BY: Linda Kissam, President & Former SoCal RMC
Thank you for volunteering or considering becoming a Regional Membership Coordinator (RMC). You’ve asked for some guidelines and instructions to help you get a sustainable program launched. Below are my recommendations. They are based on what is working for me in Southern California. Your area may have different needs. You may have different ideas. That’s fine. Start here and develop the program that best fits your member’s needs.
The RMC luncheon and overnight program is an abbreviated version of larger press trip programs. This shorter format allows resident restaurants, lodging and activities an opportunity to interact with local IFWTWA members. This is an excellent promotional vehicle for properties that cannot provide an airfare allowance or host larger groups or longer stays, but do want to promote their properties to active journalists. It is also the perfect vehicle for members who cannot leave their homes for extended periods of time because of family or work-related issues. It also allows for face to face networking opportunities – something my group especially wanted.
In this format, regional lunches are kept to 15 or less members and potential members for lunch or dinner, and 12 or less members for an overnight stay with complementary activities. A hotel, restaurant, or attraction may want to team up with the local visitor’s bureau or chamber of commerce for additional ideas and assistance, or vice versa.
Each host will receive a minimum of one article, video or slide show per IFWTWA attendee. Since many of our journalists are into social networking, I ask that attendees provide added “day of” content and promotion through their social media outlets. This request is in addition to producing a print or online article. The hosts love this activity and see first-hand the immediate results social media efforts provide. The SoCal group is especially good at day of and post trip social media exposure.
All participants sign a contract agreeing they will abide by the IFWTWA Code of Conduct. All participants are expected to take part in all activities unless otherwise mutually agreed upon. When an adventure activity is offered, it is nice if the host provides an alternative venue as an option. All participants send a link to their articles as they are published to the RMC. The RMC sends the links to the host. All participants are expected to publish. If they do not come through, their applications are not approved for future trips or luncheons. That has not been a problem with my group for the last 3 years. Most publish or broadcast more than one article in addition to many blog posts.
Planning Process – Luncheons
Decide in advance how much “area” you want to cover and how many regional events you are willing and able to do. My area ranges from San Diego to Ventura, but if I saw an opportunity to do something just a bit farther out, I would do it and invite our Northern California members along with our SoCal members to it. Three events a year work for me now. When I first started out, I did one. The process becomes easier as you do more.
I began with a facility I was quite familiar with. I already had extensive media contact with them and felt confident they could produce an event with me that would be well organized and memorable. That facility was a winery. I developed an itinerary with timelines for the luncheon and presented it to the owners. The proposed itinerary was simple.
|11:00 a.m.||Check-in and a Champagne Networking session begins. All property principles and luncheon guests attend.|
|11:30 a.m.||Site tour led by the owner or manager. If no site tour is available, move the start time up.|
|12 Noon||Luncheon starts – Welcome by RMC Coordinator. Update on IFWTWA. Beverage and salad is on table.|
|12:15 p.m.||Speech by owner, chef, manager, etc on vision for facility or whatever they wish to speak about.|
|12:35 p.m.||Lunch is served|
|1:35 p.m.||Final closing comments by RMC and facility representative|
|1:45 p.m.||Pictures, interviews, questions, etc.|
|2:00 p.m.||Event is over.|
The “ask” was simple. I did that one via a telephone call, now I do all my “asks” via a very simple email. Would they provide a luncheon for up to 15 pre-qualified journalists? Would the owners please attend and explain their vision for their facility as a travel destination for food, wine and other activities? Would they please provide a media kit and if possible a bottle of wine or other “memento” for the journalists to take home?
I explained most of the journalists would be IFWTWA members, a few would be potential members. Attendees would be either writing an article or providing social media posts “live” during the event. I would be responsible for sending out the invitations and screening the candidates. The winery could review the list and veto anyone on it. I would be sending the links to the articles to their PR person.
Once the hosts had reviewed my proposed itinerary and agreed to the general idea, they are offered the opportunity to revise the itinerary as best suits their needs. After the host and RMC come up with a final itinerary of what they wish to showcase, the IFWTWA Regional Coordinator sends an invitation to all local members and potential member guests. I got my invitation list by doing a state search on the members profile page. I then made a separate data base, adding and subtracting members as they join or do not renew. I also posted an invitation on the IFWTWA LinkedIn and Facebook pages.
The host(s) covers meals and usually the tips. If they don’t cover the staff tips, I will collect money up front. This should all be explained in your invitation so there are no surprises. If you do not collect in advance you will be paying your share and someone else’s. Many people do not carry cash or will not want to contribute for their own reasons.
Once I have the registrations, I go through them. I look to see that the applicant is currently publishing, their IFWTWA Web page is up-to-date and that they have a complementary outlet to publish their article. If they do not meet the requirements (which I list in the invitation), I turn them down with an explanation. If there is enough time, I will give some grace time to fix the problem.
I provide the host with a spreadsheet that shows the name and contact information, outlet, and profile link for each approved applicant. The host has the right to determine which applicants to accept for the event, or the Regional Coordinator can do all of this if desired if the host has no interest in the selection process. Journalists who meet the host’s vetting are then notified of acceptance by the IFWTWA Regional coordinator. At the current time there is no fee to the host or the attendees for this opportunity. This program is considered part of the benefit package each member receives.
An IFWTWA Regional Coordinator or Board Member always accompanies the group as tour leader and acts as the “point person.” If the RMC Coordinator or a Board Member cannot attend, then the RMC chooses an IFWTWA member from the group to be in charge on the day of the event.
Planning Process- Overnight Trips
The process is exactly the same for the overnight trips. Decide what you want, when you want to do it, develop a proposed itinerary and contact the business. I often decide who I want to work with now by reviewing press releases. A hotel or CVB that is trying to get my attention is already in the mind set for funding a media event. I simply hit the reply button and say, “I see you are looking to promote your property. As Vice President and SoCal Regional Membership Coordinator for the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), I can bring local jounalists to your facility.
I am the 1st Vice President of the IFWTWA www.IFWTWA.org. The Southern California chapter of the IFWTWA often coordinates 1-2 night press trips to introduce their members to local tourist attractions. I coordinate that effort.
I’d like to see if you are interested in hosting 6-12 accredited journalists this year for a 1-2-night press trip. There is no fee charged on our part. We simply ask that you plan and host a 1- 2 overnight event that focuses on all the wonderful activities like you have listed in your press release. The day generally starts at 11 am with a networking cocktail event, facility tour of the host hotel, lunch, then an evening dinner activity. Day 2 is filled with morning and afternoon activities. If the press trip ends on day 2, the journalists leave around 2 pm. If it extends one more day please add in another evening activity on day 2. The journalists have one or two morning activities on day 3 and drive home around 1 pm.
I will handle the invitation and initial screen process once I get a date and itinerary from you. You will have final itinerary and press partner selection. There is always an IFWTWA group leader on the trip to ensure a smooth event. Every journalist is encouraged to do social media during the trip and required to write a minimum of one article. You can see more here: http://ifwtwa.org/hosting-an-ifwtwa-regional-lunch-andor-1-2-day-press-trip
Linda Kissam, 1st VP IFWTWA
SoCal Regional Membership Coordinator
Ready to Start?
I’ve given you the basics. If I haven’t covered any area you need assistance with, email me at LindaKissam@aol.com.