Adjusting to station attitudes toward SMTs, picking the right product photo, and more
With the recent concerns raised about spokespeople, we've been hearing that TV stations are less likely to do SMTs. Have there been any changes?
While there may have been a reduction in station usage of SMTs since the FCC notice was issued in mid-April, Doug Simon of DS Simon Productions says that is only part of the explanation. "Newspaper exposés on spokesperson placement, combined with an ongoing series of major news events from Katrina to Supreme Court nominations, have forced PR people to change tactics to get the airtime they want," he adds.
Simon estimates that 10% of stations that used to do SMTs will no longer regularly conduct them. However, the bigger issue is that producers are increasingly being watched more closely at a larger number of stations.
"Many who book satellite segments have to get final sign-off from their executive producer, especially for product-heavy or health segments," he says. "Establishing trust with producers that the segment they air will be the same as the one they were pitched is crucial."
Simon notes the most successful SMTs focus on entertainment, publications, authors, associations, and nonprofits, or feature celebrities. "Recognizing that you have to offer increased news value and viewer benefit with limited commerciality to achieve the best results for your campaign is crucial in the current media environment," he says.
We're a consumer goods company and we have a new product to promote. Is it best to send pictures of the product alone or of people using it?
Both, and maybe even more, says Jim Sulley, director of photography at Newscast. "Depending on the product and the media you are targeting, different images will be used," he adds.
Decide what type of stories images of your product can help illustrate. "Often, your item can appear in business stories, but also lifestyle pieces," Sulley says. "Special gift guides circulated in publications around the holidays are great photo-placement opportunities for your product."
Sulley suggests creating product shots for gift guides, as well as for stories written on the product's industry. "Lifestyle pieces allow for great space to position images of consumers handling or purchasing the product," he adds.
Are there any hidden costs in broadcast PR services to be aware of?
Costs on VNRs, SMTs, and ANRs are determined by many factors, says Victoria Lang of PLUS Media. "Not all vendors' services are included in one fee," she adds. "What can initially seem like a good deal can lead to 'sticker shock' in the end as hidden costs are revealed."
To prevent this, Lang recommends you ask the vendor the following questions: How many hours of satellite time am I getting? How many markets am I guaranteed? What happens if the minimum is not met? (Not all vendors even guarantee a minimum.) Will air-checks, booking, encoding, and tracking of airings be included? Will the vendor be covering talent expenses, travel, and media training costs? Is video shooting and editing included? Any added costs for final reporting and compilation tapes?
"If you have a good-sized team, you may be able to handle a lot of the details internally, such as the scripting, talent search, and training," says Lang.
What are the best PR opportunities on satellite radio?
For the most part, the same opportunities exist - and the same rules apply - for satellite radio as they do for terrestrial stations and networks, says Joe Balintfy of North American Network.
He adds that the unique opportunities with XM and Sirius are PSAs and sponsored placements. "Much of their programming is 'commercial free,' so PSAs can get free airtime, especially when the message involves a popular artist or speaks to that channel's demographic," he says.
For commercial channels, ad- buy opportunities are relatively inexpensive. "If your ANR is packaged properly, it can get airtime on the satellite broadcasters' news channels like CNN or Bloomberg," Balintfy says. "It's a smaller audience than the overall terrestrial radio footprint, but a select higher-tech demographic."
PR Toolbox is edited by Erica Iacono, New York-based reporter for PRWeek. Submit questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please contact her if you are interested in contributing to PR Toolbox or to suggest ideas for future columns.