3 Tips For A Killer Media Tour

The media tour has been around for nearly as long as the PR industry. It helps build relationships between a brand spokesperson and multiple journalists over a short period of time. The term is a little misleading, however. It dates back to the days when authors would travel from city to city to promote a new book in a blitz of media interviews, or when celebrities push a film to 20 cities in an afternoon of local TV chats via satellite. Today most media tours aren’t exactly like that. They happen when we set up back-to-back in-person meetings between an expert and carefully selected reporters who find his story particularly relevant.

There are many reasons why media tours have survived so long. Maybe an executive is based overseas but will be in the U.S. for a short time. Or perhaps a spokesperson with unique expertise is available on a limited basis. Often these meetings serve more of an introduction than a formal interview, but the tour may also be centered around specific industry news, like a new product or executive change. Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure a successful media tour, whether in-person or virtually.

Manage expectations on both sides

Make sure the nature of each meeting is clear – whether it will be a casual background conversation or a formal, on-the-record interview for a specific story angle. There should be no confusion between the reporter and the spokesperson, who should be prepared with sample questions and background on the journalist (see below). During the meeting, individual PR reps may operate in different ways, but in general, the PR person is there to observe, occasionally steer the conversation, but not to have an active role in the discussion. Of course, we need to be prepared to jump in if things go off-course, or if the spokesperson needs help in reponsing or obtaining data.

Put thought into scheduling

Be sure to schedule meetings with attention to detail. If the tour’s goal is to introduce a brand executive from overseas to U.S. media, be mindful of jet lag and cultural differences — even on Zoom. Don’t plan meetings too closely together unless the spokesperson is very experienced or the schedule requires it. Be discreet when arranging interviews with publications that compete with one another to avoid awkward moments. Also, remember that no matter how much thought you put into prep for a schedule of meetings, things will go wrong in small ways. Journalists will run late or cancel, security lines for office buildings may be long, technology will fail, or Ubers may not show. Be flexible, build in extra time, and make sure your phone is charged and its address book holds the contact information for all relevant parties. 


Although some media tours are set up as a general introduction, all spokespersons should be prepared with the full background of the journalist involved, the media outlet’s orientation and history, and the interviewer’s goals. A sample Q&A is always advisable, even if the two already know one another. We typically prepare a full briefing doc beforehand.  In addition to helping the conversation flow, it’s useful to keep certain topics top-of-mind so the interviewee won’t be caught off-guard. The most successful media meetings occur when there’s a dynamic conversation and flow between the spokesperson and reporter.

After a successful media meeting, the reporter is far more likely to have the organization and spokesperson on their radar and to reach out for future stories. In this way, in-person chats are invaluable. We can’t wait to return to that old-fashioned way to meet!

Are Better Client-Agency Relations the Key to Better Public Relations?

At our New York public relations agency, we can never be accused of under-communicating with clients. Beyond daily e-mails and weekly status calls, we manage to achieve maximum “touchpoints” throughout the week. If you ask anyone in our firm, they will agree that better client agency relations are, if not THE key, certainly one key to better PR outcomes. This isn’t brain surgery or touchy feely shrink-speak; it’s simply true that better communication breeds success. Here are some examples of how this manifests itself in the PR world.

Go right to the source. If all you’ve ever done is read about the company’s latest and greatest on the website or in an RFP, get your client to tell you about it. Actually get the individual closest to the product’s creation to talk about it. You will glean untold facts, learn to better “sell” the story to the press in the client’s language, and increase your client’s good perception of you!

Let no misunderstandings linger. The minute something goes south – someone has blown a deadline, that phrase in the press release didn’t get changed, the reporter you prepared for starts asking crazy questions – nip it in the bud with a conversation. First of all, it is more direct and greatly appreciated. Second of all, there are some things that are better left “unsent” and best handled by talking.

Confirm. And confirm again. Even if you risk cluttering the in-box, when there are important deadlines on both the client and agency side, your emailed confirmation/s may be the most effective arrow in the quiver with a busy or impossible-to-reach client. And when the deadline is passed and the result is a great one, they may thank you for your hyper-efficiency.

Temperature check, often. If you get the feeling that you aren’t getting enough input to do your work well, have a candid chat with your client that can be as simple as saying, “What’s new?” and meaning it! If that doesn’t get your client talking, prepare a brief memo titled something like “In Preparation for Press Interviews” with some open-ended questions and see if that can get the ball rolling.

Get on the same rhythm.  After even a short amount of time with a client, you will learn who likes to be contacted on their cell vs. office line, who is a morning person or a night owl and who replies to email with terse one-word responses. Once you have deciphered this client code, you will communicate better with each contact and they will come to appreciate that about you. This “greases the skids” for more personal interaction and a better overall relationship.

Eight Ways PR Pros Can Make The Client Look Good

PR veteran Arthur Solomon’s recent post about challenging basic public relations “rules” and other industry tenets really struck a chord with me. The most insightful point may have been this one:  “Good work is not a sure way of receiving client approval. The best way to ensure a good review is to make the client look good.”

Insightful, because doing good work and making the client look good are both desirable, but they are not necessarily one and the same. Here’s my best advice for achieving one through the other.

Don’t be selfish. Selfish thinking is really short-term thinking. Agency professionals are trained to grow accounts and always have an eye out for additional assignments within the company. That’s natural, but there are times when the obligation to offer honest counsel may conflict with the agency goals of growth and profitability. A good long-term rule is to ask yourself what is truly best for the client. Nine times out of ten, that’s also what’s best for the long-term agency relationship.

Solve problems. There are always pain points that may fall outside the agency’s scope of work. Offering solutions, particularly when they relate to navigating corporate politics or enhancing the stature of corporate communications within the organization, are natural ways to get your client promoted. And isn’t that every PR person’s goal?

But don’t be a yes-person. No client worth his mettle wants an order-taker. The client’s role, and by extension ours, is to help the organization engage key constituencies and enable management make smart decisions, not drink the corporate Kool-Aid.

Represent the client well within the organization. Every agency professional knows to be respectful of our client contact when engaging throughout the company, but we can go further and act as ambassadors for the internal communications department as a strategic business function.

Be a source of intelligence. The best among us work hard to offer insights from new research, from our conversations with key journalists, bloggers, and influencers, or from competitive analysis. It’s not just about outcomes, it’s also our insights that set us apart, and can help our clients stand out.

Make your client an expert. Many clients have deep subject-matter expertise, but it may need to be shaped and, of course, promoted. Making your client an SME is a great way to fulfill twin goals; you meet brand objectives while also building the relationship.

Introduce new thinking. This one’s obvious, but it can easily be put off in the day-to-day battle for results. There’s nothing like a great new idea to make your internal client executive look like a genius, but new thinking doesn’t have to be in the form of a campaign. Part of making a client shine is sometimes pushing them outside their comfort zone to embrace an unfamiliar concept or strategy.

Offer objective counsel. I remember a meeting in a large, matrixed client organization where a new customer policy was floated. No one in the room thought it was a good idea, and our agency team had concerns, but it wasn’t a decision in our client’s domain. He was so accustomed to PR-unfriendly decisions that he shrugged off the proposed move. We urged him to speak up, and in private, he did. Months later, the policy was implemented, to a fierce customer backlash and a hasty retreat. The client’s counsel didn’t change the course of events, but it did win points for him and for us.

To Friend Or Not? Best Practices For Connecting With Clients On Social Media

These days, it seems that everyone and their grandmother is on Facebook. For PR pros, embracing social media often means connecting with clients. Team members start friending client staff, and vice versa, but are personal social media accounts really the best way to communicate? What are the risks? Whether you’re a social media super user or a silent stalking type, here are some best practices for dealing with clients on social platforms.

Build a Stronger Partnership
Accepting friend requests from clients can be good for business, because it allows them into your personal Facebook world and lets them learn more about you outside the job. This may create a better professional relationship in the end. However, it’s important to keep in mind that your every post or update can be scrutinized.

It’s Not You, It’s Me
If friending clients isn’t your thing, tell them that you separate your business and personal lives, and that you use Facebook to keep up with family and college friends, but you’d love to connect with them on Twitter and LinkedIn. Just be sure to follow through afterwards.

Brag and Tag
Many PR pros already post their coverage to social media, but tagging your client in a status update or wall post helps spread the word to your contacts and triples the visibility. Your update will appear on your page, your client’s, and the outlet’s page. Supporting client content by tagging is also a good way to network and promote your own accomplishments, so it’s a win-win.

Be Smart
If you post your innermost thoughts and deeds on Facebook, then friending a client isn’t the right choice for you. Complaining about your hangover, or venting about your frustrations at work, your boss or an unwelcome task will make your client think you don’t enjoy your job and question your commitment.

Naturally, posting lewd or inappropriate images doesn’t portray you in a professional light. Keep in mind that everything on social media is open for public consumption, even when you think it’s not, so posting anything that’s questionable is a risk you shouldn’t take.
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Salutations And Signoffs

While it seems like just a simple hello or good-bye, email salutations say something about you and your company. And given that they constitute your first and last digital impression, they should not be taken for granted, dismissed or trivialized.

So what is the right way to begin or end a simple business correspondence in the digital age?

In the rush to move business along, don’t forget the greeting; you can come off as rude or brusque otherwise. And if you wouldn’t say, “Hey there” to your boss or client, don’t do it in your email. We like a simple “Hi, Mary,” or an old fashioned “Dear Jeff.” For a more professional approach to a group, “Good morning,” or “Greetings” can help strike the balance between too colloquial and too formal.

In my experience, there’s not usually a need to keep adding the greeting if you’re in an email conversation, but circumstances vary. In a negotiation or sensitive conversation where you’re trying to reach agreement, a formal greeting, or a “thank you for your response” may be appropriate for each and every exchange. Cultural norms matter here also. For example, we work with a Japan-based client, and our emails to them reflect a higher degree of formality than with other client partners.

Some people put a signoff in their email signature to save time. This is fine, yet it can be inappropriate to the circumstances (ever get an argumentative note with “Best wishes” embedded in the sig?) Generally, it’s safe to go with “Regards” or “Sincerely.” Although “Cheers” is trendy, and the phrase “XO” has emerged as an “ingenious adaptation to that pressure not to be too bossy, too assertive,” according to Marketplace, try to avoid sounding too casual or flip when closing an email. And, while unique, avoid signatures that are too whimsical, like, “After all is said and done, more is said than done” or “It’s been swell, but the swelling’s gone down.” (Yes, these are actual signoffs.)

Have any creative ways to tie up professional conversations? Then leave them in the comments sections below.

How To Recharge Your (Client) Relationship

If agency searches are a lot like dating, then long-term client relationships can be a little like marriage. The best are based on mutual trust and transparency, with some occasional renegotiation along the way.

But what if the relationship has gotten a little… humdrum? Worse, you’re taking each other for granted (which may be fine for the client, but it obviously spells danger for any agency or consultant.)

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are some practical ways to refresh your mutual attraction and spice up the client relationship.

Shake things up. Continuity is a beautiful thing, but don’t get into a rut. Consider swapping out a staff member, or just inviting fresh eyes onto your latest program or idea. New blood can serve two goals; it injects new thinking into your programs and offers new opportunities to staff.

Listen. Like a longstanding couple, we can sometimes stop hearing what a client’s really saying…or, in some cases, what they aren’t communicating. Internal pressures, corporate shifts, personal issues – all can influence an ongoing partnership. If you sense a change in the relationship, schedule a check-in meeting.

Start over. Just for a day. One of my favorite strategies is to throw everything out (mentally) and pretend to be pitching the business for the first time. Invite the client to participate. Sometimes it helps to forget what you think you know.

Embrace planned spontaneity. Set a goal of delivering a new idea or suggestion every two weeks, for example. Let different team members be the messengers. Make things seem spontaneous, but write it into your plans so it happens regularly, without fail.

Mix it up. Do you always email a memo attachment with thoughts and ideas? Pick up the phone instead. (I remember a client praising a young PR rockstar’s habit of calling her with new ideas, as if she just couldn’t stop thinking about their business.) Or pitch your idea over a breakfast meeting, or invite the team over for a whiteboard session. Small changes can have a ripple effect.

Be there. Invite yourself to the client’s office if possible and wander the halls. You always learn something.

Spend time together. Yes, there’s that quality time thing. Go to lunch, dinner, or drinks. Attend a conference together. Go hear an inspirational speaker or just see a show. It does double duty by enabling easy interaction while also giving you a shared experience or stimulating new thoughts.

How To Be Indispensable In PR

There’s no better way to end a work week than with a thankful note from a client. “Great job this week, couldn’t have done it without you.” Yep, that sums it up. Weeks worth of hard work have paid off.

In public relations, we have to be indispensable. Every action must prove to our clients that they couldn’t have done it without us, – or that it would have been much more difficult. Great media event? Our contacts made the difference. Kudos at an internal meeting? The PR metrics were a standout. And so on. Here are some things I do to show my clients they can’t live without my team.

Name-drop. This business (and any business) is all about who you know. Chances are, your client is paying your agency to cultivate great media relationships. Whenever I can, I make a point to drop the latest and greatest of my media buddies so they know the sky’s the limit when it comes to access.

Make their lives easier. Take as many things as you can off your client’s plate. Volunteer to take on writing assignments, appointment scheduling, or anything else that will make their jobs easier. Even outside of traditional PR scope of work, there are small things you can do to make your client happier (and less stressed) on a daily basis.

Be proactive. Your job is to stay on top of the laundry list of tasks that need to be completed. Friendly reminders go a long way, and they often remind the client that without you, things might fall by the wayside. Also, sending industry tidbits and research helps them realize that you are thinking about the bigger picture.

It’s not all business… Get out from behind your desk, and when your client is around, take them to dinner, drinks, a show or something to get to know them outside of your work together. Social bonding is good business practice, and it lets clients know they have a friend and contact beyond the 9-to-6 work relationship.

When Should An Agency Fire A Client?

Towards the end of season four of “Mad Men,” we see Don Draper take out a full-page ad in The New York Times to announce that his firm will no longer accept tobacco clients. The ad paints the move as an ethical decision and even implies that the agency’s split from its largest client, Lucky Strike, was voluntary. The truth, of course, is that Don is “blowing smoke.” The ad is a desperate attempt to “change the conversation” about his struggling firm.

But, is it ever good business to fire a client? Most of us have contemplated it, and many have fantasized about it, but we don’t do it lightly. Breaking up is not only hard to do, it’s particularly painful during lean times. Here’s my take on when you’re better off parting company.

It’s an abusive relationship. At the height of the dot-com boom, my firm worked for a big-brand company under a Marketing Director who was insulting, unprofessional, and unreasonable in her demands. I didn’t resign the business, and I’ve always regretted it. Having that brand on my firm’s roster just wasn’t worth the damage to my team’s morale.

It’s a (financial) loser. This is often the reason why agencies throw in the towel, but it should only happen when sincere attempts to correct the situation have failed. Some degree of scope creep is natural. But a client whose expectations and demands simply can’t be managed after candid discussions is something else.

It’s tying you down. Sometimes, a smallish client can conflict you out of other business. “Mad Men” fans also saw this last season when Sterling Cooper resigned a regional air carrier to take a shot at American Airlines. I had nearly the exact experience in a past agency life, and in our case, too, we went down in flames. Ditching a decent client for a shot at a larger one rarely pays off.

It’s giving you a bad name. Most of us wouldn’t knowingly go to contract with an unethical business, but what if the client asks you to do something questionable? It’s never worth the risk. Or, maybe it’s a company famous for churning through every agency in town, and you’re getting that kind of rep. Not good.

They want to play the field. The decision not to defend the business in the case of an agency review is understandable. But, it’s often made out of emotion rather than business logic. This is one where you need to coldly calculate the odds, then put everything you’ve got behind your decision.

They’re using you. Clients that use agencies to collect fresh ideas generally don’t last more than a year. It pays to take a close look at their agency track record, and to question them closely about their, um, intentions.

It’s not a fit. If you’ve outgrown the client (or they you), you’re moving in different directions, and you don’t communicate, it may be time for an intervention. But if you can’t envision a future with the company, it’s probably time to cut ties.