Four “Old-School” PR Tactics You Shouldn’t Retire Just Yet

It’s not your grandparents’ PR industry. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, PR was evolving, with most of us replacing time-honored tactics with fresher and more digital methods. For example, media monitoring, once a tedious and time-consuming daily ritual, is now far more efficient given AI-assisted tech. Today content is dynamic; much of it can be created instantly and is more personalized than ever before. Digital technologies have disrupted both journalism and PR, in ways that often help us work together.

But just as digital tech has created opportunities, it has also raised hurdles and headaches. Take the case of social media; what was once a creative space for brands to engage with customers is now so cluttered that making connections is difficult, and paid media strategies are often necessary. Email outreach to media has added efficiency, yet it has also been misused by many PR teams. The list goes on.

But constant change doesn’t mean we should throw out all time-tested tactics. In fact, here are a few “outdated” PR practices that are still highly effective. Don’t put them on the discard pile just yet.

The in-person media tour

Although in-person meetings were all but shut down as a result of COVID-19, they had already been slipping out of vogue by 2000. Yet PR is all about building and maintaining relationships. For all the benefits of Zoom, an in-person meeting is still the best way to build rapport. IRL meetings allow client spokespersons and journalists the opportunity for flexible conversations that are not limited by the boundaries of a screen. In an era defined by transactional conversations, in-person briefings can be a great way for a brand representative to distinguish their story. Maybe it’s not like the traveling “tours” of decades ago, but the face-to-face factor is very powerful.

Manual media research

Many databases promise up-to-date background on media targets and trends. But for all the hype, there truly is no substitute for manual research and human analysis. Journalists are very busy, so giving them relevant information is key to PR success. Yet, many PR teams look for technology shortcuts. While there are tools that may help with analysis, manual scrutiny is the only way to correctly approach media. Without it, PR professionals not only may fail, but they risk burning bridges by spamming reporters with irrelevant pitches and information.

Getting on the phone

Email has significantly improved the speed at which journalists and PR professionals work. However, there is very much a place for the old-school phone call. And sometimes there really isn’t a better option for closing the loop on a project than hopping on the phone. For example, why wait to pass on a few additional instructions to conference coordinators on sponsorship partnerships when you can easily just give them a call? A simple phone conversation can sometimes make things easier and save time, so don’t give up on it just yet.

Wire distribution

Given our regular sticker shock over the cost of newswire distribution, more businesses and PR agencies are moving away from posting announcements on the wire. But there’s still a place for newswires in our business. It should never be the sole distribution method, but it’s an efficient way to put out key announcements and can sometimes offer an SEO boost. Granted, costs for newswire distribution for each and every announcement can be prohibitive, and the international distribution costs are insanely high. But there are several budget friendly options that can offer more targeted SEO reach for a gentler cost.


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!

Top Tips For A Successful PR Media Tour

As PR agency professionals we rely heavily on digital communication, but face-to-face interactions like “deskside” meetings can be invaluable. A well-executed media tour, or series of one-on-one meetings with journalists, can establish genuine, long-term relationships. While the media might not become your new weekend brunch besties (although maybe down the line!), deskside visits help you and your brand stay top of mind. Here are some tips for a successful media tour.

Schedule meetings smartly. Propose a few specific dates so editors can let you know right away if they’re available. Look up travel times between meetings and add at least 15 minutes for leeway. Double-check your routes; remember, Google Maps is not infallible!

Do your research. Compile an itinerary, and a concise overview of the reporter’s beat, his or her background, recent articles and details of the publication. Familiarize yourself with the publications and develop a solid grasp of news within relevant industries so you can carry a knowledgeable conversation.

Overprepare. Your client or spokesperson should understand the goals of the desksiders and feel comfortable addressing questions, including tough ones. If the product is complex, make sure they can explain it in simple terms by rehearsing beforehand. If your meeting involves a product demo, obviously it should be tweaked, tuned, or otherwise prepped, and be sure to check the wireless connection at your destination where possible.

Overcommunicate. Confirm meetings the day before, even if you’re sure that everything is lined up. If you’re running more than five minutes late, let the editor know. Ask editors if they have a hard stop, and politely inform them if you do. If you’re with a colleague and one of you tends to be chatty, agree upon a subtle or overt signal on when to wrap up.

Pack mindfully. As a PR rep, you are there primarily to enable the media relationship, but any small emergency will fall to you as well. Besides hard copies of the briefing book, consider bringing items like tissues, an extra portable phone battery, water, mints, granola bars or other snacks, and an umbrella. If driving, check small details like loading your EZ-Pass for cash-free toll roads or researching public parking near your destinations.

Be engaged. All that attention to small details beforehand will help you stay focused during the meeting, contribute where appropriate, and keep your spokesperson steered in the right direction if the conversation veers off. Pay special attention to your client or spokesperson’s comfort level and responses, and offer constructive feedback after each meeting to help prepare for the next one.

Follow up and stay in touch. Send thank-you notes the day after, either by email or snail mail. If editors requested additional materials, share in a timely manner. Let them know you enjoyed meeting them and would like to know about potential pieces. Connect via LinkedIn or Twitter – check in occasionally to see what they’re working on!

Don’t panic. Inevitably, things won’t go exactly as planned. Think quickly and remain confident, or at least pretend to be! Once, in the midst of conversing with a client, I realized I was leading us towards a different subway station than I had planned. Thankfully, I managed to improvise the route to our next desksider without my client noticing. No matter what, keep smiling, remain calm, and stay focused on your goal.