Checklist for a Successful Satellite Media Tour Production

Satellite Media Tours (SMTs) have been around for several decades and even with all the new bells and whistles in the P.R. tool box, they are still one of the most effective ways to make a big media splash with TV (and radio with the SMT/RMT hybrid) in a five-hour span of time.

CMP Media Cafe SMT on location in Oahu.

An SMT is a series of pre-booked interviews conducted via satellite with a spokesperson in one city and television station reporters in selected cities across the country. The spokesperson speaks from one location in our Los Angeles or New York studio (or any studio or location in the country or around the world) and we electronically switch the spokesperson in sequence from one station to another, conducting live or taped one-on-one interviews with local reporters. In essence, a spokesperson can visit 15-to-25 cities in a matter of hours and this gives your company immediate access to the news media.

Once you’ve determined the basics for your SMT including your story angle, spokesperson, and have a booked tour, here are a few tips to guarantee a successful satellite media tour.

The Day Before the SMT – Checklist

The devil is in the details and the day before the tour is all about the spokesperson and a studio set check.

For the Spokesperson. There are five essential items that you need to do prior to the SMT. If you haven’t addressed these key ingredients prior to this date, this is the final opportunity.

  • Invest in Media Training.  I highly recommend a media training session. You are investing a significant amount of budget into the SMT and going that little extra on the budget is like insurance. Even if you have an experienced spokesperson or celebrity, they need to prep for THIS message. Not convinced? We have five questions to ask about media training that are a must read. We offer media training services. In fact, I’ve even written a book on it: The Insider’s Guide to Media Training.
  • Discuss Wardrobe Options.  There are specific rules for dressing for television so do not rely on your spokesperson to “show up” in a wardrobe you find pleasing or that represents your brand. There is a lot to this topic so please download this free wardrobe and make-up tip sheet that I offer as a bonus to readers of The Insider’s Guide to Media Training.
  • Confirm a Professional Make-Up Artist. We provide a professional make-up artist for all of our SMTs as part of our package. You need someone who understands the art of applying make-up for TV since it is different from other specialties. We work pros who have provided services for A-list celebrities, but if you have a celebrity spokesperson, they may want to hire a specific make-up artist so definitely ask them well before the date of the SMT if this is a preference. Also, make sure you confirm the rate for a specific make-up artist since the rate may exceed the “going rate” for SMTs and that budget needs to be approved so you’re not dealing with any surprise overages.
  • Prepare Cue Cards for Main Message Points. Even the most experienced spokespersons occasionally need to reference cue cards. In the situation of an SMT, there is a lot of deja vu happening when a spokesperson repeats the same interview up to 25 times so cue cards should be prepared to help guide them. I like to recommend that the spokesperson prepares their own since they are working with the messaging in their own words, but it is essential that these are CUE cards and NOT the script on cue cards. You can also work with them to provide them if they do not want this responsibility. You don’t need special materials for this. It’s easy to just print them out on a regular paper (use Landscape/Horizontal printing).
  • Ask About Catering Requests. Our SMTs always include a catered hot breakfast and in the era of “special needs eaters,” don’t forget to ask your spokesperson if they any special requests (or dietary restrictions) for catering. You don’t want a cranky spokesperson because they’re missing their favorite breakfast food or latte. Communicate any special requests to your SMT producer.

Visit the Studio and Set.  If the set has special requirements including props, always visit the studio and approve the set the day before the tour. This is generally done in the late afternoon (between 3pm to 5pm) since the studio will have other projects using the space prior to that time. Your SMT producer can make special arrangements, if needed, for earlier access. Make sure that any imperative props that are shipped arrive two days before the SMT and always have a contingency plan. If it is not an option to visit the set, request that the producer email photos of the set to you in advance so they can make any adjustments in advance (if necessary).

Plan On an Early Night.  Most SMTs require a 5:00am or 6:00am arrival or call time (that’s on the East Coast) and three hours earlier for the West Coast, so plan for an early night so you’re well rested. Also, confirm a car service or know your route the studio in advance.

 

The SMT Production Day – Checklist

If you have done your work the day before, then the day of production is an easy one so you can arrive at the studio, greet the spokesperson and while they’re in make-up, you can grab your breakfast in the green room.

Brief the Spokesperson. While the talent is make-up, take the opportunity to review the messaging for the day and ask them if they have any final questions. If you have new information that may help them (like a breaking news story reporters may ask about), prepare them with an appropriate response and way to pivot back to messaging.

Set the Cue Cards. Work with the producer to get the cue cards set for the Spokesperson for messaging. If a teleprompter is available, we put the info regarding the name of the anchor, station, and market so that the Spokesperson has an opportunity to personalize each interview. If a teleprompter is not an option, the small cue cards will do the trick and the cameraman will usually change them out between interviews.

Technical Rehearsal. I always schedule a technical rehearsal with the spokesperson at least 25 minutes before our first SMT interview (or hit). This gives the talent an opportunity to get warmed up and the control room can fine tune any tape roll-ins so that the b-roll will match the messaging or camera operators are clear on what their framing will be (if it’s a two camera SMT). Finally, this is your chance to help the spokesperson polish any final messaging. Watch their body language and make sure they are not slouching, fidgeting, or touching their hair (or other nervous gestures) and make them aware of it so they can self-correct.

Pay Attention to Each Interview.   It’s very easy to get distracted during a long SMT with emails and other business, but don’t do it. Follow along with each interview since no one knows the messaging better than you do and if the Spokesperson gets off message or gets thrown a curve ball with an interview, be ready to assist with any redirection. Keep in mind that your attitude and energy will directly impact your spokesperson, so supportive and excited when relaying feedback on messaging. It’s also best to have only one person in charge of communicating feedback so that the Spokesperson does not get rattled by too many voices. Determine with the SMT Producer how you want to handle this in advance. High energy is a must so keep an eye out to ensure the talent doesn’t start to fade or lose any steam in the middle of a tour. Finally, take notes about particularly good interviews that you may want to get as airchecks.

Document and Share on Social.   Take the opportunity to take lots of photos and short videos for social media channels. Get posed shots as well as some candid looks from behind-the-scenes. Keep it fun and light. You may want to have some tweets and posts preplanned and in your back pocket as well as short video tweet ideas (think in 9 seconds or less), snapchats, and Facebook live with a sneak peek behind-the-scenes in real-time. Promote the live events the day before and, if you’re working with a celebrity, ask for questions in advance and they’ll answer them live on social. Help prepare some witty responses, where appropriate, that weaves in a short plug for your product. Integrating social media into the mix adds even more value to the SMT. You may want to wait until you get your final SMT rundown until you schedule the social media and then plug it into the schedule, but be sure you let your SMT producer know you need this scheduled in.

Stay Calm and Carry On. There are a lot of moving parts during the SMT and even the best-planned events can have a wrinkle or two. If you’re working with a professional team, they’ll handle any unexpected events in a calm fashion.

If you’re considering an SMT for your client or brand, please feel free to contact me at CMP Media Cafe for a free consultation regarding your project.

Peace and coconuts,

Marianne Schwab, Executive Producer, CMP Media Cafe

Follow us on Twitter:  @CMP_MediaCafe

 

 

 

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