7 steps to create a content trip plan

Country music legend Johnny Cash sang it best, “I’ve been everywhere, man … crossed the deserts bare, man … breathed the mountain air, man … travel, I’ve had my share, man.” At Two Rivers Marketing, we’re very fortunate to work for clients who embrace content marketing and understand the value of going everywhere to gather the success stories of their hardworking customers and dealerships.

As content marketers, we go where the products and people lead us … whether it’s to landscaping jobs deep in south Texas or construction projects up in the far reaches of the Yukon Territory, and even to winter’s fury in Mammoth Lakes, California, where we captured a long-time customer’s business journey through 20 feet of snow in 20 days.

Collect valuable assets

I plan and go on many of these content trips for my client, and I can easily say they’re not fact-finding expeditions — that’s done well before we step onto an airplane. Of course, we’re flexible to adjust to changing priorities in the field — and there are always surprises — but the trips are methodically planned in advance because we know what imagery and interviews we need to get and where they’ll be used.

The goal of any good on-site trip is to maximize our photographer and videographer resources to gather content — assets that we’ll package into educational, informative, and entertaining content for our clients’ channels. And we know there’s real value in sharing these authentic customer and dealer stories.

  • According to research from Gartner Inc., 70 percent of buyers prefer customer stories and case studies to learn how companies are different from their competitors, and 92 percent of people will trust a recommendation from a peer.

For example, one of our talented teams developed that snow removal customer video:

It achieved 200,000 views, along with 500 shares and 2,000 likes on Facebook — in the first week it was posted. That’s phenomenal engagement that can only be sourced by putting on your boots and getting out to the people and places where the work happens.

As you plan your next content mission, consider these key planning steps:

Define the content needed and how it will be used

Once you identify the stories you need to tell and the channels you’ll use, the initial scope of the trip can begin to take shape. Our clients’ products, seasons, and markets provide most of that definition, but a good general guideline is a channels checklist that includes:

  • Branded loyalty publications
  • Blogs
  • Corporate websites
  • Social media platforms
  • Dealer print and digital content
  • Media relations
  • Product literature
  • Employee communication
  • Advertising

Find, map, and vet leads

A content trip can start with one good lead and be built around it, or it may start with multiple leads. Tap into your lead-generating resources and Google Maps, and start visually charting the territory and the logistics of an agenda. The best stories involve leads who are vetted with pre-trip phone interviews that help us:

  • Learn their unique story
  • Request photos to verify equipment and its condition
  • Pinpoint job sites/availability

Determine the team and type of trip

Not every trip needs a full content team, such as a writer, photographer, videographer, or social media expert. And not every trip requires interviews or “Facebook Live” segments. It may only make sense to assign a photographer to complement a phone interview, or certain photographers and videographers can shoot footage and conduct interviews to trim expenses. Based on your pre-trip interviews, intended channels, and budget, consider these types of trips:

  • Photos only
  • Photos, video, and interviews
  • Photos, video, and daily social posts/stories=

Use the tools of the trade

If there’s an expectation for interviews and interesting B-roll footage, make sure your experts have access to a variety of equipment to get the quality and creativity today’s viewers demand. And if you want jaw-dropping aerials, hire a commercially-certified drone pilot. Here’s a shortlist of today’s high-impact tools:

  • Mountable action camera
  • Mini steady cam (handheld gimbal)
  • Drone
  • Wireless microphone
  • Mobile lighting kit
  • Cell phone and audio recording app
  • Wi-Fi or mobile hot spot for on-the-go social posting

Organize trip logistics

Take time to create a trip overview document that walks the content team and client stakeholders through the trip. It should not only contain the agenda and travel details, but also the shot list that usually includes photos and video of working product, customers, and dealers, job sites, and imagery that gives readers/viewers a look behind the scenes, the local environment, or a day in the life. Typical trip overview elements:

  • Travel and lodging details
  • Trip agenda
  • Contact information
  • Job site and dealership maps
  • Customer/dealer background and equipment list
  • Shot lists
  • Interview questions
  • Safety requirements checklist
  • Social media account information and post templates
  • International customs information if necessary
  • Consent forms

Loop in stakeholders

At least one week out from the departure of the content team, email all key stakeholders individually to share the agenda and any other information they need. For instance, dealership representatives can benefit from your full trip overview, and they and customers give better interviews when they have questions in advance. Photographers and videographers crave everything, but especially the shot list, and it’s ideal to schedule a trip walk-through with them over the phone.

Develop an asset management plan

Before the trip, develop a plan to manage the volume of assets that will be downloaded so you can quickly and easily find them for creating future content. It’s not uncommon for a shoot to generate thousands of photos and hours of video. These are top working considerations:

  • Agree with photographers and videographers on a timeframe and system for asset sharing, such as flash drives, DVD, FTP sites
  • Assign team members to download photo/video, assign keywords and create contact sheets, log video clips, and create a post-trip slideshow/trip report
  • Follow established asset approval systems
  • Develop digital folders for interview transcripts
  • Make arrangements for video footage to be organized and stored on external drives to avoid overloading a server
  • Share an overview of gathered content with team members, agency partners, and/or the client

Taking the time to properly plan for a content trip is invaluable not only for leveraging assets across multiple channels, but in cultivating relationships for your clients. Make your case for fresh, original content, do your homework, and pack your bags. Oh, the places you’ll go and the people you’ll meet!