You're the PR pro at a technology company. The engineering team has had initial success with a new product and timing is right to launch. You have recommended a media tour.
Next thing you know, this idea has taken hold of the executives' hearts and minds, and the ball is in your court to pull off a winning tour. Before you start the countdown to that first editorial meeting in a distant metropolis, let's review some game plan fundamentals - strategy, execution and outcomes.
Why a tour? A media tour is an excellent method to achieve PR rule #1: forge strong relationships. From a tactical perspective, it's about meetings with targeted press and analysts in one or more geographical regions when launching a new company, product, or service. But strategically speaking, communicating one-on-one is the best way to build relationships of mutual respect and interest with the press and analysts whose articles, reports and recommendations influence your company's key external audiences.
Bring in the experts. Undertaking a tour is not for the inexperienced. You want to put your best foot forward with the media, and first impressions are critical. Think of PR counsel as a coach, and your company is gearing up for the season. To reach the finals, you'll benefit from a coach's wisdom to optimize your performance through preparation, motivation and experience.
Format. Adjust the meeting mode as needed to maximize opportunities for interaction with your key contacts. Often a tour is a combination of in-person meetings with press and analysts in multiple metro areas (New York, Boston, Washington, DC, Chicago, San Francisco/Silicon Valley) and teleconferences. Phone briefings are an increasingly common element of tours as more writers and analysts work from remote locations.
Keep a lid on it. The press needs fresh news. For instance, if the purpose of your tour is to unveil a product line, don't be tempted to publish related materials such as white papers or datasheets on your website before releasing the news. Working closely with management will keep information about your company's next big thing from getting out before its time.
Too many players. Press tours are an exciting prospect since they provide the opportunity to raise your company's profile and communicate the latest messages - with the media, no less! Sometimes that enthusiasm leads to a heavy tour lineup. When you hit the road, the only people entering the conference room for the briefing should be one well-prepared spokesperson and you, the PR expert.
Spring training. It takes at least two months to plan an effective tour, so it's important to communicate regularly with your internal constituents and set expectations about the process. You'll need the time to engage an industry analyst well in advance of the tour for a consulting session to fine-tune your positioning. Conduct spokesperson training with your star player to master effective message-delivery techniques. Prepare a Q&A for your spokesperson, anticipating a wide range of questions about the news, but also about the company, from competitors to funding to sales channels. Create a concise, news-oriented presentation tailored to the press and analyst audience, but be able to deliver the story without using it as a script for the briefing.
Timing. Once you're on the road, most tours are conducted over a period of one to two weeks, with follow-up as needed over the next several months. Complete the tour prior to the wire date of your news, taking into account long- and short-lead publication cycles. When dealing with embargoed news on tour, securing reporters' embargo agreements is essential so that no early stories appear, potentially adversely impacting other media coverage possibilities.
The final score. Once the meetings are concluded and the news has been wired, you can expect press coverage, although not necessarily immediately afterward. Articles seeded during the tour, especially with monthly publications, can appear up to six months later. Often, the tour is just the first step in the process, since follow-up is necessary to ensure the reporter has all the elements for the story (customer references, graphics, analyst references). Analysts may use the information in a report or research note, and the publication cycle can be up to nine months. Most importantly, with a tour, your company has invested in a foundation for future dialogue with the key media reaching your prospective customers, partners and investors.
This article was written by Kristin Duskin-Gadd, vice president of Interprose Inc, a high-tech PR agency. Prior to joining the agency world, Kristin managed global public relations for Alcatel's data division. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article originally appeared in the All About Public Relations Web site.