Method to the Madness: How to Plan a Press Tour (And Execute It Perfectly)

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How to plan a press tour

Because of the fast-paced nature of news, journalists need to absorb information quickly and efficiently—picking out the high points of a pitch or press release via email or a phone call and reporting in a flash! It isn’t every day that a respected journalist at a top-tier outlet reserves time out of his or her day to sit down with a brand to hear all of the details about a new product or service. But with some products or services, this does happen—during press tours, one of the jewels in the crown of a strategic PR plan.

During a press tour, a brand receives face-to-face meetings with the press in order to provide a hands-on look and real-time presentation on what the company has to offer to consumers. For example, check out Senior Account Executive Kiersten Moffatt below as she enters the New York Times offices as part of a press tour for one of her clients.

How to plan a press tour

As PR professionals, it’s our responsibility to secure those crucial face-to-face meetings with press when our clients have important new offerings. Getting a journalist at an outlet like the New York Times, Engadget, Real Simple, or Bloomberg to invite your client to meet is not an easy task. Managing a press tour requires plenty of preparation and an eventual skilled execution from a public relations team to pull it off. Here is a quick checklist to guide you through how to plan a press tour, prepare for what will happen once you’re there, and execute it perfectly for your clients.

Planning a Press Tour

If you and your client have agreed that a press tour is an ideal way to showcase what’s next in your client’s product or services lineup, it’s time to get organized. Lay a firm foundation for the impressive coverage that’s to come by following these steps.

Determine your audience. Determine the appropriate audience(s) for your announcement. If your client’s product is an iPhone app or a tablet case, for example, don’t just assume that the only correct fit is technology outlets. The product may also be relevant to national news, women’s, men’s, outdoors, or parenting outlets, to name a few. Take your time considering all of the relevant options and what will truly benefit your client.

Give yourself two weeks. From experience, our team at PANBlast has determined that pitching for a press tour two weeks prior to the tour dates is ideal. A month or so prior to the date is too far in advance for coordinating with press schedules and allows too much time for schedules to adjust prior to the tour dates. It’s a hard two weeks of pitching, but allows you to pitch at the most effective time, instead of spinning your wheels too far in advance.

Pitch in tiers. It isn’t always easy to know what kind of response you’ll get, so be sure to separate your press list into tiers, starting with top-tier and highly targeted outlets and working your way down. This formula also allows you to have a clean, open schedule for your most sought after meetings. No one wants to haggle with an outlet like the Huffington Post about timing!

Pick up the phone. Begin the relationship on a more personal level and pick up the phone to pitch for a press tour. It’s often hard, if not impossible, to truly portray the coolness of some products or services over email. Phone pitching allows you to “get real” with the press and tell them why it would work for them and their audience. Plus, you are more likely to establish a connection over the phone, making it easier to portray your message and learn what would be mutually beneficial for both your client and the journalist.

Preparing for a Press Tour

You’ve already done a lot of the grunt work by setting a framework for when the press tour will be and what your goals are. Make sure to follow these tips for the rest of the preparation process.

Schedule smart. Before setting definite times with any meetings, double check the location of the meeting to ensure that you have enough time for travel. Consider how long each meeting is expected to last and use several online map estimates to determine how much travel time is needed. Schedule to your advantage wherever possible.

Supply a briefing book. Clients want and need to know about the journalists and outlets with whom they’ll be meeting. Preparing your client for a press tour isn’t just about media training. Your clients needs to feel secure and confident about each journalist that he or she is meeting. Include all relevant information about the outlet and journalist, contact information, and any details that should be easily referenced before or after a meeting.

Know where you are going. Timing and travel can get crazy during a press tour. In many cases, your team will be in and out of cabs, up and down elevators and checking in at front desks with heavy-duty security. Have each address, including cross streets, both in written form and logged onto your phone. Being able to quickly yell the location of your next meeting to the cab driver saves you time and gets you to your next big meeting in a timely fashion.

Executing a Press Tour to Perfection

You’re there! Your plane has landed, your client is ready to cover the high points of his or her product, and the journalist is ready with ears open and laptop handy to take down all the details. Here’s what to do once you’re on the ground at a press tour.

Introduce your client. Introductions may seem small, but they are key in kicking off the meeting on the right foot. After shaking hands with the journalist, immediately introduce your client so they can begin building a relationship for the remainder of the meeting. Before the first meeting, ask your client how they prefer to be introduced. Is it important that you mention their title? Is there any other professional or biographical information they would like you to mention during the introduction?

Make it relevant. When relevant, chime in to suggest various angles where the product or service would fit. Make sure your suggestions are relevant to the outlet and what the journalist covers at that publication. If the outlet has a specific section that is right up your client’s alley, reference it to show that you are both familiar with the publication and were thoughtful in scheduling the meeting.

Ask questions, take notes. When something is unclear, speak up. Feel free to ask relevant questions where applicable during the meeting and, more importantly, take diligent notes. It’s going to be your job to follow up with these contacts when you’re back in the office, so be sure to have ample information to reference.

Leave a press kit. Prepare an electronic press kit with images, a press release, and any additional information on your client and any upcoming announcements. Leave the press kit and your business card with each journalist you meet to ensure that they have what they need to promote the brand.

If you are interested in learning more about how a press tour can benefit your brand, contact BLASTmedia’s Lindsey Groepper. Read more of our helpful PR tips to add even more depth and creativity to your current PR plans.