What is a satellite media tour?
Satellite Media Tours (SMTs) are a PR technique used to connect brands with consumers by conducting a series of television, radio and online interviews. They take place during one day, from a studio or remote location and the timing coincides with morning and afternoon news programs. Both live and taped segments are done during the duration of the SMT, also referred to as a media tour or just tour. Select interviews can be done on another day if the television or radio hosts are unavailable during the tour. While stations are in control of conducting the interviews, suggested messaging and questions are provided to each producer prior to the SMT.
SMTs have a spokesperson to speak on-camera and on behalf of the brand. Spokespeople can be in-house from the brand, an influencer expert, or a well-known celebrity. It’s important that the talent has a relevant and organic connection with the topic. Make sure that whoever you hire has a natural, easy on-camera presence, and has a fundamental understanding of the SMT topic. Anyone can memorize 4-5 key messages, but you need a talent that can answer ANY related questions and a personal connection to the story never hurts. Some companies will use in-house spokespeople, who have experience being on-camera.
SMT’s can take place within a studio location in most major cities. In fact, larger cities like NYC or LA are typically less expensive as they can offer more competitive rates. Thanks to modern technology, SMTs can also occur from many locations around the world. On-location or remote SMTs offer an interactive or live-from-the-scene advantage, using better visuals and allowing the opportunity to capture additional video content for other uses (social, digital, online, syndicated placement).
Typical SMT Day
SMTs last from 2-6 hours on average and typically consist of 20-30 interviews with TV, Radio, and online stations. Many times, the schedule lineup will include target markets that can also be incorporated. During a series of back-to-back interviews, station anchors and hosts talk with the spokesperson, asking the suggested questions and diving into any relevant topics. SMTs tend to take place between 8:00 AM and12:30 PM EST, as this is the best time for morning and afternoon news programs. During the SMT, additional content should be captured for later distribution (Audio News Releases, Syndicated Video Placements, Online video placements, etc.). Crew call time is typically 1-2 hours before the first interview depending on the amount of hair and make-up required by the spokesperson. Rehearsals are also typically done the morning of the tour, to ensure the spokesperson is comfortable with the messaging and as a final check of the segmented flow with the appropriate use of b-roll. The set is usually finalized the day before the tour during a walk-through. All interviews will sound like they are live, but many will actually be taped and aired later by the stations (many times, airing multiple times).
Markets, Markets, Markets
It is the million-dollar question – what markets can you book? Pitching media requires creativity, timely editorial messaging, a good relationship with the producer, or utilizing a well-known talent. Each SMT should be evaluated based on all of these factors to determine how it will perform. An experienced team should be able to tell you what to expect. Incorporating earned media pitching with strategic paid placements will make for even better results.
Long story short – A typical earned only SMT with a good message will have a good mix of Top 25, Top 50, and Top 100 markets for TV and Radio.
Every SMT project is followed by a series of reports. Reports should be updated on a weekly basis and should showcase airings of interviews, updates on content placements and Nielsen audience impression numbers. Online airings are typically measured in UVM’s (Unique Visitors Monthly). UVM’s are typically divided by 30 to get the number of daily unique visitors and then incorporated into the report. Impression expectations should be discussed up front. There should be ZERO surprises on an SMT report.
Typical SMT Timeline
6 weeks out– Messaging is finalized, spokesperson is identified, media materials are being crafted, editorial direction of the SMT date is being secured. If a survey is used, this is the time it will be fielded. B-roll discussions start.
5 weeks out– Media alert is reviewed and approved so media pitching can begin to secure interviews for the day of the SMT.
4 weeks out– First SMT booking report is delivered to the client.
3 weeks out– Messaging for the SMT execution is finalized and incorporated into the media alert for the client and/or talent to review. Booking reports continue to be delivered.
2 weeks out– Set design conversations begin. Brand items to be on set are sent to studio.
1 week out– Media training call with brand and spokesperson.
Day before the SMT– Studio walk through, set design execution, final media training with spokesperson.
Day of SMT– Crew call 1-2 hours before first interview.
5-6 Days after SMT– First SMT airing report sent to client with links to interviews.
After the SMT– SMT reports are delivered until all airings have been accounted for and links are sent to interviews as available
Five Important Takeaways
- In the PR world, a ‘national hit’ is the holy grail of media success, but when it comes to building a brand’s reputation, local media provides an essential ROI. SMTs allow brands to tap into local market news, and stories can be customized to specific audiences.
- Messaging is critical to the success of the SMT. Keep in mind that PR messaging is NOT meant to be heavily branded and commercial in nature. You want to emulate a news segment. Consider adding an online survey to uncover media angles and talking points that help to position brand messaging with editorial flavor.
- Don’t forget timing. A BBQ story in January will fall flat and back-to-school in November misses the boat.
- A strong and/or well-known spokesperson can guarantee better results. A good SMT company will be able to help you evaluate potential spokespeople or even find one for you. You DON’T always have to have a celebrity talent to guarantee success if you have a great editorial message.
- Consider additional paid options to guarantee to hit your target markets. Some markets just DON’T accept SMTs and the only way to get into them is to pay for the spot.