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.