7 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an SMT Vendor

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Media tours are expensive investments and often the centerpiece of a PR campaign, so there is little room for error. There are several companies specializing in media tours, including KEF Media. Many of our competitors will promise exemplary service and stellar results. Unfortunately, not all deliver on those promises and a bad experience may turn you and your team away from the tactic altogether. If conducted correctly, media tours are extraordinarily effective.

How do you identify that partner? It typically starts with accumulating proposals. Through that bid process, it's essential to ask tough questions on the front end to save time, money and frustration.

Below are seven essential questions to ask while gathering bids.  

1. Can you customize a tour based exactly on what we are looking for in terms of pricing, anticipated results and location?

Be wary of ‘one-size-fits-all’ proposals. Look for a media partner that starts with the question “what does success look like at the end of the project?” A strong partner can customize a plan to help you reach the end goal. You may think you want a Satellite Media Tour (SMT), but you may be better suited for an Integrated Media Tour, Customized Media Day, Shared Media Day, Internet Tour or Radio Media Tour – or maybe you need elements from all those tactics combined to deliver results that are going to make your project results exceed expectations.

2. Is your estimate all-inclusive or will there be charges at the end of the tour?

Does the price presented for your project include catering, make-up, travel, supplemental b-roll, etc? If there are TBDs, are those clearly spelled out with estimate costs? Make sure you are comparing apples-to-apples when deciding between bids. What may seem like the higher price on the surface, could actually be the most economical when all is said and done. To protect yourself, have each vendor add “No additional charges unless approved in writing” to your estimate and service agreement.

3. Who will be our main day-to-day contact?

Will you be dealing with a salesperson whose goal is to upsell you at every turn or will you be working with a project producer whose goals are to provide expert counsel and to compile the best media segments possible? Will you have a dedicated team working on your project so you can always reach someone familiar with the intricacies of your campaign or could you be left for hours or days with important questions unanswered?

2123376519_a05bac71c1_o.gif4. Can you provide sample sets you have created on previous tours?

Is this vendor capable of thinking beyond a logo displayed on a monitor on set? If given leeway, will your vendor come to you with set or location ideas to help bring your tour to life? Make sure their website has ample examples of set creation that shows their commitment to creativity.

5. How do you get your audience figures and can we see samples of past project reports?

There are endless ways to report audience figures, but make sure report samples pass the sniff test. If a SMT garners 25 overall bookings, it is not reasonable to see a report touting 275 million in audience. Even if you have a unicorn tour where your bookings consist of Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN and Fox News, you won't reach an audience of 275 million. If you could, why would anyone spend $4.5 million on a Super Bowl ad when they could spend $30K-ish on a media tour and get almost three times the audience reach?

One note - web numbers are tricky as most PR agencies and corporations have a customized way of reporting impressions – some divide Unique Monthly Visitors by 2, some by 15, others by 30. Ask if the vendor can create a report based on your specific guidelines.

Photo via Flickr

6. What value adds are included in your media tour packages?

Most broadcast PR agencies include a variety of ‘value added’ elements to their project. This may include a national show that airs on cable outlets, a web component such as video segments created for your social media usage or an Audio News Release (ANR). These additions are important as they provide an audience base on which to build with interviews. Again, make sure these tactics are adding true value to your project. Double check that the ANR provides a guaranteed audience reach via secured time as opposed to an ANR feed, which is distributed across many stations but may or may not air on any of those stations. Ask if you will get a report with GUARANTEED station airings and times. If not, be skeptical of any huge airing numbers as they are based on ‘could have aired’ not ‘did air.’ There’s a big difference.

7. What if bookings/results do not meet expectations?

If your media tour isn’t getting the traction that was discussed at the start of the project, what will the vendor do to get you to the finish line? Not only should you ask this question, but follow up with “can you give us some examples of how you have done this with other clients in the past?” This could include creating an alternative pitch, moving the date to give your story a more timely hook, introducing additional tactics to broaden the media pool or, if worse comes to worst, letting you walk away with minimal costs.

Sometimes there are factors outside your vendor’s control –local market breaking news, weather issues, an unscheduled presidential news conference or other national/international news, and so on, but a true  partner will have a “Plan B” up their sleeve.

If the vendor you are speaking with can’t answer the above questions quickly and provide backup documentation to support their claims, it’s best to keep looking. A vendor may tell you what you want to hear in hopes for a quick sale. A true partner will be as invested in your project’s success as you are and become a trusted extension of your team.  

Any further questions? Allow us to become your trusted broadcast PR partner. 

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