a map, tasting book listing the wineries and contacts, flash drives with facts and photos. Foldable tote bags, backpacks and branded phone chargers are useful gifts; heavy books or breakable items are not. Consider small packages of local spices, pasta, olive oil or confiture. “The best gift I received was a bottle of wine delivered to my home the week after I visited the winery. It was great to try the wine again and pair with our dinner,” recalls Denning.

The trip is over. Now what?

Stay in touch. Send attendees follow-up information such as winery photos, tech sheets on wines tasted and importer information. Freelancers need time to pitch stories to editors; articles take time to be published. While everyone wants to see quick results, it’s important to understand that hosted trips are about building relationships and delivering a memorable experience for guests to share back home. Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth whenever it is delivered.

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Melanie Young

Melanie Young is a certified specialist of wine and co-host/writer for The Connected Table LIVE, a global podcast featuring conversations with thought leaders in wine, food, spirits & hospitality. Her articles have appeared in Wine Industry News, Wine Enthusiast and Seven Fifty Daily. She travels frequently to report on wine regions, people and events. IG@theconnectedtable

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