The number of emails I receive about “FAM” trips is NUTS.

For those of you unfamiliar with this term, “FAM” is short for “Familiarization”. Brands have been known to take press and media persons on trips within India and abroad to “familiarise” them with the brand and products. In my experience, most of these trips are a whirlwind – you pack, you fly from your city to wherever ( usually in Economy Class alongwith 20 other people traveling for the same purpose ), you reach your destination, are taken to a hotel or other accommodation that the brand has arranged for, ( based on how senior the brand and its PR agency thinks you are you might ) check into a single or double-occupancy room, you eat lunch / dinner with the rest of the 20 people plus another 3-4 from the brand / PR, and you spend the next few days being driven in and out of brand / product facilities. If you’re unlucky, you might also be taken to different hotels for EACH MEAL PER DAY.

In return for this madness, you are expected to produce a certain number of “stories”. With traditional press / media, this meant mentions in print publications. With bloggers, this means a certain number of blog features and / or social media features. Some brands / PR agencies feel that blog features provide less value than print features so while they may ask the print media folk to produce one tiny article on an obscure page of their publication, the blogger might be asked to produce one blog feature per day of the entire trip plus a certain number of social media updates per day.

What the brands conveniently forget is that while media / press people have salaried job at a publication or might have been commissioned by a print publication to cover such a FAM trip, bloggers don’t. Bloggers charge for blog features and social media features. And we can go on a vacation whenever we want, thank you very much. So please stop the condescension by saying, “Oh it is all expenses paid and it will be a nice vacation for you!” I prefer to go on my vacations without a laptop and I like to eat all my meals in bed or sprawled next to a beach thank you very much.

FAM trips are work trips and regardless of how long print media folk have played along to this charade, I will not.

Remember? Blogging is my business? There’s expenses and revenues and profit?

If you’re going to sell your FAM trip proposal to me as a “vacation”, you’re not going to get anything more than what I’d do on a vacation i.e. NOTHING.

You want to familiarize me with your brand and product and how things work and how awesome your brand is? Hire me. I will do a better job than all the FAM trip results you’ve ever seen COMBINED. I’m hired for my photography and story-telling skills. Why in the world would I just give them away in exchange for 3-4 days of useless exercise, disturbed sleep patterns and long international flights, accompanied by people I have nothing in common with?

“But we are spending so much money on this FAM trip, we have to show some results!” Spend your money better. Hiring a professional to do their job will produce better quality results than that time you took a bunch of media people to Switzerland and even months after returning, you had not one piece in print media.

“All-expenses-paid” should also include my business expenses and opportunity cost for those number of days that I will be spending away from my desk and work-as-usual apart from the fee for my professional deliverables. When I want to go see the world, I take the boy and I go see it. I can take care of my own personal expenses. For work, you need to pay. It’s like hiring a photographer from India to shoot a gig in Canada and saying you’ll pay for flight tickets and accommodation and meals in Canada but you won’t pay anything else. ( I have received offers like this as well so there’s a long way to go when it comes to valuing the skills of an independent professional in India. )

PR professionals, next time your client asks you to organize a FAM trip, make a budget estimate and tell them how they can spend all that money WAY more effectively by actually hiring professionals who do their job well, instead of hiring someone just because they work at a print publication that is perceived to be “popular”. Reminder : Bloggers can actually show you exact number of their blog’s “circulation”, whereas a print publication’s circulation numbers continue to be speculatory estimates.

Bloggers, if you’re tempted to sign up to such gigs with brands, don’t forget that you sometimes sell similar gigs to your blog’s audience as “contest winner prizes”. Think about it. If the brand doesn’t expect a contest winner to deliver anything in return, why are YOU so keen to sell yourself short?


On the other hand, if you’re interested on sending me and the boy on an all-expenses-paid vacation, my email is 😀


More anecdotes and stories in the #WTFNaina series. ( These are all inspired by true stories. Some written emails, some from face-to-face meetings. They have all been piling up for years now and I’ve decided to put them to use! )

Photo above by Vincent Riba. License via Flickr.