8 tips for making the most of a media tour

Whether you’re escorting a top executive or making the rounds solo, these tidbits can help you put your organization’s best foot forward and forge a positive, lasting rapport with journalists.

Much of PR is done digitally these days, but you can capitalize on in-person interactions.

In a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, nearly all respondents (95 percent) said face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships.

It’s based on that premise that media tours were established, and it’s precisely why, in today’s era of digital communication, media tours are still a valued facet of PR strategy.

A media tour consists of several casual one-on-one “meetups” with a company representative (often an executive) and a journalist. The tour is set in a media town—say, San Francisco for tech media, or New York for business media—and is typically conducted in one or two days.

Media tours can be done on the heels of company news or product launches, but more often than not, they’re simply an opportunity for your brand to build rapport and stay on journalists’ minds.

Below are eight top tips for pulling off a media tour like a pro:

1. Prepare and brief like there’s no tomorrow. Unlike phone interviews in which you can nonverbally (or verbally, using the mute button) steer your executive back on track, deskside conversations don’t allow PR pros to be inconspicuous. It’s important that your leaders understand that although these meetups might seem casual, they’re still talking to a journalist and should think carefully about what they say. To aid in this, create a briefing book that contains background on each reporter, the beat they cover, and their recently published work. Include suggested talking points and industry trends your executive can speak to when there’s a lull. If you have company news to discuss, prepare a fact sheet; if you plan on demonstrating a new product, do a few run-throughs prior to the tour.

2. Check the calendar. When it comes to booking a media tour, it’s best to avoid the bookends of the week. Tuesdays and Wednesdays usually work best, as you’re less likely to run into media deadlines. Also, look at upcoming events in that city to ensure you’re not competing with other happenings that could steal reporters’ attention.

3. Overbook meetings. You can secure meetings four weeks in advance, confirming a day or two before the sit-down, and still someone will cancel. You simply can’t control schedules, family obligations and breaking news. Prepare for last-minute cancellations by overbooking. A good media tour usually consists of four desk-side meetings per day. Always book five and hope for four.

4. Don’t expect immediate coverage. Even if your executive had a wonderful tour, met with eight to 10 members of the media, and offered expert insight and commentary on every topic mentioned, don’t expect a flood of coverage upon returning to the office. The purpose of a media tour is to establish a long-lasting relationship with journalists, not necessarily to generate immediate coverage. Bring this up with your executive in the early stages of planning (and probably again during the process).

5. Don’t bring an entourage. Make sure your executive understands that most journalists don’t have lavish, spacious offices. You’ll probably sit down in a small meeting room, at a reporter’s cubicle, or even in a coffee shop. Don’t bring more than two or three company representatives (including yourself). Aside from the space issue, this ensures your exec will form a better one-on-one bond with the reporter.

6. Pay attention to details. Media tours require a ton of planning: booking hotels, arranging car services, planning routes, etc. Walk through each day in your head, and make sure you’re not leaving anything out. Print out copies of reservations and directions. Pack an “emergency bag” that includes this information, along with the briefing book, an umbrella, business cards, portable cell phone chargers, and a stain remover stick. (I learned that last one the hard way.)

7. Don’t forget to eat. One executive would get cranky if he didn’t have a sweet mid-afternoon snack, so I would bring along a sweet treat when we had an afternoon obligation. It worked every time. Media tours are mentally draining, and food always helps. Plan time for lunch between desk-side meetings, and throw a few snacks in your bag.

8. Stay in touch. Not long after the media tour has concluded, it’s important to follow up with any lingering items you promised. It’s also nice for your executive to handwrite or email a note to the journalists who met with you. After all, this process was about bettering those relationships.

You’ll often find that a better relationship has emerged between you and your executive as some sort of beautiful side effect.

A version of this post first appeared on the SmartBug Media blog.

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