Media Tours: 4 Questions To Ask Before Heading Out

Photo credit: David McNamara
Photo credit: David McNamara
Smaller staffs. Tighter deadlines. More beats. Desks littered with competitive product samples. Conducting top-tier national consumer media relations has never, by any stretch of the imagination, been easy. However, throughout my industry tenure, breaking through the clutter also seems like it has never been more difficult. The tried-and-true New York City media tour is being aggressively tested. Sure, certain brands will always have their “media darling” moment in the spotlight with editors flocking to an event or preview. But the majority of companies, especially small to mid-size brands, have to push with all their might to knock down the media’s doors on a daily basis. Is the investment in a Big Apple media tour worth the ROI in today’s media landscape? It depends who you ask, and I’d imagine more and more PR pros and brand managers would say no. In many cases these naysayers have valid points. Airfare, hotel, venue rentals, shipping product—New York City is far from affordable for activations. But on the other hand, what’s the impact of staying away? Marketing communications, especially PR, is all about relationships. These relationships are built slowly and carefully over time and like a solid friendship; we shouldn’t expect to get something immediately just because we do one thing for the other person. As a marketer, ask yourself one question. Can you really afford not to invest in relationships with the gatekeepers who still remain at the top national media outlets? Like any tool in the marketing and PR toolbox, a New York City media tour needs to be used at the right time, for the right reasons. Before you say yes, or no, to a media tour on either coast, consider the following:
  1. When was the last time you met top media contacts face-to-face? Media move around a lot so if it has been a few years since you tried to set some top-tier meetings, reestablishing a few priority relationships could be extremely beneficial.
  2. Do you have anything new to showcase? A product launch certainly isn’t the only reason to pitch face-to-face meetings with media, but it can be a critical tipping point for getting busy media to schedule a few minutes with you.
  3. How can you kick it up a notch, VIP style? To the point above, if you do not have anything new to showcase you’ll need to create some sort of VIP hook or experience to set the brand apart from the dozens of other invitations crossing the media’s desk every day. Can you team up with a celebrity chef for gourmet desk-side meeting bites? Give behind-the-scenes access to a hot new venue? Create a give-back component to benefit an important charity?
  4. What are the expectations of your team? If the C-suite is expecting (and demanding) immediate coverage from each media meeting, it might be smart to select another tool from the toolbox. Much of the media you meet with on a traditional New York City tour is long lead, working anywhere from four to six or nine months ahead. Even if your product/service is the perfect fit for the issue the editor is working on currently (a rarity), you’ll have to wait months to see the hit in print.
Media tours are not, and have never been, for the faint of heart. But even after my toughest run, I left the Big Apple with renewed relationships, a better grasp on how my client(s) fits into the ever-changing media relations puzzle and a renewed sense of competitive dedication to this aspect of my career. Is a media event or desk-side tour on your radar for 2016?